Publication Date

April 2011


Elvin Lim




English (United States)


In this thesis, I suggest that the culture wars are a battle over the meaning of civil religion between orthodox and progressive frames of understanding that occur within political campaign rhetoric. I argue, using the 1988 election as a preliminary case study, that the culture wars have evidenced themselves through the framing of civil religious themes in campaign rhetoric. In examining this finding in a more contemporary context, I examine the campaigns of George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 as case studies. I find that the culture wars peak in intensity and division during campaigns, when civil religion is employed at times to unify, and at times to divide. In campaign policy rhetoric, civil religious meaning is uncontested and the culture wars are not evident – suggesting that the culture wars as a part of political campaigns may be confined to publicly delivered rhetoric. Outside of campaigns, the culture wars decrease in intensity, and civil religious language takes i



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