“Everybody But Us”: Constructing Evangelical Identities by Defining the Skeptic

Ward, Pace Tyler (2018) “Everybody But Us”: Constructing Evangelical Identities by Defining the Skeptic. Undergraduate thesis, under the direction of Amy McDowell from Sociology, The University of Mississippi.


Download (510kB) | Preview


Pew research shows that 25.4% of American Christians identify as evangelical Protestants, accounting for the highest percentage of Christians in America (20.8% identify as Catholic and 14.7% identify as mainline Protestants). Evangelical Protestantism may be the strongest religious force in the U.S. but defining the movement has proven difficult. Researchers have used a variety of definitions to develop a better understanding of evangelical demographics, geographies, or religious strength. My interests and the goal of this research deals more with the performance of these identities; I wanted to know how members of Welcome Church “do” their Christianity. This research focused on observations of a “community group,” rather than church services. I wanted to observe members of Welcome church in a less formal setting, where members could interact more freely and more often. I chose a group that focused on Apologetics because I understood that the practice centered around defending the faith through theological and philosophical discourse. This seemed like the optimal setting to try to understand how Christian identities are constructed through interaction using participant observation, and which beliefs determine one’s own Christian identity, as well as others’. However, I found that in this group the practice of Apologetics seems to have shifted from formal defense to a tactical method of naming who and what is not Christian. By focusing on interactions and discussions during these community group meetings, I found that these evangelical Apologists focused less on their own beliefs, and more on who they cast as religious outsiders. The bulk of my data gathered from participant observation of this Apologetics group shows a dissolution of non-evangelical identities that extends beyond religious Others. This research shows how groups including, but not limited to students, professors, women, and homosexuals have become indistinguishable from religious outsiders. Because each of these groups are identified as not evangelical, they have become one and the same. In turn, these evangelical Apologists understand their own Christian identities by identifying who they are not: the salient group of non-evangelicals, or skeptics.

Item Type: Thesis (Undergraduate)
Creators: Ward, Pace Tyler
Student's Degree Program(s): B.A. in English
Thesis Advisor: Amy McDowell
Thesis Advisor's Department: Sociology
Institution: The University of Mississippi
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Depositing User: Pace Ward
Date Deposited: 14 May 2018 13:21
Last Modified: 14 May 2018 13:21
URI: http://thesis.honors.olemiss.edu/id/eprint/1179

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item