A few weeks ago, I started a short series of posts on things potential readers can expect from my book that’s being published this month, entitled No Love in War: A story of Christian Nationalism, with Mayfly Books. In this post, I’ll talk a little bit about the use of story.
“All stories are stories about power.”Chenjerai Kumanyika and Sandhya Dirks
By injecting issues of subjectivity and location into epistemological debates, feminist scholarship seeks, as it were, to put a human face on what is called a body of knowledge and in the process unmasks this presumably faceless body.Obioma Nnaemeka (2003), Nego‐Feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa’s Way
In my work as a linguist, I research and teach on language-in-use, which is one way of saying I take a bottom-up approach to the study of language and meaning. I look at the ways that meanings emerge from and are created in interaction and the purposes these meanings serve, especially the particular personal and community identities these meanings construct and reinforce.
When thinking about definitions of technical terminology, for example, my work interrogates the formation and purpose of definitions. By that I mean, I look at the ways that definitions of words emerge out of the strategic use of those words in groups of people. For example, in my project on feminism in conservative Christianity, I looked at the particular characterizations of feminism that conservative evangelical Christians in the United States constructed in a popular online news site and the ideological purposes these serve for the community.
My book, No Love in War, is part of this approach in that my starting point is the practices, the behaviours, the proclivities of (specifically American) Christian communities to claim, consolidate and enforce the exercise of power over others (which some soften using words like ‘influence’). Then, I look at the extent to which this sacralised dominionism-in-practice is endemic within multiple circles of white Christian evangelicalism I have been a member of.
How do I do this? I do it through story.
I tell the story of my own personal experiences with violence in Christian extremist movements in the United States, specifically Latter Rain and the New Apostolic Reformation, Christian Reconstructionism and Neo-Calvinism. Using my training and experience as an ethnographer, I support and contextualise my stories with reference to almost 150 sermons, journal articles, books, newspaper articles and reports, treatises, obituaries and death records, and blog posts.
My book is intentionally disruptive of the currently recorded histories – most written by men – of the Christian Right movements I have been involved in. Yet my book is not intended to erase or replace these existing stories but rather to provide another perspective, to work alongside these other stories, to open up a space for others to share their own stories.
Ultimately, my aim for this book is to facilitate the liberation of those still imprisoned by the officially authorised narratives of violence they’ve been forced to see as their own, by the very people they’ve been harmed by.
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