Sociology and Criminology Professor Examines Relationship Between Religion and Race in New Book

Book cover of, "The Religion of Whiteness"

Villanova, Pa — Racism is commonly addressed in two distinct ways: the material, encompassing economic disparities, and the ideological, referring to prejudice. However, there is a third, spiritual dimension that is less familiar to many Americans. In his new book, The Religion of Whiteness: How Racism Distorts Christian Faith, Villanova University Sociology and Criminology Assistant Professor Glenn Bracey, PhD, and his co-author Michael Emerson, PhD, Chavanne Fellow in Religion and Public Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, aim to help readers understand the complicated relationship between Christianity and race.

The Religion of Whiteness builds on Dr. Emerson’s work, Divided by Faith (2000), which examines how evangelical views on race divide white and Black Christians. In the nearly 25 years since its publication, the racial landscape within American Christianity has evolved, but significant divides persist. Drs. Bracey and Emerson seek to update and expand on the initial research, incorporating perspectives from Black, Latino and Asian Christian communities.

Drs. Bracey and Emerson conducted extensive research, including a survey of over 3,000 Christians from diverse backgrounds, interviews with over 100 Christian leaders and 25 focus groups, as well as ethnographies in churches across the United States. Their findings reveal a devotion to whiteness among many white Christians, which influences their religious practices and attitudes toward race.

“What we saw is there is tremendous hurt and pain among Christian leaders of color after experiencing what we call ‘betrayal trauma,’” says Dr. Bracey. “They took a chance on building a multicultural community of faith with white Christians but have been abandoned and even opposed on explicit racial grounds. As we kept digging, the data revealed that the divide between white Christians—especially white evangelicals—and people of color was happening in the same way it occurred over 20 years ago. In other words, everyday white non-Christians and Black non-Christians are closer together in their attitudes than white Christians and Black Christians. There is an aspect of being Christian that is dividing individuals on racial grounds.”

The Religion of Whiteness aims to reach academic scholars, spiritual audiences and the general public. For the academic community, the book offers a new framework for the sociology of religion and race. It also provides readers with a critical lens to disentangle racial dominance from Christian practice.

Dr. Bracey earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Florida, and his master’s and doctorate in Sociology from Texas A&M University. He is an expert on race and social movements, contributing to numerous scholarly publications and news media. Within Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dr. Bracey teaches Introduction to Sociology, Critical Race Theory and Social Movements.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been the heart of the Villanova learning experience, offering foundational courses for undergraduate students in every college of the University. Serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students, the College is committed to fortifying them with intellectual rigor, multidisciplinary knowledge, moral courage and a global perspective. The College has more than 40 academic departments and programs across the humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical sciences.