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Religious participation and social justice: Individual and congregational effects

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Title: Religious participation and social justice: Individual and congregational effects
Author(s): Todd, Nathan R.
Director of Research: Allen, Nicole E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Allen, Nicole E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Aber, Mark S.; Spanierman, Lisa B.; Anderson, Carolyn J.; Schwadel, Phillip
Department / Program: Psychology
Discipline: Psychology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): religion social justice congregations multilevel
Abstract: Scholars in the field of community psychology have called for a closer examination of the mediating role that religious congregations serve in society, especially in relation to the promotion of social justice. The current study provides such an examination, offering a multilevel examination of religious individuals (n = 5,023) nested within Christian religious congregations (n = 62) with a particular focus on how individual and congregational level variables (i.e. theological orientation, frequency of religious participation, bonding and bridging social capital) predict individual prioritization of and participation in congregational social justice activities. In addition, the study examined cross-level interactions to examine how individual level associations may be different in different types of congregations, specifically in liberal versus conservative congregations, or high versus low bridging congregations. Findings indicated that both individual and congregational level variables were predictive of social justice prioritization and participation. Specifically, all four individual level variables of theological orientation, frequency of religious participation, bonding social capital, and bridging social capital predicted social justice prioritization whereas frequency of religious attendance and bonding predicted social justice participation. Demographics also predicated prioritization and participation. This indicates that personal theological liberalism, greater participation, and higher levels of bonding and bridging social capital were associated with greater social justice prioritization whereas higher frequency of participation and bonding predicted social justice participation. At the level of the congregation, only congregational bridging predicted social justice prioritization such that higher congregational bridging predicting greater social justice. No other congregational level variables predicted prioritization or participation. However, congregational theological orientation and congregational bridging emerged as moderating variables. Specifically, the associations between frequency of participation and both social justice prioritization and social justice participation were stronger in liberal rather than conservative congregations. In addition, the association between bonding and participation was stronger in liberal rather than conservative congregations. This shows that greater religious participation or friendship networks have a differential influence on individual social justice prioritization and participation depending on if the congregation is liberal or conservative. Finally, congregational bridging moderated the association between bonding and social justice prioritization such that a stronger association was present in high versus low bridging congregations. This shows that social friendship networks within congregations that are actively working with other congregations have a stronger influence on how individuals prioritize social justice as something important to the mission of their congregation. These findings indicate that religious context may exert an influence on individual social justice prioritization and participation by moderating other associations, whereas direct effects of congregational context may be less common or more difficult to detect. Furthermore, these findings show that religious types of variables such as theological orientation or frequency of religious participation are predictive of how individuals prioritize and participate in congregational social justice activities. In addition, different patterns of prediction emerged for social justice prioritization and participation, showing that these two outcomes are related yet distinct aspects of social justice. Finally, these findings provide broad support for the role of religious congregations as mediating structures for social justice.
Issue Date: 2010-05-19
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/16114
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Nathan R. Todd
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-05-19
Date Deposited: May 2010
 

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