Posts Tagged 'sociology'

White Evangelicals and their “Toolsets”

Sociologists Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith write about race relations and white evangelicals:

The racially important cultural tools in the white evangelical tool kit are “accountable freewill individualism,” “relationism” (attaching central importance to interpersonal relationships), and antistructuralism (inability to perceive or unwillingness to accept social structural influences).

Absent from their accounts is the idea that poor relationships might be shaped by social structures, such as laws, the ways institutions operate, or forms of segregation.  Again, understanding evangelicals’ cultural tools illuminates why this element is missing.  White evangelicals not only interpret race issues by using accountable freewill individualism and relationalism, but they often find structural explanations irrelevant or even wrongheaded…Evangelicals are thus also antistructural because they believe that invoking social structures shifts guild away from the root source—the accountable individual.  However, evangelicals are selectively aware of social institutions—they see those both impact them in their own social location and tend to undermine accountable freewill individualism.  For instance, they are aware of affirmative action because such programs can impact them in their social location, and they tend to oppose such programs because they go against evangelical understanding of accountable freewill individualism. (Emerson and Smith, 76, 78-79)


Emerson, Michael O. and Christian Smith.  Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.



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