Abstract

Jesus often spoke about the Christian obligation to provide for the poor. Yet, public opinion polls and scholarly studies consistently find that conservative Protestant voters favor economic policies of low taxes, limited state spending on welfare, and personal responsibility for financial success. This study uses evangelical sermons as a means for analyzing how conservative economic discourse, defined as a preference for limited government interference in market activities, proliferated inside American megachurches over four years following the 2008 recession. It also examines how pastors of large congregations rhetorically justified support for policies that scholars have shown work against the economic interests of middle-class and poor citizens alike. The study found that when megachurch pastors speak about economic issues, they deploy language and arguments that emphasize American economic providence and the need for individuals to take personal responsibility for financial outcomes, premises that afforded pastors the discursive space necessary for making claims about the superiority of private charity over public welfare. These findings suggest that, contrary to arguments that situate the public discourse of conservative Protestants as being mostly about social issues, there is inside evangelicalism a robust conversation about financial questions. This economic discourse is strikingly similar to that of nonreligious conservatives in the United States, a confluence that works to create a rhetorical resonance among the base constituencies inside the Republican Party and so fortify its ideological appeal and strength.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5238
Print ISSN
1094-8392
Pages
pp. 39-77
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-16
Open Access
No
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