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Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,870 ratings  ·  298 reviews
Through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people and an additional 200 face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement's leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America's racial chasm. ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 6th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published July 20th 2000)
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James Kim
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race-issues, religion
Here's the thing...I really didn't want to like this book. In fact in the first several chapters I was convinced that this was a book written with an agenda and all that the author was doing was backing up his bias with data that supported his bias. The more I read the book, the more this book caused me to think and reflect on the racialization of America and what role Evangelical Christianity has had in maintaining that racialization.

Where I am now is that the author presents the evangelical c
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: evangelicals interested in racial reconciliation
This book rocked my world. I developed a heart for racial reconciliation in college through InterVarsity and saw the need for it in the church at large. I watched as minority bible stuides were formed, and collapsed, as some leaders will developed and as the fellowship remained relatively mono-ethnic.

This book, written from a socialogical point of view, articulated a lot of the frustrations I have had over the years with the high inertia and heavy cost required for racial reconciliation. As the
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
"The congregation often looks to religion not as an external force that places radical demands on their lives, but rather as a way to fulfill their needs" (p164).

Divided by Faith is getting long in the tooth now (published in 2000), but it still offers a challenging window into conservative evangelical thinking on race. Emerson and Smith reveal (confirm?) that a majority of American evangelicals take an individualistic and moralistic approach to racial issues. In so doing, no matter how well-mea
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this book as research for a paper I am working on for a seminary class. I was interested to learn about the church's involvement in racial issues and strategies for improving areas of conflict. After reading this book, I have no more tools than when I started.

Though the authors are not forthcoming with their own perspective or motivation for writing this book, their bias is evident from the reductionistic way they talk about their data, the descriptors and tone they use when referencing
Nicole Richardson
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to hate this book. Perhaps I even literally threw the book at the wall several times. But there's no denying how grateful I am to have let this book marinate my soul.
I never personally struggled with racism. So I walked through life thinking everyone is responsible for themselves and what they put in this world. And that's not false. But I discovered so much more. I discovered systemic racism. And it rocked me.
So before you speak out on race relations at all, I urge you to study about
david shin
Mar 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very good sociology book on how evangelical America is just as divided (if not more) by race and socio-economics. It is a sharp criticism of the American church, of its racism and bias towards class and ethnicity. Truly a wake up call for anyone who says they're a follower of Jesus. ...more
Philip Hazelip
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book. It does an extraordinary job in bringing self-awareness to the lens white evangelicals see and approach life through. At many times, it is an upsetting book. It uses research, studies, interviews, and logic to shed light on a disturbing history and a grim present; however, it goes on to provide hope for a better future.

Essentially, good intentions are not enough. Loving one another strictly through interpersonal relationships is not enough. To love one another, we
Breanna Chov
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A dense book that requires some perseverance, but definitely worth the read.
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I honestly believe everyone in America should read this book, especially white America. I can't claim to know the solution now to solve racialization but this book has drastically open my eyes to the truth, depth and pains of racial injustice in our country and I think the last sentences of the books sum it up well..."Good intentions are not enough. But educated, sacrificial, realistic, efforts made in faith across racial line can help us together move toward a more just, equitable, and peaceful ...more
Ellie Rubin
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Outside of the literal publishing year and cited statistics, it would be horrifyingly easy to assume this book was written last year. That being said, our current political / religious situation now feels inevitable after reading this book, which is tragic in its own right. I can’t tell if understanding this at a deeper level is better or worse than not knowing. It must be both.
Shane Williamson
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
First reading (07/05/17)—
A must read. Insightful and convicting.

Second reading (13/03/19)—
The recently documented slow and steady exodus of African Americans from Protestant evangelical churches in America raises a pointed question not many are willing to engage: why is the majority of the black population in America uncomfortable in majority white churches? Better still, why is there even a racial divide within American churches? The Apostle Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:11–22 paints a radical
Andy Littleton
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is an analysis of the continued racial division in the evangelical church and an attempt to understand why this persists despite evangelicalisms stated desire to act otherwise. It’s no page turner...very data driven, but also very probing, important, balanced, and honest. I think this should be one of the key books you read if you want to understand this issue and begin to do anything about it.
Mike E.
Jun 07, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is written by sociologists from Rice and UNC who write in the typical detached pseudo-objective world of scholarship. You will find no solutions here. They do not freely reveal their own experiences, convictions, world-views, etc. Their book is an analysis of white evangelicals and our perpetuation of what they call "racialization." In short, they argue that well-meaning (and fairly stupid) evangelicals perpetuate and even exasperate the disparate life experiences, economic opportuniti ...more
Adam Shields
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: A sociological look at why the Evangelical church is racially divided. I would probably rate this as a five star book if it weren't so dated. At this point it is nearly 20 years old and the data it cites is even older.

Even dated, it is still helpful and I understand why it is so commonly recommended. Two parts I think are particularly dated. One, the chapter on history I think is too simple and too easy for White christians to assume they would be 'on the right side of history'. T
Jon Pentecost
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: church, sociology, 2017
This book is really helpful in exposing some of the conceptual and relational differences that causes evangelical churches and Christians to unintentionally perpetuate racialization and racial inequality in the US.

The consideration of structural versus individual solutions was helpful in establishing categories.

