This introductory chapter presents a new perspective on how white evangelical Christians have become an important constituency for the Republican Party in the United States. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow has described this shift as part of a larger restructuring of American religion that took place within local congregations, denominations, and public life. Before the 1960s, voters were socialized from birth into ethnoreligious communities—Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish—that instilled certain assumptions about party loyalty. Protestants identified with the Republicans and Catholics with the Democrats. But since the 1960s, religious identity has become more voluntary and disconnected from tight-knit ethnic communities. Americans are now divided by the values and lifestyles that they have chosen for themselves, rather than by inherited ethnoreligious loyalties.
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