Religion and Globalization   /   Summer 2002   /    Articles


The Overlooked Globalizers and their Unintended Gospel of Modernity

Joshua J. Yates

When people talk about the American dimensions of contemporary globalization, they generally speak about the spread of American popular culture, financial markets, multinational corporations, and political ideals.1The general argument and much of the data summarized in this article are taken from James Davison Hunter and Joshua Yates, “In the Vanguard of Globalization: The World of the American Globalizers,” in Peter L. Berger and Samuel P. Huntington, eds., Many Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in the Contemporary World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). In this previous work, interviews were conducted with senior management and executives of twenty-three leading transna- tional organizations and corporations. These included executives from the world of multinational business and international finance such as Merrill Lynch, Archer Daniels Midland, Porter Novelli, and AT&T; global purveyors of popular culture such as Nike, McDonald’s, MTV, Twentieth Century Fox, Coca-Cola, and CNN; international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) representing a vast array of special interests including the Aspen Institute, International Center for Research on Women, the Ford Foundation, Carter Center, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and Greenburg Quinlan Research, Inc.; and worldwide Evangelical organizations including Campus Crusade for Christ, Compassion International, World Vision, The Jesus Film, Focus on the Family, Christian Coalition International, and the Christian Broadcasting Network. Given the present article’s focus on the American Evangelical globalizers, I have supplemented this earlier data with analysis of additional Evangelical organizations—including Fuller Seminary’s World School of Missions, Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Navigators, Youth with a Mission, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Christianity Today magazine, and the International Justice Mission. The images they evoke come effortlessly to mind: McDonald’s, Nike sneakers, MTV and hip-hop music, Disneyland, Levi’s jeans, the New York Stock Exchange, and American-style democracy, to name but a few. More astute observers are quick to note, however, that such examples are simply the more noticeable expressions of a seemingly endless array of other less culturally-identifiable, but no less American “products,” including skyscrapers, greeting cards, chewing gum, microwaves, modern passenger airplanes, basketball, snowboards, the ATM, cell phones, computer hackers, and so on.2Claudio Veliz, The New World of the Gothic Fox: Culture and Economy in English and Spanish America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). Taken together, these familiar, and often bemoaned, instances of the diffusion of American “goods,” “ideas,” and “styles” provide a certain warrant for the claim that the U.S. is the primary source and symbol of most of what passes as “globalization” in the planetary popular imagination.

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