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Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America [Paperback]

By Michael O. Emerson (Author) & Christian Smith (Author)
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Item description for Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson & Christian Smith...

Overview
Through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people and an additional 200 face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement's leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America's racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks. But the authors contend that it is not active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement's emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality. Most racial problems, the subjects told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault. the authors throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. In the end, they conclude that despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.

Publishers Description
Through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people and an additional 200 face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement's leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America's racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks. But the authors contend that it is not active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement's emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality. Most racial problems, the subjects told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault.
Combining a substantial body of evidence with sophisticated analysis and interpretation, the authors throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. In the end, they conclude that despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson & Christian Smith has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • CBA Retailers - 04/01/2002 page 86


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Item Specifications...


Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.02" Width: 5.34" Height: 0.41"
Weight:   0.44 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 6, 2001
Publisher   Oxford University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0195147073  
ISBN13  9780195147070  


Availability  52 units.
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More About Michael O. Emerson & Christian Smith


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Michael O. Emerson is the Tsanoff Professor of Public Affairs and Sociology at Rice University, the author of numerous articles on race relations and religion, and the co-author of United by Faith. He lives in Houston, Texas. Christian Smith is the Chapin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the author of American Evangelicalism and Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.


Michael O. Emerson currently resides in Houston, in the state of Texas. Michael O. Emerson was born in 1965 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Rice University.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Discrimination & Racism
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Religion


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Reviews - What do customers think about Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America?

What You Never Knew  Sep 16, 2007
This book gets you out of your own hide and context and helps you better understand your context as opposed to the context of others from another type of family, neighborhood, race. We in america have a terrible bias that makes us think of ourselves as the best in the world. We base that mostly on material possessions and military power, not on any real attempt to identify with those in other parts of the world. The same is true of the white culture of this country who do not realize - and cannot without a lot of hard work and introspection - what it is like to be non-white and to grow up in a non-white family, neighborhood, and deal with whites and the predominant white culture. There are multiple white contexts just as there are multiple black and multiple Hispanic contexts - looking at them and seeing the bias helps towards understanding one another and working together. We have a lot to learn about God and Jesus that we can simply learn from breaking down walls and talking.
 
Powerful, Yet at Times Missing the Ultimate Power Source  Jul 31, 2007
Please, don't read this book without reading the "sequel": United by Faith.

"Divided by Faith" probes the problem, as understood through a dissertation research project, of race relations in Evangelicalism in America in the 1990s. The results are troubling and at times produce hopelessness. However, facts are facts, and this sort of detailed quantitative and qualitative study is all-too-rare in Evangelical circles.

Emerson's premise is that much of what white Evangelicals do to unite across racial lines end up being counter-productive. He does so by showing a concise history of Evangelical thought about racism from Colonial times to the Civil Rights movement. His basic premise is that most work done is too individualistic--one person trying alone to cross racial boundaries. His basic suggestion is the cross-cultural congregation. Unfortunately, until one reads "United by Faith," how to accomplish this goal is left to the reader's imagination--which may by now have been stunted by all the piles of statistics suggesting that Evangelical racial reconciliation is futile.

The power of God, starting with one person's commitment to cross-cultural relationships, can start a chain reaction--and lead to hope.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends.

 
Intolerant of Policy Disagreement  Apr 17, 2007
What we have here is a leftist author who believes the way to fix all racial problems is for everybody to accept his policy prescriptions.

He thinks white conservative Christians, although showing little racial animus toward blacks, are "part of the problem" because they don't accept his particular political views. This bias taints any insightful parts of the book.
 
Some good, some bad in this book  Jul 22, 2006
First off, I am a white evangelical in a moderately sized city to give you some idea of the perspective I bring to reading this.

THE GOOD:
The statistics in the book (the median net worth of blacks is $3,700 compared to $43,800 for whites, P.13...the subtle racism in depiction of the 'evils' of heavy metal music which is usually consumed by Caucasians and rap music which is more favored by urban blacks, p.15...the 1998 National Congregations Study showing 90% of U.S. congregations are formed at least 90% by one race, P.136) reveal that the Church has a long way to go to demonstrate that "Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight".

The personal anecdotes of average evangelical laypeople, both black and white, help put a human face on the views of those on each side of 'the divide'. It helps to remind us that the answers may not lie in 'one size fits all' political solutions.

