The American Civil Rights Movement
Bruce is interested in the relationship between religion and social change. He uses 2 examples:
Bruce describes the struggle of the black civil rights movement of 50's&60's as an example of religiously motivated social change. Although slavery had been abolished, blacks were denied legal and political rights in many Southern states where segregation was enforced, preventing them from using buses, toilets etc.
The civil rights movement began when the happenings of Rosa Parks occured. Bruce describes the black clergy as the backbone of the movement. MLK played a decisive role of giving support and moral legitimacy to civil right activists. Their churches provided meeting places and sanctuary from the threat of white violence and rituals such as prayer meetings and singing were a source of unity in the face of oppression.
Bruce argues that the black clergy were able to shame whites into changing the law by appealing to their shared Christian values of equality, their message reached a whide audience and gained national support.
Bruce sees religion as an IDEOLOGICAL RESOURCE - it provided beliefs and practices that protestors could draw on for motivation and support.He identifies several ways in which religious organisations are well equipped to support protests and contribute to social change: Taking the moral high ground: the hypicrisy of white clergy (love thy neighbour) channelling dissent: religion provides channels to express political dissent. Mobilising Public Opinion: Black churches gained national support.
The New Christian Right
The New Christian Right is a politically and morally conservative, protestant fundamentalist movement.
The aims of the NCR are extremely ambitious, seeking nothing less than to take America 'back to God'. They wish to make abortion, homosexually and divorce illegal.
The NCR believes strongly in the traditional family and traditional gender roles. It campaigns for the teaching of 'creationism' (that creation is literally true) and to ban sex education in schools.
The NCR has been largely unsuccessful, Bruce believes this is because:
- 'The Moral Majority' (a Christian pressure group which became the focus for political campaigning) was never the majority but 15% of the population.
- Its campaigners find it difficult to cooperate with people from other religious groups and the NCR lacks widespread support as it had met with strong opposition from groups who stand for freedom of choice, such as planned parenthood.
Bruce describes the NCR as a failed movement for change.