Religion and Progressive Activism

New Stories About Faith and Politics

368 pages

11 illustrations

June, 2017

ISBN: 9781479854769



Add to Cart Available: 5/19/2017

Also available in



Part of the Religion and Social Transformation series


Ruth Braunstein is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. Her research explores the ways in which citizens participate in public life, and the complex role of religion in this process. She is the author of Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide.  

All books by Ruth Braunstein

Todd Nicholas Fuist is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Illinois Wesleyan University. His research interests include religion, politics, identity, and sexuality, with a focus on how culture serves to motivate socio-moral action. His work has been published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionCritical Research on Religion, and Social Movement Studies

All books by Todd Nicholas Fuist

Rhys H. Williams is Professor of Sociology and Director of the McNamara Center for the Social Study of Religion at Loyola University Chicago. His publications include Religion & Progressive Activism (New York University Press 2017; w/ T. N. Fuist and R. Braunstein), Cultural Wars in American Politics (Aldine 1997) and articles in the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Sociological Theory, Theory & Society, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  

All books by Rhys H. Williams

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 right’s 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

  • "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

  • “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 book’s longest-lasting success may resound even more so from contributors’ efforts to expose the undergirding structures of modern religion in action.”

    Sociology of Religion