Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
Bean is an expert on religion, civic engagement, and partisan polarization, with a PhD in sociology from Harvard University. She is Senior Consultant to the PICO National Network, the largest organization in the country that develops civic leadership in low and moderate-income faith communities. Bean also directs PICO’s state affiliate, Faith in Texas, which organizes for economic and racial justice in the buckle of the Bible Belt. As a strategic consultant, she helps public leaders develop innovative strategy for conditions of extreme political polarization.
Asks how white evangelical churches link religion to conservative politics. Finds that partisan cues are actually more powerful when they are not seen as “political”, but rather woven into the fabric of everyday religious practice. Discusses how many commentators protest that white evangelical churches have been hijacked for partisan purposes, but that evangelicals actually report that they hear less about politics in church than Mainline Protestants or Catholics. Uses ethnographic data in four churches to comparea white evangelicals in the U.S. to their counterparts in Canada, who share their traditional morality but not their conservative politics.
Argues that volunteer, lay leaders are also key political opinion leaders within their religious tradition – not just local pastors. Discusses how in Mainline, Catholic, and evangelical traditions, lay leaders are more politically active than other active laypeople. Looks at how in the evangelical tradition, lay leaders are also more ideologically conservative and morally traditional. Concludes that lay leadership may be a critical factor that contributes to greater political consensus within evangelical churches.
Argues that even though Canadian evangelicals are just as morally conservative as American evangelicals, they work from very different understandings about the relationship between religious morality and national identity. Predicts that rank-and-file Canadian evangelicals will be less responsive to political mobilization around moral issues because they construct their subcultural identity differently than American evangelicals.
Asks the question: why is evangelicalism associated with economic conservatism in the U.S., but not in Canada and other countries? Finds that American evangelicals associate the growth of the welfare state with the decline of Christian values, and see religious charity as a positive alternative to government services. Discusses how by contrast, Canadian evangelicals associate the welfare state with national pride, and see religious charity as an extension of government-led programs to include poor people in the national community.