Pub Date2020
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Christian Globalism at Home: Child Sponsorship in the United States

Hillary Kaell
Princeton University Press

Christian Globalism at Home looks at the massive charitable industry that is Christian child sponsorship, from its growth in nineteenth-century Protestant missions to its status as one of today’s most profitable private fundraising tools. Investigating two centuries of sponsorship and its related practices in American living rooms, churches, and shopping malls, Hillary Kaell examines the myriad ways that Christians who don’t travel outside of the United States have cultivated global connections, and the ethical and ideological questions involved.

Popular child sponsorship organizations, including World Vision, Compassion International, and ChildFund, raise billions of dollars and circulate millions of letters and photos around the world annually. Kaell traces the movement of money, letters, and images, along with a wide array of the lesser-known techniques of sponsorship, such as playacting, hymn singing, eating, and fasting. She shows how, through this process, U.S. Christians attempt to hone globalism of a particular sort by oscillating between the sensory experiences of a God’s eye view and the intimacy of human relatedness. These global aspirations are buoyed by grand hopes and subject to intractable limitations, since they so often rely on the inequities they claim to redress.

Based on extensive interviews, archival research, and fieldwork, Christian Globalism at Home explores how U.S. Christians imagine and experience the world without ever leaving home.