Study suggests targeting religious students with social justice rhetoric

A new study claims that highly religious college students would be particularly easy to recruit as social justice warriors, arguing for “educational” programs to promote their conversion to the cause.

“The prevalence of social justice in academia has highlighted the notion that in order to progress social justice within all fields, it is imperative that college students develop social justice orientations,” writes Marina Khan, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in a study published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Research. “Despite this, college students continue to misunderstand or overlook social justice, and the manner in which it relates to them and their surroundings.”

Hoping to glean insights that might suggest new strategies for overcoming students’ stubborn resistance to her preferred ideology, Khan conducted a survey of 126 undergraduates at Houston Baptist University to test various hypotheses regarding the correlation between religiosity and support for social justice issues.

Although she was unable to demonstrate a significant relationship between a person’s anxiety level and their support for social justice, as she had hoped, Khan did conclude that students with higher “intrinsic religiosity” (meaning they “live” their religion) are more likely to support social justice.

“These findings imply that intrinsically religious college students should be a group of focus and utilization for implementing educational and experiential learning experiences, aimed to foster positive outcome expectations in social justice behaviors,” she states, adding that “this corresponds to past research that indicated such learning experiences to be most efficacious when utilized on students with already established interest in social justice.”

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Khan had also predicted that despite their endorsement of social justice in general terms, highly religious students would be less likely to favor certain causes, such as support for LGBT individuals, because those causes conflict with their religious beliefs. Her initial results failed to bear out that association, but she claims that post-hoc analyses “correspond to previous research that found highly religious individuals were less likely to support LGBT individuals due to value-violating beliefs.”

To combat this “contradiction,” she argues that “research and practical implementations that address and facilitate this fundamental devaluing of social justice for all individuals that conservatively religious individuals tend to possess, is a [sic] required, in order to facilitate social justice and mental health.”

Lest there be any doubt about her position on the matter, Khan reiterates at the end of the paper that her study was explicitly intended to explore new ways of convincing college students to agitate for social justice causes.

“The current study is a facilitation of social justice advocacy and commitment in academia and among many other levels,” she concludes, declaring that “this research hopes to inspire future research and advocacy efforts on social justice in professional as well as personal practice.”

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