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Faith and Race in American Political Life

Faith and Race in American Political Life

Robin Dale Jacobson
Nancy D. Wadsworth
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Faith and Race in American Political Life
    Book Description:

    Drawing on scholarship from an array of disciplines, this volume provides a deep and timely look at the intertwining of race and religion in American politics. The contributors apply the methods of intersectionality, but where this approach has typically considered race, class, and gender, the essays collected here focus on religion, too, to offer a theoretically robust conceptualization of how these elements intersect--and how they are actively impacting the political process.


    Antony W. Alumkal, Iliff School of Theology * Carlos Figueroa, University of Texas at Brownsville * Robert D. Francis, Lutheran Services in America * Susan M. Gordon, independent scholar * Edwin I. Hernández, DeVos Family Foundations * Robin Dale Jacobson, University of Puget Sound * Robert P. Jones, Public Religion Research Institute * Jonathan I. Leib, Old Dominion University * Jessica Hamar Martínez, University of Arizona * Eric Michael Mazur, Virginia Wesleyan College * Sangay Mishra, University of Southern California * Catherine Paden, Simmons College * Milagros Peña, University of Florida * Tobin Miller Shearer, University of Montana * Nancy D. Wadsworth, University of Denver * Gerald R. Webster, University of Wyoming

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3205-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction: Intersecting Race and Religion
    (pp. 1-30)

    In March 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign is nearly upset by the release of footage of his former preacher, Jeremiah Wright, employing black theology to critique aspects of U.S. history and policy. This ignites a political firestorm, culminating in Obama’s denouncement of Wright’s “extremism” and an unprecedented speech directly focusing on the issue of race in America (Kantor 2008).¹

    As late as August 2010, after President Obama has been in office for more than a year and a half, the number of Americans believing he is a Muslim continues to rise, with almost one in five saying he is...

  4. Foundations

    • Religion, Race, and the American Constitutional Order
      (pp. 33-55)
      Eric Michael Mazur

      There is little controversy among scholars of American religion that the role of religion in American society has changed dramatically since the Civil War, even if the nature of that change is subject to debate. The fact of change, however, has only more recently been theorized in the context of the relationship of religion to America’s public institutions. But by the beginning of the twentieth century, as conservative Protestantism was losing its monopoly on the production and maintenance of the symbols and rhetoric of public authority, the federal religio-political complex, or what I have called elsewhere the American constitutional order...

    • Quakerism and Racialism in Early Twentieth-Century U.S. Politics
      (pp. 56-79)
      Carlos Figueroa

      The signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 by the United States marked two important political developments: the acquisition of new overseas territories in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and the inheritance of political authority over the non-white races inhabiting those territories (Thompson 1989).¹ Modern U.S. imperialism had begun with the assertion of national sovereignty over nonwhite races. The Treaty of Paris brought both a new challenge to race relations and Christian evolutionary thought to U.S. progressive and imperialist politics. Moreover, the U.S. state gained the political authority to construct political identities and civic communities rooted in a white,...

    • Race, National Identity, and the Changing Circumstances of Jewish Immigrants in the United States
      (pp. 80-102)
      Susan M. Gordon

      In 1776, the Jewish population of the United States was between 1,000 and 2,500, or less than 0.1 percent of the population. One hundred years later, in 1880, Jews accounted for just 0.5 percent of the population. Over the next forty years, however, approximately two million Jewish immigrants (or about one-third of the entire Eastern European Jewish population) would arrive, part of the massive influx of twenty-five million immigrating into the United States during that period. While the vast majority of Jewish immigrants were of European origin, their experiences as immigrants, as a religious minority, and as an emerging ethnic...

    • What Would Robert E. Lee Do? Race, Religion, and the Debate over the Confederate Battle Flag in the American South
      (pp. 103-124)
      Gerald R. Webster and Jonathan I. Leib

      The two most important events in the history of the American South are the Civil War of the 1860s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. While race clearly played a dominant role in these two historical upheavals, the region’s deeply felt religiosity was also central to both events (Miller, Stout, and Wilson 1998). White Southerners viewed the Civil War in theological terms, as a war against Northern apostasy (Webster 2004). As a result, they understood their cause to be righteous and worth any and all sacrifices. Churches and religious leaders also played a central organizing role in the...

  5. Acting Out

    • The Black and White of Moral Values: How Attending to Race Challenges the Mythology of the Relationship between Religiosity and Political Attitudes and Behavior
      (pp. 127-148)
      Robert P. Jones and Robert D. Francis

      The 2004 presidential elections revealed two dramatic findings for scholars of religion and politics. First, race and frequency of religious attendance were the two most powerful predictors of vote, stronger than other demographic factors such as gender, education, income, or region (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life 2005). This correlation between religious attendance and voting behavior quickly gained traction in the mainstream press and resulted in the much-publicized “religion gap” or “God gap,” the popular term for the newly emerged conventional wisdom that the more religious the voter, the more likely she would be to vote Republican. This finding,...

