Abstract: Going Public: Evangelical Media and Identity after World War II

Daniel Vaca


This paper explains why the evangelical media industry blossomed in the second half of the twentieth century. During this period, evangelical books became bestsellers, evangelical bookstore chains appeared in shopping malls across the country, and outsized profit margins solicited the interest of international media conglomerates. As this paper illustrates, the rise of the evangelical media industry occurred alongside the rise of contemporary evangelical identity; they emerged in tandem. To narrate the co-constitutive circulation of evangelical media and identity, this paper focuses on the twentieth-century history of evangelical bookstores. Putting business history and religious history in dialogue with one another, this story of evangelical books and bookstores helps explain why, by the end of the twentieth century, evangelicalism had become the most popular mode of American Protestantism, and successful evangelical media firms became acquisition targets for firms like Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.