I Love to Tell the Stor(ies): Narrative Construction in the Christian Right
Gilmore, James Gillespie
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Since the emergence of the Christian Right as an identified political and social movement in the late 1970s, commentators have sought to explain it. I Love to Tell the Stor(ies) posits that Christian Right rhetoric can be defined and understood by its appeals to two narratives about the universe and the nation. The Cosmic Narrative suggests that the cosmos is a battlefield between the Christian God and Satan, hinged on the incarnation of Jesus Christ and culminating in the End Times. In the American Narrative, the nation was founded by Protestant Christians to fulfill God’s purposes, but has fallen into moral decline and must return to Christianity so that it can again be blessed by God. I Love to Tell the Stor(ies) reconstructs these narratives from texts by prominent Christian Right rhetors. The narratives resonate with one another in the parameters they set out for how the universe is held together and for epistemology within that universe, forming the foundation of the Christian Right’s rhetorical edifice. A challenge emerges for Christian Right rhetors in some of the particulars, though, as the narratives present dissonant hermeneutics for space and time, for the identity of the movement’s adherents, and for the relationship to other politically-conservative religious worldviews. This project concludes that while these dissonances threaten to undermine the Christian Right’s worldview, they can also be strategically used to bolster that worldview. Rhetors can use these dissonances to transpose methods of reasoning from one narrative to another, creating a context in which adherents’ actions have eternal consequences, the symbols of civil religion are reinterpreted as special revelation from God to those with the means to understand them, and the humanist enemy is not merely a threat to God’s purposes for the American nation but an occupying army in league with the forces of Satan in the great cosmic war. In the hands of skilled rhetors, the worldview structure constructed by these resonances and dissonances has continued to stand for decades.