Divine Hierarchies

Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies

Sean McCloud
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Divine Hierarchies
    Book Description:

    Placing the neglected issue of class back into the study and understanding of religion, Sean McCloud reconsiders the meaning of class in today's world. More than a status grounded in material conditions, says McCloud, class is also an identity rhetorically and symbolically made and unmade through representations. It entails relationships, identifications, boundaries, meanings, power, and our most ingrained habits of mind and body. He demonstrates that employing class as an analytical tool that cuts across variables such as creed, race, ethnicity, and gender can illuminate American religious life in unprecedented ways.Through social theory, historical analysis, and ethnography, McCloud makes an interdisciplinary argument for reinserting class into the study of religion. First, he offers a new three-part conception of class for use in studying religion. He then presents a focused cultural history of religious studies by examining how social class surfaced in twentieth-century theories of religious affiliation. He concludes with historical and ethnographic case studies of religion and class.Divine Hierarchiesmakes a convincing case for the past and present importance of class in American religious thought, practice, and scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0615-6
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Following the 2004 American presidential election, print and television media touted the importance of “moral values” in giving George Bush a second term. Those religious conservatives known as Evangelicals, the muchrepeated story went, overwhelmingly backed the Republican Bush over the Democrat John Kerry because they perceived Bush as sharing their conservative Christian values.¹ While this claim made the news cycle for months, polling data and postelection analysis suggested a more complex, but recurrent, story. Researchers found that “moral values” actually ranked low on the list of issues predicting the 2004 vote, and they further noted that the variable had not...

  5. 1 Class Matters: Resurrecting and Redescribing a Neglected Variable
    (pp. 9-30)

    Class matters in the study of American religion, but not in the ways past scholars have asserted. In recent years, sociological debate has raged over whether class remains an important variable. Articles with titles such as “The Promising Future of Class Analysis” conflict with others such as “The Reshaping and Dissolution of Class.”¹ Andrew Milner, a defender of the concept, titled the first chapter of his recent book on the subject “The Strange Death of Class.”² In some areas of research, works proclaiming the demise of class seem to be winning the debate. This trend is visible in religion scholarship....

  6. Part I From Inherent Tendencies to Social Sources in Religion Scholarship

    • 2 The Depraved, the Unevolved, and the Degenerate: Explaining Religious Affiliations in the Age of Eugenics
      (pp. 33-52)

      In 1908, Lester Ward published “Social Classes in the Light of Modern Sociological Theory” in theAmerican Journal of Sociology. The argument that the Civil War veteran and former lower-class Illinois son put forth was that social class differences were not the result of inherent biological inferiority. Rather, he asserted, “the existence of lower classes was the result of early subjugation in the struggle of the races which took place in the savage state of man.”¹ As evidence, Ward noted that “as a matter of fact, every time that the lower classes have been brought under conditions where they could...

    • 3 The Peyote of the Masses: Cultural Crises and Acculturation between the World Wars
      (pp. 53-74)

      In the early 1880s the founder of the Carlisle Indian School, Captain Richard Henry Pratt, began using before and after photographs to show his success in assimilating Native Americans, a process he described as “killing the Indian to save the man.”¹ The before pictures invariably portrayed an individual or group of long-haired Native Americans—frequently dusty and unkempt—wearing blankets, beads, moccasins, and jewelry. The after shots showed the same individuals sporting trimmed hair and pressed military uniforms. In an era when many Americans believed Natives to be hopelessly primitive and inassimilable, it should not be surprising that some viewed...

    • 4 Visions of the Disinherited: The Origins of Religion, Deprivation, and the Usual Suspects after World War II
      (pp. 75-102)

      The 1995HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, the American Academy of Religion volume edited by Jonathan Z. Smith, contains entries on “nativistic movements” and “revitalization movements.” Of nativistic movements, the unnamed entry writer suggests that “the term has enjoyed extended usage in ethnographies and theoretical sociological studies adopting an unstated disdain for nonwhite cultures and their rejection of Eurocentric values or Christianity.”¹ The term refers to those movements that conquered and colonized peoples enacted in order to preserve their culture. After noting that groups ranging from cargo cults and Ghost Dancers to Irish Celts and Pueblos have been labeled nativistic, the...

  7. Part II Putting Some Class in American Religion

    • 5 Some Theologies of Class in American Religious History
      (pp. 105-134)

      Throughout this work I have argued that class matters in the study of religion in general and American religions in particular. Such an assertion begs the question of how one goes about studying class and religion. In the first chapter I proposed a three-part conception of class that is potentially useful for the study of religion. In part 1 of the book, I suggested that a cultural history of the study of American religion reveals how “class” was tied to classi-fications and explanations of religious preferences. In the next chapter I present an ethnographic study that fronts possible interactions between...

    • 6 In the Field: Deprivation, Class, and the Usual Suspects at Two Holiness Pentecostal Assemblies
      (pp. 135-166)

      One chilly April day in 1973, Matt Wray woke to find himself alone in his rural New Hampshire house. His Pentecostal brothers and mother were gone and their beds left unmade. Though morning light filled the house, Wray’s alarm clock read 3:05 a.m.—it had stopped in the night. He fell to the floor, stricken by fear. “Jesus had taken my family away,” Wray writes in his recounting. “The Rapture had occurred while I slept.”¹ Wray was certain that the Second Coming had taken place and that he had been left behind. He blamed himself. “I felt the crushing weight...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 167-170)

    Whether or not we like the idea, all academic humanities research in some way relates to the author’s biography. The religion scholar Thomas Tweed has recently reminded us that “theories are positioned sightings.”² This is because academics—like all humans—are socially located. The spot where they “stand” and the places in which they have previously sat enable and constrain their perceptions. Social class has always played a significant role in my life’s trajectory. It has constricted my perceptions and prospects in ways that I will only ever be partly aware of. But it has also provided me a vista...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 171-192)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-216)
  11. Index
    (pp. 217-224)