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Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,275 ratings  ·  620 reviews
After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a dirt-poor childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 19th 2007 by Crown Business
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,275 ratings  ·  620 reviews

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Apr 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really wasn’t expecting this to be quite so leftwing as it turned out to be and then once I’d gotten my head around that, he started talking about guns and I felt my world turn nauseatingly about itself yet again. I have always been more than happy to believe that American politics is harder to understand for those of us not born in the land of the free and the home of the brave than we are likely to believe it is. This book did much to help me understand the world of the American redneck. Fro ...more
Dec 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting with Jesus belongs to the tradition of books that has given us Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jim Goad's The Redneck Manifesto. These books all aim to clarify the position of an all-too-often-overlooked cultural group and, in doing so, they ultimately aim to help this group.

This book is by turns funny and heartbreaking in its description of people who make little money, vote Republican en masse (whether this is in their economi
Malcolm Logan
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: white working class people
Oh boy, are the ditto heads and Bill O'Reilly fans gonna hate this one (rubbing hands together with glee). Imagine, a former small town redneck rejects the assertion that higher education is a form of snobbery, goes to California, gets a degree and embraces "the humanities" (gasp!) and then returns to his origins with compassion and outrage over how his people are being dumbed down and economically raped by the very forces that claim to be their standard bearers, the good ol' GOP, everybody's ch ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Slim Jim is blisteringly funny, humorously vitriolic, blue jean bluesy, and eye-opening to say the least. I thought some of the hillbillies I knew who got drunk and fought at the tavern with their sallow cousins from the tented corners of Lanark County had some issues, but they were as nothing compared to this gun-loving, Jesus-loving, hard-working, hard-drinking, scale-bending, low-paid and low-expectation breed of checkered boys 'n gurls as revealed through the talented pen of Bageant, a ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One Friday afternoon when my dad was a kid he got up and wandered over to the pencil sharpener by the window in his classroom. He was killing time and sharpening that pencil as slowly as he could and looking aimlessly out the window. That's when he saw his neighborhood explode in front of his eyes. It was the East Ohio Gas Fire and the year was 1944. The working class men of his community ran for their lives from the factories chased by a wall of fire. At least two hundred people died. The stree ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Deer Hunting with Jesus is well-written; Joe Bageant has a way with words and with wry humor. I love the title! But ultimately the book disappointed me, and reading it was a waste of time.

As I read the first few chapters, I found myself agreeing with the author, and often laughing out loud. Ultimately, though, Bageant's pessimism dragged me down, and by the time I finished the book, I was more than a little pissed off at him.

Bageant appears to believe there is a master plot to anesthetize worki
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book should be required reading for anyone who listens to NPR, lives in a "liberal ghetto" and wonders why people vote Republican against their own self-interest.
Bageant is from Winchester, VA and this book is about the working class people that he grew up with. It explains their plight as working class people in America, and how lack of education combined with religious fundamentalism keeps them brainwashed into believing in a system that absolutely does not benefit them. Bageant is a gre
Todd N
Nov 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Right before the election The Onion featured a story with the headline "Struggling Lower-Class Still Unsure How Best To Fuck Selves With Vote." That pretty much sums up the main topic and tone of this book.

The author goes back home to live among the struggling lower class rednecks of Winchester, VA and writes about what he sees. (Rednecks, not white trash, he is careful to note. You will understand the taxonomy of poor white people a little better after reading this book.)

This isn't one of those
Jan 26, 2009 rated it liked it
I obviously only picked up this book because I thought it would be about deer hunting and Jesus, two of my favorite subjects. (I was in an enormous rush at the bookstore -- it was closing and the lady was practically dragging me out by my arm and I had to choose something, or else I would be book-less, which would send me into panic.)

Had I spent two more seconds reading the large text immediately below the title, I would have seen in rather large letters "Dispatches from America's Class War." O
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tom
It was a slow afternoon, the store was empty. He walked in alone. There were just the two sunglass dudes standing around outside the front door. It was Barack Obama, browsing at The Regulator.

We stayed cool. Gave the man some space. That's a big part of what this bookstore thing is all about--giving folks space to breathe, space to think, space to find something new. So we gave him his space, but I guess he didn't have much time. After a few minutes he came up to the counter and asked if there
Nov 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Joe Bageant confronts his urban liberal audience early on with an uncomfortable truth: we're seen as elitists by the subjects of his book -- white, rural, poor working folk who vote against their own economic interests -- because we do genuinely look down our noses at them. For all our academic buck-passing about whose fault it really is that this class of people is, in Bageant's words, impervious to information, at the end of the day the average progressive can't help but resent the people so d ...more
Feb 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
I'm still reading this book (published in 2007), but so far all it has done is raise my blood pressure a little and reiterate my beliefs that many liberals feel that the rest of us are too stupid to decide for ourselves what we should believe in. That somehow they are the only ones with an education and therefore are the only ones capable of making decisions.

