Journal Article

Whither Hunter's Culture War? Shifts in Evangelical Morality, 1988–1998

Dale McConkey

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 62, issue 2, pages 149-174
Published in print January 2001 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2001 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712453
Whither Hunter's Culture War? Shifts in Evangelical Morality, 1988–1998

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Ten years have passed since the events of the late 1980s spurred James Davison Hunter to write his book Culture wars, which was published in 1991. Since then, the political world has witnessed several shifts that call into question the durability of this conflict. This paper examines both the current state of the culture war and its precipitating trends over the past decade. In doing so, it is necessary to determine whether evangelicals have been softening their traditionalist moral positions on issues like women's roles, homosexuality, nonmarital sexuality, birth control, abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. It is also necessary to determine the nature of any fluctuations in evangelical morality relative to that of religious progressives and moderates. Specifically, three questions are addressed. First, are evangelicals leaving the socioeconomic margins of society? Second, is evangelical morality becoming more liberal? And finally, is the culture war dissipating? Using data from the 1988 and 1998 General Social Surveys, results indicate that evangelicals are capitulating on some — though not all — arenas of moral conflict, but that the cultural tension between evangelicals and religious progressives remains strong. The evidence suggests that, consistent with Christian Smith's subcultural identity theory, evangelicals will likely continue to experience a cultural tension with the larger culture, but this tension is not likely to result in anything resembling warfare.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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