    • Latino Religion and Its Political Consequences: Exploring National and Local Trends
      (pp. 149-169)
      Jessica Hamar Martínez, Edwin I. Hernández and Milagros Peña

      Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the United States, constituting 15.4 percent of the population in 2008 (Pew Hispanic Center 2010). Yet many scholars have noted their lack of political participation compared to other ethnic groups. For example, when it comes to voter registration and turnout, some put Latinos at 10–30 percent lower rates than Anglos (Garcia 1997), and Martínez (2005) finds Latinos are less likely to participate in political protests than non-Latinos. Previous research has found that factors such as immigration status and generation, socioeconomic status, education, local or state anti-immigrant initiatives, and various...

    • The Stranger among Us: The Christian Right and Immigration
      (pp. 170-186)
      Robin Dale Jacobson

      There is a dearth of work on the Christian Right that deals with race. Some of the important exceptions begin to unpack the dynamics between white and black Christian conservatives. But what happens if we extend the frame beyond black and white? How does the Christian Right approach, and become informed by, the multiracial politics of today? A doorway into answering this question is the issue of U.S. immigration, a racialized topic that at its heart has to do with questions of national identity, culture, and religion.

      In this latest, twentieth-to twenty-first-century round of national attention to immigration, Christian Right...

  6. Possibilties and Limits

    • Political Advocacy through Religious Organization? The Evolving Role of the Nation of Islam
      (pp. 189-206)
      Catherine Paden

      While not an explicitly political organization, the Nation of Islam has been politically relevant since its founding in 1931. The Nation’s founding doctrines of racial separatism and economic self-sufficiency for blacks have required that the organization contend with political realities for African Americans. As Jacobson and Wadsworth discuss in the introduction to this volume, the Nation embodies religion as a tool of resistance. Operating at the intersections of race, class, and religion, the Nation is one of few national organizations to specifically target its message and outreach to low-income African Americans. Throughout the organization’s history, the Nation’s teachings and writings...

    • A Demanding Conversation: The Black Manifesto in the Mennonite Church, 1969–1974
      (pp. 207-230)
      Tobin Miller Shearer

      In early 1969, Black Power activist James Forman presented the “Black Manifesto To the White Christian Church and the Jewish Synagogues in the United States of America and All Other Racist Institutions” at the National Black Economic Development Conference (NBEDC) in Detroit. With the backing of the conference delegates, Forman demanded $500 million for Christian and Jewish participation in slavery and the ongoing oppression of African Americans. Although Forman was not the first to call for reparations, the former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) executive secretary arrested the attention of the white community when he threatened to disrupt worship services....

    • Religion and Race: South Asians in the Post-9/11 United States
      (pp. 231-248)
      Sangay Mishra

      South Asians in the United States are a highly diverse group in terms of religious faith. The group includes Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, among others. For South Asians, religion is an important element in a cluster of identities ranging from nation of origin, language, region, and class to caste (the latter especially in the case of Indian immigrants). A panethnic South Asian identity is not an easily acceptable category as the group negotiates multiple identities in a social and political milieu broadly configured by U.S. multiculturalism.

      This essay analyzes the racialization of South Asians in the...

    • Ambivalent Miracles: The Possibilities and Limits of Evangelical Racial Reconciliation Politics
      (pp. 249-274)
      Nancy D. Wadsworth

      One of the great wonders of religion is its profound pliability. Not only can different collectivities wield the same religion for opposite purposes but a group that once drew on a faith-based meaning system to found a particular mission can also, in a changed historical context, adjust that system to fuel a reformed set of objectives.

      Such is the case with racial change advocates inside conservative evangelical Protestant communities in the United States.¹ These believers draw on religious resources to break from a racially fractured past and build a more integrated and “reconciled” American evangelicalism.² Among their objectives are “racial...

    • Racial Justice in the Protestant Mainline: Liberalism and Its Limits
      (pp. 275-298)
      Antony W. Alumkal

      While the Christian Right has been the focus of considerable scholarly and media attention for the past two and a half decades, it is hardly the only politically significant sector of American religion. The so-called mainline Protestant denominations experienced declines in both political power and membership during the last half century, yet they continue to maintain a significant public presence in many areas of American life (Wuthnow and Evans 2002).

      This essay discusses the racial justice–related discourses and practices of the five largest mainline Protestant denominations: the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 299-302)
  8. Index
    (pp. 303-320)