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Evangelicals and Democracy in America

Religion and Society

Steven Brint, Jean Reith Schroedel

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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About the Authors

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pp. vii-viii

Steven Brint is professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, director of the Colleges & Universities 2000 study, and Associate Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences...

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pp. 1-24

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...


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Chapter 1

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pp. 27-43

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...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 44-73

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 Tocqueville1835). 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...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 74-113

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,...


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Chapter 4

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pp. 117-158

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...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 159-186

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...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 187-220

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 term evangelical, the promotion of...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 221-247

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...


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Chapter 8

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pp. 251-275

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)...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 276-303

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...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 304-328

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 full-blown pornography to comedy...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 329-355

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...


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pp. 357-373

E-ISBN-13: 9781610447652
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871540119

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2011

Volume Title: Religion and Society