Stations of the Cross

Adorno and Christian Right Radio

Stations of the Cross

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: Published: June 2000

Politics > Political Theory, Religious Studies

Since the 1970s, American society has provided especially fertile ground for the growth of the Christian right and its influence on both political and cultural discourse. In Stations of the Cross political theorist Paul Apostolidis shows how a critical component of this movement’s popular culture—evangelical conservative radio—interacts with the current U.S. political economy. By examining in particular James Dobson’s enormously influential program, Focus on the Family—its messages, politics, and effects—Apostolidis reveals the complex nature of contemporary conservative religious culture.
Public ideology and institutional tendencies clash, the author argues, in the restructuring of the welfare state, the financing of the electoral system, and the backlash against women and minorities. These frictions are nowhere more apparent than on Christian right radio. Reinvigorating the intellectual tradition of the Frankfurt School, Apostolidis shows how ideas derived from early critical theory—in particular that of Theodor W. Adorno—can illuminate the political and social dynamics of this aspect of contemporary American culture. He uses and reworks Adorno’s theories to interpret the nationally broadcast Focus on the Family, revealing how the cultural discourse of the Christian right resonates with recent structural transformations in the American political economy. Apostolidis shows that the antidote to the Christian right’s marriage of religious and market fundamentalism lies not in a reinvocation of liberal fundamentals, but rather depends on a patient cultivation of the affinities between religion’s utopian impulses and radical, democratic challenges to the present political-economic order.
Mixing critical theory with detailed analysis, Stations of the Cross provides a needed contribution to sociopolitical studies of mass movements and will attract readers in sociology, political science, philosophy, and history.


“[A] detailed study of narrative structure in Christian radio . . . .” — Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller , Theory & Event

“[A] fresh point of view. . . . [Apostolidis] provides a way of connecting findings about this particular media organization to larger societal forces and opens the analysis for practical use and understanding on the part of liberals.” — Hillary Warren , Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

“[A] remarkable, counterintuitive, and atypical study of American evangelical political discourse. . . . Apostolidis has broken enough new ground with his study to make it a substantial contribution to the understanding and criticism of Christian right culture and politics, as well as a novel perspective from which to critique the larger post-Fordist political economy. Stations of the Cross, therefore, marks a commendable and productive effort to integrate critical theory into the analysis of religion and politics in America.” — Finbarr Curtis, Journal of Church and State

“[A]n impressive book, full of rich insights and touching on many facets of political theory, religion, and politics. The author has clearly grappled directly with the ‘Focus’ braodcasts and has incorporated them into a much broader framework. Apostolidis demonstrates a solid grasp of the nuance of recent theological trends in the evangelical community, a facility with critical theory, and an ability to write clearly and with a touch of poetry about political ideas.” — Clyde Wilcox , Journal of Politics

“[P]rovides a nuanced understanding of the Christian right culture and the constrictions within its narrative message. . . . Highly recommended.” — M. R. Grant , Choice

“This able study of the ideological impact and complexities of Christian right radio by way of Theodor W. Adorno’s negative dialectics makes this surprising conjunction of topics a telling vehicle for rethinking Adorno’s critique of mass culture.” — Theresa M. Kelley , Monatshefte

"[A]n illuminating analysis of the Christian right. . . . [T]his book inspires important reflection on a subject of biblical proportions."
Communication Booknotes Quarterly

"[P]rovides a wealth of empirical evidence and sorely needed analysis of the Christian right in the United States."
— Michael Forman , Science & Society

"Apostolidis brings a depth of theoretical sophistication and political analysis to his detailed treatment of evangelical culture that will reward anyone with an interest in critical theory and religion." — Larry A. Golemon , Religious Studies Review

“Apostolidis’s application of dialectical criticism to the evangelical radio program Focus on the Family is theoretically innovative and politically daring. Reading Christian conservatism as cultural critique, he discerns in its narrative structures the same utopian desire for ethical autonomy that animates ‘left’ criticisms of our post-Fordist social order. No apologist for the New Right but a democratic provocateur, Apostolidis challenges progressives to set aside their secular disdain for evangelicalism and consider how its powerful cultural idiom might provide intellectual and political radicalism with a new voice.” — Lisa Disch, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“Paul Apostolidis’s excellent study Stations of the Cross: Adorno and Christian Right Radio provides one of the sharpest analyses yet to appear of the Christian right and its media politics. The book is also an important contribution to critical theory, applying and reconstructing T. W. Adorno’s approach to cultural criticism. Focusing on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Apostolidis skillfully dissects the program’s messages, politics, and effects, producing a first-rate study of contemporary conservative religious culture.” — Douglas Kellner, UCLA


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Paul Apostolidis is Assistant Professor of Politics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

Table of Contents Back to Top


1. Adorno on Mass Culture and Cultural Criticism

2. Adorno’s Critique of Christian Right Radio in the New Deal Era

3. Christian Professionals and the Fraying Fabric of Health and Human Services

4. Christian Politicians and the Decline of Democratic Accountability

5. Christian Victims in the Backlash Society

6. Negative Dialectics and Political Practice

Appendix A
Complete Listing of Focus on the Family Broadcasts Selected for Research

Appendix B
Itenerary for Research Visit to Colorado Springs, 21–25 February 1996



Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2541-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2504-8
Publicity material