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Politics and Church: Byproduct or Central Mission?

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One of the more intriguing paradoxes that has developed in mainline Protestantism over the last 30 years is that mainline clergy have become more politically active. Since the public politicking of mainline clergy in the late 1960s generated storms in the churches, why would clergy become more politically active over time? In this article, we adopt the theoretical structure of a benefit exchange between leaders and members initiated by Mancur Olson. We seek to determine the extent to which church members' appetites for political action by the clergy are shaped by a satiating selective benefit exchange or are driven largely by political compatibility. We propose that because of continued political disagreement between clergy and church members and considerable disapproval of clergy involvement in politics by church members, clergy politicking is allowed largely by the satisfaction of a selective benefit exchange.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Paul A. Djupe is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, PO Box M, Denison University, Granville, OH 43230., Email: 2: Christopher P. Gilbert is a Professor, Department of Political Science, 800 W. College Ave., St. Peter, MN 56082., Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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