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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Rahul Mitra

Abstract

This exploratory study investigates Christian disaffiliation, or deconversion, in a sample of African American ex-Christians living in the metro-Detroit area. The data obtained from 15 interviews were used to address the following research questions: (1) How do participants recall the religious socialization process? (2) What are some catalysts for African Americans disaffiliating from their former Christian denominations? (3) How does the Christian disaffiliation process unfold communicatively for African-Americans? Specifically, did participants utilize any strategies of SMC in their communication of exit? Jablin’s (2001) Model of Organizational Exit and Meisenbach’s (2010) Stigma Management Communication Strategy Typology were used as theoretical frameworks. The interview transcripts were coded through multiple cycles and then were analyzed using an iterative approach. This included allowing them to emerge from the data as well as utilizing existing literature, models, etc. The results from this study suggest that female family members, especially grandmothers, are responsible for Christian socialization in the African American community; catalysts that drive disaffiliation include dissent with Christian teachings and organization members, the acquisition of new contrarian information, life course factors, and lack of role models; mixed communication strategies are utilized by African Americans throughout the pre-exit, announcement of exit, and post-exit stages of disaffiliation including disclosure, bonding with other stigmatized individuals, and silence. Additionally, it appears that the former members of the Baptist denomination may openly disclose their thoughts of disaffiliation more openly than ex-Mormons. This study suggests the need for the extension of research regarding religious exit focusing on topics such as comparing and contrasting different denominations in communication practices during Christian exit and the how organizational leaders (pastors) respond to their members disaffiliation from the church or Christianity itself.

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