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Evangelicals and Democracy in America, Volume 1

Evangelicals and Democracy in America, Volume 1: Religion and Society

Steven Brint
Jean Reith Schroedel
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Evangelicals and Democracy in America, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    By the end of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of U.S. churches were evangelical in outlook and practice. America’s turn toward modernism and embrace of science in the early twentieth century threatened evangelicalism’s cultural prominence. But as confidence in modern secularism wavered in the 1960s and 1970s, evangelicalism had another great awakening. The two volumes of Evangelicals and Democracy in America trace the development and current role of evangelicalism in American social and political life. Volume I focuses on who evangelicals are today, how they relate to other groups, and what role they play in U.S. social institutions. Part I of Religion and Society examines evangelicals’ identity and activism. Contributor Robert Wuthnow explores the identity built around the centrality of Jesus, church and community service, and the born-again experience. Philip Gorski explores the features of American evangelicalism and society that explain the recurring mobilization of conservative Protestants in American history. Part II looks at how evangelicals relate to other key groups in American society. Individual chapters delve into evangelicals’ relationship to other conservative religious groups, women and gays, African Americans, and mainline Protestants. These chapters show sources of both solidarity and dissension within the “traditionalist alliance” and the hidden strengths of mainline Protestants’ moral discourse. Part III examines religious conservatives’ influence on American social institutions outside of politics. W. Bradford Wilcox, David Sikkink, Gabriel Rossman, and Rogers Smith investigate evangelicals’ influence on families, schools, popular culture, and the courts, respectively. What emerges is a picture of American society as a consumer marketplace with a secular legal structure and an arena of pluralistic competition interpreting what constitutes the public good. These chapters show that religious conservatives have been shaped by these realities more than they have been able to shape them. Evangelicals and Democracy in America, Volume I is one of the most comprehensive examinations ever of this important current in American life and serves as a corrective to erroneous popular representations. These meticulously balanced studies not only clarify the religious and social origins of evangelical mobilization, but also detail both the scope and limits of evangelicals’ influence in our society. This volume is the perfect complement to its companion in this landmark series, Evangelicals and Democracy in America, Volume II: Religion and Politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-591-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Steven Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel

    In the thirty years since the rise of the Christian Right, evangelicals have been at the center of a revived religious presence in America′s political life and social institutions. Their wealth and influence have expanded dramatically, and they have reentered the halls of power. Other religious conservatives—notably Catholics and Mormons but also some mainline Protestants—have been drawn into the political and cultural alliance they lead. Nearly every sphere of American life has been touched by the mobilization of religious conservatives. We explore the causes and consequences of these developments.¹

    This volume focuses on social topics: the sources of...


    • Chapter 1 The Cultural Capital of American Evangelicalism
      (pp. 27-43)
      Robert Wuthnow

      The focus of this chapter is evangelical Protestantism as religion, which I consider through the lens of cultural capital. This is not the language that evangelical Protestants themselves would use. Nor is it a concept that lends itself readily to the study of evangelical Protestantism without some clarification. Among sociologists of culture, whose view of culture has necessarily been broadened enough to include all kinds of beliefs and values, the concept of cultural capital has been a convenient way of focusing on the high-status culture that still matters most to academics. In operational terms, cultural capital means graduating from college,...

    • Chapter 2 American Evangelicals in American Culture: Continuity and Change
      (pp. 44-73)
      Nancy T. Ammerman

      Observers of American religion in the early twenty-first century, like observers two centuries earlier, are often struck by this country′s religious abundance and diversity (de Tocqueville 1835). With at least one in four adult Americans attending religious services on a given weekend, religious participation in one of the country′s more than 350,000 local congregations provides a broad populist base for social engagement. Every weekend, about 58 million American adults go to religious services at their local church or synagogue, mosque, or temple.¹ In addition to this dedicated core of weekly attenders, nearly another 100 million are connected enough to a...

    • Chapter 3 Conservative Protestantism in the United States? Toward a Comparative and Historical Perspective
      (pp. 74-114)
      Philip S. Gorski

      For many of those who observe it closely, the current state of conservative Protestantism in the United States is a source of considerable shock. For political liberals, the shock derives from the strength of the movement (Habermas 2006; Taylor 2006). They wonder why the United States is not a normal country, like, say, England or Holland, countries in which religious belief is much quieter, and churchgoing much rarer. For religious conservatives, on the other hand, it is the weakness of conservative Protestantism that is the source of shock. They wish the United States could become a Christian nation once again,...


    • Chapter 4 Exploring the Traditionalist Alliance: Evangelical Protestants, Religious Voters, and the Republican Presidential Vote
      (pp. 117-158)
      John C. Green

      Many journalists and pundits rediscovered the political impact of religion in the 2004 presidential election. For one thing, they noted a strong vote for George W. Bush from white evangelical Protestants. But at the same time they found a strong backing for the Republicans from voters who reported attending worship services once a week or more often, a phenomenon called the religion gap or God gap. Both these patterns appeared to be central to Bush′s campaign strategy (Green 2007, chap. 1). ANew York Timesreport explained it this way:

      The Republicans used their [national] convention to court deeply religious...

