Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Political Science

First Advisor

Peter Wielhouwer

Second Advisor

Susan Hoffman

Third Advisor

Mahendra Lawoti


In this paper, I will examine liberalism in Protestantism. Liberals who are Protestant, Mainline Protestants, are an interesting group who are different from the conservative, Evangelical Christian crowd. I will pay special attention to racial issues like affirmative action and racism. Liberalism in Protestantism is often called the social gospel, a theology in which Protestants believe Christian teachings mandate an active role in society in which values such as freedom, equality, and love are pursued. The social gospel contrasts with the theology called individual salvation, often identified with conservative or Evangelical Christianity, in which one’s personal relationship with God is of paramount importance. I will examine the history of Protestantism, the definition of subfamilies, modern views on race, and the Gospels to develop my thesis. Liberalism in Protestantism has been a powerful force.

The clash most relevant to this paper is between liberals and conservatives on issues of racial and economic equality. The modern battleground in America on racial issues lies in the fight over affirmative action. Both moderate and extreme liberals argue that affirmative action is necessary to promote racial equality, though there is some dispute about the legitimacy of quotas. In another direction, both moderate and extreme conservatives argue that affirmative action to support racial equality is not legitimate. Moderate conservatives say that racial equality is a noble goal but one not best served by affirmative action. Some issues examined in this paper, such as conservative attitudes on affirmative action, are considered by some to be openly racist or “modern racism.” On the lunatic fringe of the far right, some say racial equality is not legitimate. There are political extremists, such as the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers, who say the black race is superior.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

ShortenedThesisDefense.pdf (240 kB)
Powerpoint Presentation