Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches

By Omri Elisha | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
A Region in Spite of Itself

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot
be hidden.

—Matthew 5:14

If I can’t make fun of Knoxville, I don’t want to live here.

—Matthew T. Everett, local journalist

Here in the Bible Belt, going to church doesn’t make you a
Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you
a hamburger.

—Staff Member at Eternal Vine Church

Why Knoxville?” It seemed as though every other day someone would ask why I chose Knoxville as the site for my research. Even local evangelicals, who might be expected to ask whether I was a Christian before anything else, were initially perplexed and amused that I chose to conduct my study in their city instead of another, presumably more obvious location. The underlying assumption appeared to be that Knoxville, a “big town/small city” nestled in the Appalachian hills of East Tennessee, lacks the cultural magnitude to which researchers like me naturally gravitate. Knoxvillians certainly do not view their surroundings as insignificant, but many wondered if the place was perhaps too peculiar or obscure to be representative of mainstream issues or trends. This may well be a common response among people who find themselves the subjects of ethnographic research, undoubtedly a counterintuitive experience for most. Yet it is revealing that this question came up as frequently as it did. A great deal of social discourse in and about Knoxville is fixated on the enduring paradoxes of the city’s history and

-61-

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Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Awaking Sleeping Giants 36
  • Chapter 3 - A Region in Spite of Itself 61
  • Chapter 4 - The Names of Action 85
  • Chapter 5 - The Spiritual Injuries of Class 121
  • Chapter 6 - Compassion Accounts 153
  • Chapter 7 - Taking the (Inner) City for God 183
  • Epilogue 214
  • Notes 223
  • References 241
  • Index 253
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