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  • Cited by 26
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2019
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Book description

Does religion influence political participation? This book takes up this pressing debate using Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa as its empirical base to demonstrate that religious teachings communicated in sermons can influence both the degree and the form of citizens' political participation. McClendon and Riedl document some of the current diversity of sermon content in contemporary Christian houses of worship and then use a combination of laboratory experiments, observational survey data, focus groups, and case comparisons in Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya to interrogate the impact of sermon exposure on political participation and the longevity of that impact. Pews to Politics in Africa leverages the pluralism of sermons in sub-Saharan Africa to gain insight into the content of cultural influences and their consequences for how ordinary citizens participate in politics.


Honorable Mention: 2020 Giovanni Sartori Prize from the Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section of APSA. 


'This deeply insightful, empirically rigorous, persuasive analysis demonstrates the influence of Christian sermons in Anglophone Africa. These teachings differ by denomination and context, serving as distinct interpretative maps that diagnose political problems - and suggest very different solutions.'

Anna Grzymala-Busse - Stanford University, California

'McClendon and Riedl have written an excellent and innovative book, in which they set out to discover whether religious teachings - even when not overtly political - shape political behavior. The authors’ deep knowledge of context and cases, combined with careful data and methods, show that religious ideas do have political effects, with implications for the culture of democracy.'

Melani Cammett - Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University, Massachusetts

'In this masterful account, McClendon and Riedl achieve something of the holy grail in religion and politics research … Scholars new and old will learn a tremendous amount from this important work, and work going forward will have to grapple with its lessons.'

Paul Djupe - Denison University, Ohio

'Religious messages are ubiquitous in Africa, yet little is known about how exposure to religious messages shapes political behavior. McClendon and Riedl fill this gap with an insightful and deeply illuminating analysis of the impact of this exposure. From Pews to Politics is a great book: theoretically grounded, empirically rich, and methodologically sophisticated.'

Daniel N. Posner - James S. Coleman Professor of International Development, University of California, Los Angeles

'From Pews to Politics makes an outstanding contribution to research on religion and politics. By meticulously applying an impressive array of empirical approaches, [it] convincingly demonstrates that Christian denominations' differing emphasis on individual agency affects adherents’ willingness to participate in politics and to seek structural change.'

Kimuli Kasara - Columbia University, New York

‘In this powerfully argued and creative book, McClendon and Riedl unpack how Christian sermons shape political life in contemporary Africa … Even if mainly about personal or family topics, sermons give parishioners analytic frameworks for understanding events in the world and how change is possible … These different worldviews carry over into how their parishioners seek political change. The book is a must-read for those interested in contemporary Africa, the role of religion in politics, or the ongoing rise of evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity across the developing world.’

Noah Nathan Source: Foreign Affairs

‘McClendon and Riedl have written a brilliant book that offers a solid model of both methodological and topical sophistication. The authors take seriously the fact that 90 percent or more of Africans claim a religious affiliation, and the obvious implications of that fact for political action. I can’t recommend it highly enough.’

Laura Seay Source: The Washington Post

‘From Pews to Politics exemplifies comparative politics scholarship at its best. Through a rare combination of conceptual acuity, methodological dexterity, and conscientious contextual grounding, the authors develop powerful insights into an old question: To what extent do religious ideas influence the content, mode, and degree of individuals’ political engagement? …’

Elizabeth Sheridan Sperber Source: Perspectives on Politics

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