Christian America?: What Evangelicals Really Want

Christian Smith, Author University of California Press $48 (257p) ISBN 978-0-520-22041-6
In this convincing cultural analysis, Smith, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, aims to debunk the prevailing myth, fed by high-profile elites in the religious right, that evangelical Christians are a uniform body of obedient zealots. Smith focuses on ""ordinary Evangelicals"" and poses the questions embedded in the title: What do they want from America, and how do they hope to get it? He then combines compelling statistical research with evangelicals' own words from in-depth interviews to show that evangelicals as a group are hardly monolithic in their views, nor do they necessarily constitute a threat to pluralism in America. In matters ranging from politics to public schools and gender roles in the family, the author finds that evangelicals are far more likely to advocate tolerance and change through example and personal Christian discipleship than through public mandates. In his chapter on families, Smith reveals a particularly intriguing complexity of evangelical views: most respondents claim male headship without giving up equality between spouses. These internal contradictions are precisely what Smith wants us to understand; although they may lag behind other Americans in advocating diversity, evangelicals are still more complex than most have assumed thus far. Smith provides a narrated appendix in which he presents his regression analyses in surprisingly readable form, appropriate even for the lay reader. This book is a major contribution, both substantively and methodologically, to understanding America's religious landscape. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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