Date Thesis Awarded

5-2021

Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

American Studies

Advisor

Charles McGovern

Committee Members

Francesca Sawaya

Maureen Fitzgerald

Abstract

By the nature of their movement, evangelicals intended to interact with secular society in contrast to the fundamentalism that gave it birth. Nonetheless, as the wholesome 1950's aesthetic dissipated and faced challenges from new cultures in the 1960’s, evangelicals began to more closely resemble fundamentalists in practice. Today, conservative evangelical Christians typically see the world as hostile to their way of life. They choose to raise their children with certain precepts in order to keep their faith alive. One significant means to this goal is creating worlds that represent their beliefs within literature to inculcate these perspectives. In this way, children’s literature shapes ideologies in ways more implicit than explicit. Through looking at the literature that shaped my own childhood, I seek to understand the correlation between that literature and the political and religious affiliation carried into adulthood by myself and my peers. These children’s stories serve as a window into growing up evangelical, an artifact to understand better what it means to be an American evangelical. I work to understand the set of shared experiences among evangelical children through autoethnography and more traditional collective ethnography. I explore the relationships with the teachings and consider how these played a role in a broader moral education.

To understand the evangelical movement, and evaluate its impact on children’s literature, I will interrogate evangelical fears, as well some of its central political ideologies, and show how that translates into children’s literature and programming with a clear intent to propagandize. I argue that American Evangelicalism from 1970 to 2014 experienced tremendous growth and as a group strategically increased its political and social influence. This reach can be seen through evangelical children’s literature and how it shaped the now-adults who read it, whether decades ago or as recently as my own childhood. In my research I focus on the white evangelical experience in the United States, since it is my own; however, this is not to discount the Black Christian experience because it is both disparate from and intertwined with its white counterpart. I focus here on my experiences and those of my peers, to understand the influence of evangelical children and adolescent literature, and more broadly evangelical consumer products, on individual understanding of gender, sexuality, socio-political roles, and personal faith from childhood to adulthood.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Available for download on Thursday, May 18, 2023

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