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Belonging and Doing: Political Churches and Black Political Participation



The importance of the political church in Black political participation has brought to the attention of scholars the differences among Black churches and their effect on Black mobilization. The Black church has on many occasions transformed itself into a politicized organization. These political churches become settings that encourage political knowledge and skills (Tate, 1993) and communicate political activity as a norm (Calhoun-Brown, 1996). The earlier work on political churches has established the importance of these organizations for voter turnout and other forms of political participation. What has been left unexamined is the nature of the political churches themselves. This project disentangles these churches by looking at the heterogeneity within the structures of the political churches. In general, we seek to understand which of the internal activities of the political church tend to foster acts of political participation. We hypothesize that cost- underwriting activities and obligation-creating activities within the church setting have the greatest impact on participation. By examining a robust and expansive operationalization of the political church construct, we find that these types of political church activities matter more than other activities. In specifying how churches may work to directly affect the participation of their members, we seek to expand the scope of general comprehension of political churches.