Abstract: American evangelicals have a history of engagement in social issues in general and anti-slavery activism in particular. The last 10 years have seen an increase in both scholarly attention to evangelicalism and evangelical focus on contemporary forms of slavery. Extant literature on this engagement often lacks the voices of evangelicals themselves. This study begins to fill this gap through a qualitative exploration of how evangelical and mainline churchgoers conceptualize both the issue of human trafficking and possible solutions. I extend Michael Young’s recent work on the confessional schema motivating evangelical abolitionists in the 1830s. Through analysis of open-ended responses to vignettes in a survey administered in six congregations I find some early support for a contemporary salvation schema. It is this schema, I argue, that underpins evangelicals’ framing of this issue, motivates their involvement in anti- slavery work, and specifies the scope of their critique. Whereas antebellum abolitionists thought of their work in national and structural terms contemporary advocates see individuals in need of rescue. The article provides an empirical sketch of the cultural underpinnings of contemporary evangelical social advocacy and a call for additional research.
Abstract: This article contributes to ongoing public and scholarly debates about evangelical social engagement in the United States. I illustrate that, for some conservative evangelical men, activism is fused to the cultural construction of masculinity. My central argument is that, despite becoming invested in ‘new’ acts of social engagement, these conservative evangelicals continue to rely on a familiar cultural script that uses individualist logics, rather than structural logics, to address social problems. My primary example is a relatively recent men’s movement, Acts29, and its commitment to anti-human trafficking campaigns. This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork and textual data collected between January 2009 and March 2011.
Excerpt: ‘Marcia Pally’s post tracks the important fact that contemporary American evangelical social and political engagement is fragmenting. She rightly observes that such fragmenting is not historically novel, and is a self-consciously critical response to the power of the Religious Right.
To read of “robust polyphony” among evangelicals was especially welcome to me, as I addressed this phenomenon in a recent ethnography, Emerging Evangelicals (NYU Press, 2011). As a cultural anthropologist, I explored the identities fashioned, practices performed, histories claimed, institutions created, and critiques waged among evangelicals influenced by the Emerging Church movement. Pally’s astute analysis returned me to a question I stopped short of fully developing: does fragmentation equal change?
While it is clear that evangelicalism is diversifying, it is unclear what this amounts to. We see voting blocs split, financial donations broaden, volunteer labor disperse, and moral-political agendas expand. But, do these fragmentations signal tectonic, hard-wired, all-bets-are-off cultural change? Or, is it more superficial (which is not to say unimportant or not deeply felt) social change? Do electoral politics and other shifting forms of activism amount to fundamental change, or merely changing patterns of action?’