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An open frontier imagined by restless pioneers. A bleeding back punished by Lenten mortification. A troubled soul leaning over the anxious bench. John Corrigan's groundbreaking book looks over the wide landscape of American religious history with a new dialectic in mind: empty and full. Emptiness is not simply felt but nurtured, imagined, mourned, inculcated, and even welcomed as an individual and communal experience. After his wide-lens introduction of the feeling of emptiness from settlement to the present, he concludes, “In America, the regulation of the feeling of emptiness, the management of that feeling, is accomplished through performance of a multifaceted social drama involving ongoing positioning and repositioning of the Christian in-group vis-à-vis groups perceived as competitors or opponents. The regulating of the feeling of emptiness as a part of the broader dynamics of social differentiation can be observed in groups representing a wide range of Christian ideas and behaviors.” This book then is not only a history of an emotion, but a complex account of group identity and boundary-making, a kind of Rorschach test in which a form of truth emerges in interpreting the shape of darkness against the light.
This article makes several claims about the relationship between praise and worship music and prosperity megachurches. First, it argues that the prosperity gospel has had a significant impact on contemporary worship music in America owing to its leadership in the twin rise of the megachurch and televangelism. Second, beginning in the 1990s, prosperity megachurches pioneered forms of worship music mimicking “arena rock” that capitalized on both the scale of their sanctuaries and the sophistication of their audio/visual production. The result was a progression toward music that would be a liturgy of timing, lighting, volume and performance designed for large venues. Finally, prosperity megachurches were ideally situated to benefit from this new music, both in the music industry and in their theology. Prosperity megachurches partnered with the expanding worship industry in the creation of new worship music, while the prosperity gospel theologically undergirded the affective power and performative pageantry of Christian arena rock, narrating worship music as a tool for releasing spiritual forces of prosperity. The result was a Sunday experience for the blessed that reinforced the celebration of God’s abundant blessings through music that was bigger, better, and louder.
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