Spirit and Flesh Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church



10 thoughts on “Spirit and Flesh Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church

  1. Erin Erin says:

    After slogging through this long book I wish I had just found a copy of Ault's documentary from the 80s and watched that instead The book is a lengthier version of that film but written some TEN YEARS later Ault dismisses the time interval indicating that since he was looking at the life of one small congregation so there would be no major changes from a sociological standpoint That's probably true based on the personalities we see in the book but it comes off as an attempt at some way too late cashing in on ground he has previously trod That said I really enjoyed reading about the people of Shawmut River I'm a small town Southern girl and saw many of these same characters and incidents in my own childhood church a Southern Baptist one so there was a larger entity involved unlike what we see here However in my opinion for a book like this to truly be successful you must let the people of the book create your story for you and the people Ault profiles do just that However Ault seems to be using this book as his belated opportunity to tell us at GREAT length what it all MEANS and that really turned me off as it was unnecessary and at times patronizing Worth the read for the church and skip the commentary


  2. Margie Margie says:

    Really interesting look at a fundamentalist congregation


  3. Phil Phil says:

    Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the early to mid 1980s Ault stepped up to the plate when Marsden named the local congregation as the crucial site of fundamentalist cultural formation as opposed to the infamous televangelists who make for easier stories and who generate content accessible to outsiders I'm not sure Ault realized his work was also then filling a gap in the historiography of American fundamentalism when he conducted the study but he became plenty plugged into that academic discourse by the time he wrote this in 2004 Ault demonstrates the unsafe subjective possibilities of properly open ethnographic method; the changes in his own life products of fundamentalist evangelism as much as their deep sacrificial commitment to one another surfaced in this book are even greater and transparently narrated than is usual for even the most theoretically sophisticated and roundly celebrated ethnographers Spirit and Flesh is valuable not only in its correcting of academic myopia with respect to conservative American Christianity fundamentalism isn't a primitive religious artifact but a distinctly modern phenomenon and it isn't going to vanish but in its attempt at shattering the hostility with which people outside fundamentalism not just scholars and not just left leaning people view it He calls it the Achilles' Heel of liberalism's code of tolerance the weak spot where scholars and politicians genuinely promoting tolerance are most likely to condemn and seek to uproot those with whom they disagree I find that compelling especially since he doesn't totally endorse or even defend controversial aspects of the typical fundamentalist worldview Rather he paints them as human I'll take that away than anything I might have uibbled with along the way


  4. Jeri Massi Jeri Massi says:

    James Ault lived as part of a Fundamentalist IFB church for two years later producing a film and a book about the experience His insights spurred other writers and researchers to lose the contempt they have been taught to feel for Fundamentalism and instead view the religious movement with the necessary prereuisite respect to understand itAult did his study decades before allegations of child molesting in Christian Fundamentalism came to light The church he selected while Jerry Falwell was still alive was pastored by a man who belonged to the Falwell stratum of Fundamentalism in the late 1980's or early 1990's So Ault never saw either the Hyles or BJU strata of FundamentalismAult’s most disarming and perceptive insight is that Fundamentalism though it emphasizes reliance on the sacred Scripture is primarily a religion in the Oral Tradition The beliefs which have a certain flexibility are disseminated through the sermons and lessons and by person to person conversation People share sermons pass around tapes and attend conferences where they hear the leaders of the religion make their pronouncements Bible reading rather than being systematic or scholarly is performed selectively in order to “hide God’s Word in the heart” which is a euphemism for memorization At the appropriate time learned texts are slapped onto a situation But sermons carry the beliefs and transmit them Bible reading serves the sermonsAult’s next most disarming insight is that Fundamentalism relies upon situation ethics He expressed surprise that the preacher a man he came to admire would thunder that divorce was always wrong and everybody would shout “Amen” yet several people in the church were divorced They felt no incongruity about condemning divorce yet also being divorced Ault learned that the Fundamentalist mindset believed that it believed in the absolutes that it claimed yet the culture was one of addressing every situation individually and evaluating it in light of multiple factors While remaining conservative and morally strict Fundamentalism nonetheless relied upon situation for its moral decisions not absolutes Divorce in the end was NOT always wrong if a situation was one that was intolerable or “unavoidable” The people he noted saw no contradiction in what they said vs what they actually practiced They thought they believed in an absolute morality and they practiced situation ethicsAs Ault himself has no grudge against situation ethics this double standard struck him as an amazing irony rather than anything shameful Indeed he appears to find some relief in the notion that the bark of Fundamentalism is worse than its bite at least for people inside a “Fundamentalist community” And Ault found many admirable ualities within the community especially their care for each other Ault’s chosen church by the way was not a Jack Hyles type church but one after the model of Jerry FalwellInstant History Ault found that the heavy reliance of the people upon the spoken word rather than written texts created a sort of “instant history” for them They believed that Fundamentalism had created far impact in history than it actually has and their view of history was shaped by their view of Fundamentalism Names that most people have never heard of such as J Frank Norris Billy Sunday etc were lynchpins of significance for the church members They had very little knowledge of substantive makers of historyCosmic Struggle The Oral Tradition of Fundamentalism created a ready made culture where one had not existed before complete with its own history and its outlook of being at the center of a cosmic struggle This cosmic struggle by the way is not the victorious struggle of Christ to overcome Satan and sin but rather the struggle of Fundamentalism to restore the present culture to godlinessAult's analysis had a few gaps because he observed only one church and yet his insights are compelling and profound I will also add that Ault became devout in his own faith in Christ though certainly not a Fundamentalist after seeing answers to prayer when the church members insisted that to observe them properly he had to engage in sharing prayer reuests That was probably one of the most charming parts of the book


