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From Pews to Polling Places

From Pews to Polling Places: Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    From Pews to Polling Places
    Book Description:

    Does religion promote political mobilization? Are individuals motivated by their faith to focus on issues of social justice, personal morality, or both? What is the relationship between religious conviction and partisanship? Does religious identity reinforce or undermine other political identifications like race, ethnicity, and class? The answers to these questions are hardly monolithic, varying between and within major American religious groups. With an electoral climate increasingly shaped by issues of faith, values, and competing moral visions, it is both fascinating and essential to examine the religious and political currents within America's major religious traditions. J. Matthew Wilson and a group of prominent religion and politics scholars examine these topics and assess one question central to these issues: How does faith shape political action in America's diverse religious communities? From Pews to Polling Places seeks to cover a rich mosaic of religious and ethnic perspectives with considerable breadth by examining evangelical Christians, the religious left, Catholics, Mormons, African Americans, Latinos, Jews, and Muslims. Along with these groups, the book takes a unique look at the role of secular and antifundamentalist positions, adding an even wider outlook to these critical concerns. The contributors demonstrate how different theologies, histories, and social situations drive distinct conceptualizations of the relationship between religious and political life. At the same time, however, the book points to important commonalities across traditions that can inform our discussions on the impact of religion on political life. In emphasizing these similarities, the authors explore the challenges of political mobilization, partisanship, and the intersections of religion and ethnicity.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-326-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ONE Prayers, Parties, and Preachers: The Evolving Nature of Political and Religious Mobilization
    (pp. 1-28)
    Clyde Wilcox and Carin Robinson

    In january 2004, george w. bush launched his reelection campaign in his State of the Union Address. He condemned steroid use, called for expanded spending on abstinence education, seemed to endorse a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage, and announced an executive order opening up many federal grants for faith-based institutions. Republican Party strategists hoped that each of these policies would appeal to various religious constituencies, and especially to the president’s base of white evangelical Christians. During the ensuing campaign, Bush often spoke openly of his faith (Robinson and Wilcox 2007).

    Republications are not alone in seeking to mobilize religious...

  6. TWO Evangelical and Mainline Protestants at the Turn of the Millennium: Taking Stock and Looking Forward
    (pp. 29-52)
    Corwin E. Smidt

    American society is distinctively religious in nature, and religion has played an important role in American politics since the beginning of the republic. This is due in part to the fact that, compared with those in many other Western industrial states, Americans continue to exhibit a high level of religiosity. But even the presence of such religious life and vitality does not, in and of itself, guarantee that religion would play an important role in American politics; it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for it to do so. Rather, the presence of certain distinctive features within the American...

  7. THREE Whither the Religious Left? Religiopolitical Progressivism in Twenty-First-Century America
    (pp. 53-80)
    Laura R. Olson

    After the 2004 presidential election, much was made of conservative Christian voters’ role in the reelection of George W. Bush to a second term in the White House. The much-touted exit poll finding that moral values were the most important election day concern of 22 percent of voters highlights the fact that a sizable number of Americans expect political leaders to offer a prophetic vision. Many observers might assume that such a prophetic vision can and does come only from the Religious Right. Yet this expectation of moral leadership by politicians is neither new nor the sole historical province of...

  8. FOUR The Political Behavior of American Catholics: Change and Continuity
    (pp. 81-104)
    Stephen T. Mockabee

    During the last several American presidential campaigns, even a casual observer would have encountered a considerable amount of news coverage devoted to candidates’ efforts to attract the “Catholic vote.” The size of the Roman Catholic tradition—comprising about 25 percent of the electorate—combined with the geographic concentration of Catholics in competitive states with large numbers of electoral votes (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc.) makes the Catholic voter an appealing target for presidential aspirants. In 2000, both major party candidates made efforts obviously designed to appeal to Catholics. In a typical exchange during May 2000, George W. Bush spoke in support...

  9. FIVE Dry Kindling: A Political Profile of American Mormons
    (pp. 105-130)
    David E. Campbell and J. Quin Monson

    This chapter is premised on the simple assertion that, in seeking to understand the impact religion has on American politics, Mormons matter.¹ Sheer demographics alone would suggest this to be the case: Since its founding in 1830, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church) has grown to have over 4 million American members. Mormons are now the sixth largest religious body in the United States. This means that there are twice as many Mormons as Episcopalians and nearly equal numbers of Mormons and Jews. And Mormon ranks are swelling. Indeed, during the 1990s, the LDS Church...

