From Publishers Weekly
Since they began flexing their political muscles with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, Christian fundamentalists have attracted increasing attention from curious, and often suspicious, outsiders. Setting out to make a documentary about the religious right in the early 1980s, Harvard- and Brandeis-trained sociologist Ault found his way to a Falwell-influenced church, the pseudonymously named Shawmut River Baptist Church, and ended up spending more than two years there. There, much to the bewilderment of his fellow academics, he found a community whose beliefs sustained a social world of surprising richness. Ault masterfully combines narrative with careful, and frequently groundbreaking, analysis: "While fundamentalists' timeless, God-given absolutes may appear rigid from the outside, within the organism of a close-knit community... they can be surprisingly supple and flexible over time and place." But what is most striking is the way Ault brings his whole person, not just his capacity for insightful abstraction, into the story—and into the quest to know not just his subjects, but also their God. While most of the book's events took place almost two decades ago, Ault's hours of verbatim recordings, which he retells with gripping immediacy, keep the book fresh. This title joins Randall Balmer's Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
as required reading for anyone who would understand America's most conservative Christians.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
For a self-admitted left-wing sociologist, Ault provides as unbiased a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the fundamentalist members of the Shawmut River Baptist Church of Worcester, Massachusetts, as might be found. His relations with the church began in the mid-1980s when his postdoctoral dissertation on why new-right conservative women eschew feminism led to a PBS documentary. Having continued, they now eventuated in this lengthy account of the professional and personal lives of the pastor and several congregants. Ault's narrative style should appeal to the Left and Right alike, particularly after he confesses his frequent discomfort when others mention their unqualified faith in the word of the Bible, which doesn't, however, impede his portrayal of that faith as earnest and heartfelt. Ault discloses all that the people of Shawmut River Baptist taught him about how fundamentalists make the world work for them; and by noting how liberals see the same world quite differently, he just may have written the seminal opus for bridge-building between those two factions. Donna ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved