New stories about religiously motivated progressive activism challenge common understandings of the American political landscape.
To many mainstream-media saturated Americans, the terms “progressive” and “religious” may not seem to go hand-in-hand. As religion is usually tied to conservatism, an important way in which religion and politics intersect is being overlooked. Religion and Progressive Activism focuses on this significant intersection, revealing that progressive religious activists are a driving force in American public life, involved in almost every political issue or area of public concern.
This volume brings together leading experts who dissect and analyze the inner worlds and public strategies of progressive religious activists from the local to the transnational level. It provides insight into documented trends, reviews overlooked case studies, and assesses the varied ways in which progressive religion forces us to deconstruct common political binaries such as right/left and progress/tradition.
In a coherent and accessible way, this book engages and rethinks long accepted theories of religion, of social movements, and of the role of faith in democratic politics and civic life. Moreover, by challenging common perceptions of religiously motivated activism, it offers a more grounded and nuanced understanding of religion and the American political landscape.
"Social scientists have invested a great deal of energy in trying to understand the religious right, but not nearly enough time and effort has been devoted to the crucial role, in our past and present, of the religious left. This book is thus an enormous contribution and a groundbreaking work. This timely volume shatters the myth of the religious rights monopoly on faith-based political activism. While acknowledging the difficulties confronted by religious liberals in organizing for social justice, the authors provide a wealth of new evidence-based insights about how to strengthen the progressive religious movement at a time when its witness is badly needed." ~E.J. Dionne Jr.,Author of Why the Right Went Wrong
"In this edited volume, the authors do a great service to scholars of religion and social change by bringing needed attention to the often invisible religious underpinnings of progressive civic and political engagement. In response to the media’s commonplace portrayal of religious politics as that of the Religious Right, which is often shown in contrast to the secular Left, these authors showcase various examples of religiously influenced progressive activism. They map out key contours of this often unrecognized field, showing how progressive religious activism is influenced both by the secular Left and religious Right, yet distinctive from each of these groups in pursuing change through religiously inspired activism to address stratification and inequality in American society." ~Review of Religious Research
"An edited volume by two rising stars in the sociology of religion, Ruth Braunstein and Todd Fuist, and an eminent scholar in the same field, Rhys Williams, Religion and Progressive Activism does not disappoint with its exploration of the role progressive religion has played in past and contemporary social movements. Many of its contributors are among the top scholars in the sub-discipline. As a whole, the volume assesses the political and intellectual conditions under which progressive religious activism has abated as a socio-political force. It attempts to come to terms with what exactly is progressive religious activism. It identifies the causal factors behind progressive religious mobilization. The book also explores a variety of contemporary cases in an effort to understand the factors that potentially facilitate and impede its political constancy and expression." ~Critical Research on Religion
"Consisted of helpful introductory and concluding essays as well as 15 wide-ranging and engagingly written contributions from knowledgeable scholars, this volume greatly enhances our understanding of progressive religion’s role in American politics today… I know of no book—in terms of topic, breath, and acuity of analysis—quite like this one. At seemingly every turn, I learned something new." ~Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
"Much of our current understanding of religion and politics is based on studies of the activism of conservative, even extremist forms of religious practice. But historically that is not necessarily the most important connection. In the 19th Century progressive religious groups were instrumental to abolitionist and woman's suffrage movements. And in the current context religious groups have a leading role in many struggles for justice. Braunstein, Fuist, and Williams' volume brings together some leading scholars of religion to look at some of the most important cases and theorize what they mean for our understanding of religion and social activism." ~David Smilde,Charles A and Leo M Favrot Professor of Social Relations, Tulane University
"This commendable collection, centered on sociological analyses of left-liberal Christians, makes a timely intervention into debates about religion in the United States. Its strongest takeaway arguments are: (1) to remind anyone who may need reminding that left-of-center Christian activism has not lost its salience and potential, however much it is discounted by the media or scholarly fashions; (2) to critique culture war analyses in which religion is mainly on the right and progressives are mainly non-religious—and by extension to revise sociological frames that approach religious activism in ways that make more sense for the right than the left; and (3) to document activism, especially in the two forms most valorized here: Faith Based Community Organizations (FBCOs) in Saul Alinsky’s tradition, and work related to immigrant rights." ~Reading Religion
"On its main premise, the book is successful: readers will be convinced of the existence of a religious Left. Pockets of progressive religion and its carriers sit in churches, on the border, in suburbia, on buses, in campaigns, and more. But the books longest-lasting success may resound even more so from contributors efforts to expose the undergirdingstructuresof modern religion in action." ~Sociology of Religion