I once had a professor tell me that every good piece takes into account three things: race, class, and gender. As always, Dr. Frederick weaves these themes into engaging stories and thought-provoking analyses so smoothly it seems effortless. She describes her methods and how she collects said stories. She says that she abides by George Marcus’ proclamation “follow the thing” (p. 8), which she certainly does. Dr. Frederick takes us on a journey around the world, most notably Jamaica, where she helps us to get to know the challenges and needs of communities and how people look toward televangelists to fulfill those needs. Dr. Frederick does not just discuss the actual televangelists, but she also studies and shares knowledge about their congregations and production studios. She truly follows the thing, not just the outward-facing parts but the thing as a whole and multifaceted entity.
Dr. Frederick’s energy about the topic is contagious. I watch a few televangelists, and the book made me excited to watch them some more and helped me to appreciate them, their global impact, and their shared tropes. I am also impressed by how up-to-date the book is. For the time, the pop-culture references are spot on. And to be living in the post-2016 world now and watching the mentees of these personalities follow in their footsteps makes reading the book so engaging and intriguing.
One observation about televangelists that Dr. Frederick makes is that while she studies Black televangelists, those personalities do not necessarily preach Black religion. She describes Black religion as having an element of protestation, but the egregiously famous televangelists that she discusses preach what she calls “American religion.” Which she notes is already global and is not dependent upon Black televangelists to make it so (p.5). This was very interesting to me and prompted me to think about the role of White supremacy in the globalization of American religion and how Black televangelists, their congregations, and their producers participate in this.