Title

Structure, ideology, institution, and social movement vitality: A comparative study of evangelical Christian political activities in South Korea and the United States

Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Michael Barkun

Keywords

Institution, Social movement, Evangelical, Christian, Ideology, Political activities

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | International Relations | Political Science | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This study examines the factors that contribute to the formation and activism of social movements. As a comparative study of Christian social movement across national/cultural contexts, I am comparing the mobilization of evangelical Christian groups in the U.S. and Korea. I argue that a Christian social movement can be understood properly by using a model that explains interactions between structural conditions and Christian leaders' ideologies. The main factors that resulted in different trajectories of political activities among evangelicals in the two countries are as follows: (1) Different structural conditions: Korean evangelicals have served as supporters of strict anti-Communism and the political status quo. Whereas fundamentalists in America have tended to be "militant," Korean evangelicals, a majority among Korean Christians, have shown a defensive tendency dominating the market of ideas within the Christian community. Different themes of Christian political activities--"Christian rights" in the U.S. vs. "the legitimacy of political authorities" in Korea--has also generated different images of Christian political activities among Christians. For Korean evangelicals "cognitive liberation" is necessary. Without erasing their negative image of political activities, it will be difficult to spur them into political action. (2) Different leaders' ideologies: Whereas American evangelicals believe that there is no difference in priority between "evangelism" and "cultural transformation," Korean evangelicals have always put "evangelism" first, neglecting the influences of "secular" culture. In addition, the lack of clear collective identity has discouraged Christian social movements in Korea. Without identifying their core values, which they should endeavor to maintain, Korean evangelicals will not feel any need to start a Christian social movement in the future. (3) Different types of political parties: Political parties in Korea have not provided a system with a stable foundation of mass support, and Korean evangelicals have not been able to identify a specific political party that can advocate their interests consistently. In contrast, due to a stable and issue-oriented party system, grassroots level Christian political activities in the U.S. have been effective: Simply casting a vote for the GOP could turn out to be an effective instrument for achieving Christian Right goals.

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