  10. SIX From Liberation to Mutual Fund: Political Consequences of Differing Conceptions of Christ in the African American Church
    (pp. 131-160)
    Melissa Harris-Lacewell

    When studying the influence of religion on political behavior, the social science literature has tended to approach the black church as a social, political, and religious organization. Investigating the connection between the church and political action, this research either stresses the organizational resources that accrue to black churchgoers, such as the networks, skills, mobilization, and contact opportunities nurtured in the church (Morris 1984; Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995) or seeks to map the psychological resources that contribute to the political actions of black church congregants, such as self-esteem and internal efficacy (Harris 1999; Calhoun-Brown 1996; Ellison 1993). This research tends...

  11. SEVEN Power in the Pews? Religious Diversity and Latino Political Attitudes and Behaviors
    (pp. 161-184)
    Louis DeSipio

    Discussions of american catholicism often marginalize the importance of Latinos to the dynamism of the faith.¹ That most Latinos are Catholics is taken as a truism. At the same time, however, the experiences of Latinos as Catholics and the Latino relationship with non-Latino Catholics is largely neglected. In scholarly analysis of contemporary Catholicism, the category “Catholic” often refers to Catholics of European ancestry. In some cases, a separate Catholic group is mentioned—“Latino Catholics” (e.g., Kohut et al. 2000). Though this division recognizes that there are some significant social and political differences between Latino and non-Latino Catholics, it masks the...

  12. EIGHT The Evolution of Jewish Pluralism: The Public Opinion and Political Preferences of American Jews
    (pp. 185-212)
    Paul A. Djupe

    What are the politics of American Jews in the new millennium, and how have they changed? Jews have been stalwart components of the fading New Deal coalition and have retained their Democratic affiliations while other erstwhile partners in that coalition have fragmented (e.g., Catholics) or changed teams (e.g., southern Evangelical Protestants). Jews remain one of the most liberal groups in American society and continue to vote for Democrats at high rates. The question asked over and over again is why. More specifically, how has the Jewish community been able to resist assimilation and the fragmentation of opinion that follows? Does...

  13. NINE The Politics of American Muslims
    (pp. 213-250)
    Paul A. Djupe and John C. Green

    Islam represents a largely new addition to American religious pluralism. A small but rapidly growing group, American Muslims have attracted considerable attention in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent wars on terrorism and in Afghanistan and Iraq. But these special circumstances aside, Muslims are just the most recent religious minority confronting the promise and peril of becoming American.

    This chapter fills a void in the literature with a description of American Muslims, using two special surveys of Muslim attitudes and behavior. We begin with an overview of this community’s demography, including its ethnic...

  14. TEN Secularists, Antifundamentalists, and the New Religious Divide in the American Electorate
    (pp. 251-276)
    Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio

    One of the more interesting developments in American politics during the past decade has been the appearance of a new type of voter: the “anti–Christian fundamentalist” (Bolce and De Maio 1999a). Antifundamentalists, of course, have been on the cultural scene since the split between theologically conservative and liberal Protestants during the third great awakening (Marsden 1980). But only relatively recently have anti–Christian fundamentalists become a force in national electoral politics. Today, anti–Christian fundamentalism is not just pervasive among self-identified Democrats and an important consideration in the party evaluations and voting preferences of culturally liberal and secular political...

  15. ELEVEN Religion and American Political Life: A Look Forward
    (pp. 277-286)
    J. Matthew Wilson

    As the preceding chapters in this volume have made clear, the interaction between religion and politics in America is profound. People from a rich variety of religious backgrounds seek to apply the teachings, principles, and moral wisdom derived from their traditions to their political life, to bring their faith out of the church, synagogue, or mosque and into the public square. At the same time, as Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio point out in chapter 10, those with little or no attachment to religion are often resentful of these efforts and increasingly orient their politics toward opposing them. These...

  16. References
    (pp. 287-308)
  17. Contributors
    (pp. 309-314)
  18. Index
    (pp. 315-324)