Communication Connection

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Dr. Pullum Takes on Faith Healers

Friday, June 13, 2014

By: Sierra Shepherd

Communication Studies Professor and Assistant Chair Dr. Steve Pullum is writing his second book on faith healers. His current work is the follow up to his first book, Foul Demons, Come Out: The Rhetoric of Twentieth-Century American Faith Healing, published by Praeger in 1999. The anticipated title will be Faith Healers and the Bible: What Scripture Really Says.

This work is centered on the communication methods and persuasion techniques employed by faith healers who proclaim to be associated with the Christian church. Faith healers preach and enact varying practices that are inconsistent with what is found in the Bible. There are commonly literal interpretations taken from the text and the words of Christ.  Chapters focus on themes such as the Holy Spirit, miracles, the providence of God, demonic possession, and the call of God.  These themes are then analyzed through a Biblical perspective. When addressing these themes, Pullum says that he “meets faith healers on their own turf as a person of faith” himself. As a child, Pullum watched religious television programming with a curious fascination as young as 8 years old. He says the curiosity never left.

He now applies a broad liberal arts perspective and combines ethnographic research by using primary and secondary sources.  Other than the Bible, Pullum is drawing observations from religious TV programming, books, and articles. “I have been to many faith healing services to observe,” said Pullum.

What is Pullum’s motivation for writing a second book? His students. Questions asked by students in his course, COM 458 – The Rhetoric of Faith Healing, inspired Pullum to address the topics students inquired about the most. Pullum says, “I publish for my students.” He is not really concerned with others reading his work. “I don’t write for anyone other than my students.” The book will also be more appealing to readers of faith, but Pullum’s intended audience is students.

The Rhetoric of Faith Healing course was developed at UNCW and remains unique to the university, along with two other “Rhetoric of…” courses in the COM Studies department. Pullum has taught the course for over 15 years at UNCW.

Pullum’s goal is demystification, to “try to help students understand subjects that are mysterious to them.” Over time, the professor noticed similarities in the types of questions students asked during lectures. With this book, Pullum is filling the gaps as a professor and author.

The contract for this book was signed with publisher ABC-CLIO in October 2013 and the manuscript is due in September of this year.  Pullum completed all 8 chapters at this point.

The final product will be available in 2015. Pullum said he worked with the publisher to maintain an accessible price point that will be affordable to students.  He said the book will be priced at around $30. Pullum made this effort because he is passionate about his primary market, his students, and is truly invested in their education and understanding.