Watch This!

The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism

300 pages

5 illustrations

February, 2009

ISBN: 9780814794524

$26

Paper

Also available in

Subjects:

Religion

Part of the Religion, Race, and Ethnicity series

Author

Jonathan L. Walton is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

All books by Jonathan L. Walton

Through their constant television broadcasts, mass video distributions, and printed publications, African American religious broadcasters have a seemingly ubiquitous presence in popular culture. They are on par with popular entertainers and athletes in the African American community as cultural icons even as they are criticized by others for taking advantage of the devout in order to subsidize their lavish lifestyles.

For these reasons questions abound. Do televangelists proclaim the message of the gospel or a message of greed? Do they represent the "authentic" voice of the black church or the Christian Right in blackface? Does the phenomenon reflect orthodox "Christianity" or ethnocentric "Americaninity" wrapped in religious language?

Watch This! seeks to move beyond such polarizing debates by critically delving into the dominant messages and aesthetic styles of African American televangelists and evaluating their ethical implications.

Reviews

  • “Walton presents a spectacular piece of contemporary scholarship on the Black Church and media. He asserts that his work is foremost a scholarly work in Christian social ethics but the reader will find that it is more than that. It is an attempt to bridge the person in the pulpit, pew, and classroom in such a way that the only song that can be sung is, ‘blest be the ties that bind.’”

    —Homiletic.net

  • "This book is the best work we have on the complex dynamics of the Black megachurch phenomenon. Walton is a brilliant cultural critic and courageous prophetic voice!"

    —Cornel West, Princeton University

  • "An important examination of the Black Electronic Church. Jonathan Walton brings new insights into the major TV evangelists in the African American community."

    —James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary

  • "One of the first books to thoughtfully analyze how African American television ministries are re-shaping the contours of black religious experiences. With critical insight into the theological, social, and political logics of three mega-ministries, Walton’s book provides just the stimulus we need for a long overdue conversation!"

    —Marla Frederick, Harvard University

  • "The eight chapters move along at a nice clip...nobody in the academy is paying enough attention [to the cost of televangelism]. Jonathan Walton is."

    —Katherine Sonderegger, Modern Theology

  • "Walton has written an invaluable book that scholars of black religion (not just black Christianity) in this country will do well to read and learn from."

    —Edward P. Antonio, Journal of Religion

  • Watch This! offers a good overview and introduction to both televangelism and African American religiosity. . .Walton clearly and ably explicates just why people are attracted to this form of media.”

    Choice

  • "In Watch This!, Walton presents the field with its first full treatment of American televangelism...with its originating status and keen interdisciplinary social and ethical analysis, [the book] will be a foundational text."

    —Lerone A. Martin, Journal of Religion, Media & Digital Culture

  • "Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism positively contributes to the literature examining African American religiosity. The richness of the text is not attributable to its discussion of broadcasting but to its keen reflection on the evolution of religion in America and to its providing an entry point for dialogue about the complexity of the African American religious experience."

    —Mary D. Hinton, Journal of American Ethnic History

  • “Future scholars of the subjects here explored by Walton will return to time and again for footnote and provocation.”

    Church History

  • “[Walton] points to the contrast between the individualized nature of problem-solving in contemporary televangelism and the social justice history of the African American religious tradition. Televangelism, by its very nature, works against the type of corporate religious consciousness that leads to social change and Walton documents this well.”

    Prism

  • “In this groundbreaking work, J. L. Walton moves us beyond the naive belief that televangelism is a territory dominated solely by the white religious right and introduces us to the intricate world of black televangelism... Walton challenges us to examine the relationship between the success of black televangelistic ministries and the failure of more traditional ecclesiastical and political movements to address the needs of those rendered socially invisible in our society. This book is highly recommended for any student of American and/or African-American religious history and religious studies.”

    Religious Studies Review