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Sect Ideologies and Social Status

In this penetrating study of urban religion, Gary Schwartz examines the nature of the relationship between religious belief and the social order. He shows how a person’s experience in the social hierarchy shapes his response to competing religious ideologies and, in turn, how commitment to a particular sect ideology colors his attitude toward mundane affairs.

The author studied and compared a Pentecostal group and a Seventh-day Adventist group in preparation for this work. The question which stimulated the investigation can be stated as a paradox. In the Adventist case, why should persons who firmly believe that God is soon to destroy the world work so diligently and against formidable odds to improve their own secular fortunes? In the Pentecostal case, why should persons who believe that God is available for direct aid in every human contingency not use this power for their own advancement?

In theorizing about the relationship between an individual’s position in the socioeconomic system and his sect affiliation, Mr. Schwartz asserts that the specifically ideological component of a creed resides in the ways in which believers conceptualize the meaning of secular problems.

The study as a whole attempts to reveal what makes a special set of beliefs attractive to a person grappling with certain secular exigencies, and how these beliefs affect his view of secular matters. It develops a model of a religious ideology applicable to any study of the relationship between cultural symbols and social structure.

270 pages | 0.00 x 0.00 | © 1970

Religion: Religion and Society

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Ideology and Religious Belief
Religious Ideologies and Secular Societies
Evangelical Christianity and Separatist Religious Movements in the Non-Western World
Participant Observation and the Study of Religious Belief
2. The Problem of Sect Affiliation
Social Stratification and Religious Affiliation in America
The Problem of Sect Affiliation—The Relationship between Religious Belief and Social Structure
Status Deprivation and Sect Affiliation—The Structural Sources of Pentecostal and Adventist Ideologies
Religious Ideologies—The Link between Social Structure, Religious Doctrine, and Social Action
3. The Sect as a Sociological Construct
The Church-Sect Typology
Contemporary Sociological Approaches to the Problem of Sect Affiliation
4. Seventh-day Adventist Belief
Religious Belief and Ritual Action
Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventist Belief and the Christian Tradition
The Scope of This Treatment of Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventist Theologies
Seventh-day Adventist Belief
5. Pentecostal Belief
Pentecostal and Holiness Belief
6. Socioeconomic Status and Sect Affiliation
The Organization of the Seventh-day Adventist and Pentecostal Congregations
Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventist Status Trajectories
7. Conclusions
Sectarian Belief and the Social Order
Seventh-day Adventism and Pentecostalism as Transformative and Redemptive Social Movements
Some Theoretical Considerations
Appendix 1 - Methodological Considerations
Appendix 2 - Interview Schedule

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