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Storytelling in Liberal Religious Advocacy

Authors


Ruth Braunstein, Department of Sociology, New York University, 295 Lafayette Street 4th Floor, New York, NY 10012. E-mail: ruth.braunstein@nyu.edu

Abstract

Previous research suggests liberal religious advocates often find it necessary to use broadly accessible technical or moral language to communicate with policymakers and public audiences, yet this conformity to secular speech norms diminishes the distinctiveness of their religious voices. Communicating through storytelling offers them one way of overcoming this dilemma. This is demonstrated by examining liberal religious advocacy during recent healthcare reform debates in the United States, using data from interviews and public communications by advocates. By embedding stories within religiopolitical performances that highlight their religious identities, advocates convey policy-relevant information without relying on explicitly religious language that may be inaccessible or unpersuasive to diverse audiences. They also deploy storytelling strategically, bearing witness to injustices experienced firsthand, secondhand, from the pews, and from the past, depending on the context. These findings have implications for ongoing debates about religious citizens’ capacity to communicate across lines of difference in the public sphere.

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