Terms, Definitions & Glossaries for Writing about the Religious Right
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jun 25, 2015 at 10:27:55 PM EST
One of the challenges in writing about the Religious Right and what to do about it is the matter of terms and definitions. That's why from time-to-time I revise and update this post.

From the earliest days of Talk to Action, we have written about how unfair labels and terms of demonization are not only inaccurate and opposed to basic standards of scholarship and journalism -- but conflict with the basic values of all people of good will. (They tend to be politically counterproductive as well.) The purpose of this post is not to go over all that again, but simply to highlight some useful resources on basic definitions and usage for those who are interested in trying to get it right.

Political Research Associates has an extensive glossary.

Religious Right Watch (the site of one of the founders of Talk to Action, Scott Isebrand) has an excellent glossary (with lots of links).

Southern Poverty Law Center has a glossary of terms related to the racist right.

The Religion Newswriters Association has a helpful Religion Stylebook for journalists.

Rachel Tabachnick posted a glossary of terms related to "Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare" as used by the New Apostolic Reformation; here at Talk to Action in 2010. Her essay Spiritual Warriors with an Anti-Gay Mission: The New Apostolic Reformation, published in The Public Eye, features fresh and definitive usage of some important terms.

Chip Berlet's discussion at Talk to Action of the definition of "dominionism" in the wake of the media controversy in 2011 remains useful. His web site Research for Progress does not include a glossary but seeks to define some key terms in the section Sectors of the US Right.

My 2010 essay at Religion Dispatches sorted through the problems of usage in writing about religiously motivated violence. The discussion includes the terms "faith-based," "Christian militia," and "Islamic terrorism."

Books with Relevant Glossaries

Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right by Sara Diamond included a pioneering glossary in 1989 that remains useful today.

A Moment to Decide: The Crisis in Mainstream Presbyterianism by Lew Daly, published in 2000, is an investigative report on Christian Right "renewal" groups and their efforts to neutralize the Presbyterian Church USA. It also contains an extensive and still useful glossary.

If there are other relevant glossary and usage resources that I have not mentioned here -- please do tell us about them in the comments.


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