Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
A Journey Into the Evangelical Subculture in America
The televangelists are the most conspicuous element of the evangelical subculture in America, and the bizarre antics of some of the most prominent figures--Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, or Jimmy Swaggart--make for interesting film clips on the evening news. But as Randall Balmer reveals in this vividly written volume, these men are but one small part of a strikingly diverse religious movement; in fact, the Falwells and the Bakkers are marginal figures, of only moderate importance to the many fundamentalist, charismatic, and pentecostal groups found throughout the United States.
Criss-crossing the country, from Oregon to Florida, from Texas to North Dakota, Randall Balmer takes readers on a journey into the heart of evangelical America. In an evenhanded, reflective series of New Yorker-like profiles, he gives one the sense of what it is like to sit in on classes at Dallas Theological Seminary or to accompany evangelical activists as they mobilized support for Pat Robertson and Jack Kemp at the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries. We visit an old-fashioned, holiness camp meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, an Indian reservation in North Dakota, and a fundamentalist Bible camp in the Adirondacks. Throughout, Balmer fills in the theological and historical background--on the Jesus Movement in California, for instance, or Protestant missionary work among American Indians--creating in effect a capsule history of evangelicalism. And while Balmer acknowledges a certain sympathy with evangelicalism, he doesn't gloss over its failings, such as the combativeness--the "you'll die, but I won't" attitude--that permeates much evangelical teaching, or the pervasive theology of prosperity, which Balmer deplores as "the sanctification of American consumerism."
But perhaps what stands out most in this book is the people Balmer meets on his journey, ranging from the evangelical filmmaker Donald Thompson, to pentecostal faith healers, to fervent young evangelists working the beaches of southern California. It is through their eyes that we see into the heart of American evangelicalism, to understand the genuine appeal of the movement, and thereby arrive at a more accurate and balanced portrait of an abiding tradition that, as the author argues, is both rich in theological insights and mired in contradictions.
New York : Oxford University Press, c1989
xii, 246 p. ; 22 cm