Honor, Shame, & Redemption: Understanding the Politics of the Evangelical Right

Join us and Jeff Satterwhite, a founding member of the Clergy Project, as he will talk about his journey in and out of both religion and ministry and then move on to look at why same-sex marriage and abortion are the key political issues for the evangelical right.  Jeff brings in his dissertation research that involves the fields of religious studies, sociology, and political science to look at the moral worldview of the evangelical subculture and how this worldview influences and restricts their political choices.




Jeff Satterwhite is a founding member of The Clergy Project and served as an adult education minister in Baptist churches in Texas and Colorado until 2008, when he deconverted from Christianity.  He brings a lifetime of experience with evangelical theology and the evangelical movement.  Jeff is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Doctoral Program in Religious and Theological Studies (ABD) at the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology.  He is currently writing a dissertation on the Evangelical Right entitled “Honor, Shame, and Redemption:  Explicating the American Evangelical Right’s Moral Worldview Regarding Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion.”  Jeff has been published in the Humanist Network News and has been featured on The Sex, Politics, and Religion Hour radio broadcast with Jamila Bey on Voice of Russia radio (American edition).



Freethought Views Article:


The Embattled World of the Evangelical Right By Jeff Satterwhite

Driven by conviction in the righteousness of their cause and a sense of cultural  besiegement, Christian conservative leaders have mobilized countless people for social and political causes over the last three decades into a movement known to academics as the New Christian Right.  The Evangelical Right provides much of the political force of this movement, motivating evangelicals at the pew level to engage in cultural battle against key issues:  same-sex marriage, abortion rights, accurate science education in public schools, the separation of church and state, and secular humanism.  Recent examples of the Evangelical Right’s influence abound:  from public school groups like the Good News Club proselytizing elementary school children across the nation – to fastfood chicken moguls crusading on issues of same-sex relationships – to major conservative male political candidates pontificating about the reproductive processes of women who are victims of sexual violence.

Why are evangelicals so deeply invested in particular political issues?  What fuels this moral worldview?  Sociologist Christian Smith has written extensively on what animates  the psychology of the Evangelical Right.  He has proposed a theory called subcultural
identity theory that explores how conservative evangelicals construct symbolic boundaries with the outside world that 1) reinforce their theological and political beliefs within the community, and 2) designate outsiders that must be opposed at all costs.

Evangelical leaders constantly create an embattled “tension” within the evangelical subculture through their rhetoric – a tension that mobilizes adherents to invest themselves in an existential struggle against forces that threaten their faith and their very existence. 

Inside this worldview, evangelicals see themselves as constantly under attack; they are persecuted victims of continually menacing forces.  Regardless of the enemy’s label –  Satan, demonic forces, the secular media, the liberals, the atheists, the homosexual
agenda, public schools devoid of God’s presence, rebellious America, enemies of God, or some other constructed adversary – the Evangelical Right always sees itself (and God’s  will) as under siege. 

Whether or not a large-scale culture war truly exists in America, it certainly exists in the  evangelical mind.  The rhetoric of cultural embattledness is what gives the Evangelical  Right strength.  It produces and reinforces a collective identity that is durable and
transferable to the next generation of young people.  The stark distinctions made with the outside world give evangelicalism a wall to keep enemies out and proselytes in.  By wrapping the gift of social acceptance and esteem into the requirement of theological
conformity with their community, evangelical churches make it extremely difficult for members to question the theology.  The threatened psychological and emotional costs of  the system frequently make it too costly for adherents to ask the intellectual questions necessary to break free from the fold.

By better understanding the key theological tenets and moral worldview of the Evangelical Right, both progressive and secular Americans can come together in opposing evangelical political influence in the United States.  While the embattledness of the Evangelical Right makes dialogue difficult, conversation around moral convictions can still take place.  From my perspective as a former evangelical believer and Baptist minister, evangelicals express deep sincerity in their principles, but are misguided in their obsession with external authority and their application of moral values.  Through a focus on consistent, progressive common values based in reason and logic, we can find a moral rhetoric that moves America forward and not backward.

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  • Ken

    This meeting was our first. We found the people to be friendly and welcoming. We found the speaker to be well prepared to present his view of the subject (The Politics of the Evangelical Right) but unwilling to consider larger issues, such as the fact that Atheists have their own ideology, sub-culture and political agenda. He also presented Christianity through his own personal lense and experiences, and was unwilling to consider the Judeo-Christian worldview and its positive contributions throughout history. In doing so he threw the baby out with the admittedly dirty bathwater.

    June 1, 2013

    • Kyle

      Ken, thanks for coming to the presentation. I'm glad to see Christians willing to consider the secular viewpoint. I think you are jumping to a hasty conclusion about what Jeff may have considered about your worldview. His presentation was not intended to be an analysis of Christianity through history. It was about his journey out of Christianity and to help others understand evangelical political activism. Still, I think you are oversimplifying things when you only mention positive contributions of Christianity. The reality is more complicated. Even when we consider the positive contributions, they don't outweigh the violence and suppression that has characterized Christianity throughout its history. While I suspect that we are not going to resolve this in the comment section of meetup, my point is that assuming that Jeff hasn't considered the other side is something you don't and couldn't know on the basis of a two hour presentation about a different subject.

      1 · June 1, 2013

  • Charley H.

    Really interesting to hear this topic explained from an academic standpoint, and by a great presenter. Hope to hear more from him!

    June 1, 2013

  • Ruth M.

    Since we do have a few 'first-timers' at the Hub I want to remind everyone of the parking. The building that houses the Hub is both a residential and a commercial space so please leave the space that is directly behind the building (attached to the building) free for the residents. There is a small lot further behind the building with signs that indicates Hub parking as well as across the street at the Small Expo center available for parking. There is also street parking. Thank you and see you soon!

    May 30, 2013

    • Ruth M.

      Yes, the side of the building is also available for parking. These aren't 'rules' per se; it's courtesy to the people who live there.

      May 31, 2013

    • Kimberly

      Actually the north side of the building parking is officially not allowed by the city for some obscure reason, however the landlord has not yet made the signs to indicate it or address it. I would suggest parking in the lots mentioned above.

      May 31, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Work meetings on Friday afternoons? :(

    May 31, 2013

  • Monica

    Family duty calls, so I cannot attend.
    Perhaps one of you could ask the question I was going to try to ask: Don't atheists do a lot of these same community-under-seige behaviors, too?

    May 23, 2013

    • Topher E.

      Nah, first you have to have a community :-)

      May 31, 2013

  • Ruth M.

    No, this is not a potluck.

    May 30, 2013

    • Ruth M.

      The Hub always has snacks and drinks available for purchase. There is also a Burger King down the street as well as Eden Restaurant across the street if anyone whats to eat before hand. I know this event is right at 'dinner time' for many people...

      May 30, 2013

  • Ken

    Curious to seeif Satterwhite will throw the baby with the bathwater!
    Ken Touryan

    May 30, 2013

  • Ken

    What does de-coverted mean? Is Satterwhite now an atheist? Where does he find the faith to be an atheist? Atheism requires much more faith than someone whow believes in a Creator.

    May 30, 2013

  • Josh

    This will be my first time attending, but since I'm bothered by the lack of response to the potluck question, I'm declaring this a non-potluck meet up!

    May 29, 2013

  • Donna W.

    David, you heathen, don't you know there ain't but one god?
    Is this a potluck?

    May 29, 2013

  • dennis c.

    Is this a potluck?

    May 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is this pot luck?

    May 22, 2013

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