Many evangelicals in the United States are populists with a nationalist streak – a fact on clear display in the 2016 election. Yet many evangelicals are also “new internationalists” with deep concerns over religious persecution across the world, humanitarian aid in developing countries, immigration as a form of hospitality, and global health. How can these starkly different characteristics describe the same group?

This three-year project brings together an impressive group of scholars to explore this apparent tension. Despite a great deal of recent scholarly and popular discussion about evangelicalism, we know surprisingly little about how populism and internationalism co-exist within the tradition. Too often this lack of nuanced and fine-grained understanding generates simplistic paradigms and misleading characterizations. We hope to clarify and deepen assumptions about evangelical international engagement at this particularly important moment of normative debate over the political role of evangelicals – a debate that often focuses on domestic policy and politics and neglects the complexity of faith in international affairs.

The Institute for Global Engagement’s Review of Faith and International Affairs will commit an entire edition to this project in late 2019, and in the spring of 2019, the Center for Public Justice’s Public Justice Review included numerous articles reporting on the findings of the project in its 9th Volume, Issue 2.

The Henry Symposium on Religion and Public Life, an international conference April 25-27, 2019, also featured two panels by the research partners, presenting their work as part of the 3-day event including presentations by political scientists, sociologists, and historians. (The discussions were videotaped and can be accessed through the links included below.)

Evangelicals: Populists or Internationalists? Session I

“A Just and Durable Peace: American Evangelicals and the Quest for Peace after WWII
     Robert J. Joustra, Redeemer University College

 “Populist Internationalism: Religious Freedom and the Politics of Persecution”
     Melani McAlister, George Washington University

“The Global – and Globalist – Roots of Evangelical Action”
     Paul S. Rowe, Trinity Western University

Evangelicals: Populists or Internationalists? Session II

“Missions Has Come Home: How Evangelicals' Refugee Work Complicates the Populism-Internationalism Binary"
     Melissa Borja, University of Michigan

"Are Evangelicals Populists? The View from the 2016 American National Election Study"
     James Guth, Furman University

"Populism, Evangelicalism, and the Polarized Politics of Immigration"
     Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, Gordon College
     Lyman Kellstedt, Wheaton College

“ ‘Rescue Sells:’ Narrating Human Trafficking to Evangelical Populists”
     David Swartz, Asbury University

Research Partners

Project leaders

  • Kevin den Dulk, Henry Institute Director, Calvin University Political Science Department
  • Rob Joustra, Redeemer University College Politics and International Studies Department
  • Dennis Hoover, Institute for Global Engagement


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