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The Christian Right in U.S. Politics  

Kimberly H. Conger

The Christian Right has been an active force in Republican and American politics for over 40 years. Its focus on morality politics (abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, pornography, and sex and science education) has had an impact on the fortunes and expectations of conservative candidates, activists, and organizations all over the country. Its comprehensive activity demonstrates the multifaceted changes in society and religious engagement that brought the Christian Right as a political force into supporters’ consciousnesses, their churches, and the voting booth. Success in mobilization and the ballot box has not always created policy change, though the movement can claim policy victories in many states and localities. The largest impact the movement has had is in the Republican Party in all of its incarnations, altering the policies and strategies that are important and successful for the party. The incarnation of the movement shows signs of significant change, however, as the Republican Party is transformed by the populist messages and policies of the Trump administration. Scholars of the Christian Right movement and religion in American politics more generally should pay attention to the varying narratives, issues, sources of power, and social cohesion that the movement and its constituency, largely conservative Protestants, display. Like research on many social and political movements, the study of the Christian Right benefits from an interdisciplinary approach and a good grasp of the lived experience of the supporters, activists, and leaders within the movement.

Article

Public Opinion and Religion: Gay Rights in the United States  

Darren E. Sherkat

Religion plays an important role in structuring civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people (GLBT). Religious proscriptions against homosexuality were almost universally codified into law until the late 20th century, and laws against homosexuality and denying civil rights to homosexual remain in place in most nation states. The advent of the civil rights movement for GLBT persons has generated considerable backlash both in nations where civil rights have been secured, as well as in nations where many political leaders and movements view the extension of civil rights to GLBT persons as an external cultural threat. Religious opposition to the extension of rights has swiftly followed GLBT activism seeking: (a) an end to legal proscriptions; (b) alleviation of harassment and discrimination; (c) marriage and family recognition; (d) action related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and (e) recognition of transgendered identity and transgendered rights. GLBT movements quickly achieved considerable success and even garnered support from religious liberals. Data from the General Social Surveys (GSS) in the United States show that while support for same-sex marriage has increased in the U.S., significant differences remain across religious groups. Specifically, sectarian Protestants are significantly less supportive of civil rights for GLBT persons, while the non-religious are most supportive. While GLBT persons are making substantial political gains throughout the world, in many places backlash is eroding civil rights, and in much of the world the movement has lacked success. Several liberal religious groups have been crucial for the international success of human rights campaigns for GLBT persons, however conservative religious groups from several religious traditions have successfully promoted the continued repression of GLBT persons and movements.

Article

Boko Haram and the Global War on Terror  

Abimbola O. Adesoji

Although the Boko Haram crisis started like other riots before it and was initially treated as such, its escalation and metamorphosis from ordinary religious protest to insurgency has given an air of notoriety and fatality to it in Nigeria and across the borders of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Despite being similar in orientation, philosophy, and modus operandi to the Maitatsine religious crises of 1980 to 1985 in Nigeria, the Boko Haram crisis is clearly marked out by its more virulent nature, its sophistication, the wider global attention it has attracted, its festering nature, and more significantly the seeming inability to bring it under control. Presented here are the views and perspectives of scholars on the origin and growth of the Boko Haram phenomenon in Nigeria, its philosophy and ideology, its strategies and tactics, and its progression from common religious crisis and eventual metamorphosis to insurgency. The highly volatile religious background from which the sect emerged and the central role played by Mohammed Yusuf in its nurturing and growth are discussed. Also discussed are the impact of Salafism and the writings of Ibn Taymiyya, among others, on the sect and the motivation it derives from the global jihad movement. The article examines and appraises the Nigerian government approach in seeking to contain the group and situate it in the context of the African states and global coalition against terror and discusses why the central government has struggled to firmly contain the group. The central role played by Mohammed Yusuf in the evolution and growth of the sect is brought out in the first part of the article. Pertinent was the influence of individuals and groups on Yusuf’s beliefs and activities aided by his demagoguery. His group’s abhorrence of Western education and lifestyle as well as rejection of democracy as a form of government and justification of violence, aided by Salafist thoughts and writings, form the kernel of the next section on philosophy and ideology. The third section, on transformation and changing strategies, discusses the factors in the escalation of the crisis, its various manifestations, and the growing global link of the sect resulting from its brutal suppression in 2009. The various measures devised to contain the sect and its effectiveness or otherwise are presented. A final section discusses the efforts made by the group to integrate itself into the global jihad movement as well as government response, particularly at the regional level, to defeat it.

Article

Human Trafficking and Religious Movements  

Yvonne C. Zimmerman

The prominence of religious groups, religious motifs, and religious and theological claims in the anti-trafficking movement is useful for exploring how social movements are shaped by religious actors and claims and, in turn, use religion in the process of creating social change. The anti-trafficking movement can be situated in relation to three key previous social movements: the 18th–19th-century abolition movement that sought to abolish chattel slavery, the 19th–20th-century anti-white slavery campaigns of the social purity movement that sought to eliminate prostitution, and the late 20th-century movement that sought to address Christian persecution through promoting religious freedom. By highlighting the way that the anti-trafficking movement draws on and extends the moral claim-making of each of these social movements, these earlier movements are revealed as shaping the social movement ecology out of which the contemporary anti-trafficking movement emerges and in which it functions. Further, exploring the movement to end human trafficking in relation to these social movements suggests at least three significant ways religion matters in social movements: as a source of moral legitimacy, as a source of moral clarity, and as a cultural resource. As a source of moral authority, religion provides a source of grounding that lends credibility to movements’ moral claims by situating them in something larger than immediate interests and experiences. As a source of moral clarity, religion is a source of the moral values that animates social movements and sustains them through challenges. As a cultural resource, religious sensibilities influence how social movements perceive issues and formulate responses to them.