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The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics
How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars

$105.00 (C)

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics

  • Date Published: October 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108417709

$ 105.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics documents a recent, fundamental change in American politics with the waning of Christian America. Rather than conservatives emphasizing morality and liberals emphasizing rights, both sides now wield rights arguments as potent weapons to win political and legal battles and build grassroots support. Lewis documents this change on the right, focusing primarily on evangelical politics. Using extensive historical and survey data that compares evangelical advocacy and evangelical public opinion, Lewis explains how the prototypical culture war issue - abortion - motivated the conservative rights turn over the past half century, serving as a springboard for rights learning and increased conservative advocacy in other arenas. Challenging the way we think about the culture wars, Lewis documents how rights claims are used to thwart liberal rights claims, as well as to provide protection for evangelicals, whose cultural positions are increasingly in the minority; they have also allowed evangelical elites to justify controversial advocacy positions to their base and to engage more easily in broad rights claiming in new or expanded political arenas, from health care to capital punishment.

    • Identifies and explains the conservative Christian shift toward the politics of rights over the past half-century, both in political/legal advocacy and in mass political opinion
    • Explains how abortion politics motivated this shift, serving as a springboard for broader conservative rights advocacy, and traces the consequences of this across a range of other prominent arenas: free speech, religious liberty, health care, death penalty, and gay rights
    • Draws on extensive historical and survey data that compares evangelical advocacy and evangelical public opinion
    Read more


    • Winner, 2018 Hubert Morken Book Award, Religion and Politics Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Andrew R. Lewis has provided an excellent analysis which bridges the gaps between several subfields of political science. This work is empirically sophisticated, theoretically nuanced, and addresses important questions in normative democratic theory. As a study of the interplay of public opinion, public policy, and public discourse, this fine book will serve as an exemplar.' Ted G. Jelen, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

    As Andrew R. Lewis incisively argues, the rise of 'rights talk' among conservative evangelical Christians has profoundly shaped the American political landscape. If you want to understand the future of cultural politics in America, read this book. No longer do evangelicals claim to speak for a moral majority; instead, they seek the protection of their rights as an embattled minority. This insight - masterfully chronicled and convincingly argued - is like a Rosetta Stone for contemporary cultural politics. It illuminates everything from the ongoing debate over so-called 'religious freedom' statutes to why evangelicals supported Donald Trump.' David Campbell, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

    'In The Rights Turn in Conservative Christina Politics, Lewis engages in social theorizing in grand style, charting the dramatic shift in evangelical advocacy motivated by abortion politics and a new minority status. Evangelicals learned about rights politics, began making rights claims, and found themselves extending rights claims to other issues and groups. Lewis’ fascinating book transforms the usual culture war narrative to one both more important and more American, as Constitutional pluralism bends groups’ commitments to its ineluctable logic.' Paul A. Djupe, Denison University, Ohio

    'In light of the religious Right’s failure to win any lasting victories, one may be tempted to understate the movement’s overall importance to contemporary politics. To counter this temptation, one should read Andrew R. Lewis’ fantastic new book, The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics, which demonstrates the profound impact that the Christian Right, despite its many defeats, has had on American political life. … The Rights Turn is an impressive work of social science.' George Hawley, Law & Liberty

    'This compelling and well-documented volume will be of value to anyone seeking to understand what has happened with the dramatic changes that have occurred within the culture wars in America. There has been a major shift in how conservatives have pitched their message and supported their position in major battlefronts in the culture wars. … Lewis documents with considerable detail major historical milestones as this shift has occurred, presenting little known and unappreciated information on how specific institutional structures within the evangelical community have developed evolving positions on issues such as abortion and gay rights.' Review of Religious Research

    'Lewis convincingly documents an important shift among American Evangelicals … This important new book is essential for understanding the still-evolving role of Evangelicals in American politics.' Richard J. Meagher, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108417709
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • contains: 28 b/w illus. 14 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of tables and figures
    1. Introduction: rights on the right
    2. Cultivating the value of rights: Evangelicals and abortion politics
    3. But words can never hurt me: learning the value of free speech
    4. Separation tranquility: abortion and the decline of the separation of church and state
    5. First do no harm: abortion and health care opposition
    6. Who's rights: abortion politics, victims, and offenders in the death penalty debate
    7. Where's the right? What abortion taught the losers in the gay marriage debate
    8. Conclusion. Rights, reciprocity, and the future of conservative religious politics
    Appendix 1. Variable coding
    Appendix 2. Statistical tables

  • Author

    Andrew R. Lewis, University of Cincinnati
    Andrew R. Lewis is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati. He researches the intersection of religion, law, and American politics. He contributes to FiveThirtyEight and other media outlets, and is currently Book Review Editor at the journal Politics and Religion.


    • Winner, 2018 Hubert Morken Book Award, Religion and Politics Section, American Political Science Association

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