Homespun Gospel: The Triumph of Sentimentality in Contemporary American Evangelicalism
God, as depicted in popular evangelical literature, is loving and friendly, described in heartfelt, often saccharine prose evocative of nostalgia, comfortable domesticity, and familial love. This emotional appeal is a widely-adopted strategy of the writers most popular among American evangelicals, including such high-profile pastors as Max Lucado, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen. Todd M. Brenneman offers an in-depth examination of this previously unexplored aspect of American evangelical identity: sentimentality, which aims to produce an emotional response by appealing to readers' notions of familial relationships, superimposed on their relationship with God. Brenneman argues that evangelicals use sentimentality to establish authority in the public sphere—authority that is, by its emotional nature, unassailable by rational investigation. Evangelicals also deploy sentimentality to try to bring about change in society, though, as Brenneman shows, the sentimental focus on individual emotion and experience can undermine the evangelical agenda. Sentimentality not only allows evangelicals to sidestep intellectual questioning, but sets the stage for doctrinal change as well as weakening the evangelical vision of transforming society into the kingdom of God.
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