Religion as Social Capital: Producing the Common Good by Corwin E. Smidt

By Corwin E. Smidt

The 1st book-length systematic exam of the connection among faith and social capital and what results spiritual social capital has on democratic lifestyles within the usa.

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More recent studies, however, demonstrate the need to differentiate between “evangelicals” and “fundamentalists” among such conservative Protestants: only the latter are much more prone to community insularity (Park & Smith 2000, 283; see also Campbell & Yonish, Chapter 6 of this volume). Some congregations define themselves essentially as sanctuary havens from a heartless world. Not every congregation sees itself as having a civic, public mission (Roozen, McKinney, & Carroll 1984, 177–216). In particular, as Robert Wuthnow claims, the local congregation may find that public debates about economics and civic matters inside the very heart of the church “can easily become polarized, taking on an aura of antagonism that runs against the grain of religious teachings about fellowship and reconciliation” (Wuthnow 1994a, 263).

It focused on religious and moral matters and ignored other aspects of society. Most colonies had their own established religions, and the civil authority was empowered to punish those who persisted in false beliefs. This society of true believers, which tied civil order to common doctrine, only began to focus on the welfare of people in the community with the emergence of the separation of church and state. The institutional or state churches in colonial America were supported by taxes imposed on believers and nonbelievers alike.

In America, a large segment of the poor are regarded as unworthy, and consequently, welfare is very limited; homelessness is an accepted social condition affecting some three million residents a year (Culhane, Dejowski, Ibanez, Needham, & Macchia 1994), and the welfare reform act demonstrates the norm of refusing to help the unworthy poor. This is especially so when the poor are not members of our ethnic, cultural, and social network. Actually, America is a heterogeneous and divided society. It is composed of distinct ethnic groups that tend to see each other as competitors, and such pluralistic societies do not tend to support their citizens.

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