Research on Religion and Commercialization of the Public Domain

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 07/01/1991
End Date: 
Sat, 12/31/1994

David Harrington Watt of Temple University examined the relationship between the issues of religion, power, and public space with specific reference to evangelical Christianity. Taking a two-pronged approach Watt surveyed the extant literature on American Evangelicalism in the twentieth century with specific reference to politics, private and public sphere, women’s role, and modern psychology. Studying continuity and changes in the evangelical perspective on each of these issues from 1925 to 1976, Watt concluded that evangelical Christianity and liberal American culture have mutually influenced each other in several ways; he published the findings of this stream in a book titled, “A Transforming Faith: An Exploration of 20th Century American Evangelicalism,” (Rutgers University Press, 1992).
The second track of Watt’s research involved ethnographic study of three congregations in Philadelphia whose members he called “Bible carrying Christians.” Watt explored patterns of power and asymmetric relations within these congregations with reference to the congregational hierarchy and gender relations. He examined how these congregations relate to urban issues of homelessness, freedom of religion, sexuality, and politics. This ethnographic study was published under the title, “Bible Carrying Christians: Conservative Protestants and Social Power,” (Oxford University Press, 2002).