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To Seek and Save the Lost: Human Trafficking and Salvation Schemas among American Evangelicals

Written by Dr. Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, School of Public Policy, Central European University, Hungary. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 2014 Vol.1, No.2, 119-140.  Reference re-posted with the permission of the author, October 2014. Posted October 8, 2014

American evangelicals have a history of engagement in social issues in
general and anti-slavery activism in particular. The last 10 years have seen
an increase in both scholarly attention to evangelicalism and evangelical
focus on contemporary forms of slavery. Extant literature on this
engagement often lacks the voices of evangelicals themselves. This study
begins to fill this gap through a qualitative exploration of how evangelical
and mainline churchgoers conceptualize both the issue of human trafficking and possible solutions. I extend Michael Young’s recent work on the confessional schema motivating evangelical abolitionists in the 1830s.
Through analysis of open-ended responses to vignettes in a survey
administered in six congregations I find some early support for a
contemporary salvation schema. It is this schema, I argue, that underpins
evangelicals’ framing of this issue, motivates their involvement in antislavery work, and specifies the scope of their critique. Whereas antebellum abolitionists thought of their work in national and structural terms contemporary advocates see individuals in need of rescue. The article provides an empirical sketch of the cultural underpinnings of contemporary evangelical social advocacy and a call for additional research.

Keywords: religion; social movements; slavery; human trafficking; human
rights; advocacy

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