Bible Carrying Christians: Conservative Protestants and Social Power.

Watt, David Harrington. Bible Carrying Christians: Conservative Protestants and Social Power. Oxford University Press, 2002.

David Harrington Watt ethnographically analyzed three congregations in Philadelphia whose members he calls “Bible-carrying Christians,” the title of the book. More than any other factor, these congregations are characterized by members who carried their Bible to the church and regardless of the topic at hand, always answered: “Well, the Bible says. . . .”
Although Watt initially categorized these congregations as conservative Protestant and evangelical, only a few in the congregations were willing to be described as such. Oak Grove Church, the Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship, and the Philadelphia Church of Christ, the three churches where Watt’s ethnographic study is based, are not out of the ordinary: in Watt’s view there are thousands of such churches across America. These churches play a crucial role in shaping American culture and politics so much so that America would have been culturally and politically different if “Bible-carrying” congregations did not occupy a predominant position in the religious landscape historically.
Besides, there were certain patterns of asymmetric power relations within the congregations and in the congregations’ relationship to wider cultural and political contexts which also marked these three churches. In almost all three of the churches, the pastor enjoyed a position of authority unlike most other Protestant denominations; patriarchal norms predominate; some regarded homosexuality with compassionate tolerance while others considered it abhorrent deviancy. Watt observed a marked eagerness to acquiesce to the claims of corporations and of the state; these were expressed in the determination to protect the interests of the “free enterprise system” and of the United States of America. There were however instances of resistance to such tendencies in these congregations, particularly in the Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship.
Watt concludes that the cultural and political influence of “Bible-carrying” Christians stems from their commitment to asymmetric power relations which is, for the most part, argued from the Bible within these congregations.