More Than Preaching to the Choir: Religious Literate Activity and Civic Engagement in Older Adults

Annie Kelvie


Civic engagement has long been a topic that has drawn the attention of scholars in literacy and composition studies more broadly, and it is also a particular interest of both religious literacies and Age Studies. This article has an eye toward bringing these two conversations together—civic engagement in religious settings and civic engagement as practiced by older people—-through the lens of literate activity as practiced by progressive Christian churchgoers. Drawn from ethnographic fieldwork with a church book group, I argue that the members of the Pub Theology book group push back against the isolation and individualism of decline ideology and cookie-cutter notions of volunteerism promoted by productive aging, instead creating a robust model of civic engagement for older adults that is rooted in literate activity. Instead of being obsolete and useless, their familiar literate practices are crucial to connecting what they learned from their chosen texts, The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy, to their more expansive experiences of civic engagement as older members of their community.


religious literacies; civic engagement; older adult literacies; progressive Christianity; community literacy; race

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