Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

20 Convicted by the Holy Spirit
The Rhetoric of Fundamental Baptist Conversion

Susan F. Harding

Born-again Christian belief follows conversion, an inner transformation that quickens the supernatural imagination. Among fundamental Baptists, rhetoric, not ritual, is the primary vehicle of conversion. Witnesses "speak the gospel," the ramifying discourse and narrative of Christ. Listeners "come under conviction" as they appropriate the gospel in their inner speech. At "the moment of salvation," listeners become public speakers of the gospel. They "believe" in the sense of embracing a narrative tradition that rewords their experience in terms of a personal, triune God who intervenes in daily life and in history. --Author's Abstract

THE MORAL MAJORITY AND, MORE GENERALLY, the current political activism among fundamentalists are evidence of a deeper movement within American fundamentalism to abandon its historic separatism from "the world." Reverend Jerry Falwell and pastors allied with him are leading a faction of fundamentalists who are shifting the inner and outer boundaries that separate them from worldly culture. 1 They are breaking old taboos that constrained interactions with nonfundamentalists, claiming new cultural, political, and social territory, and refashioning themselves in church services, Sunday school, the family, in bed, on the air, in the political arena, in the news, in their literature, in Bible- study groups, classrooms, and daily interactions. In the process, they are transforming the fundamentalist mind and community, and altering what it means to be a fundamentalist.

It would seem a recipe for assimilation were it not for the fact that fundamentalists are primed--in a way, armed--for the confrontation. Their culture is premised on a commitment to assimilate "the world" on fundamentalist terms,

____________________
American Ethnologist 14(2) ( February 1987): 167-181.

-381-

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