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Christian America?: What Evangelicals Really Want Paperback – May 31, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Unlike Linda Kintz's Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions That Matter in Right-Wing America (LJ 10/1/97) and much of the other recent literature on the Christian right, Smith (sociology, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving) goes beyond the speeches and books of the (often self-) identified leaders and examines the attitudes of the broad range of Protestant evangelicals. Basing his research on interviews that followed up on surveys, Smith shows that most evangelicals do not want a country in which Christian beliefs and practices are imposed, as is so often charged. Their views generally are much more nuanced and diverse, and Smith, using a narrative form, discusses several of them, considering topics that range from gender roles to the role of religion in politics and public schools. An appendix gives the results of several surveys. An important book, especially during this Presidential election year; recommended for most libraries.
-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (May 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520234707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520234703
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,022,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of many books, including What is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago 201); Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Do Not Give Away More Money (OUP 2008); Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (OUP 2005), Winner of the 2005 "Distinguished Book Award" from Christianity Today; and Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (OUP 2003).

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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Sean Everton on June 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In this book Christian Smith shatters many of the stereotypes that the media and academics hold about American Evangelicals. In it he draws on a series of interviews that he and his colleagues conducted over a three-year period as part of a much larger research project of American evangelicals. It compliments his 1998 book on evangelicals that is far more quantitative in nature.
Specifically, Smith explores how evangelicals think about pluralism, politics, education and gender roles. He concludes his book with a chapter looking at the results of recent surveys on evangelicals. What Smith finds is that evangelicals embrace a wide variety of views that are higly complex and not reducible to a single stereotype. As an example, while evangelicals embrace language that hold husbands up as the leaders of their families, in practice they are just as egalitarian as everyone else.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the evangelical subculture. Smith offers a far more nuanced and complex view of evangelicals than many commentators and academics have led us to believe.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Peter P. Fuchs on August 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Every time I have a reason to dip into this man's "scholarship" I am amazed at the simple superficiality of it. One must grant him a certain cleverness in knowing how to strike chords that will get people to think his point-of-view is useful as a balancer. But as to real analysis of anything, he starts with demonstrable falsehood. Though he praises the editors, it is clear that they were none too busy or concerned. You can sum all of this up with a statement from his Conclusion:

"Despite lingering Enlightenment ideologies about strong objectivity and universal rationality, our lives remain fundamentally governed by imaginative narratives of the historical traditions that encompass them.." p. 194

To unpack the presumption and misinformation contained in those comments would take a whole article. But one should point out that Christian Smith somehow imagines that the entire legal system of the United States, grounded as it is in aspirations of "strong objectivity" are somehow to be re-visioned by visionary academics like him, as being nudged-out out by "imaginative narratives." It is absurd to think that such a -- comparatively -- fair country as this should have its staying power identified with Christian Smith's childish "imaginative narratives". Rather, even on a continuum of scholarly views of the relationship between the Founders of this country and Enlightenment notions of "universal rationality", no one responsible would account for it by way of a "lingering" "imaginative narrative". By contrast we are dealing with the Founding aspirations of this country in its very core ethos. If one conceives of that as merely "lingering" then that shows some basic presumption of hostility to the very ethos of a free society as embodied in that Founding aspiration.
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