I'm astonished every day when I meet and interact with otherwise intelligent people who have decided that the socialist state being pursue
N.K. Jemisin
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Best book I have ever read on current American culture wars and policy. Broke down for me something I'd never understood -- why white Middle Americans were so blinded by racism and anti-intellectualism that they voted against their own interests. Highly recommended to everyone.
Jason King
Sep 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Bageant's quest to understand why "his people" - a term he tintinnabulates to refer to Virginia "rednecks" (his words, not mine) - so often vote against their interests. He comes to interesting conclusions but the ones that seem the most apt are often flippantly disregarded - that the source of wealth in Appalachian Virginia is in land, for example - would provide an interesting anthropological connection since societies built on wealth derived from land, everywhere and anywhere, tend to have hi ...more
Jun 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Americans, red staters or not
Shelves: politics
Really a great read, well-written, concise, and spot-on.

Bageant grew up in the rural south (Winchester, Virginia) and knows from rednecks. He's not disingenuous at all, not a snobbish elite looking outside-in. He wants to love these people, like his brother, who's a pastor still living in the town he grew up in, or the mooks in the dive bar where he shoots the bull.

In the book, he goes back to find that what the world knows as squabbling Scots-Irish white trash has gotten dumber, fatter, and dee
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book that can definitely be discussed at length. It's worth reading through the existing reviews which all bring up valid points. It was published in 2007 and was a mighty predictor for things to come, although it is dated material now. Since the economic and political landscape changed quite drastically over the past seven years, I wondered what Joe Bageant thought today? I looked up his blog and found out that he died in 2011.

Nobody was safe from the critical eye of Joe Bageant, but
David Sarkies
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Left Wing Socialist Agitators
Recommended to David by: Nobody, I liked the title.
Shelves: politics
A journey into America's working class
19 June 2013

Isn't it funny that one day you wake up and you discover that you have become that which you hate. I remember a friend of mine saying that to me once. He used to be a member of the English working class and after two years returning to school he had become the wine sipping type of person that he used to look down on back in the motherland. The same feeling came across me as I read this book simply because where most of the books that offer a cri
Paul Hebron
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: america, religion
Deer Hunting With Jesus is Joe Bageant's savage but sad indictment of life as lived by the average American, as seen through the lens of small town life in Winchester, Virginia. This could, in the wrong hands, have been poor-hating spew as seen in 'Crap Towns', but Bageant is a sensible, sensitive and knowledgeable writer. Bageant writes clearly about the redneck community he came from in the southern USA, and writes authoritatively from experience and from statistical and historical research ab ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it

These "Dispatches from America's class war" ring as true as America's Liberty Bell. Of course like the "Liberty Bell", the American Revolution's promise of "liberty and justice for all" cracked on first use. As with other bourgeois democracies, the ideals of the the American capitalist revolution were undermined by class rule. Liberty, equality and fraternity tended to break down under the rule of Capital, where, as the old wag's saying about the golden rule goes, those with the most gold, have
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Joe Bageant, in the introduction to his book “Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War,” asks the question as to why Americans re-elected George W. Bush in 2004, “And why had the working class so plainly voted against their own interests?” I should add, “Again.”
This is the big question to be asked when discussing elections at the local, state, and national levels in the U.S. from 1980 well into the 21st century. The question was asked by Thomas Frank in his seminal 2004 boo
Angela Oneal
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author lays out a strategy for progressive action in rural America and shows why it is so important for liberals to connect with working class, rural Americans. Read this instead of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
Thinking of the Border reivers reminded me of this book about their American descendents and caused me to spend a day re-reading it. I'm so glad I did, so thanks Sherwood, for mentioning George MacDonald Fraser! It's a great book to re-read in an election year because these are the years that we clump more firmly than ever into our tribes and the divisions in American society are stark and painful. This book is an attempt to bridge divisions between tribes, looking at how things are and how they ...more
Cody Sexton
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
The American working class is dead and we are headed toward corporate feudalism.
The elite are going to keep freezing us dry, giving us just enough to live on and no more. We are very much seeing a real and serious struggle between those who have and are trying to get more and those who have not and are likely to get even less.
But I reserve my deepest scorn, and my greatest resentment, for the social forces that oppress millions of the working poor — chief among these is the woeful standard of
Scott Munden
Here is what I want to say about Joe Bageant's book "Deer Hunting with Jesus". I want to say that he has written and important and insightful book concerning a much misunderstood and maligned segment of the American population - the Republican voting white working class. And yet I can't write those words without feeling a twinge in my gut.

