UW News

May 15, 2008

James Wellman Jr. to discuss new book May 21 at University Bookstore

The UW’s James K. Wellman Jr. will discuss his new book, Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of the Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at the University Bookstore.

Wellman is an associate professor of western religions in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, and chairs the UW’s Comparative Religion Program. He is also an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Publishers’ notes about Wellman’s book state that the cultural conflict that increasingly divides American society is particularly evident within Protestant Christianity, with liberals and evangelicals competing for the future of their respective subcultures. Wellman’s book examines this conflict as it is played out in the American Northwest.

Drawing on an in-depth study of 24 of the area’s fastest-growing evangelical churches and 10 vital liberal Protestant congregations, Wellman captures the leading trends of each group and their interaction with the wider American culture, and finds a remarkable depth of disagreement between the two groups on almost every front.

Where evangelicals are willing to draw sharp lines on gay marriage and abortion, Wellman argues, liberals complain about evangelical self-righteousness and disregard for personal freedoms. Liberals prefer the moral power of inclusiveness, while evangelicals frame their moral stances as part of a metaphysical struggle between good and evil.

Wellman also is the author of The Gold Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism, from University of Illinois Press; and co-editor of The Power of Religious Publics: Staking Claims in American Society. His new book is being published by Oxford University Press.