“Clergy have an “audience,” a pulpit, and likely a microphone each week – how are they talking about today’s most pressing social issues, divisions, and inequalities? ”
My dissertation analyzes clergy speech on race, homosexuality, and social justice using a sample of sermons from two timely case studies. The first case study focuses on the responses of Charlottesville clergy to the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville in August 2017. I have collected 87 sermons from 38 congregations in the weeks surrounding the protests. With these sermons, I investigate how clergy wrestle with issues of race and protest when these issues affect their local community. The second case study utilizes a national sample of United Methodist sermons following their vote to maintain their traditional stances on homosexuality in February 2019. Using 453 sermons collected from 160 UMC congregations in the weeks before and after the General Conference vote, I analyze how clergy frame this denominational conflict over equality and inclusion for LGBTQ individuals. The final paper draws on both samples of sermons to examine how, and to what extent, clergy discuss social justice and inequality within their sermons. These projects investigate the messages U.S. religious attendees hear in weekly religious services on issues that are divisive and tied to inequality on the basis of race and sexuality. In doing so, this study contributes to our understanding of how religious messages challenge or reproduce inequality in the United States.