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God's Salesman: Norman Vincent Peale and the Power of Positive Thinking (Religion in America)

By Carol V. R. George
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Book Details
  • Author: Carol V. R. George
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Published: 1993-01-14
  • Edition: First Edition
Norman Vincent Peale is one of the most influential religious figures in recent American history. Preacher, author, editor, public personality, and religious innovator, he sparked the post-War revival of religion with his 1952 bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking (which has sold over 15 million copies worldwide and is still selling 3000 copies weekly). His message of Practical Christianity helped drive the religious revival of the 1950s, putting him at the forefront of the human potential movement. And with the inspirational magazine he founded, Guideposts, reaching an audience of 4 million, Peale and his message of positive thinking affected the lives of a vast public in the United States and around the world.
In God's Salesman, Carol V.R. George utilizes interviews with Peale himself as well as exclusive access to his manuscript collection to provide the first full-length scholarly account of Peale and his highly visible career. George explores the evolution of Peale's message of Practical Christianity, the belief that when positive thinking was combined with affirmative prayer, the technique of "imaging," and purposeful action, the result was a changed life. It was a message with special appeal for many in the post-War middle class struggling to rebuild their lives and have a voice in society. George examines the formative influences on Peale's thinking, especially his devout Methodist parents, his early exposure to and then enthusiastic acceptance of Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James, and his almost instinctive attraction to evangelicalism, particularly as it was manifested politically. The latter connection found him new friends within the National Association of Evangelicals and a passing partnership during the fifties revival with Billy Graham.
George also traces the tremendous reception accorded Peale's controversial signature work, The Power of Positive Thinking, a response that helped "Pealeism" penetrate the mainstream culture. At the height of his popularity Peale was reaching over 30 million people weekly through radio, television, and the written word. And despite continued criticism from liberal church leaders and academicians for his popularized theology and his conservative politics--particularly his involvement in the 1960 effort to block the Kennedy nomination--his message continued to find new supporters.
Providing tremendous insight into the mind of the Father of Positive Thinking, God's Salesman is a remarkable portrait of the man and his movement, and the vital role that both played in the rethinking and restructuring of American religious life in the second half of this century.