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The Rediscovery of Working-Class Americans (April 2021): Religion and the Working Class

By David Cullen

Religion and the Working Class

Another overlooked factor in the history of working-class communities is the role of religion in shaping workers’ response to their economic conditions. Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise; Jarod Roll’s Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South; Erik Gellman and Jarod Roll’s The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America; and Ken Fones-Wolfe and Elizabeth Fones-Wolfe’s Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie are excellent starting points for understanding the important role faith had in shaping workers’ consciousness in the South, especially when that faith is exploited by corporate leadership. In the North, Heath Carter’s Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago and Matthew Pehl’s The Making of Working-Class Religion provide profiles of religious influence in two major urban centers: Chicago and Detroit. All of these works are important for understanding how class shapes workers’ religious faith and how religion shapes workers’ class identity.