Academic Programs 

The Religious Right: Evangelicalism’s Influence on 21st Century Religion (RS-639)
January Interession and Winter/Spring 2007

This course will provide a social scientific overview of Conservative Christianity in the United States. It will begin by looking briefly at the theology and characteristics of Evangelicalism in its "pure doctrinal form." Then the course will trace the history of this theological movement as it develops, from the early 1800's through early Pentecostalism, in both its theology and adaptations to changes in the American culture. It will explore contemporary Evangelicalism with its blended understanding of the Bible and American individualism. Beginning in the early 20th century the modernist reaction to fundamentalism and Pentecostalism and society's rejection of these as viable public religious forms drove the religious right underground, or at least banished it to the South and away from public consciousness. Then major shifts in society and Evangelicalism since the 1950's have made Evangelicalism a primary driving religious force in contemporary society. The course will show how Evangelicalism has shaped societal changes over the past century and how it is dealing with religious pluralism and the interfaith reality of the United States today.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., beginning January 30

Scott Thumma
Professor of Sociology of Religion

Contact Information:

(860) 509-9571


Course Syllabus



(AE) Smith, Christian.  American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. Chicago: Chicago University Press. 1998.

(CA) Smith, Christian.  Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2000.

Balmer, Randall. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America.  Oxford: Oxford University Press. 3rd ed. 2000.


Butler, Jon, Grant Wacker, and Randall Balmer.  Religion in American Life: A Short History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.  Chapters 19, 22-24.

Finke, Roger and Rodney Stark. The Churching of America 1776-2005.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 2005   Chapters 3 and 5.

** Additional articles and chapters noted below will be available on the reserved shelf in the library.

Course Requirements:

  1. Each student is required to complete the weekly reading assignments.
  2. Each student is required to participate in the weekly discussion.
  3. Each student will be required to produce a 5 page report and a 10 minute class presentation on a 20th century figure (or a related topic) important to Evangelicalism and present it during the week we are studying that topic. Professor must approve the selection.
  4. Each student is required to produce a 1-2 page review of an academic book about the religious right/evangelicalism or one popular book on the topic.  Professor must approve the selection.
  5. All students will be required to complete a take home final that will consist of two essay questions.  The essays will total approximately 10 pages and should be well reasoned and well argued with significant facts from the course readings to support your arguments. 

Weekly Schedule of Topics and Readings

1) Introduction to the “Religious Right” - Evangelicalism/Pentecostalism/Fundamentalism.

Welcome, Introduction, and a primer on the sociology of religion perspective

2) 300 years of Religious History in 3 hours – Overview of Conservative Christianity.

Finke & Stark, Chapters 3 and 5
Randall Balmer, Chapters 19, 22-24 in Butler, Jon, Grant Wacker, and Randall Balmer Religion in American Life: A Short History.

3) Who is the Religious Right? – Demographics of a broad group.

Smith, AE chapters 1,2 & 5
Balmer, chapters 1,2

4) Diversity and Race Issues

Balmer chapters 7,9 & 11
**Emerson & Smith, Divided by Race chapter _____??
** David G. Roebuck “Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism: The Changing Face of Evangelicalism in America” in Faith In America, ed. Charles Lippy 2006

5) Politics

**Julie Ingersoll, “Religion and Politics: The impact of the religious right” Chapter 4 in Faith In America, ed. Charles Lippy 2006
**Anthony Cook, “From Southern Strategy to National Strategy: How the Christian right is transforming church-state relations.” Chapter 5 in Faith In America, ed. Charles Lippy 2006
Smith, CA, Chapter 3
Balmer, Chapter 6

6) Gender and Family Relations

Smith, (CA) – chapter 5
**“”Veiled Submission: Gender, Power and Identity among evangelical and Muslim women in the United States.”   Bartkowski, John P.; Read, Jen'nan Ghazal. Qualitative Sociology, 26:1 2003.
Balmer, chapter 5
**Marie Griffith, God’s Daughters: Evangelicalism Women and the Power of Submission. Chapter _____?

7) Moral Issues

Smith, (CA) – chapter 4
**Dale McConkey, “Whither Hunter’s Culture War? Shifts in Evangelical Morality 1988-1998”  Sociology of Religion 62:2, 2001.

8) The Challenges of Ecumenicism and Pluralism

Smith, (CA) – chapter 2
**“’No God in Common:’ American Evangelical Discourse on Islam after 9/11”  Richard Cimino Review of Religious Research Dec 2005 47:2 p. 162-174

9) The End Times

**Tim Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming  chapters ____??

10) Evangelists & TV Preachers

Balmer, chapters 4 & 10
**Jeffery Hadden, Prime Time Preachers chapter 9 the Mobilization of the Moral Majority.  Also see his entire Religious Broadcasting section at

11) Books, Movies, Music and the Arts

Balmer, chapters 3 & 8
** Eric Gormly, “Evangelizing through Appropriation: Toward a Cultural Theory on the Growth of Contemporary Christian Music.” Journal of Media and Religion 2:4 2003.

12) Megachurches, Parachurch Organizations and Nondenominationalism

** Scott Thumma, “Megachurches 2005 Summary”
** Scott Thumma, “The Shape of Things to Come: Megachurches, Emerging Churches, and Other New Religious Structures” in Faith In America, ed. Charles Lippy 2006

13) The Future of the Religious Right

no reading

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