Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

David Payne

Co-Major Professor

Jane Jorgenson

Keywords

Christian Rock, Community, Evangelicalism, Play, Social Constructionism

Abstract

This dissertation examines processes through which alternative Christian identities are constructed, maintained, and performed at the annual Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois. Organized and managed by Jesus People USA (JPUSA), an urban commune in Chicago, Illinois, the festival includes non-traditional methods of religious expression including rock music, making camp, play, and community-building. Cornerstone Festival attracts and includes members of the Christian faith who would not otherwise be included in traditionally organized Christian groups and fosters interaction between these less enfranchised members and more traditionally minded and socialized Christian practitioners. JPUSA appropriates the festival format as a method of religious expression and practice that successfully includes marginal or fringe Christians by offering a site of "play," and thus avoids the more traditional frames of recruitment and membership of orthodox religious services.

In order to better understand Cornerstone Festival's complicated place in the American religious experience, a theoretical framework is developed from research in social constructionism, rhetoric and cultural studies. This framework is used to extrapolate the festival's significance as a site for socialization, its role in the cultivation of alternative Christian identities, and the purposes for which attendees use the festival as a site for community-building. The primary source of data for this study is drawn from ethnographic fieldnotes and interviews gathered at the 2008 Cornerstone Festival. I conclude that Cornerstone Festival is a coproduced, ephemeral site buttressed by a symbiotic relationship between structure and communitas. Evangelical faith and practice receive a new treatment at Cornerstone Festival where rock music, rather than a point of contention, is in fact a unifying aesthetic experience.

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