• Joanna Kaftan University of Houston – Downtown (United States of America)



religious left, religious right, themes, Obama presidency, Trump presidency, United States


Both the religious left and right make calls for followers to put faith into action. Priorities for action are affected by social and political realities. This paper examines themes conveyed by two distinct religious publications before and after the 2016 election. Both publications are published by organizations that wish to put faith into action. The method relies on the content analysis of one thousand nine hundred forty-three articles from Sojourners and Evangelicals during the Obama and Trump presidencies. While the results show differing emphases for each publication, emphases for each shifted after the 2016 election. Articles in Sojourners, a left-leaning publication with an interfaith readership, directly responded to presidential policy. Criticism of President Trump became a common theme. Articles in Evangelicals, a right leaning publication with diverse evangelical readership, in contrast, avoided controversial current events and did not directly discuss presidents, presidential policy, nor governments during either presidency; instead focusing on the challenge of pastoral work and civility after the 2016 election.  Moreover, in both magazines, articles during the presidential administration conflicting more with the organization’s values, resulted in a wider range of themes, suggesting that opposition provides more opportunity to clarify and emphasize values and priorities.


Adkins Todd, Geoffrey C, Layman, David E. Campbell and John C. Green, Religious Group Cues and Citizen Policy Attitudes in the United States, Politics and Religion, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2013. doi:10.1017/S1755048312000545

Arato Andrew and Jean L. Cohen, Civil Society, Populism and Religion, Constellations. An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2017.

Baker Joseph O. and Gerardo Martí, Is the Religious Left Resurgent? Sociology of Religion, Vol. 81, No. 2, 2020.

Beyerlein Kraig and Mark Chaves, The Political Mobilization of America’s Congregations, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 59, No. 4, 2020. doi/abs/10.1111/jssr.12680

Braunstein Ruth, A., More Perfect Union? Religion, Politics, and Competing Stories of America, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 79, No. 2, 2018. doi:10.1093/socrel/sry013.

Braunstein Ruth, A., Theory of Political Backlash: Assessing the Religious Right’s Effects on the Religious Field, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 83, No. 3,

Religion and Progressive Activism, Braunstein Ruth, Todd Nicholas Fuist and Rhys H. Williams (eds.), New York University Press, New York, 2017.

Braunstein Ruth, Todd Nicholas Fuist and Rhys H. Williams, Religion and Progressive Politics in the United States, Sociology Compass, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2019. doi: 10.1111/soc4.12656

Buddenbaum Judith M., Characteristics and Media-Related Needs of the Audience for Religious TV, Journalism Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 2, 1981.

Bush Daniel, “Religious Liberals Want to Change What it Means to be a Religious Voter”, PBS News Hour, July 8, 2019, available at: (accessed December 2, 2021).

Campbell Angus, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller and Donald E. Stokes, The American Voter, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1960.

Converse Philip E., The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics (1964), Critical Review, Vol.18, No.1-3, 2006. doi.10.1080/08913810608443650

Delehanty Jack and Michelle Oyakawa, Building a Collective Moral Imaginary Personalist Culture and Social Performance in Faith-Based Community Organizing, American Journal of Cultural Sociology, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2018.

Druckman James N., Cari Lynn Hennessy, Kristi St. Charles and Jonathan Webber, Competing Rhetoric Over Time: Frames Versus Cues, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 72, No. 1, 2010.

Eagly Alice H., & Shelly Chaiken, The Psychology of Attitudes, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, Fort Worth, 1993.

Evans Christopher H., The Kingdom is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2004.

Glass Jennifer, Why Aren’t We Paying More Attention? Religion and Politics in Everyday Life, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 80, No. 1, 2019. doi:10.1093/socrel/sry041

Gorski Philip, American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2017.

Green John, “Assessing a More Prominent ‘Religious Left’”, Pew Research Center, available at: (accessed October 20, 2022).

Heltzel Peter, Jesus and Justice Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2009.

Hofmann Mary A., The Politics of Religion and Taxation: Keeping Church and State Separate, Journal of Management Policy & Practice, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2021.

Hoover Stewart M., The Religious Television Audience: A Matter of Significance, or Size?, Review of Religious Research, Vol. 29, No. 2, 1987.

