Very shortly, I will begin a series of blog posts and announcements in anticipation of the publication of my next book, Salvation with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity.
NYU Press will publish Salvation with a Smile in October.
The first post will be a “big reveal” of the book’s cover, and subsequent posts, one per month for about 5 months, will discuss different aspects of the project from background research questions and research problems to the writing process, and a host of other topics. The posts will be on NYU Press’s blog “From the Square,” but I will cross-post or link them here at baldblogger.
Salvation with a Smile is the first critical, scholarly book-length study of Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church. Over the course of eight chapters, I explain how Joel Osteen became Joel Osteen and how Lakewood Church became the nation’s largest megachurch with over 40,000 members. This study is a deeply historical investigation of these questions, while in the book I also use oral history sources and ethnographic observation to develop a profile of Lakewood in contemporary times. I track the history of Lakewood from its origins with John Osteen and run the story up to the present, in which I examine Joel Osteen’s expert approach to televangelism and historicize the numerous critics who have spoken and written denunciations of the “smiling preacher.”
Salvation with a Smile is a book 5 years in the making although, technically, I’ve been researching Lakewood since 2005; the early research appeared in my 2009 book Holy Mavericks. It was an immensely enjoyable, but at times grueling process of research and writing. Research travels took me back and forth across Houston to churches and local libraries, but I also accessed materials from archives in California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia.
I am happy to be finished and excited to begin discussions about Salvation with a Smile. While we all wait for the book’s release, here’s a Houston History article I published in 2011, “From the Oasis of Love to Your Best Life Now: A Brief History of Lakewood Church,” which offers a partial preview of what’s in Salvation with a Smile.
Don’t hesitate to link to this post, “like” this post by mentioning it on Facebook, and tweet or retweet about Salvation with a Smile!
I am pleased to entertain requests for lectures and presentations based on my scholarly research in Salvation with a Smile. Feel free to contact me.