    • Chapter 5 Evangelical Strength and the Political Representation of Women and Gays
      (pp. 159-186)
      Jennifer Merolla, Jean Reith Schroedel and Scott Waller

      Most people have normative beliefs about what constitutes masculine and feminine, even if they have not given much conscious thought to the question (Duerst-Lahti and Kelly 1995, 16–17). These beliefs generally fall into two camps: those, often religious traditionalists, who believe in sharp divisions between male and female roles, and those who believe that both men and women can take on many different roles. Gender ideology not only shapes beliefs about what it means to be biologically male and female, but also can be used to determine positions on a whole host of contentious social issues (for example, abortion,...

    • Chapter 6 Race-Bridging for Christ? Conservative Christians and Black-White Relations in Community Life
      (pp. 187-220)
      Paul Lichterman, Prudence L. Carter and Michèle Lamont

      Many people have heard the phrase, sometimes attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., that from eleven to twelve on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. Fewer may know that at least since the 1960s, some evangelical Protestant leaders and publicists have promoted racial reconciliation. Nurtured at first by three African American religious figures who were willing to identify with the primarily white-associated termevangelical, the promotion of racial reconciliation remained a relative exception within evangelical Protestantism until the late 1980s. Since then, a stream of books, magazine articles, study guides, inspirational speeches, and denominational public statements...

    • Chapter 7 Where Is the Counterweight? Explorations of the Decline in Mainline Protestant Participation in Public Debates over Values
      (pp. 221-248)
      John H. Evans

      Charles Taylor defines the public sphere as ″a common space in which the members of society are deemed to meet through a variety of media: print, electronic, and also face-to-face encounters; to discuss matters of common interest; and thus to be able to form a common mind about these″ (1995, 185–86). The public sphere in liberal democratic societies exists to promulgate the values of the public, which can be communicated to the elites who lead us. That is, we have public debates about our values, and about the policies that might flow from such values. For example, a fairly...


    • Chapter 8 How Focused on the Family? Evangelical Protestants, the Family, and Sexuality
      (pp. 251-275)
      W. Bradford Wilcox

      Social scientists refer to the first demographic transition as the decline in fertility associated with the shift from agricultural to industrial production. In this chapter, I discuss a second demographic transition, unfolding over the last half century in the United States (as in most other advanced industrial countries), which is characterized by a decline in the social power, functions, and moral authority of the nuclear family. I argue that this second transition (or revolution) has not, in the main, been a salutary development for American society or for American democracy.¹ This demographic revolution should be distinguished from the gender revolution...

    • Chapter 9 Conservative Protestants, Schooling, and Democracy
      (pp. 276-303)
      David Sikkink

      In the works of prominent democratic theorists, conservative and evangelical Protestants are sometimes seen as a potential threat to a healthy democracy. One of the more visible and debated aspects of this threat are the curriculum challenges to public schools and the nature of conservative Protestant schools (Binder 2002; McLaren 1987). Democratic theorists are alarmed by the conservative religious parent′s view of education and support public education in part out of concern that ″Christian fundamentalism rejects the value of racial nondiscrimination″ (Gutmann 1987, 120). Others are concerned that religious parents and conservative Protestant schools may not be willing to abide...

    • Chapter 10 Hollywood and Jerusalem: Christian Conservatives and the Media
      (pp. 304-328)
      Gabriel Rossman

      There is much in popular culture for theologically and politically conservative Christians to object to. The primary objection is to sex, violence, and profanity in the entertainment media.¹ Media content objected to on these grounds can range from fullblown pornography to comedy programs likeMonty Python′s Flying Circus. In November 2006 and February 2007 network primetime television, 1 percent of programs were self-rated by their networks as TVG, 55 percent as TV-PG, and 44 percent as TV-14. A content analysis of programs during the same period found that 80 percent contained at least some profanity, 61 percent at least some...

    • Chapter 11 An Almost-Christian Nation? Constitutional Consequences of the Rise of the Religious Right
      (pp. 329-356)
      Rogers M. Smith

      Strange as it may seem today, in the mid-1960s, the Harvard theologian Harvey Cox wrote a bestseller,The Secular City, advancing the thesis that the United States was in transition ″from the age of Christendom″ to a ″new era of urban secularity″ (1966, 235). The emerging new age might be so secular, he suggested, ″that our English wordGodwill have to die.″ It would perhaps give way to some novel expression for the continuing, if hidden, spiritual significance of human existence (232).¹

      In the last quarter century, the electoral, legislative, and litigative influence of resurgent, newly politically engaged Religious...

  8. Index
    (pp. 357-374)