Hoover Stewart M. and Knut Lundby, Rethinking Media, Religion, and Culture, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, 2020.

Hubalek Zdenek, Coefficients of Association and Similarity, Based on Binary (Presence-Absence) Data: An Evaluation, Biological Reviews, Vol. 57, No. 4, 1982.

Kaftan Joanna, Changing the National Past: Re-Creating the Democratic Polish Nation After 1989, Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 13, No. 20, 2007. doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-8129.2007.00289.x

Kaftan Joanna, Immigration Reform as a Moral Question: Elite and Non-Elite Evangelical Attitudes of Immigration Reform in the U.S.A, Politics and Religion Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2014.

McCarthy Angela F., Laura Olson and James C. Garland, Religious Right, Religious Left, Both or Neither? Understanding Religious-Political Identification, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 58, No. 3, 2019. doi:10.1111/jssr.12618

Markowski Wes, The Public Sociology of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 76, No. 4, 2015.

Markowski Wes, Brad R. Fulton and Richard L. Wood, Secular Evangelicals: Faith-Based Organizing and Four Modes of Public Religion, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 81, No. 2, 2020. doi: 10.1093/socrel/srz045

McLaughlin Bryan and David Wise, Cueing God: Religious Cues and Voter Support, Politics and Religion, Vol.7, No. 2, 2014. doi: 10.1017/S175504831400008X

Melkonian-Hoover Ruth M. and Lyman A. Kellstedt, “Immigration in the 2000s: Immigration Reform, Executive Orders, and Evangelical Leadership”, in: Evangelicals and Immigration, Melkonian-Hoover Ruth M. and Lyman A. Kellstedt (eds.), Palgrave Studies in Religion, Politics, and Policy, Palgrave Macmillan Cham, 2019.

Miller Arthur H., Christopher Wlezien, and Anne Hildreth, A Reference Group Theory of Partisan Coalitions, The Journal of Politics Vol. 53, No. 4, 1991.

Montanaro Domenico, “America Reckons with Racial Injustice Trump Downplays Police Violence, Deaths of Black Americans, NPR, July 14, 2020, available at: (accessed May 5, 2022).

Morris Aldon D., The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change. Free Press, New York, 1984.

NAE: National Association of Evangelicals, available at: (accessed February 11, 2020).

NAE, Our History, available at: (accessed October 17, 2022).

Newport Frank, “The Religious Left has a Numbers Problem” Gallop: Poling Matters, June 4, 2019, Washington, D.C.. Available at: (accessed February 12, 2021).

Nicholson Stephen P., Dominating Cues and the Limits of Elite Influence, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 73, No. 4, 2011.

“Religious Landscape Survey”, Pew Research Center, available at: (accessed February 12, 2021).

Putnam Robert D. and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2010.

Rucker Derek and Richard E. Petty, Increasing the Effectiveness of Communications to Consumers: Recommendations Based on Elaboration Likelihood and Attitude Certainty Perspectives, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2006.

Shiffrin Steven H., The Religious Left and Church State Relations, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2009.

Smith Rogers M., “An Almost Christian Nation? Constitutional Consequences of the Rise of the Religious Right”, in: Evangelicals and Democracy in America Volume One: Religion and Society, S. G. Brint and J. R. Schroedel (eds.), Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 2009.

Sojourners, available at: (accessed February 24, 2020).

Sojourners, Our History, available at: (accessed September 26, 2022).

Wald Kenneth and Allison Calhoun Brown, Religion and Politics in the United States, 5th Edition, Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland, 2014.

Walker Andrew W., “Understanding Why Religious Conservatives Would Vote for Trump”, National Review, February 10, 2020. Available at: (accessed February 27, 2020).

Wattenberg Martin P., “The Changing Nature of Mass Belief Systems: The Rise of Concept Ideologues & Policy Wonks”, UC Irvine: Center for the Study of Democracy, Irvine, 2019. Available at: (accessed September 14, 2022).

Wilcox Clyde and Carin Robinson, Onward Christian Soldiers?: The Religious Right in American Politics, 4th Edition, Routledge, Boulder, 2011.

Wuthnow Robert, Saving America? Faith-based Services and the Future of Civil Society, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1988.

Zwick Mark and Louise Zwick, The Catholic Worker Movement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins, Paulist Press, New York, 2005.




How to Cite