Distinction and Inclusion in Contemporary American Christian Religious Periodicals
This research project investigates the role played by religious periodicals in producing affiliation to Evangelicalism in the United States. Since the colonial period, the religious pluralism that evolved during the historical and constitutional development of the U.S. has affected a competition for followers in the various Christian religious communities. While believers often become life-long members of an official denomination (Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.) simply by having been born into and raised in a particular denomination, the religious market in the U.S. offers a plethora of options for voluntary church affiliations with few restrictions or requirements regarding the degree of commitment or duration of membership. In addition to the official Christian church denominations, there are free associations of believers, countless religious sects, and non-denominational communities, like Evangelicalism, which fall in between traditional patterns of religious classification. This research project compares three different social types of religious formations (movement, church, and sect) by examining the Evangelical magazine Christianity Today and comparing it to the official church magazine U.S. Catholic and the Jehovah’s Witness magazine Awake to discover the ways in which the Christian periodical press functions in the context of different religious communities, how they are utilized to create religious affiliations and distinctions, and how they help to blur religious boundaries and forge new alliances among believers. For this purpose, the research project will analyze periodicals as religious enterprises through the study of the communicative infrastructure (print and digital formats), the magazines’ staff (publishers, editors, writers, etc.), and the target audiences to find out how periodicals are instrumental for processes of religious differentiation and identification, and how Evangelicalism can be understood as a religio-social movement.