Agonistic Religion in American Religious Pluralism: A Relationship of Contrast and Conflict Between Westboro Baptist Church and Outsiders

Publication Year:
2012
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Downloads 78
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Repository URL:
https://scholar.colorado.edu/rlst_gradetds/23
Author(s):
Koestner, Claire Louise
Tags:
Conflict; Emotion; Media; Pluralism; Westboro Baptist Church; Religion
thesis / dissertation description
This M.A. thesis examines the importance of conflict in American religious pluralism utilizing the example of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) and the group's engagement with nonmembers, especially considering media. I argue for the existence of a category of religion I call "agonistic religion" in which religious groups relate and engage with one another, or to nonmembers, through contrast and conflict rather than cooperation. To locate WBC within this agonistic religion, I focus on the church's theology, preaching style, and media usage, all of which act to conflict with those outside of WBC. In response, the larger nonmember community counters WBC through broader media which promote a specific portrayal of what religion is, as well as draw on emotion in WBC coverage to bind the nonmember community against the church. In this paper I suggest certain relationships exist, endure, and persist within American religious pluralism through cyclical emotional engagement and conflict.