Identity Negotiation Strategies Among Progressive Christians Open Access

Alexander, Katalia (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL:


Background. Public perceptions of American Christians suggest that all Christians are conservative, creating identity discrepancy for Christians who identity as politically liberal. Identity theory suggests several possible identity negotiation strategies in such situations to resolve this discrepancy and achieve identity verification.


Methods. In this study, I utilize a mixed methods approach to identify the liberal Christian population in the United States, learn about their identity experiences, and examine the factors mediating their choice of identity negotiation strategy. The first phase uses data from the 2018 General Social Survey (N=2,344) to identify the significant demographic characteristics of politically liberal Christians via chi squared tests. Religious identity, political preference, and demographic characteristics were all self-reported by study participants. For Study 2, I conduct in-depth interviews with 15 individuals who identify as both politically liberal and Christian to understand their experiences and the identity negotiation strategies they employed.


Results. Study 1 finds that people who are non-white, highly educated, either under 24 or over 65, and with a Christian spouse (if married) are most likely to be both liberal and Christian. 365 GSS respondents (15.6%) identified as both liberal and Christian. Study 2 provided examples of identity discrepancy experiences that politically liberal Christians faced and offered insight into the ways individuals saw their faith and their politics as intertwined but also at times in conflict.


Discussion. The paper highlights ways in which respondents in a nationally representative survey, and in a set of qualitative interviews conceptualize the intersection of these two identities. The analysis explores the impact of experiencing identity discrepancy and the availability of mutual verification spaces on identity prominence. The results extend existing research by applying identity theory to a specific population of individuals with identities that are seen by many as incongruent.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Literature Review 1

Christianity and Political Conservatism 1

Identity Management Among Politically Progressive Christians 7

Understanding Factors That Influence Identity Management 10

Historical Involvement of Christians in Liberal Social Movements 14

Research Design 18

Expectations 18

Study 1: Identifying Characteristics of the Liberal Christian Population in the United States 20

Methods 20

Results 21

Discussion 26

Study 2: Qualitative Interviews with Liberal Christians About Identity Experiences 28

Methods 28

Sample 28

Data Collection Method & Measures 31

Analysis 32

Results 34

Interview Sample 34

Commentary on Bimodal Age Distribution of Liberal Christians 37

Challenges Identifying as Liberal and Christian 39

Disconfirmation Experiences 44

Mutual Verification Spaces 50

Queer Christianity and Affirming Churches 52

Emotional Attachment and Prioritized Identity 55

Intertwined Identities 57

Reconciling Incongruent Identities 60

Discussion 61

Limitations 64

Future Research Directions 66

References 68

Appendices 74

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files