Evangelical Youth Culture book (2017)


My book Evangelical Youth Culture: Alternative Music and Extreme Sports Subcultures was published by Bloomsbury Academic in October 2017.


Evangelical Youth Culture Alternative Music and Extreme Sports SubculturesThis book offers a theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich study of the intersections of contemporary Christianity and youth culture, focusing on evangelical engagements with punk, hip hop, surfing, and skateboarding. Ibrahim Abraham draws on interviews and fieldwork with dozens of musicians and sports enthusiasts in the USA, UK, Australia, and South Africa, and the analysis of evangelical subcultural media including music, film, and extreme sports Bibles.

Evangelical Youth Culture: Alternative Music and Extreme Sports Subcultures makes innovative use of multiple theories of youth cultures and subcultures from sociology and cultural studies, and introduces the “serious leisure perspective” to the study of religion, youth, and popular culture. Engaging with the experiences of Pentecostal punks, surfing missionaries, township rappers, and skateboarding youth pastors, this book makes an original contribution to the sociology of religion, youth studies, and the study of religion and popular culture.


Like most scholarly monographs, this book is really marketed at academic institutions. It is not priced for individual readers, but if enough students and faculty order a copy for their libraries then the publisher may consider releasing a softcover edition which will be slightly more affordable.

See the Google books preview here; the full introductory chapter, most of chapter one (“Evangelical Christianity and Youth Subculture Theory”), and some of chapter two (“Christian Punk in an Age of Authenticity”) is available.

Bloomsbury USA site for hardcover, PDF, and EPUB formats.

Bloomsbury UK site for hardcover, PDF, and EPUB formats.

Bloomsbury Australia site for hardcover, PDF, and EPUB formats.


Evangelical Youth Culture Alternative Music Extreme Sports Subcultures


Table of contents

(see below for individual chapter abstracts)

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chapter 1 – Evangelical Christianity and Youth Subculture Theory

Chapter 2 – Christian Punk in an Age of Authenticity

Chapter 3 – Postsecular Punk: Christianity’s Contested Inclusion in Alternative Music Scenes

Chapter 4 – Evangelical Extreme Sports Subcultures and Youth Development Ministry

Chapter 5 – Serious Leisure and Salvation Anxiety in Evangelical Youth Culture

Chapter 6 – Fear of a Black Magic: Evangelical Opposition to Alternative Youth Culture

Conclusion

Glossary

References

Index


Chapter abstracts 

Introduction

The introductory chapter outlines the key themes and concepts analyzed in the book, including an extended discussion of the contemporary social meaning of Evangelicalism, and the different definitions of youth in the social sciences, and in Evangelical youth culture and ministry. The chapter also explains the methodology employed in the book and the ethics of the research project, contextualized within the broader fields of the sociology of religion, and the study of popular and youth culture.

Keywords: Christianity; Evangelicalism; Popular music; Sociology; Youth culture

Chapter 1 – Evangelical Christianity and Youth Subculture Theory

This chapter analyzes theories of youth subcultures, and cognate concepts such as countercultures, from cultural studies, the sociology of popular and youth culture, and the sociology of religion, showing how these concepts contribute to understanding contemporary Evangelical youth culture. Analysis of countercultures includes discussion of the Jesus Movement, the Evangelical fraction of the hippie counterculture vital to the development of contemporary Christian music and subcultural youth ministry, theorized as a “counter-counterculture.” The chapter critically analyzes the class-focused youth subcultural studies of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, as well as later “post-subcultural” approaches that reject the importance of class for youth subcultures. Finally, the chapter analyzes theorizations of Evangelical subculture from within the sociology of religion, including Christian Smith’s “subcultural identity theory of religious strength,” as well as ethnographic studies of campus-based Evangelical youth subcultures.

Keywords: Christianity; Counterculture; Evangelicalism; Post-subculture; Subculture; Youth culture

Chapter 2 – Christian Punk in an Age of Authenticity

Utilizing the work of philosopher Charles Taylor, this chapter analyzes the different understandings of authenticity in Evangelical churches and the Christian music industry on the one hand, and secular punk youth subcultures on the other. Beginning with an overview of the history of Christian punk, from the 1980s to its unexpected commercial success and secular crossover appeal in the 2000s and 2010s, the chapter then draws on interviews with Evangelical punks seeking to bridge the divide, and analysis of discourses around authenticity in popular music studies and studies of contemporary religion and spirituality. Identifying authenticity as a key site of contestation for Evangelical youth seeking to engage with secular youth culture, the chapter notes the importance of continuity between belief and behavior within both the secular punk subculture and Evangelical churches.

