Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies

Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies

Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies

Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies

Synopsis

Placing the neglected issue of class back into the study and understanding of religion, Sean McCloud reconsiders the meaning of class in today's world. More than a status grounded in material conditions, says McCloud, class also entails relationships, identifications, boundaries, meanings, power, and our most ingrained habits of mind and body. He demonstrates that employing class as an analytical tool that cuts across variables such as creed, race, ethnicity, and gender can illuminate American religious life in unprecedented ways.

Excerpt

Following the 2004 American presidential election, print and television media touted the importance of “moral values” in giving George Bush a second term. Those religious conservatives known as Evangelicals, the muchrepeated story went, overwhelmingly backed the Republican Bush over the Democrat John Kerry because they perceived Bush as sharing their conservative Christian values. While this claim made the news cycle for months, polling data and postelection analysis suggested a more complex, but recurrent, story. Researchers found that “moral values” actually ranked low on the list of issues predicting the 2004 vote, and they further noted that the variable had not increased in importance but had actually remained stable since the 1980 presidential election. Instead of moral values, individual votes were positively correlated with a familiar selection of demographic factors: race, gender, place, and social class. the majority of whites voted for Bush, while the majority of African Americans, Asians, and Latinos voted for Kerry. the majority of men cast ballots for Bush and the majority of women chose Kerry. If you lived in a large city, you more likely voted Democratic. If you lived in a small town or rural area, your vote most likely went to the Republicans. in terms of class, those whose family incomes were under $50,000 went for Kerry, while those above that number supported Bush. Two months before the election, the sociologists Michael Hout and Andrew Greeley suggested that “if recent patterns hold, a majority (about 52 percent) of poor white southern evangelicals will vote for Mr. Kerry in November, while only 12 percent of affluent southern white evangelicals will.” Regardless of the specific numbers, their general prediction was apparently accurate. For all the journalistic buzz about religion and moral values, the variables of race, place, gender, and social class trumped them both.

Class was important in the 2004 election, and it continues to be important in all aspects of American life. the first decade of the twenty-first century wit-

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