“You Help Them Out and God Gets the Glory:” Social Class and Inequality in a Fundamentalist Christian Church

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

“You Help Them Out and God Gets the Glory:” Social Class and Inequality in a Fundamentalist Christian Church


  • Lindsay W. Glassman Sociology Department, University of Pennsylvania, USA


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Abstract:  Members of Full Truth Calvary Church (a pseudonym) say that they trust God for their material needs by relying on Him to send jobs, homes, and even occasional windfalls of cash. In doing so, they reject steps that might help them get ahead, such as higher education, credit cards, mortgages, or negotiations for higher pay. Members frame their circumstances—which would typically mark them as working class or poor—as indicators of faith. Using over three years of ethnographic and interview data, I explore how this fundamentalist religious community manages socioeconomic risk and inequality with a discourse of reliance on God. I present three key findings. First, I show how Full Truth teachings connect financial practices to faith, framing how members handle money as an important part of their Christian identity. Next, I show how those teachings mitigate inequality by discouraging educational or economic advancement that would place members outside of church community norms. Finally, I show how members with greater means give to their poorer brethren anonymously in an effort to keep the focus on God as the ultimate provider. Though members remain aware of inequity between families, these gifts ideally ease disparities without creating relationships of debt or resentment. My findings contribute to sociological understandings of how religious communities make meaning out of socioeconomic inequality.

Keywords:  congregations; fundamentalism; inequality; religion; social class

Published:   22 June 2018


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v6i2.1401


© Lindsay W. Glassman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.