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Obres de Karen Swallow Prior


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Data de naixement
20th century
Lloc de naixement
Maine, USA
English professor



This book is poignant and necessary for understanding the evangelical church in the west today. Karen Swallow Prior is a lucid researcher who writes beautifully and I’m personally just gutted that the evangelical community has undervalued the calls from within to make straight the way. This book is one part inspection about how the modern church got here, and one part call to reform.
Anyone caught in the crossfires of determined and rigid “preacher-leaders” will understand the urgency firsthand. I applaud Karen Swallow Prior’s works generally, but “The Evangelical Imagination” takes the cake. 8 out of 5 stars.
Read it, grapple with it, pray through it, carry forward with your convictions in the truth and the way. I’m grateful for women of the faith who show us all what it means to count the cost and follow Him.
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LindsayKinney | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Mar 5, 2024 |
The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images & Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis by Karen Swallow Prior (KSP) carries a balanced, academic tone that conveys the author’s knowledge and professionalism. This book is not KSP railing madly at evangelicals. Rather, it is a book written by an informed evangelical who is concerned about current church culture issues. I actually expected far more censure and calls to action by the author.

The text of The Evangelical Imagination should be read with care. Occasionally, I had to reread a section to completely grasp the ideas presented. Concepts such as imagination, sentimentality, and materiality are presented at a college-level understanding. Still, KSP keeps the book accessible by giving detailed explanations that readers, including those without a religious background, would understand. There is a large notes section at the end for curious people like me.

In The Evangelical Imagination, KSP keeps mostly to history and literature as she addresses her topics. Surprisingly, she mostly bypassed examining Biblical narratives that contribute to church culture. She did address certain teachings and lines of thought/expectation that swirl in today’s evangelical culture.

The Evangelical Imagination by Karen Swallow Prior gave me much to think about and made me want to read several of her works cited. Even though I grew up in the evangelical church, I still learned a lot from this book and the “Empire” chapter was especially enlightening. The book is best suited for those interested in the topic of evangelical church culture but who also enjoy historical art and literature.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
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BeautyintheBinding | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Jan 3, 2024 |
Summary: A consideration of the images, stories, metaphors that constitute the “social imaginary” of what it has meant to be an evangelical.

A number of commentators both within and outside evangelicalism have tried to make sense of the evangelical movement in North America at a time when it is in crisis and many are deserting churches or even the Christian faith associated with that movement. Karen Swallow Prior grew up in this movement, imbibed its culture, and taught at one of its flagship institutions for many years. She writes as an insider who has seen its strengths and flaws and has not given up or departed.

The premise of this book is that every culture has a “social Imaginary,” a term drawn from Charles Taylor, that refers to the shared stories, metaphors, and images by which a culture makes sense of the world and itself. In this work prior unpacks a series of terms and the stories and images evangelicals by which evangelicals have articulated both their own culture and its interaction with the world: awakening, conversion, testimony, improvement, sentimentality, materiality, domesticity, empire, reformation, and rapture. She uses the tools of her academic discipline of English literature to explore these ideas both in literature and in evangelical and wider popular culture.

Each chapter explores the development of the particular term or metaphor. For example, Prior traces the idea of “testimony” in both Dickens Hard Times (with Mr. Gradgrind’s “facts” about a horse a far cry from its meaning) and Scrooge’s “conversion” testimony in A Christmas Carol. She explores how testimony and the literate culture that acompanied it might be traced through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and on to accounts by Thomas à Kempis, John Newton, Philip Doddridge, and William Wilberforce. And she chronicles the rise of “evangelically speaking” where telling a good story takes precedence over truth and the necessity of being able to tell one.

Part of the power of this book is to show how the distinctive imaginary of evangelicalism is double-edged, having elements that genuinely reflect the work of God as well as toxic distortions of those elements.There is both the awakening of conscience to sin of the great awakenings and the resistance to awakening to the systemic character of our nation’s racial sins in which “woke” becomes pejorative. Conversion reflects a concern that one not be a Christian in name only but be transformed through new birth into abundant and eternal life with Christ and yet becomes truncated if it does not lead to the continuing conversion of being formed into Christlikeness in all of life. Even empire might reflect the aspiration that “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun/does its successive journeys run” that fueled genuine advances of Christianity to many parts of the world, only to be co-opted by the empires of white nations that colonized much of the world, or even the entrpreneurial evangelical ministries that built their own empires, often around human personality.

