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The Politics of Evangelical IdentityLocal Churches and Partisan Divides in the United States and Canada$
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Lydia Bean

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161303

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161303.001.0001

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The Boundaries of Political Diversity in Two U.S. Congregations

The Boundaries of Political Diversity in Two U.S. Congregations

(p.166) Chapter 7 The Boundaries of Political Diversity in Two U.S. Congregations
The Politics of Evangelical Identity

Lydia Bean

Princeton University Press

This chapter finds that a broad set of laypeople serve as opinion leaders, helping their less politically engaged peers to link evangelical identity to conservative politics. Local opinion leaders help define evangelical identity in partisan terms, such that voting Democratic is incompatible with being a Christian. The chapter argues that these opinion leaders contribute to “thin coherence” between religious identity and partisanship, even for individuals in their church who subscribe to moderate, progressive, or ambivalent political attitudes. Evangelical Christians do not collectively subscribe to consistently conservative attitudes on economic, moral, and foreign policy issues. The problem with this interpretation is that it treats evangelicalism as the aggregate of the individuals who belong to it. But this ignores the powerful mechanisms that link evangelical identity to partisanship at the congregational level.

Keywords:   evangelical identity, conservative politics, opinion leaders, religious identity, partisanship, Evangelical Christians

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