Chapter 7, as another reviewer mentioned, does a good job of explaining why it is difficult to maintain a mixed-race congregation. "Birds of a feather flock together" and over time, congregations tend to bleed toward one hue or another even despite the pastor's attempts and the founding members best intentions. (The story of 'First Church' 147-150 is illustrative) Also, the tendency of churches to 'market' themselves toward specific groups cause this too...most churches that feature hymns do not also feature contemporary rock-tinged praise and worship music..those who feature 'black' gospel chorals don't tend to feature country infused "Southern gospel".

THE BAD:
The book seems to be very dismissive towards free will determination and individual effort, even as it states these are evangelicals' bedrock values. Since the authors themselves are evangelicals, it seems self-flagellating that they more or less paint two crucial elements of the evangelical belief system as endemic to preventing racial harmony.

It also does seem to embrace a government oriented method of "fixing things": i.e. whites and blacks would get along better if they rubbed shoulders as neighbors, therefore laws must artificially mandate that this happen. The problem with this is the authors seem to not try and understand WHY the inner city areas, which tend to have a higher percentage of black population, don't have as much racial diversity as they would like to see. Is it all simply "white flight"...or is it possible that people desiring the best they can manage for their families choose not to live in neighborhoods they perceive as crime-ridden and unsafe? The same reason why middle and upper income blacks would choose to leave the same areas...they're doing the best they can to provide safe haven for their children as that's what good parents do (or at least try to do).

The argument can be posited I suppose that what Jesus would do is to go where the 'trouble' is and I can see the wisdom in that perspective, but I'm more willing to take more risks with my own PERSONAL safety in the attempt to minister to others than I am willing to do with my FAMILY'S safety. My wife and child are more vulnerable to criminals and because of that I do my best (nothing's 100 percent mind you..even in our 'better' neighborhood we've seen break-ins) to minimize danger and try to make them feel sheltered.

I second the comments another reviewer made in that the problem seems to be 'fixable' in the authors' view primarily through human efforts. Little to no mention is made of individual believers, both black and white (and other races for that matter), who strongly desire to see Christian racial unity as the beginning of the larger healing of the country by actively PRAYING for it on a repeated basis. For an evangelical, the belief that God ANSWERS prayer is foundational and should be a cornerstone of any push to bind society's wounds.

BOTTOM LINE:
Asks a lot of the right questions and for that it's worth reading. Just don't expect to find the answers for the "race problem" here.
 
Petty Politics Disguised as Social Science  Feb 11, 2006
I had high hopes for this book, as I was expecting an analysis of why church congregations are one of the most segregated places in America. Except for one chapter (more on this chapter below), that is not at all what the book is about.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the book plays out into a typical conservative/liberal disagreement. Much of the disagreement between conservatives and liberals stems from two very different views on how the world works. Conservatives generally view the world on an individualist basis, and they count the bulk of life's happenings to be the result of cause and effect from the individuals actions. Liberals generally see the world with a more corporate view; they tend to claim institutions as the causes of problems, and collective responses as the remedy.

The main conclusion of the authors from their interviews with Evangelical Christians is that they claim to want racial equality, and in fact the bulk of them sincerely desire racial harmony in the world and act accordingly in their own lives, but the vast majority of Evangelical Christians are doing nothing to change *the system*. Per the authors, the main cause of racism today is institutional racism - e.g. a stacked legal system, unfair lending practices, unequal salaries, etc. The fact that Evangelicals are not standing up against this is inexcusable to the authors.

The statistical proof for this institutional racism is laid out in chapter one, which brings me to my main criticism. The authors' use of statistics to back up their claims is both sloppy and irresponsible. The issue of race in America is important and filled with emotion; proclaiming loud condemnation based on very poor statistical analysis does not help. I am a professional statistician by trade, and if I was to draw definitive conclusions from the stats that the authors quote, I would be out of a job quickly. If institutional racism does exist, then Christians absolutely should be fighting against it. But I am unconvinced by the given statistics.

But at this point it degenerates into politics. These statistics have been lobbied and attacked by liberals and conservatives for years. This book argues nothing new. Its point: there is a lot of division in America, and if conservatives would adopt the world view of liberals we would all get along.

Chapter 7, however, is the wheat among the chaff. Chapter 7 is an insightful view on race and religion and why congregations are so segregated. The chapter is a bit more theoretical, but the analysis is thoughtful and the conclusion challenging. If possible, I would recommend that people read only Chapter 7 and ditch the rest, unless of course you are in the mood for some typical political bickering.
 

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