Academic

A selection of academic work about the Church

Reverend Billy's Unholy War

On a Monday morning in Los Angeles, in a half-empty strip-mall Starbucks on Reseda Boulevard, two young women are declaring their love for each other.

What Would Jesus Buy?

Before there was Reverend Billy, there was Bill Talen, born and raised in Minnesota, in the midst of conservative Dutch Calvinism, a faith he rejected as a teenager. He became a playwright, performer, and producer, working for years in San Francisco before he moved to New York City in the mid-1990s. “Rev. Billy,” Talen’s alter ego, was created in 1997, when Talen/Billy began street-corner preaching near the new Disney Store in Times Square, using the cadences and mannerisms of a TV evangelist to decry the chain-store commercial excesses of gentrification.

The Downtown Gospel According to Reverend Billy

 "I think of a child's mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly."  -- Walt Disney 


"We are drowning in a sea of identical details. . . . Mickey Mouse is the Antichrist. . . . Times Square has been blown up by 10,000 smiling stuffed animals. . . . Don't shop, children, save your souls!"   --Reverend Billy 

Breaking the Consumerist Trance

The Reverend Billy struts his stuff across the front of the stage. He's about sixfoot tall and cuts a striking figure in what I later realize is his hallmark outfit - dyed blonde hair sprayed into an improbable coiffe, white suit and dog-collar set off by black shirt and boots. Moving with the extravagant gestures of a Southern born-again televangelist, his showmanship is reminiscent of Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggart, Johnny Cash, or even Elvis.
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