Indiana Jones and the Temple of Media: Exploring the Interconnection of Commercial Entertainment Media, Identity and Faith in the American Spiritual Marketplace

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This dissertation is an assessment of the relationship between commercial entertainment media, religion and identity in the American spiritual marketplace. Using ethnographic observations of evangelical prayer groups and church sermons, pastor interviews, focus groups, and email surveys, this research examines the myriad aspects of commercial entertainment media use by American evangelical churches, including how Hollywood movies and popular television shows are used in religious messages; what reasons pastors provide for choosing to bring mainstream entertainment media formations into their churches; what evangelical churchgoers themselves think of commercial media texts both inside and outside the space of the church; and how this immersion in commercial entertainment media culture influences the formation of identity and the development of faith. Using the instrumentalist/substantive theoretical debate as general a point of orientation the research assesses how churchgoers redefine themselves in the new mediated spiritual marketplace, focusing specifically on the potential and tension between the development of identity as a person of faith versus an individual consumer of religious products.

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