Review of Religious Research

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 291–312 | Cite as

Worship Discourse and White Race-Based Policy Attitudes

  • R. Khari BrownEmail author
  • Angela Kaiser
  • James S. Jackson
Original Paper


The current study relies upon the 2004 National Politics Study to examine the association between exposure to race-based messages within places of worship and White race-based policy attitudes. The present study challenges the notion that, for White Americans, religiosity inevitably leads to racial prejudice. Rather, we argue, as others have, that religion exists on a continuum that spans from reinforcing to challenging the status quo of social inequality. Our findings suggests that the extent to which Whites discuss race along with the potential need for public policy solutions to address racial inequality within worship spaces, worship attendance contributes to support for public policies aimed at reducing racial inequality. On the other hand, apolitical and non-structural racial discussions within worship settings do seemingly little to move many Whites to challenge dominant idealistic perceptions of race that eschews public policy interventions as solutions to racial inequality.


Affirmative action Political discourse Racial attitudes 


  1. Allen II, L.Dean. 2000. Promise keepers and racism: Frame resonance as an indicator of organizational vitality. Sociology of Religion 6I(1): 55–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, Richard L., and Cheng Kuo. 1991. Communication and beliefs about racial inequality. Discourse & Society 2(3): 259–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allport, Gordon W. 1979. The nature of prejudice: 25th anniversary edition. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Alumkal, Antony W. 2004. American evangelicalism in the post-civil rights era: A racial formation theory analysis. Sociology of Religion 65(3): 195–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartkowski, John P. 2004. The promise keepers: Servants, soldiers, and godly men. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Boff, Leonardo, and Clodovis Boff. 1987. Introducing liberation theology. New York: Orbis.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, R.Khari, and Ronald E. Brown. 2003. Faith and works: Church-based social capital resources and African American political activism. Social Forces 82(2): 617–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, R.Khari. 2009. Denominational differences in support for race-based policies among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(3): 604–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, R.Khari. 2011. Religion, political discourse, and activism among varying racial/ethnic groups in America. Review for Religious Research 53(3): 301–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, R.Khari, Angela Kaiser, and Anthony Daniels. 2010. Religion and the interracial/ethnic common good. Journal of Religion & Society 12: 1–12.Google Scholar
  11. Cavendish, James C. 2004. A research report commemorating the 25th anniversary of Brothers and Sisters to Us. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. Accessed 1 June 2012.
  12. Djupe, Paul A., and Christopher P. Gilbert. 2008. The political influence of churches. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Edgell, Penny, and Eric Tranby. 2007. Religious influences on understandings of racial inequality in the United States. Social Problems 54(2): 263–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eitle, Tamela McNulty, and Matthew Steffens. 2009. Religious affiliation and racial attitudes. Social Science Journal 46: 506–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. 2001. Divided by faith: Evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  17. Green, John C., Robert P. Jones, and Daniel Cox. 2009. Faithful, engaged, and divergent: A comparative portrait of conservative and progressive religious activists in the 2008 election and beyond. Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and Public Religion Research. (September) University of Akron, Akron, OH. Accessed 6 July 2012.
  18. Groves, Robert M. 2006. Nonresponse rates and nonresponse bias in household surveys. The Public Opinion Quarterly 70(5): 646–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hinojosa, Victor J., and Jerry Z. Park. 2004. Religion and the paradox of racial inequality attitudes. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42: 229–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jackson, James S., Vincent L. Hutchings, Ronald Brown, and Cara Wong. National Politics Study. 2004. [Computer file]. ICPSR24483-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-03-23. doi:  10.3886/ICPSR24483.
  21. Jones, Jeffrey M. 2005. “Race, Ideology, and Support for Affirmative Action: Personal politics has little to do with blacks’ support.” The Gallup Poll. (August 23). Accessed on July 24, 2013 from
  22. Jones, Jeff and Lydia Saad. 2011. USA Today/Gallup Poll: August Wave 1—FINAL TOPLINE, August 4–7. Accessed 1 June 2012.
  23. Kluegel, James R., and Eliot R. Smith. 1981. Beliefs about stratification. Annual Review of Sociology 7: 29–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kluegel, James R., and Eliot R. Smith. 1983. Affirmative action attitudes: Effects of self-interest, racial affect, and stratification beliefs on whites’ views. Social Forces 61(3): 797–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kluegel, James R. 1985. If there isn’t a problem, you don’t need a solution”: The bases of contemporary affirmative action attitudes. American Behavioral Scientist 28(6): 761–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kluegel, James R. 1990. Trends in Whites’ explanations of the Black-White Gap in socioeconomic status, 1977–1989. American Sociological Review 55(4): 512–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kravitz, David A. 1995. Attitudes toward affirmative action plans directed at blacks: Effects of plan and individual differences. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 25(24): 2192–2220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lincoln, C.Eric, and Lawrence H. Mamiya. 1990. The black church in the African American experience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. MOSES. 2012. M.O.S.E.S. Profile. Accessed 15 June 2012.
  30. Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. 1998. Church culture as a strategy of action in the black community. American Sociological Review 63: 767–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. 2007. Optimism about black progress declines: blacks see growing values gap between poor and middle class. (November 13). Accessed 1 July 2012.
  32. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. 2009. Trends in political values and core attitudes: 19872009. (May 21). Accessed 1 July 2012.
  33. Roozen, David A., William McKinney, and Jackson W. Carroll. 1984. Varieties of religious presence: Mission in public life. Hartford, CN: The Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  34. Schuman, Howard, Charlotte Steeh, Lawrence D. Bobo, and Maria Krysan. 1998. Racial attitudes in America: Trends and interpretations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Steensland, Brian, Jerry Z. Park, Mark D. Regnerus, Lynn D. Robinson, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Robert D. Woodberry. 2000. The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces 79(1): 291–318.Google Scholar
  36. Summers, Russel J. 1995. Attitudes toward different methods of affirmative action. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 25(12): 1090–1104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Swarts, Heidi J. 2008. Organizing urban America: Secular and faith-based progressive movements. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  38. Taylor, Marylee C., and Stephen M. Merino. 2011. Race, religion, and beliefs about racial inequality. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 634: 60–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tuch, Steven A., and Michael Hughes. 1996. Whites’ racial policy attitudes. Social Science Quarterly 77(4): 723–745.Google Scholar
  40. Verba, Sidney, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry Brady. 1995. Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Verter, Bradford. 2002. Furthering the freedom struggle: Racial justice activism in the mainline churches since the civil rights era. In The quiet hand of god: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism, ed. Robert Wuthnow, and John H. Evans, 181–212. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  42. Warren, Mark. 2001. Dry bones rattling: Community building to revitalize American democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Warren, Mark, and Richard L. Wood. 2002. A different face of faith-based politics: social capital and community organizing in the public Arena. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 22(9/10): 6–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wood, Richard L. 2002. Faith in action: Religion, race, and democratic organizing in America. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  45. Wuthnow, Robert. 2000. The Religion and Politics Study, 2000. Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Copyright information

© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Khari Brown
    • 1
    Email author
  • Angela Kaiser
    • 2
  • James S. Jackson
    • 3
  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Oakland UniversityRochesterUSA
  3. 3.The University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations