Two sociologists recently released a new study on Conservative Christians entitled The Truth About Conservative Christians. Andrew Greeley is on staff at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and is professor of social science at the University of Arizona. His co-author is Michael Hout who presently is professor of sociology and chair of the joint program in demography and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Neither of these men are Conservative Christians and, if the past is any indication, Conservative Christianity would predictably receive little to zero positive light in a study of this nature. However, nothing could be further from the truth >>>
As I work my way through this volume, I intend to post some comments about what I think are some interesting findings of these two researchers. The book, by the way, is definitively worth the fifteen bucks it costs.
Greeley and Hout’s work is broken into twelve chapters not including an appendix with a chart that only specialists would enjoy. The Introduction sets up their study, defines their terms, explains their approach and reveals their thesis. Beginning in chapter two, the authors unveil their findings about Conservative Christians in their relationship to a variety of life issues including how Conservatives vote, church growth, views about sex, family, lifestyle and ecumenism.
There is a chapter on Pentecostal Christianity that, from my scan reading of it, proves to be eye-opener—especially for non-Pentecostal Christians such as myself. My, how we hold such false impressions!
One surprise is Greeley and Hout’s open confession that Conservative Christians have, in essence, been delivered a raw deal. They are victims of stereotypical thinking. They write: “[To outsiders], Conservative Christians are a dangerous juggernaut bent on undoing liberty, equality, and the fraternity of nations. Power-mad hypocrites, they mask hate with love, a judgmental streak with pieties, exclusion with appeals to inclusion, and mono-culture in the name of diversity” (p.1). And who are the perpetrators of this myth of Conservative Christians?
Read again the authors:
“Yet the journalists and public intellectuals who form and reform and re-form again the conventional wisdom of the United States, it seems to us, are monumentally ignorant of the faith and behavior of the citizens who fit under the rubric of “Conservative Christians…” (p.2).
And, just to get your juices flowing, let me offer a few more surprises. For example, to hear most people’s estimation—not only the news pundits every evening but also our moderate brothers from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship—Conservative Christians are the base of the Republican Party.
Actually, I thought the very same thing and never challenged my good brother’s assertion about that when it was brought up in conversation. However, Greeley and Hout’s research show an entirely different picture. They write:
“We do not deny partial truth in some of the stereotypes. In many cases we replace the absolute statement that Conservative Christians are the Republican base with the observation that 7 percent more of them vote Republican than Mainline Protestant.” (p.3).
Did I read that correctly? That only a measly 7% more Conservative Christians vote Republican than Mainline Christian denominations? I did. Indeed Greeley and Hout conclude from their research that the “claims that Conservative Protestants have hijacked the nation’s politics are greatly exaggerated. They are only modestly different from other large religious groups…As we shall show in a moment, the affluent have a far higher impact score because, though they are less numerous that Conservative Protestants, the affluent really are politically distinct.” (p.44).
Wow! Who would have thought that? Only 7% more Southern Baptists voted for George W. Bush as President than did the United Churches of Christ. Only in America…
With that, I am…