The preacher, the homemaker, the talent, the counselor, the beauty. Religion scholar Kate Bowler’s The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities uses these categories to understand how Evangelical women wield influence in a conservative church that forbids them formal authority. Masters of the market, these women have packed conference halls, written best-selling devotional books, and performed popular worship music. They’ve sold recipes and weight-loss plans, beauty tips and Bible studies, traumas and confessions. Adhering to capitalist logic—marketing wisdom and spiritual authority—they also adhere to the logic of their church: acknowledging the headship of husbands, fathers, or pastors, and never presuming to preach. Thus the precarity. Bowler’s skillful ethnography is a blend of interviews, reportage, history, and analysis of women’s leadership in today’s Evangelical church.
The Preacher's Wife
Princeton, $29.95, 368 pp.
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