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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jenny Spencer

Second Advisor

TreaAndrea Russworm

Third Advisor

A. Yemisi Jimoh

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Popular Culture | Christianity | Women's Studies


From 1997 to 2013, there have been multiple representations of the black church in popular culture. African American artists have always explored spirituality within black communities; in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, the increasing fame of Tyler Perry, T.D. Jakes, Steve Harvey, and other prominent African American Christians has placed black church culture on the center stage of American mainstream media. This dissertation examines contemporary black Christian popular fiction, stage performances, black church films, and rap music. These representations demonstrate that black church culture is distinct from secular black popular culture and white evangelical Christian culture. The construction of these texts has proven the power of black consumers, created a space for a greater diversity of roles for black actors, and revived a black counter-public who actively debates representations of spirituality and sexuality in black church culture texts. Contemporary representations of the black church engage in a sexual discourse that upholds heteronormative, patriarchal values which are consistent with evangelical interpretations of Christianity.