Evangelicals and Democracy in America

Evangelicals and Democracy in America: Religion and Politics

Steven Brint
Jean Reith Schroedel
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 384
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    Evangelicals and Democracy in America
    Book Description:

    Separation of church and state is a bedrock principal of American democracy, and so, too, is active citizen engagement. Since evangelicals comprise one of the largest and most vocal voting blocs in the United States, tensions and questions naturally arise. In the two-volume Evangelicals and Democracy in America, editors Steven Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel have assembled an authoritative collection of studies of the evangelical movement in America. Religion and Politics, the second volume of the set, focuses on the role of religious conservatives in party politics, the rhetoric evangelicals use to mobilize politically, and what the history of the evangelical movement reveals about where it may be going. Part I of Religion and Politics explores the role of evangelicals in electoral politics. Contributor Pippa Norris looks at evangelicals around the globe and finds that religiosity is a strong predictor of ideological leanings in industrialized countries. But the United States remains one of only a handful of post-industrial societies where religion plays a significant role in partisan politics. Other chapters look at voting trends, especially the growing number of higher-income evangelicals among Republican ranks, how voting is influenced both by “values” and race, and the management of the symbols and networks behind the electoral system of moral-values politics. Part II of the volume focuses on the mobilizing rhetoric of the Christian Right. Nathaniel Klemp and Stephen Macedo show how the rhetorical strategies of the Christian Right create powerful mobilizing narratives, but frequently fail to build broad enough coalitions to prevail in the pluralistic marketplace of ideas. Part III analyzes the cycles and evolution of the Christian Right. Kimberly Conger looks at the specific circumstances that have allowed evangelicals to become dominant in some Republican state party committees but not in others. D. Michael Lindsay examines the “elastic orthodoxy” that has allowed evangelicals to evolve into a formidable social and political force. The final chapter by Clyde Wilcox presents a new framework for understanding the relationship between the Christian Right and the GOP based on the ecological metaphor of co-evolution. With its companion volume on religion and society, this second volume of Evangelicals and Democracy in America offers the most complete examination yet of the social circumstances and political influence of the millions of Americans who are white evangelical Protestants. Understanding their history and prospects for the future is essential to forming a comprehensive picture of America today.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-592-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    Jean Reith Schroedel and Steven Brint

    From the beginning, Americans have held disparate views on the role religion should play in public life. On the one hand, many colonial governments were established under biblical covenants, where God was called upon to witness the creation of the governing body, whose aim was to further Christianity as well as to establish the common good (Lutz 1988).¹ This vision of America as the new Israel, one with the mission to redeem, not only its own people, but perhaps also—serving as a model—the rest of humanity, is an enduring Puritan legacy². On the other hand, the country’s founding...

    • Chapter 1 A Global Perspective: U.S. Exceptionalism (Again?)
      (pp. 25-56)
      Pippa Norris

      Since at least the mid-twentieth century, Protestants have been part of the bedrock Republican voting base. In the early 1990s, the American party system experienced an important long-term realignment, however: as the religious population shifted toward the Republicans, secularists shifted toward the Democrats. Is this religiosity gap, which evidence from the NES suggests has persisted in subsequent elections, another example of American exceptionalism, reflecting particular characteristics of U.S. society, politics, and history (Lipset 1997)? Alternatively, might it reflect broader developments with the heightened political salience of religion, which is also evident in other societies? To examine these issues, I analyze...

    • Chapter 2 Interests, Values, and Party Identification between 1972 and 2006
      (pp. 57-82)
      Michael Hout and Andrew Greeley

      Conservative Protestants developed political clout just as two other major political trends emerged in the United States. The South realigned with the Republicans and party loyalty once again dictated the outcome of presidential elections. The conventional wisdom emphasizes values as the common thread in religious and regional realignment. Voters with strong religious identities and those in red states have distinct values that guide their political choices. They supposedly look past their personal and family concerns to express those values in voting and they identify with the party they vote with most of the time. By this reckoning, the Republican Party...

    • Chapter 3 Voting Your Values
      (pp. 83-104)
      Wayne E. Baker and Connie J. Boudens

      The 2004 National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll, conducted for a consortium of media organizations, propelled moral values to the forefront of the public discussion about the forces that drive political behavior. It asked voters to select from a predetermined list the one issue that mattered most in deciding how they voted for president. Of those voters, 22 percent selected moral values. The other issues included economy-jobs (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent), Iraq (15 percent), health care (8 percent), taxes (5 percent), and education (4 percent). The voters who selected moral values also heavily favored Bush; a large percentage of...

