INHABITING THE MIDDLE GROUND: THE CASE OF BORN-AGAIN CATHOLICS
Keywords:born-again Catholics, identity, religiosity, cross-cutting cleavages
Once fierce adversaries, American Catholics and Evangelical Christians have grown closer politically over the past decades, finding common ground on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. These bonds have grown so strong that a notable portion of Catholics now identify as “born-again” despite their religious tradition not being characterized as one that requires its members to have a born-again experience. This manuscript investigates how prevalent these born-again Catholics are throughout the electorate and how they differ politically and religiously from born-again Protestants as well as Catholics who do not identify as born-again. Using data from the Cooperative Election Study (CES), I find that born-again Catholics display higher levels of religiosity and identify as being more conservative and more Republican than Catholics who do not identify as born-again. However, as a group, they are not as conservative, nor display as high levels of religiosity, as their white evangelical counterparts. In short, born-again Catholics appear to be habiting a “middle ground,” having “dual-reference groups” as Welch and Leege (1988) called it, and, in so doing, they span the divide between Catholicism and Evangelicalism. These born-again Catholics may also be the bridge that is responsible for the forging of political bonds between the two religious traditions.
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