At the same time, what makes this book a joy to read is Prior’s ability to move between literature, history, and popular culture as she does in her chapter on “sentimentality” in which she ranges English and Scottish philosophy to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to Sallman’s Head of Christ, and to the art and personal habits of Thomas Kinkade. All this is reflected in her intriguing subtitle “Uncle Tom, Sweet Jesus, and Public Urination,” the last part of which I will leave you the fun of discovering.

Prior’s point in this exploration is perhaps articulated best when she writes, “To be a product of a subculture–to inherit unthinkingly, uncritically, and assumingly all its images, metaphors, and stories–is to plagiarize a faith” (p. 218). In her chapter on reformation, she contends that evangelicalism is in a time of reckoning. We cannot unthinkingly parrot the metaphors that have shaped us without being re-formed in the way of Christ, shedding the accreted distortions of the evangelical imagination. Prior points the way toward this in her final chapter on “rapture” where she concludes that we should not focus on being caught up with Christ in some future “rapture” but be “enraptured by him, to be beholden to him, to be taken by him” (p. 258) here and now.

I’ve sometimes wondered if the problem of evangelicalism is a lack of imagination. Prior’s book suggests to me that it may not be a lack of imagination but what we’ve been imagining. Prior takes a critical step back, aided by both literary and cultural interlocutors to help us identify what is often assumed, to question it, and under God’s grace, to give up our feeble imaginations for the robust imagination of Christ and his kingdom.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.
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BobonBooks | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Nov 19, 2023 |
For as long as I have been a Christian I have maintained a fundamental discomfort, a “dis-ease,” with a lot of the artistic production of the Evangelical subculture.

I do not self-identify as an Evangelical, and until recently, if even then, most Evangelicals would not want to claim me, either. Nevertheless, I find myself often in an “Evangelical-adjacent” space: a lot of the books, blogs, podcasts, music, movies, and for that matter the agendas and emphases in churches, let alone the “culture wars,” which prove nearly impossible to ignore comes out of the Evangelical subculture. For many people in the “Bible Belt” and in self-isolating communities around the country and the world, the Evangelical subculture seems to be their world and culture.

The reason I have maintained a level of discomfort with the productions from Evangelical subculture involve how they often are middle-rate, warmed over attempts to baptize modern secular culture, and often whenever originality is attempted, it tends to come off as a bit hokey and overly sentimental. In short, it has always felt to me as a failure of imagination.

Karen Swallow Prior has been immersed in Evangelical culture all of her life; few if any would be more qualified to explore the Evangelical imaginary as she does in The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images & Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis.

Prior thus investigates the history of Evangelicalism through Charles Taylor’s lens of the “social imaginary”: the ways in which people in a group think and speak of things. She shows well how the Victorian era was the apogee of Evangelical success, and how much of what many associate with a particularly “Christian” worldview really just reflects the cultural mores of the Victorians. She explores how Evangelicals have considered and imagined life, light, awakening, conversion, testimony, moral improvement, the nature and power of sentimentality, grappling with the material world, the domestic sphere, empire, colonialism, and expansion, the reformation impulse, and finally (appropriately) apocalypticism and the “rapture.”

This is absolutely an English teacher’s foray through Evangelical history and heritage, and perhaps I’m biased as the son and husband of former English teachers, but Evangelical subculture really needs to submit itself to a thorough analysis of its historical imaginary. Prior connects most of the malaise in modern Evangelicalism to various aspects of this imaginary: the impetus to empire, colonization, and domination; the pretense of not being worldly yet constantly adapting various cultural forms and objects; the expectation of cultural dominance.

The book itself is not all about social commentary; Prior is a good Evangelical and tries to get Evangelicals to appreciate many aspects of their social imaginary as much as she has to point out the challenges which attend because of it.

For those attuned to the Evangelical subculture, or wanting to understand why the Evangelical subculture is the way it is, Prior’s work is highly recommended.
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deusvitae | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Jul 24, 2023 |



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