    • Chapter 4 Moral-Values Politics: The Emergence of an Electoral System
      (pp. 105-140)
      Steven Brint and Seth Abrutyn

      A central paradox of contemporary political life in the United States is that white evangelical Protestants have expressed a wide variety of views on social and policy issues, including moderate to liberal views on many issues involving inequalities in American society, yet have proven to be a dependable partner in the Republican coalition for more than a quarter century. Studies of the social and political opinions of evangelicals have consistently found that they support spending to improve the nation’s health and education and to reduce poverty (Greeley and Hout 2006, 84–90; Wilcox and Larson 2006, 57–58). Most do...

    • Chapter 5 Politicized Evangelicalism and Secular Elites: Creating a Moral Other
      (pp. 143-178)
      Rhys H. Williams

      In the discourse of much contemporary conservative Protestant evangelicalism, particularly that concerned with the place of religion in politics and the public sphere, one group stands out—portrayed as perhaps a singular threat to evangelical religion specifically, religion in general, and America’s social and moral well-being. Under a variety of names, much of politicized evangelicalism has constructed “secular elites” as its primary political opponent, and even more expansively, as the primary threat to our societal health. This chapter examines the construction of secular elites as a moral “other,” and the ways in which that construction works as a resource for...

    • Chapter 6 Mobilizing Evangelicals: Christian Reconstructionism and the Roots of the Religious Right
      (pp. 179-208)
      Julie Ingersoll

      Studies that date the origins of the Christian Right to the late 1970s and early 1980s have generally failed to explore the groundwork that prepared the way for the movement throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. In this chapter, I argue that a small group within fundamentalism known as Christian Reconstructionists played an important but underexplored part in the rise of the Christian Right and that, though unacknowledged, the influence of this group continues today. The published works of the Reconstructionists influenced the leaders of the Christian Right. These works made their way into evangelical and fundamentalists churches in...

    • Chapter 7 The Christian Right, Public Reason, and American Democracy
      (pp. 209-246)
      Nathaniel Klemp and Stephen Macedo

      Over the last thirty years, the Christian Right has become an increasingly powerful voice in American democracy. From Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority to Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition to James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Christian Right organizations have mobilized conservative Christians into political action, largely though not exclusively on behalf of a conservative moral agenda. Throughout this period of heightened engagement, the rhetoric of Christian Right activists on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion has been couched in what we call a narrative of victimization. Religious citizens, it is claimed, have been unfairly silenced and marginalized by liberal elites on...

    • Chapter 8 The Decline, Transformation, and Revival of the Christian Right in the United States
      (pp. 249-279)
      Peter Dobkin Hall

      Democracy in America offers an idealized portrayal of the role of religion in politics, in which churches supported religious toleration, kept aloof from politics, and had little influence on public opinion. We would never guess from de Tocqueville’s account that the country was in the midst of a second Great Awakening of religion—one that, in little more than two decades, transformed it from one in which barely one in ten of its citizens were “churched” to being one of the most religious nations on earth (Finke and Stark 1992). Nor would we guess that the nation was at the...

    • Chapter 9 Moral Values and Political Parties: Cycles of Conflict and Accommodation
      (pp. 280-304)
      Kimberly H. Conger

      The Christian Right has become a leading factor in Republican Party politics in the United States over the past twenty-five years. Although many scholars and pundits have focused on the movement in national politics, the Christian Right has been active and effective at the state level as well. The movement has a presence in nearly every state, and in many states exerts significant influence on the Republican Party through grassroots mobilization and party personnel. Contrary to popular accounts, however, the movement rarely takes over a party wholesale. The influence of the Christian Right in Republican politics ebbs and flows based...

    • Chapter 10 Politics as the Construction of Relations: Religious Identity and Political Expression
      (pp. 305-330)
      D. Michael Lindsay

      Historically, American evangelicalism has been a protesting movement, one committed to reform on selective moral issues (Marsden 2006; Young 2002). As such, the evangelical movement has often been more defined by political issues than theological concerns. Indeed, Gabriel Almond, Scott Appleby, and Emmanuel Sivan have suggested that the evangelical movement’s theological diversity is held together by political coalitions (2003). As a social movement that includes diverse perspectives, evangelicals’ public theology—theological reflection focused on public concerns—has existed mainly to birth and buttress particular political and social positions. No doubt this springs from the movement’s lineage as part of the...

    • Chapter 11 Of Movements and Metaphors: The Coevolution of the Christian Right and the GOP
      (pp. 331-356)
      Clyde Wilcox

      On May 3, 2007, competing Republican presidential candidates were asked to raise their hands if they did not believe in evolution. Three candidates—Senator Sam Brownback, former governor Mike Huckabee, and Representative Tom Tacredo—raised their hands. In a later debate on June 5, Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, defended his position by quoting the first verse of Genesis—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” But he also objected to the question. “It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president. I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade...

  8. Index
    (pp. 357-376)