chapter  2
20 Pages

Interfaith political activism in the United States

Understanding variation in the cultural challenges of being and doing interfaith
WithRuth Braunstein, Amy Lawton

Interfaith political activism is a widespread phenomenon in the United States and around the world. This has been insufficiently recognized and theorized within social movement scholarship, which generally either overlooks the role of religion or overemphasizes the role of single religious communities within social movements. But it should not be surprising that interfaith activist initiatives abound, especially within religiously diverse democratic societies like the United States. This chapter traces the history of interfaith political activism in the US and reviews a growing body of research on the internal dynamics and public efforts of these groups. It argues that organizing across religious traditions and presenting oneself as interfaith allows activists to marshal religion’s moral authority while avoiding accusations that they are promoting an exclusionary religious agenda. Yet alongside these benefits interfaith activist initiatives can also face significant institutional, cultural, and religious challenges, which mount as activists become more intentional about incorporating religious diversity into their organisational identity (‘being’ interfaith) or practices (‘doing’ interfaith). The chapter concludes by highlighting the ways in which attention to these dynamics informs and extends social movement theory.