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Reviews523 Across the South many rural churches, each somehow marked with the culture of its own place, face deterioration. With increasing frequency, remarkable examples of community efforts to save these important sacred spaces from destruction offer a new kind of spiritual inspiration. In this atmosphere of renewed preservation activity, Rankin's book reinforces the significance of sacred spaces and their value to southern culture. The Airwaves of Zion: Radio and Religion in Appalachia. By Howard Dorgan. University of Tennessee Press, 1993. Cloth, $31.95; paper, $18.95. Reviewed by Bennett L. Steelman, assistant editorial page editor for the Wilmington, North Carolina, Morning Star and Sunday Star-News. He formerly wrote a radio-tv column for the newspaper. For much of the mainstream media, religious broadcasting evokes images of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, or Pat Robertson. Yet, as Howard Dorgan reminds us, an older, still lively folk-oriented tradition survives on Sunday mornings (and occasionally Sunday afternoons and Saturdays) on dozens of am radio stations across the mountain regions of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. These locally produced, live religious broadcasts—ad hoc mixtures of preaching, gospel singing, and personal testifying—vary widely from community to community. After several years of observation and field study, however, Howard Dorgan, a professor of communications at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, has identified many common threads. These half-hour and hour-long shows stray from the religious institutional mainstream , arising from an aggregation of Holiness, Pentecostal, Free Will or independent Baptist, and other unaffiliated evangelical, premillenarian congregations. In contrast to the slick production values of The 700 Club and The Old-Time Gospel Hour, the Airwaves of Zion shows are generally rough-edged, amateurish, and highly improvisational. The most educated host Dorgan profiles earned a GED certificate in the Army; most of the others are grade-school dropouts. Some of the "stars" have entertainment backgrounds, such as Rex and Eleanor Parker of Songs ofSalvation on waey-am of Princeton, West Virginia, who before their conversion had played bluegrass and country music with Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Cowboy Copas. Most, however, are as unschooled in music or broadcast techniques as in formal theology. Unlike the televangelists who model their formats on secular examples, such as the newscast or talk show, Airwaves of Zion shows are reminiscent of the traditional tent meetings or revivals. Dorgan, who analysed the rhythms and rhetoric of mountain preaching in Giving Glory to God in Appalachia (University of Tennessee, 1987), notes that the free-form outline embodies the Holiness-Pentecostal precept of leaving oneself open to the moment-to-moment guidance of the Holy Spirit. In contrast to the huge staffs of television ministries, religious radio shows remain small and extremely personal. The cast often includes one minister and members of his congregation, as with Brother Dean Fields and his Words ofLove program on wnky-am of Neon, Kentucky, with each worshipper being given a chance to sing, play, or speak. At other times, the show is maintained by a "lone exhorter," like traditional preacher Brother 524Southern Cultures James Kelly on the same station. In effect, the shows emphasize the individual. Listeners are urged to phone, and requests for songs or prayers are acknowledged on the air, often at length. Long stretches of air time are turned over to reports on the audience's illnesses or blessings. Occasionally, preachers will offer thanks for the redemption of a neighborhood sinner, specifically identified by name and by transgression. This personal emphasis precludes the political agendas of hosts such as Falwell or Robertson, although Airwaves of Zion personalities share the televangelists' socially conservative outlook, including opposition to abortion and divorce. Most Airwaves of Zion shows sharply deemphasize fund raising. Although few of these programs have paid advertising and most hosts must pay for their own airtime, few appeal for cash over the air. Some announcers mention in passing—often only once per show— that their broadcast is "supported by love offerings ," with no elaboration . One African American preacher in the tradition, Sister Ramona Coles of wjis-AM, Beckley, West Virginia, actually tells listeners: "Don't you send me no money. You need that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 523-525
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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