The authors sometime wavered back and forth between acting as social scientists or social prophets, which sometimes confused the explanation of their data. Likewise, they seem to discount
Phillip Howell
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Today I told someone this book was good. It was thought provoking and it made me think a lot about my cultural assumptions as a white evangelical. However, I didn't recommend this white evangelical to buy a copy and read it because I felt like the best advice was to encourage them to do their own "interviews." This book is the fruit of some historical and sociological research. The main research these authors did was interviewing with hundreds of people about race, religion and society in Americ ...more
Nathaniel Taylor
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this enough, particularly to white Christians like me. Discusses the racial divide in the American church from a historical and sociological point of view in a way that's accessible, humbling, thought-provoking, and logical. Deeply challenging without shaming. ...more
Anna Stamborski
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read!
Jake Newton
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Safe to say, this is the first book that I have read on race relations in the US... and it is not the last. If anything, this book opened my eyes to the complexity of the black-white race divide in the US, and how our solutions to closing this divide are too simple. I now see how racial reconciliation is more than an individual issue, but also structural. It shined a light on my thought process when addressing issues such as racialization and inequality along racial lines. I now see that my way ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on a list going around Twitter with the heading 'Books that helped my white friends get it'. In the aftermath of an election that I was struggling to make sense of, this felt like a good place to start. While the book is nearly twenty years old, I found myself going - 'oh multiple times throughout it.

I am at best an amateur sociologist, it felt well written and researched, and overall readable for the most part. The most complicated and abstract part was probably the chapter l
Joel Wentz
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an ASTOUNDING book. It provides a lucid overview of the historical issue of race in America, along with a clear and incisive critique of Evangelicalism's participation in the divide. But lest you think this is some "mindless, liberal rant," the author's themselves self-identify as evangelicals, at least at the time of this writing, and the critique is clearly born from a deep love and hope for what evangelical Christianity could be. It is this sense that animates the argument throughout, ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scholarship, race, history
A thought-provoking and convicting examination of why, despite a decades-long concerted effort on the part of evangelical Christians, race relations in America and among its curches remain in a state of de facto segregation. Emerson and Smith explore the sociological underpinnings of American evangelicalism and describe how the assumptions that make evangelicalism what it is also work against racial reconciliation, especially on a systemic level. Despite being more than 15 years old, it's impres ...more
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. It's been a few years since I first read it, and I have yet to come across such an excellent assessment of the issues of race in today's church. It also contains great material for helping White Christians understand the concerns of those of other racial groups. I wish all American Christians would read this book. ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Emerson opens up a can of worms... he gets below the surface of the average discussions on racism... expands the issue with his concept of "racialization" and really moves the reader to re-think his/her own racism. Whether you are into racial reconciliation or not, this book should be read by everyone. ...more
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I usually don't review books, but I wanted to use this as a space to remember some of the points of this book I know I'll want to look back on later. 

Divided by Faith was written by two white sociologists to expose a race problem in the modern evangelical church. Although it was published in the 2000, I believe the foundation of the race issue in evangelical churches remains mostly the same. 

The key insight for me in this book is that due to the religio-cultural focus on free-will individualism
Lauren Fee
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I appreciated this book the most for its thorough historical overview of the issue of race in the American evangelical church in the first part of the book. Educating myself on the history of race relations within the larger evangelical church helped me gain needed perspective to even begin to see a way forward, or rather how we got where we are. One interesting observation from Emerson’s research is that white evangelicals default to seeing race as an individual level problem and do not tend to ...more
Denise Huff
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Before you talk to others about what you think you know about race relations, read this book. You might discover that you don't really know the whole story. It's not an easy book to read, especially if you're a white evangelical--but it's a very necessary read. It's data driven; the authors did their homework with extensive research and interviews, and then they took the data and came to come shocking conclusions. If you long for racial reconciliation in the church (or elsewhere), it's a great b ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book gives a thorough look at the problem of race in relation to evangelicalism. What arises from this study are some startling and disconcerting facts, the most of important of which is that 'white' evangelicalism has contributed to and even enforced the racialization of society. Before the reader dismisses this as another piece of 'woke' theology (pejoratively understood), it must be recognized that this book isn't pushing some social agenda with little-to-no actual substance. Rather, thi ...more
Heidi Mandt
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Good intentions are not enough. But educated, sacrificial, realistic efforts made in faith across racial lines can help us together move toward a more just, equitable, and peaceful society.”

Very interesting to learn about how religious beliefs impact racism. This book was really eye opening to me about all the different facets of racism that exist. This book was written from a study that Emerson and Smith conducted. Because of that, the book is very statistics heavy and has a lot of numbers, so
Ian Clary
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Helpful sociological study of the divisive question of race in American evangelicalism. Emerson and Smith's work is based upon a 2500 person survey of white evangelicals to determine their church practices and what they reveal about the racial divide. Provides informative vignettes of representative examples of individual experiences. The work gives some helpful category distinctions like the relationship between race, racism, and racialism. They argue that, by and large, America is not overtly ...more
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Michael O. Emerson (Ph.D., University of North Carolina, 1991) is Professor and Head in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has published widely in the areas of race, religion, and urban sociology. He is the author of 15 books and nearly 100 other publications, secured over 7 million dollars in research grants, helped secure over 20 million dollars in instituti ...more

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