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The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe
Andrew M. Greeley
University of Chicago Press, 2006
216 pp., $22.50
Social Science, Ideology, and American Evangelicals
Ever since Jerry Falwell made his political debut in the late 1970s, public interest in American fundamentalism and evangelicalism has grown dramatically. Many Americans want to understand better who and what U.S. conservative Protestants are, although some seem more intent on berating fundamentalists and evangelicals than on genuinely understanding them. Widespread reports after the 2004 Presidential election claiming that "moral values" had trumped policy issues in determining voting—a spin on the results now contested by a number of scholars—and the conclusion that evangelicals were primarily responsible for re-electing President Bush further heightened many Americans' focus on and worry about conservative Protestants.
In response to this general interest, since the 1980s a number of fair-minded sociologists have produced a variety of enlightening studies about American conservative Protestants. Most of these studies reveal them to be a large, complicated, internally diverse, often inconsistent and ambivalent, and frequently misrepresented group—less extremist and unified than their cultural despisers normally assume them to be, and less coherent and exceptional than their own leaders might like them to be. Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout have now contributed to this literature a new and valuable book extending our sociological knowledge about American conservative Protestants (what they mean by "conservative Christians," sidestepping the fact that many non-Protestant Christians are also conservative). Greeley and Hout are both Roman Catholics and both open-minded sociologists of high regard in the discipline who specialize in the analysis of survey data. Both authors know the U.S. General Social Survey (a reputable, nationally representative survey fielded regularly since 1972) inside and out, and use its data to corroborate the findings of previous scholarship and to add new and important insights of their own.
Consistent with prior scholarship, ...