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Date of Award

9-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Studies

Supervisor

Dr. Ellen Badone

Abstract

The McMaster University Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is the largest IVCF chapter in Canada and the second largest recognized group of any kind at McMaster. The majority of its members are conservative Protestants who espouse "fundamentalist" interpretations of the Bible, women's roles, the age of the earth, alcohol consumption, sexual ethics, and he necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. IVCF members perceive a sharp distinction between contemporary evangelican groups and other secular institutions in North America. Drawing upon fieldwork with the McMaster IVCF, I argue that the chapter promotes two strategies for interacting with the non-Christian majority. First, the "fortress" strategy protects evangelicals and the evangelical ethos from a campus ethos many believers consider to be hostile to their values and beliefs. Second, the "bridge" strategy facilitates constructive and non-confrontational interactions between these evangelicals and their non-Christian peers. These two strategies help IVCF participants to negotiate metaphorical "contracts" between their faith on the one hand and their secular education and social setting on the other. Creative strategies such as those employed by McMaster IVCF members seem both to fortify and mitigate against evangelicals' sense of difference from non-Christians.

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