Religious Folklife and Folk Theology in the Sanctuary Movement

William Westerman


This is a study of a religious movement with political overtones, the U.S. the Sanctuary movement, which lasted from 1982 to 1992. The movement was comprised of about 500 congregations that gave shetler to Central American refugees in defiance of the U.S. government. In its theology, Sanctuary had folk religious elements because, like liberation theology on which it was based, it involved the reinterpretation of scripture, it was oppositional in intent to official religion, it developed a new social structure within the congregation, it utilized the concepts of folk saints and martyrs as well as new liturgical elements, and it espoused an alternative version of Christ. Furthermore, Sanctuary, like liberation theology, emphasized action, namely the taking in of strangers, as an essential component of religion.


Religious Folklife, Folk Theology, the Sanctuary Movement

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