Protecting Her Image
Kathryn Kuhlman and the Manipulation of Negation
Keywords:Bodies on Display, Kathryn Kuhlman, gender, charismatic renewal movement
In the panel article "Beautiful Babies, Hidden Mothers, and Plasticized Prisoners: The Display of Bodies and Theories of American Religion," this paper delves into a study of how the mid-twentieth-century “Miracle Woman,” the televangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, used popular media--first radio and then television--to control her own image. The panelist argues that Kuhlman’s deft utilization of television, in particular, enabled her not only to control her own image but also to change the image of charismatic Christianity for postwar American audiences. In addition to crafting an image of herself and charismatic Christianity, Kuhlman also mastered the discourse of elision in order to subordinate her very visible, very feminine body. As a female religious leader, Kuhlman had to contend with the practice of self-negation expected by women in many conservative Christian groups in order to gain any significant degree of power. In other words, Kuhlman had to “disappear” or “die” in order to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit if she was to maintain authority. As an embodied female she could not lead without first subordinating, even denying, her own very visible body.
Christianity Today Reprint, “Healing in the Spirit: A WideRanging Exclusive Interview with Kathryn Kuhlman,” reprint of article in Christianity Today, July 20, 1973, Kathryn Kuhlman Collection, Billy Graham Center Archives, Box 1, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.
Kisken, Tom. 1997. “Minister, 95, is an Ageless Pastor.” Scripps Howard News Service. March 30.
Kulhman, Kathryn. no date. “An Hour with Kathryn Kuhlman,” T2113 (audiocassette), Collection 212, The Kathryn Kuhlman Collection, Archives of the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton, IL.
———. n.d. (internal evidence indicates 1974). “Interview with Ralph and Adele Carmichael,” I Believe in Miracles. VHS. V78, Collection 212, The Kathryn Kuhlman Collection.
———. 1983. A Glimpse into Glory. Gainesville: Bridge-Logos Publishers.
Wacker, Grant. 2001. Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Warner, Wayne E. 1993. Kathryn Kuhlman: The Woman Behind the Miracles. Ann Arbor: Servant Publications.