“What Liberal Delusions about Conservatism Teach”
Society 49:1, 2012
I recently summarized the framework I developed in Spirit and Flesh for understanding conflicts
over family-value issues in American life, and brought it up to date. I applied it to both developments
within American politics and, now globally–for example, in conflicts over homosexuality
in world Christianity.
This article was first presented at a symposium on “The Future of Social Conservatism” hosted
by Jon Shields, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and was published in
Society, Vol.49; No.1, January/February 2012.
“Tracking Christianity’s Transformation: An Interview with James Ault” by Theo Anderson, The Public Eye, Spring 2013
James Ault is a writer and documentary filmmaker based in Northampton, MA. His first film, Born Again (1987), focused on the life of a fundamentalist Baptist church in Worcester, MA. He later wrote a book about the same church, Spirit and Flesh (2004), which The Washington Post called “the best single-volume explanation of why American fundamentalist Christianity thrives among certain people.”
Ault wanted to explore the social bases of “family-value” politics among grassroots supporters of the New Right, which was becoming a powerful political force when he began his research in the early 1980s. He settled on the small, blue-collar “Shawmut River Baptist Church” (a fictitious name Ault uses to protect the privacy of the subjects), whose pastor was vice president of the Massachusetts chapter of Jerry Falwell’s political organization, the Moral Majority.
“As soon as I walked through its doors,” Ault said about his first visit to Shawmut River, “I felt you could see the social world in which New Right enthusiasms made sense to its supporters. Families are gathered. You get to know things about their personal life. There’s no separation between private and public. It’s all there.”
Ault’s latest project is a two-part film series, African Christianity Rising, which focuses on Ghana and Zimbabwe. It documents Christianity’s “explosive growth” on the continent, showing the ways that it’s expanding and being adapted within African cultures. Information on Ault’s projects is available on his website, www.jamesault.com.