The anti-intellectual strain of American evangelicalism, rooted in the populist Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries, has prompted much commentary from the 20th century to the present. Analysis of this anti-intellectualism has gained new currency today as evangelicals, who comprise 1 in 4 Americans, reject theories of evolution and manmade climate change. Scholarship on the subject has focused on the discourses of evangelical leaders at the national level. The present study, based on three years of fieldwork at an evangelical church, finds that an animus against intellectual elites is a potent "local strategy" for constructing a satisfying evangelical identity within the organizational culture of a local congregation. Using a constant-comparative method, observations of more than fifty Sunday sermons, preached on the Gospel of Mark over 14 months, identified five binary themes. By spurning intellectualism, evangelicals can seek truth and avoid distraction, and be compassionate versus impersonal, inclusive versus pedantic, actors versus talkers, and God-seekers versus self-seekers. The five themes are then analyzed in terms of constructing an organizational identification in which casting intellectual elites as "others" is incorporated into church members' personal and social identities. The study contributes to discussions of faith-based anti-intellectualism by demonstrating that macro-level discourses not only shape but also reflect micro-level practices.
Ward, Mark Sr.. "“Knowledge Puffs Up”: The Evangelical Culture of Anti—Intellectualism as a Local Strategy." Sermon Studies 4.1 (2020) : 1-21. https://mds.marshall.edu/sermonstudies/vol4/iss1/1