Lydia Bean

Fellow, Political Reform Program

Lydia Bean is a fellow in New America’s Political Reform program. She writes and consults on state power-building, religion in public life, and grassroots organizing. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Democracy, Sojourners, Social Science Quarterly, Sociology of Religion, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. She completed a Ph.D in sociology at Harvard University and a bachelors at Austin College.

In 2014, Lydia Bean founded Faith in Texas, a multiracial movement organizing faith communities for social change. She also served as Senior Consultant to Faith in Action (previously PICO National Network). Lydia served as the Executive Director to Faith in Texas from 2014 to 2018, building the organization to a network of over 50 congregations in four counties. Faith in Texas helped pass new national rules against payday lending and successfully advocated for a new “cite and release” policy in Dallas to reduce incarceration.

Bean is the author of The Politics of Evangelical Identity (Princeton University Press 2014), a comparative ethnography of evangelical churches in the United States and Canada. The book reveals how the coalition between evangelicals and the Republican Party is anchored in the lives of local congregations, not just created top-down by political elites who have framed conservative issues in religious language. Her next book is about innovation in state power-building.

Lydia Bean has been active in Texas civic life since 1999, when over 20% of the Black adults in her hometown of Tulia were wrongfully accused of drug charges by an undercover informant. Bean helped found Friends of Justice, a movement of defendants, their families, and local allies, including her parents and grandparents. Friends of Justice went on to help other communities across the South organize against wrongful prosecution in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Notable cases included Hearne, TX (featured in movie American Violet), Winona, MS (featured in NPR Podcast In the Dark), and Jena, LA.