The gut twinge comes down to that chapter on guns, which was manipulative in the extreme and filled with fallacious logic, questionable statistics and winks to
Jul 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
A clear look into the working very poor from someone who graduated from that background to become a beloved godless commie. Many new insights (for me) including an unusual look at guns (aside: twice as many Americans have guns than vote). And an in depth look at the consequences of sh*tty, underfunded and undervalued schools resulting in mass illiteracy and an absolute dearth of critical thinking skills; how that has worked well for the Right with its simplistic platitudes and blame.
People who l
Sep 21, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bageant comes across as a condescending jerk in this book. He is allegedly writing about "his people" the working poor of Winchester, VA (his hometown); discussing their lifestyle habits, their socioeconomic struggles; how their political inclinations contradict their needs. All interesting stuff. My problem with this book is the way Bageant goes about explaining "his people". He repeatedly uses awful adjectives to describe them - "fat", "stupid", "backward", "uneducated", "unintelligent". Serio ...more
Larry Jebsen
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
fun book. the man can rant. I think it could have been titled "Deer hunting with Jesus, a quirky love story." about how the people of Winchester Virginia came from and how they have come to think as they do, why they vote like they do, why they are stuck like they are. Much of this book is a microcosm of how corporate America has rolled over the common working man and have got the victims to applaud their conquerors. Drink, smoke, watch reality TV and occupy your mind with incomplete thought. In ...more
David Schaafsma
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
4, maybe 3.5, but this guy sometimes can turn a phrase, and while he often goes for the joke, he also is outraged by the continuing economic downturn, and especially, how the poor can be used to vote against their own best interests. Bageant goes back home to hang with the people in his old neighborhood and bars and factories and find out. Most of this, if you are a liberal, you know, but it is a close look that is both entertaining and tragic to read.
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
This book is simultaneously frighteningly relevant and terribly dated. When I began reading, I nodded along at Bageant's description of returning, after a college degree and a professional job, to his boyhood home, and being appalled and astonished at his old friends' stupidity and ignorance; at the way they were mired in the traps of poverty and lack of education, resentful of the educated 'elite' and weirdly proud of their own lack of education. Not that this was my life - I grew up in an uppe ...more
Richard Thompson
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology, politics
Although I come from a more privileged family, I grew up in a Kentucky community in which I was surrounded by people like the ones in this book, so the characters are very familiar to me. I have always felt a kinship with these people and an affection for them that this book reinforced. The characters in this book are ignorant right wing fundamentalist gun-toting rednecks, who are consistently fooled into overspending and voting against their own best interests, but they are also nearly all hard ...more
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Politics 6 28 Aug 13, 2012 05:23AM  
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Joe Bageant: Born in rural Virginia. After stint in Navy became anti-war hippie, ran off to the West Coast ... lived in communes, hippie school buses... started writing about holy men, countercultural figures, rock stars and the American scene in 1971 ... lived in Boulder, Colorado until mid 1980s ... 14 years in all ... became a Marxist and a half-assed Buddhist ... Traveled to Central America to ...more
“The four cornerstones of the American political psyche are 1) emotion substituted for thought, 2) fear, 3) ignorance and 4) propaganda” 27 likes
“Republican or Democrat, this nation's affluent urban and suburban classes understand their bread is buttered on the corporate side. The primary difference between the two parties is that the Republicans pretty much admit that they grasp and even endorse some of the nastiest facts of life in America. Republicans honestly tell the world: "Listen in on my phone calls, piss-test me until I'm blind, kill and eat all of my neighbors right in front of my eyes, but show me the money! Let me escape with every cent I can kick out of the suckers, the taxpayers, and anybody else I can get a headlock on, legally or otherwise." Democrats, in contrast, seem content to catalog the GOP's outrages against the Republic, showing proper indignation while laughing at episodes of The Daily Show. But they stand behind the American brand: imperialism. They "support our troops," though you will be hard put to find any of them who have served alongside them or who would send one of their own kids off to lose an eye or an arm in Iraq. They play the imperial game, maintain their credit ratings, and plan to keep the beach house and the retirement investments if it means sacrificing every damned Lynndie England in West Virginia.” 25 likes
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