By What Authority? The Rise of Personality Cults in American by Richard Quebedeaux

By Richard Quebedeaux

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In the words of one church historian, "The nation hung on their words and doted on their persons. "11 The sermons of these men and others like them were not infrequently front-page news, and some were regularly syndicated in the national media-in their entirety. The traditional Protestant emphasis on preaching the word, com­ bined with the absence in America of an "established" church, created 20 The Rise of the Religious Personality Cult the right conditions in the churches as a whole for a major focus on the sermon and on the personality of the preacher.

Movie stars were servants of Satan, and television, when it emerged, was "hellevision. " But by 1 949, already, things were changing. The same week-long gathering of college students that rekindled Billy Graham's evangelistic zeal also generated a new kind of evange­ lism in Hollywood itself. The students who attended these confer­ ences, it must be remembered, were not typical fundamentalists, nor were their preachers and teachers. They were from upper-middle-class backgrounds. Many attended prestigious secular universities from which their teachers held doctorates.

The power, then, to overcome all the illusions that have vexed humanity throughout its history was offered by her in the Church of Christ, Scientist, and in the Christian Science system, with its "practitioners"-a system that "furnishes the key to the harmony of man and reveals what destroys sickness, sin, and death. " But there were less radical and more widely popular heirs of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby who also formed their own religious association . Notable among them were his former patients, Julius A .

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