Journal Article

Portable Politics and Durable Religion: The Moral Worldviews of American Evangelical Missionaries*

James K. Wellman and Matthew Keyes

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 68, issue 4, pages 383-406
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/68.4.383
Portable Politics and Durable Religion: The Moral Worldviews of American Evangelical Missionaries*

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This study examines the portable politics and durable religion of American evangelical missionaries from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) in their experiences abroad culturally, politically, and religiously. The data comes from semi-structured interviews with 27 missionaries conducted between December 2003 and July 2005. We argue that the most plausible explanation of the durability of evangelical religion can be found by analyzing the multilayered nature of the evangelical moral worldview. We find that (1) the cultural and political views of missionaries arise from a core moral worldview; (2) these moral worldviews are perceived as absolute and above culture, and thus withstand criticism and can be transported to other cultures; (3) the moral worldviews of missionaries who had experienced greater cultural and religious diversity at home were more resistant to change in their encounters abroad; and (4) the primary critique evangelical missionaries make of America is subjective and personal rather than social and systemic.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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