Chapter

Evangelical Megachurches and the Christianization of Civil Society: An Ethnographic Case Study

Omri Elisha

in Politics and Partnerships

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780226109961
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226109985 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226109985.003.0010
Evangelical Megachurches and the Christianization of Civil Society: An Ethnographic Case Study

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With the increasing privatization and deregulation of welfare, religious congregations with sufficient wealth to support ambitious civic and philanthropic enterprises are poised to exert considerable influence over the distribution of human and material resources in local communities. Conservative evangelical megachurches, faith-based organizations, and foundations have already begun to do so in many communities, and their efforts are informed by distinctive religious and even missionary aspirations. They seek not only to generate what social capital theorists call “bridging social capital,” but also, in the process, to redefine the very moral grounds on which social and institutional relationships are formed in the realm of civil society. Such aspirations are complex in that they are guided by an egalitarian impulse to break down social and cultural barriers, and at the same time, by ambitions of cultural Christianization, attended by evangelical concepts such as accountability that, among other effects, reinforce social stratification between those with the power to mobilize capital and those who must seek their benevolence.

Keywords: megachurches; privatization; religious congregations; civil society; ethnography; Christianization

Chapter.  10811 words. 

Subjects: Comparative and Historical Sociology

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