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December 2005 Article Abstracts Vol. 47 Issue 2

GENDER DIFFERENCES IN THE COMMUNICATION OF
CHRISTIAN CONVERSION NARRATIVES

DAVID A. KNIGHT
AZUSA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY

ROBERT H. WOODS, JR.
SPRING ARBOR UNIVERSITY

INES W. JINDRA
SPRING ARBOR UNIVERSITY

Scholars have long sought to find the differences in the ways men and women communicate. Also, researchers have studied the field of religious conversion. This first-of-a-kind study has sought to find if gender differences arise when men and women communicate the story of their religious conversion. Forty structured in-depth interviews with 20 male and 20 female undergraduate students at a small, private Christian liberal arts university in the Midwest were used to address the stated research question. Five male and five females were selected from each grade level. A non-probability sampling procedure was used to select subjects. The final sample consisted of two Hispanics, one Black, and 37 White non-Hispanic participants. The average age of each participant was 20.  Although some authors have suggested that conversion stories of men and women would be similar due to a rhythmic narrative formula and common structural elements, this study has found that significant gender differences in the communication of such narratives do arise in certain specific areas.  The majority of men used adventurous metaphors, while the majority of women used peaceful metaphors to describe their conversion experiences. It was also found that the majority of men focused on themselves as the central character while most women focused on someone else.  And, men described themselves as clever whereas women described themselves as foolish in their narratives.     

 

DIFFERENT IDENTITY ACCOUNTS FOR CATHOLIC WOMEN

ELAINE HOWARD ECKLUND
RICE UNIVERSITY

Through interviews with thirty-seven individuals, I compare personal “identity accounts” for women who agree with Church doctrines, those who disagree and leave the Church, and those who disagree and remain loyal to Catholicism.  Surprisingly, women who leave and women who agree with Catholic doctrines have similar accounts for what it means to be a Catholic.  The central part of this paper is devoted to understanding women who are dissatisfied and remain committed Catholics.  These women view Catholic identity as negotiable, finding meaning and voice in their parish and in the wider Church.  This group also believes in their own abilities to make changes in the doctrines of the Church, revealing that individualist religious identities may actually foster commitment.  Findings also expand research on religious identities and have implications for the relationship of personal identity accounts to institutional change.

 

EDUCATION AND CHURCHGOING PROTESTANTS’ VIEWS OF HIGHLY POLITICIZED CHRISTIANITY

PHILIP SCHWADEL
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA, LINCOLN

Many churchgoing Protestants support a highly political role for the Christian religion, endorsing Christian ideals shaping public policy.  Highly educated Protestants’ emphasis on individualism and protecting civil liberties, however, can encourage a distrust of highly politicized Christianity.  Specifically, college and graduate school educated Protestants often want to avoid forcing the Christian religion on secular society.  Regression results from the 1996 Religious Identity and Influence Survey show that, among churchgoing Protestants, education is strongly and negatively correlated with supporting laws based on Christian doctrines.  Highly educated Protestants are also less likely than high school educated Protestants to advocate Christians attempting to change society to reflect God’s will, particularly because they feel they should not impose the Christian religion on society.  With debates over issues such as same-sex marriage and the use of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, Protestants’ views of the proper relationship between Christianity and politics will help shape future policy decisions; and highly educated Protestants’ views will be increasingly important as college education becomes the norm in the Protestant community.  The results provide insights into the religious privatization of highly educated churchgoing Protestants in the United States as well as supporting the notion that with increased education comes at least partial support for one aspect of secularization—desacralization, or the separation of religion from other primary institutions, especially the state.

 

“NO GOD IN COMMON:”
AMERICAN EVANGELICAL DISCOURSE ON ISLAM
AFTER 9/11

RICHARD CIMINO
NEW SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH

After the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., evangelical leaders emerged as strong critics and even antagonists of Islam. This rhetoric is reflected in evangelical books and articles that have been published in the last decade, but particularly since 9/11. Through a content analysis of evangelical books on Islam published before and after 9/11, this article finds that there was a noticeable change of emphasis and perspective on Islam after the attacks.  Most of the post-9/11 literature draws sharper boundaries between Islam and Christianity and asserts that Islam is an essentially violent religion. This polemic against Islam takes three forms: apologetics to prove the truth of Christianity against Islam; prophetic literature linking Islam as the main protagonist in end-times scenarios; and charismatic literature applying “spiritual warfare” teachings to Islam. The article concludes that the greater and more visible pluralism in American society is challenging evangelical identity, leading to the erection of new boundary markers between evangelicalism and other religions. Such new boundaries can strain interfaith relations yet they also function to strengthen evangelical Protestant identity in the U.S.

 

THE LACK OF CONSENSUS AMONG CATHOLICS
FOR ESTABLISHING NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

MICHAEL J. CIESLAK
DIOCESAN RESEARCH AND PLANNING OFFICE
CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS

For a century Catholic schools have formed the basis for a strong system of acculturation into Catholic identity and values. Catholic schools provided a low-cost basic education and served as a common school for all social classes of Catholics. This system has weakened considerably in the last decades. Between 1970 and 2000 there was a net loss of 3,595 Catholic schools in the United States, a 29.9% decline. In addition, the nature of these schools seems to be changing as the percentage of total Catholic school enrollment made up by non-Catholics has increased ten-fold in thirty years.  Many Catholic schools seem to have pursued increased academic excellence at the expense of religious acculturation.  This paper examines diocesan data to determine the extent to which Catholics still consider Catholic elementary schools to be important. Findings include survey data on school importance from 55,000 diocesan Catholics. In addition, parishioner survey results are presented from two suburban parishes, each of which is considering establishing a parochial elementary school. If new elementary schools are going to be established, a way must be found for Catholics to arrive at a consensus on this issue.

 

RELIGIOSITY AND THE VALIDITY OF SELF-REPORTED SMOKING:
THE THIRD NATIONAL HEALTH
AND NUTRITION EXAMINATION SURVEY

R. F. GILLUM
NATIONAL CENTER FOR HEALTH STATISTICS
           
Based on theories of social desirability bias, it was hypothesized that smoking, which may be socially undesirable in some religious circles, might therefore be underreported by more religious persons.  To test this hypothesis, data were examined from a cross-sectional survey of Americans, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III).  Participants were American women and men aged 20 years and over.  Measurements included self-reported frequency of attendance at religious services and of cigarette smoking, and measured serum cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine.  Among smokers aged 20 and over, under-reporting of smoking did not vary appreciably with frequency of attendance.   An exception to this was non-African American men aged 20-59 and African American men aged 60 and over, who showed greater reporting bias among infrequent attenders, even after controlling for socio-demographic variables. No evidence for greater underreporting of smoking among more religious persons was found.

 


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