Racing for Jesus: Sport in Theocratic America
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God is watching over the super speedway. Or at least it can be surmised by both believer and nonbeliever alike that, within the imagined community of NASCAR Nation, there exists a pervasive, if not inveterate, devotion to Christian orthodoxy—as well as a steadfast belief in the ideological precepts that give material “credence” to such biblicized public pedagogies. “Nowhere in sports,” observed PBS anchor Bob Abernethy, “is there more unself-conscious expression of religion as there is at NASCAR races” (quoted in “NASCAR and Religion,” 2001). Indeed, as numerous commentators have suggested (see Hagstrom, 1998; Menzer, 2001; MacGregor, 2005; Rhee, 2007; Lipsyte, 2006; Thompson, 2006; Clarke, 2008), the 120,000 or more spectators who flock to weekly NASCAR events are regularly greeted by a palpable, omnipresent faith-based revival, which has come to permeate all aspects of the sporting spectacle: the bevy of trackside crucifix-emblazoned revival tents, the multitude of Jesus-endorsed stock car insignias, to conspicuous performances of “sharing the gospel,” and the panoply of symbolically christened RVs and SUVs packing the race track infields on race days being three major examples. Likewise, consumers of NASCAR’s print, television, and cyberspatial texts are equally subjected to a vast universe of confessional blogs, sanctimonious declarations, and baptismal-sporting performances. Perhaps most importantly, stock car racing’s principal institution has been “unapologetic” (Newberry, 2004, p. 1) about this sport-orthodoxy symbiosis.
KeywordsChristian Faith Domestic Sphere Bible Belt Christian Orthodoxy Christian Nationalism
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