  5. Richard Richard says:

    I was pointed to this book by Weekly Sift Doug Muder's essay Red Family Blue Family which invoked a very interesting concept obligated relationships vs negotiated committments is included in a list from CivilPoliticsorg in the list To help liberals understand and be civil to conservatives reviewsNY Times Diego Reader author is primarily a documentary filmmaker and created a 1987 PBS documentary from the same material called Born Again See a two minute preview two minutes or six minutes at Vimeo A DVD is available for purchase at the author's website for 29


  6. Emily Emily says:

    It was fascinating to see an outsider's sociological look at the kind of environment I grew up in I would have liked much less about the process of doing this kind of studyfilmmaking and much further exploration of the shadow church of former members where Ault barely scratches the service Similarly I found myself wishing that he had paired with a woman sociologist in this study While his observations about the rigid gender roles marriage as adversarial and use of gossipsoft power were accurate I found myself wishing for insightanalysis on women's only spaces in fundamentalist churches the kind of access he was not able to have


  7. Steve Steve says:

    A fascinating participant observer in depth study of a fundamentalist Baptist church from the mid 80s Among other things Ault identified several important traits family based networks reciprocity an oral tradition despite being a 'people of the book' offering plate democracy gender defined domainsThis book will help towards an understanding of the resilience of the Christian fundamentalist movement


  8. Doug Payne Doug Payne says:

    As an insider to fundamentalism almost my whole life I found the work fun to read It was helpful to read an outsiders perspective His approach is sociological He is fair and understands fundamentalist better than their drive by liberal critics and even some fundamentalists


  9. Julian Julian says:

    This book was pretty interesting but not gripping enough to finish The point is that fundamentalist church communities offer people the kind of interdependent community life that is often lacking in the secularintellectual world I didn't really want to see if the secularintellectual author found Jesus at the end so I stopped He spent most of the book making friends with the church people and finding out how their lives went which seemed to be a lot of preaching about crap and giving money to the church but it was OK not to do what was preached as long as you had a good reason ie women aren't supposed to work but no one really gives them shit for it


  10. Stuart Stuart says:

    A good look at a particular IFB church in the 70s Some of it is a bit foreign for instance the weird ones are those who are KJV Only and forbid pants on women when in my experience that is far and away the norm but it helps understand the close knit fundamentalist communities and the power struggles and rhetoric employed very well I really want to hunt the documentary this was based on now This book would be much different if it was chronicling a church that had a few decades before he showed up and especially in the fallout of the moral majority and the like


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Spirit and Flesh Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church ❰Read❯ ➲ Spirit and Flesh Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church Author James M. Ault – Thomashillier.co.uk In an attempt to understand the growing popularity and influence of Christian fundamentalism sociologist and documentary filmmaker James Ault spent three years inside the world of a Massachusetts fund In an attempt Flesh Life eBook ´ to understand the growing popularity and influence of Christian fundamentalism sociologist and documentary filmmaker James Ault spent three years inside the world of a Massachusetts fundamentalist churchSpirit and Flesh takes us into worship services home Bible studies youth events men’s prayer Spirit and MOBI :↠ breakfasts and bitter conflicts leading to a church split We come to know the members of the congregation and see how the church acts as an extended family that provides support and security along with occasional tensions Intimate and rigorously fair minded Spirit and Flesh and Flesh Life MOBI ò will help non religious readers better understand their fellow citizens and will allow devout readers to see themselves through the eyes of a sympathetic outsider.