Divided by Faith

Divided by Faith : Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America

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In recent years, the leaders of the American evangelical movement have brought their characteristic passion to the problem of race, notably in the Promise Keepers movement and in reconciliation theology. But the authors of this provocative new study reveal that despite their good intentions, evangelicals may actually be preserving America's racial chasm. In Divided by Faith, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probe the grassroots of white evangelical America, through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people, along with 200 face-to-face interviews. The results of their research are surprising. Most white evangelicals, they learned, see no systematic discrimination against blacks; indeed, they deny the existence of any ongoing racial problem in the United States. Many of their subjects blamed the continuing talk of racial conflict on the media, unscrupulous black leaders, and the inability of African Americans to forget the past. What lies behind this perception? Evangelicals, Emerson and Smith write, are not so much actively racist as committed to a theological view of the world that makes it difficult for them to see systematic injustice. The evangelical emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates inequality between the races. Most racial problems, they told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault. Combining a substantial body of evidence with sophisticated analysis and interpretation, Emerson and Smith throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. Despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, the authors conclude that real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 134.62 x 200.66 x 12.7mm | 181.44g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 11 tables
  • 0195147073
  • 9780195147070
  • 590,815

About Michael O. Emerson

Michael O. Emerson is Associate Professor of Sociology at Rice University, the author of numerous articles on race relations and religion, and the co-editor of The Social Aspects of Religion in the US and Beyond. He lives in Houston, Texas. Christian Smith is Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is the author of American Evangelicalism and Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.show more

Review quote

"This path-breaking book is the best study in print on the racial attitudes of white evangelical Protestants. The book's unusual strength comes from its ability to combine a reliable summary of historical circumstances with careful attention to what evangelicals actually say and sensitive use of responsible sociological theory. The arguments of the book are made even more forceful by the willingness of Emerson and Smith to take the evangelicals' own theology seriously, especially where that theology calls into question standard patterns of evangelical racial practice."-Mark A. Noll, Professor of History, Wheaton College "Divided by Faith is just that-an account of the deep racial division within American religion. But more than that, it is a penetrating look at the societal and religious-based reasons for this division within the Evangelical Christian sector, and a compassionate plea on the part of the authors for Christians to engage the issue of race and to lead the country in solving this 'American Dilemma.' A thorough and very readable book, to be read by scholars and church members alike."-Wade Clark Roof, J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society, University of California, Santa Barbara "This is an important book. With thoughtful conceptual distinctions and careful analysis of data from a variety of empirical sources, Emerson and Smith provide an interesting account of how white evangelicals perpetuate the very racial divisions they publicly oppose. Divided by Faith breaks new ground in the study of religion and American race relations."-William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Truly Disadvantaged and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide this is an important text that sheds light on the inner theological and sociological workings of white evangelicals in connection to one of the most pressing issues in the United States ... valuable for its insights into Evangelicalism, religion and race, and religious pluralism. * Anthony B.Pinn, Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol.8, Issue 3, June 2001 *show more

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561 ratings
4.07 out of 5 stars
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4 41% (232)
3 15% (83)
2 5% (28)
1 2% (9)
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