The Evolution of Christian America: Christianity in Presidential Discourse, 1981–2013

Kevin Coe, Sarah Chenoweth


Commentators have been quick to note the declining number of self-professed Christians in the United States and view this as the end of “Christian America.” Such observations are overstated, but it is clear that Christian America—understood as a communicative construct—is undergoing a substantial evolution. This article traces that evolution via a content analysis of every explicit mention of Christianity in presidential communications from 1981 to 2013—more than 2,200 mentions in all. We argue that shifts in religious identification, political engagement, and global affairs make it likely that recent presidents have altered their Christian discourse. In particular, we find that recent presidents have emphasized linkages between Christians and those of other faiths or no faith at all, but deemphasized linkages between Christianity and America’s heritage.


presidential discourse, Christianity, identity, context theory, Obama

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