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ERIC Number: EJ889514
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Sep
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 47
ISSN: ISSN-0190-2725
"Happier than Non-Christians": Collective Emotions and Symbolic Boundaries among Evangelical Christians
Wilkins, Amy C.
Social Psychology Quarterly, v71 n3 p281-301 Sep 2008
This article uses qualitative data (participant-observation and interviews) to examine happiness talk in a university-based evangelical Christian organization (University Unity). Unity Christians claim that they are happier than non-Christians, but rather than viewing their happiness as a mental health outcome of their participation in a religious organization, I view it as a cultural phenomenon--a way of talking and thinking about their emotions. I show how Unity participants learn to think of themselves as happy, learn to adjust their emotional responses and view their managed emotions as authentic, and learn to link happiness to their moral selves. Unity's emotion work helps participants achieve happiness, but because it also disallows any negative emotions, such happiness is compulsory. One cannot be a Unity Christian if one is not happy. In Unity, then, happiness is a symbolic boundary--participants see themselves as happier (and more authentically so) than others--but this feeling is also material in the crafting of more complex moral boundaries in which happiness is both sign and cause of other kinds of "goodness." Happiness is an effective boundary not just because Unity Christians themselves want to be happy, but because most members of the middle class want to be happy, and because it builds on broader associations between happiness and morality. In as much as happiness signals morality, unhappiness signals immorality. (Contains 2 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A