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Divided by Faith

Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America

Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith

Publication Date - 06 September 2001

ISBN: 9780195147070

224 pages
5-1/4 x 8 inches

In Stock

A revealing study of the racial attitudes of white evangelical Americans


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.


  • Intriguing look at race in America
  • Sheds light on the oldest American dilemma.

About the Author(s)

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.


"A fascinating account of the influence of white evangelicalism on black-white relations in the United States."--The Journal of Religion

"This book cogently summarizes the race-related history of evangelicalism and then, based on data from surveys of 2,000 white evangelicals and 200 follow-up interviews, explores various dimensions of contemporary evangelical attitudes and practices related to race.... All academic levels."--Choice

"This is an important book. With thoughtful conceptual distinctions and careful analysis of data from a variety of empirical sources, Emerson and Smith provide an interesting account of how white evangelicals perpetuate the very racial divisions they publicly oppose. Divided by Faith breaks new ground in the study of religion and American race relations."--William Julius Wilson, Harvard University, author of The Truly Disadvantaged and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide

"This book is a report card for the church leaders and, I hope, the larger society. The authors show how racial valuations are basically built into the structures of society, and so we are, in a sense, failing by design."--Robert Franklin, Christianity Today

"Somewhat surprisingly, the racial dimensions of religious activity have been relatively under-studied by sociologists of religion, a gap that makes the insightful contribution of Michael Emerson and Christian Smith's book... all the more important."--Contemporary Sociology