Religion in Public :: Top 5 in 2017

By Religion in Public

The end is nigh for 2017 and it is time for Religion in Public to do the thing you do at the end of the year – generate a list. We haven’t even had a year of operation under our belts (that’s coming in 19 days), but we certainly have enough material to contemplate a top 5. It’s not hard to come up with criteria for a top 5, but clicks/views is, well, less interesting than highlighting the range of good work featured here. So, here are our top picks to showcase the perspective taking on current events, analysis of new data, overview and contextualization of new research, illumination of the dimensions of a group we might know little about, and social science response to public commentary.

Without further ado, here are our Top 5 posts for 2017.

1. Do Americans Believe in the Prosperity Gospel? Here’s What the Data Says.

By Ryan P. Burge

The prosperity gospel was in the news quite a bit in 2017. From Donald Trump’s embrace of Paula White and other prosperity preachers to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church becoming involved in a backlash for their (reported) unwillingness to open their facility to those seeking shelter from Hurricane Harvey, lots of people were interested in what this theology was all about. Using survey data, Burge concludes that the prosperity gospel has taken hold largely among minority populations, as well as those who struggle with low household incomes.

2. The #TakeAKnee Protest is as American as Saluting the Flag…Swear to God

By Elizabeth Oldmixon

In the maelstrom of the take a knee protests, Oldmixon jumps in to offer broader perspective about just how much the attacks from officeholders on the protesters cut deeply against constitutional law principles and American civil religion. That tradition marks the US as a “city upon a hill,” that by shining a beacon to the world of the benefits and success of a free society demands adherence to a set of (continually contested) principles that make the nation worthy of emulation. As she concludes, “priestly civil religion on its own elevates the state above its people and threatens our unalienable rights.”

3. Evangelicals strongly supported Trump – what about evangelical political scientists?

By Daniel Bennett

Political scientists are interesting to…political scientists, sometimes. But some navel gazing is useful when it gets to substantive commitments. Given Trump’s commitments to dismantle American institutions, social contracts, and social and political norms, would evangelical political scientists side with their co-religionists or would they side with their training, which by and large supports democracy and the institutions and norms that maintain it? There’s a good reason this was one of the most viewed posts this year. Check out Dan’s contributions about religion and the law too.

4. How Does Christianity Affect Support for Environmental Protection?

By Amy Erica Smith

As the US retreats in global environmental followership (let alone leadership), and given the close relationship between white evangelical Protestantism and support for this Administration, it is worth assessing the global links between Christianity and environmental support. The way we tend to conduct research (especially in the US) is to think about religion as a timeless set of principles waiting to be applied to new problems. But Amy Erica Smith assesses the link between Christianity and environmental protection attitudes across a large number of countries and finds wildly varying results – some pro, some anti, and some null effects. We clearly should be thinking more carefully about the context for religious effects.

5. Religion, Gender, and Sexuality (in the US)

By Paul A. Djupe

There have been enormous changes in the last several decades in support for LGBT rights in the United States, institutionalized in the Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. While we know quite a bit about support for gay rights among religious groups, which has grown among all groups, it is surprising we know so little about the religion of LGBT folk. Well, it’s not surprising since we very know very little about the behavior of many small groups since ~4% of a sample size of 1000 does not give us much confidence about our estimates. However, a sample size of 65000 does! There are many surprising findings in here, at least from the perspective of culture war assumptions: “LGBT Americans are not irreligious and they are spread around the many religious traditions in the United States.”

2016 and 2017 have been treasure troves for those who study religion and politics. We expect nothing less from 2018. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

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