Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (AAR ACADEMY SER)

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9780199337507: Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (AAR ACADEMY SER)
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Scholars who study the Christian Right often claim that the movement's distinction lies in its moral absolutism and religious fervor. Through a detailed study of the sexually-charged rhetoric of one of America's largest conservative women's organizations, Concerned Women for America (CWA), Righteous Rhetoric argues that the absolute platforms for which CWA is known are not the linchpin of its political power. Rather, such absolutes are the byproduct of a more fundamental rhetorical process called "chaos rhetoric," a type of speech designed to create a heightened sense of social chaos and threat.

In response, CWA is able to flexibly counter this negative emotion by crafting a positive identity for itself, shifting in ways that are politically advantageous in the tumultuous cultural contests that occur over sex, gender, and reproduction. However powerful this technique may prove, Righteous Rhetoric demonstrates that chaos rhetoric is not unique to CWA, but is a ubiquitous tactic used by almost all groups in the fight for social dominance.
Where CWA and the Christian Right's true source of distinction lies is thus not in unique theologies or political tactics, but in the ability to fuse its own identity with America's most beloved symbols in such a way that its own existence is rendered inseparable from the nation's very survival.

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About the Author:


Leslie Dorrough Smith is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Department at Avila University, Kansas City, Missouri.

Review:


"A rich analysis...What makes this book so valuable is not just that it offers an insightful analysis of an important national organization. It also provides a significant new framework for understanding contemporary political rhetoric across the political spectrum."--Religion & Politics


"Smith's project offers a new lens through which to read the intersection of religious and political discourse as well as many of the highly charged social conflicts of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries." --Religion in American History


"This book is required reading for those engaging faith and politics today." --Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual


"After Leslie Dorrough Smith, our understanding of Christian Right jeremiads against sexualities, abortion, and feminism, which equate religion and personal morality with the fate of the nation itself, will never be the same. Her skillful and sophisticated analysis of Concerned Women of America exposes their use of chaos rhetoric not only as political but as unexceptional--a framing that academics as well as other critics might ponder as we reflect on their characterization of our America." --Eileen Boris, Hull Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara


"Leslie Dorrough Smith's Righteous Rhetoric offers a new and promising examination of the religious right through the lens of one of its most important groups. Smith counters conservative religion's own claims that its enduring strength derives from the absolute and eternal values it offers, arguing persuasively that through its rhetoric, conservative religion produces chaos and positions itself as the necessary solution." --Julie Ingersoll, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Florida


"'The world is going to hell in a hand basket' is a common enough claim, but Leslie Dorrough Smith makes sure that we see just how normal this rhetorical move is--whether used by the people scholars study or by those very scholars themselves. By focusing on social techniques, regardless the practitioner, and their practical effects, she nicely models, for those who wish to apply this move to other domains, what scholarship can look like when we rethink our object of study as a mundane, but no less interesting, element of everyday life." --Russell McCutcheon, author of Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia


"What Leslie Dorrough Smith's Righteous Rhetoric does most brilliantly is take conservative Christian women's rhetoric seriously, showing how their most prominent organization motivates Christian women not necessarily to follow the Bible, but instead to influence political outcomes around issues of sex, gender, and reproduction... Smith's ability to examine intersections of race, class and gender in her interrogation of CWA's chaos rhetoric while simultaneously encouraging reflexivity regarding how these tactics are employed by groups on the left ensure that this book will find a home on the reading list for my political communication courses."--Women and Social Movements in the United States


"By exposing the ubiquity of chaos rhetoric across the academy, Smith considers the ways in which scholarship itself is a fertile site for politicized rhetorical strategies. This book not only succeeds in speaking to contemporary feminist and religious studies scholars, but also offers fruitful sites of engagement with a wider, interdisciplinary readership."--Religious Studies Review


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