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To fulfil the law: evangelism, legal activism, and public Christianity in contemporary England

McIvor, Méadhbh (2016) To fulfil the law: evangelism, legal activism, and public Christianity in contemporary England. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis contributes to the ethnographic corpus by charting the contested place of ‘public’ Christianity in contemporary England, which I explore through the rise of conservative Christian political activism and Christian interest litigation in the English courts. Based on twenty-two months of dual-sited fieldwork split between a Christian lobby group and a conservative evangelical church, it is unique in putting the experiences of religious activists at the legal coalface in direct conversation with (one subsection of) the conservative Christian community they appeal to for spiritual and financial support. I attend to the values, desires and goals of those seeking to live out their faith in a context they paint as hostile to its manifestation. I argue that, despite the apparently innovative legal forms through which these values and desires are articulated, the primary motivations of those involved are far from novel. Rather, they reflect historic and abiding concerns within evangelical Christianity: an abhorrence of sin; Christ’s offer of freedom from it; and the duty to tell others of this possibility. Equally longstanding, however, are tensions over how best to discharge these missionary obligations. Thus, this work is also an exploration of the evangelistic anxieties experienced by the members of one church community in their efforts to do so, and of their creativenavigation of the competing moral commitments around which their lives are structured. I argue that their theoretical value monism – in which the many goals they seek to achieve can be subsumed under the ideal of submission to God’s Word – takes on particular contours as it is challenged by the value pluralism dominant in twenty-first century London. While Christian activists view high-profile legal cases as vehicles through which to (re)evangelise the nation, I show that evangelicals on the ground are deeply ambivalent about the impact of this ‘legal theology’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Méadhbh McIvor
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Engelke, Matthew and Cannell, Fenella

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