Flea Market Jesus

Flea Market Jesus

by Arthur E. II Farnsley


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Americans live their lives through institutions: government, businesses, schools, clubs, and houses of worship. But many Americans are wary of the control these groups—especially government and business—exercise over their lives.

Flea Market Jesus provides an up-close look at the rugged individualism of those trying hardest to separate themselves from institutions: flea market dealers. Having spent most of his life studying American religious organizations, Art Farnsley turns his attention to America's most solitary, and alienated, entrepreneurs.

Farnsley describes an entire subculture of white Midwesterners—working class, middle class, and poor—gathered together in a uniquely American celebration of guns and frontier life. In this mix, the character "Cochise" voices the frustrations of flea market dealers toward business, politics, and, especially, religion.

Part ethnography, part autobiography, Flea Market Jesus is a story about alienation, biblical literalism, libertarianism, and deep-seated religious belief. It is not about the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, or the Christian Right, but it shines a light on all of these by highlighting the potent combination of mistrust, resentment, and personal liberty too often kept in the shadows of public discourse among educated elites.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610979856
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 01/17/2013
Pages: 130
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Arthur E. Farnsley II is Research Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. He is the author of Southern Baptist Politics (1994); Rising Expectations: Urban Congregations, Welfare Reform and Civic Life (2003); and Sacred Circles, Public Squares: The Multicentering of an American City (2004). His stories have appeared on the cover of Christianity Today and The Christian Century. He is also twenty-two-time knife and tomahawk champion of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

1 Deeply Spiritual But Not Religious 1

2 Friendship 17

3 Cochise, the Dealers, and the Business World 33

4 Flea Market Jesus 61

5 Cochise, the Dealers, and Politics 81

6 Cochise, Dad, and Me 105

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Drawing on extensive participation in flea markets and systematic interviews with the people who sell their wares there, Arthur Farnsley has written a vivid and sympathetic portrayal of flea market dealers and the world they inhabit. But this book is about more than flea markets. Part memoir and part cultural analysis, Flea Market Jesus compellingly connects dealers' economic precariousness, religious beliefs, and alienation to broader currents in American politics and religion."

—Mark Chaves, Duke University

"Had anyone else told me he was going to write an account of American individualism as it is concocted, practiced, and sometimes sold in a Midwest flea market that hosts buckskin-clad muzzle-gun shooters and tomahawk throwing on the side, I would have patted them on the back and beat a quick retreat. But not Art Farnsley. This has long been a part of his world. And the result is one of the most personally engaging and intellectually compelling accounts of individualism since Thoreau. Farnsley dips into his own marginality to play interlocutor to the conflicts between anti-individualistic institutionalism and anti-conformist individuality. After being introduced to a beguiling range of his lifelong flea market friends and their composite, Cochise, the book slips up on you like a few cold beers on a hot summer afternoon."

—Jay Demerath, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

''The folk religion of white Middle America.''

—Tyler Cowen, as mentioned in 'A One-Sentence Book Review' in the on-line edition of The New York Times

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