Keywords: Authenticity; Christianity; Christian music; Evangelicalism; Popular music; Punk

Chapter 3 – Postsecular Punk: Christianity’s Contested Inclusion in Alternative Music Scenes

This chapter brings punk and Evangelical youth cultures into dialogue with contemporary approaches in social theory and political philosophy toward what has been labeled the “postsecular;”; debates over the inclusion of religion in the public life of communities that had considered themselves secularized to the point that religion was no longer a significant social issue. Drawing on the work of Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls concerning the regulation of religiously diverse societies, this chapter demonstrates a general “overlapping consensus” on maintaining punk scenes as secular and inclusive, despite various examples of religious and irreligious individuals undermining this consensus. The chapter also includes examples and analysis of conflict avoidance strategies by Evangelical youth and youth ministries seeking to negotiate their presence in secular youth cultures and wrestle with controversial Evangelical social attitudes.

Keywords: Christianity; Evangelicalism; Postsecular; Popular music; Punk; Youth culture

Chapter 4 – Evangelical Extreme Sports Subcultures and Youth Development Ministry

This chapter offers the first social scientific analysis of Evangelical extreme sports subcultures and extreme sports development ministries, focusing on surfing and skateboarding projects in South Africa. The chapter begins with an analysis of specific subculture-focused attempts at evangelism within skateboarding and surfing youth cultures, including a discussion of previous studies of the implicit spirituality of surfing. The chapter then examines the specific conflicts that have emerged between the normative cultures of extreme sports and Evangelicalism, focusing in particular on symbolic aspects of skateboarding, and the supposedly addictive experience of “flow” in surfing. Finally, the chapter offers an extensive analysis of Evangelical approaches to youth development through extreme sports in South Africa, including an overview of existing literature on religious and secular youth sport development, analyzing the use of sport as a form of moral pedagogy with both religious and secular objectives.

Keywords: Christianity; Evangelicalism; Extreme sports; Skateboarding; Surfing; Youth development

Chapter 5 – Serious Leisure and Salvation Anxiety in Evangelical Youth Culture

This chapter offers the first application of the concept of “serious leisure” to the study of contemporary religion, analyzing the tensions experienced by young Evangelicals involved with nominally secular leisure pursuits that they fear are functioning as surrogates or rivals for religion in their lives. The chapter begins with an overview of the “serious leisure perspective” as developed by the sociologist Robert A. Stebbins, noting that it has been studied within an irreligious framework, with serious leisure conceived of as a form of meaning-making in secular societies. The chapter then looks at particular tensions and anxieties that develop among Evangelical serious leisure participants, focusing on hip hop, punk, and surfing, noting particular concerns about disruption to one’s relationship with God through serious leisure. Finally, drawing on anthropological studies of “rituals of rupture” within African Pentecostalism, the chapter analyzes the reorientation of attitudes toward serious leisure and the sacralization of serious leisure pursuits.

Keywords: Christianity; Evangelicalism; Hip hop; Punk; Serious leisure; Surfing

Chapter 6 – Fear of a Black Magic: Evangelical Opposition to Alternative Youth Culture

This chapter analyzes individual experiences of hostility and opposition to alternative music and youth culture in Evangelical churches, as well as broader contemporary discourses circulating within global Evangelicalism, focusing on ideas of authenticity, the autonomy and power of youth culture, and the everyday spiritual sensibilities of Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals. With a particular focus on opposition to hip hop, the chapter begins with an overview of secular critiques from churches, as well as discussions on the neutrality of popular music genres. The chapter also includes a sustained analysis of the anti–-hip hop ministry of American Pentecostal pastor G. Craige Lewis, whose claims of the satanic control of hip hop have been well received in South Africa. Noting the compatibility of Lewis’s ideas with common beliefs in contemporary African Christianity, the chapter recognizes the ongoing fear among Evangelicals about the power of secular youth culture as an agent of socialization.

Keywords: African Christianity; Evangelicalism; Fundamentalism; Hip hop; Pentecostalism; Youth culture

Conclusion

The conclusion outlines three prevailing challenges for Evangelical youth culture as it engages with alternative music and extreme sports subcultures: the challenge of subcultural strength, the challenge of secular translation, and the challenge of globalization.

Keywords: Christianity; Evangelicalism; Extreme sports; Popular music; Youth culture

Glossary

The glossary contains definitions for forty common insider terms in Evangelical youth culture and the alternative music and extreme sports subcultures analyzed in this book, including “blessed,” “born again,” “flow,” “hardcore,” “stoke,” and so on.

Keywords: Evangelicalism; Popular music; Subculture; Youth culture

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