CAN SOMEBODY SHOUT AMEN! Inside the Tents and Tabernacles of American Revivalists by Patsy Sims

CAN SOMEBODY SHOUT AMEN! Inside the Tents and Tabernacles of American Revivalists

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Sims, who's previously limned the barefoot South in The Klan (1978) and Cleveland Benjamin's Dead (1980), tells us her goal now is to enable the reader to ""venture into the tents and tabernacles of America and vicariously experience an old-time revival."" She interviewed 22 revivalists, dozens of their workers and family members, and audiences to bring us these convincing profiles of seven Southern preachers. Sims seems to fear making judgments, however, perhaps hoping to render an ""unbiased"" view of the strychnine-drinkers, snake handlers, and faith healers she describes. As a result--though she appears to have won the confidence of her subjects--her book lacks a badly needed viewpoint. While she vividly describes scenes that we're not likely to witness on TV, such as Rev. Tommy Walker's service to resurrect his drowned son from the dead, we're left with many of the same questions we would be after watching a TV evangelist at work. We see that the believers believe and have faith in spite of any degree of insult to reason, but what does this mean theologically, culturally, psychologically? There are no answers here, though there is obvious sincerity in more than one of the simpler and less ""successful"" ministers Sims visits, especially preacher Mike Shreve, who describes himself as a ""prisoner of the ministry"" and who, as do his workers and their wives, sleeps in his car and has no permanent home, dedicated to spreading the good word for its own sake. Sims, then, brings us into the tents and into the lives of the people who inhabit them, but is unable to tell us much about what lies beneath what we see.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's