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How Complex Religion Can Improve Our Understanding of American Politics

How Complex Religion Can Improve Our Understanding of American Politics Sociologists have long acknowledged the importance of religion for American politics, especially for two groups of people: ( a ) (white) conservative Protestants, who are increasingly affiliated with the religious right, and ( b ) progressives, who are more and more disaffiliated from organized religion. However, a comprehensive statement of the ways in which religion matters for politics, the context in which it matters and does not matter, and how this has changed over time is lacking. Recent reviews acknowledge that at best, the relationship between religion and politics in the United States is “not straightforward” (Grzymala-Busse 2012, p. 427). We contend that this is primarily a result of the fact that neither the sociology of religion nor political sociology adequately considers the role that inequality (especially race and class but also gender) play in religious affiliation (and nonaffiliation). As a result, both fields have neglected to systematically examine the ways in which class and race may shape the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. We thus argue that both fields would benefit from engagement with theories of complex inequality that take seriously the ways in which inequalities of race, class, and gender interact (McCall 2001). In doing so, scholars also need to recognize that these structures of inequality are deeply intertwined with religious group membership—a theoretical argument that we call complex religion. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Annual Review of Sociology Annual Reviews

How Complex Religion Can Improve Our Understanding of American Politics

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Publisher
Annual Reviews
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved
ISSN
0360-0572
eISSN
1545-2115
DOI
10.1146/annurev-soc-081715-074420
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Sociologists have long acknowledged the importance of religion for American politics, especially for two groups of people: ( a ) (white) conservative Protestants, who are increasingly affiliated with the religious right, and ( b ) progressives, who are more and more disaffiliated from organized religion. However, a comprehensive statement of the ways in which religion matters for politics, the context in which it matters and does not matter, and how this has changed over time is lacking. Recent reviews acknowledge that at best, the relationship between religion and politics in the United States is “not straightforward” (Grzymala-Busse 2012, p. 427). We contend that this is primarily a result of the fact that neither the sociology of religion nor political sociology adequately considers the role that inequality (especially race and class but also gender) play in religious affiliation (and nonaffiliation). As a result, both fields have neglected to systematically examine the ways in which class and race may shape the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. We thus argue that both fields would benefit from engagement with theories of complex inequality that take seriously the ways in which inequalities of race, class, and gender interact (McCall 2001). In doing so, scholars also need to recognize that these structures of inequality are deeply intertwined with religious group membership—a theoretical argument that we call complex religion.

Journal

Annual Review of SociologyAnnual Reviews

Published: Jul 30, 2016

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