Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America
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Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America

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by Ray Suarez
     
 

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Not since the Civil War has the United States been so polarized, politically and ideologically. At the heart of this fracture is a fascinating, paradoxical marriage between our country's politics and religions.

In The Holy Vote, Ray Suarez explores the advent of this polarization and how it is profoundly changing the way we live our lives. With hands-on

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Overview

Not since the Civil War has the United States been so polarized, politically and ideologically. At the heart of this fracture is a fascinating, paradoxical marriage between our country's politics and religions.

In The Holy Vote, Ray Suarez explores the advent of this polarization and how it is profoundly changing the way we live our lives. With hands-on reporting, Suarez explores the attitudes and beliefs of the people behind the voting numbers and how the political divide is manifesting itself across the country. The reader will come to a greater understanding of what Americans believe, and how this belief structure fuels the debates that dominate the issues on our evening news broadcasts.

Editorial Reviews

Both Red State America and Blue State America pray to a Higher Authority; but after reading this thought-provoking book, readers might ponder whether it is the same God who receives their prayers. The Holy Vote describes a country where religious attitudes and beliefs cut sharply down a political divide. To explore the advent of this polarization, PBS News Hour senior correspondent Ray Suarez visits evangelical mega-churches, Catholic cathedrals, Mormon temples, Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues, and other places of worship.
Library Journal
Of the books reviewed here, this work by Suarez (senior correspondent, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer) offers the most balanced account of the issues in question. This is a journalist's journey worthy of comparison with Dan Wakefield's classic Supernation at Peace and War, written almost 40 years ago, which portrayed the mood of the country during the Vietnam era. Suarez examines an equally divisive era that pits conservative suburban votes of faith against urban secular liberals, with everyone trying to determine the proper place of religion in public life. In addition to interviewing politicians, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens, Suarez shares his personal religious experiences as an urban liberal Catholic and laments the demise of religious tolerance in current political discourse. He writes eloquently about the "Christian art of warfare," the "nasty battle" over marriage, the separation of church and state, and such issues as the Ten Commandments controversy and teaching evolution. What sets his book apart is his attention to changes in the Catholic Church and the impact of a rising Latino Catholic population. The book reads easily and is sure to provoke lively discussion, serving well as a companion to Garry Wills's more scholarly Under God: Religion and American Politics. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060829988
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/13/2007
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Holy Vote

The Politics of Faith in America
By Ray Suarez

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Ray Suarez
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060829974

Chapter One

Credo . . . I Believe

I love my country. I love my church.

I love the land itself in its stunning beauty, and my 300 million countrymen and women. I even love the ones that make me crazy.

I love my church, the small-c place in a corner of Washington, D.C., where I sing and pray and teach Sunday school. And I love my Church, the teeming, globe-straddling capital-C place that I've given my lifelong devotion and trust to, along with my affection.

I am thrilled to see what looks like wisdom and kindness from my country and its people. I cringe when I see my country going off course. I think I am a patriot. At the same time I wrestle constantly with myself over what the country at its best ought to be, and how the things we do will affect the rest of the world.

In every corner of the world, I've gained strength and consolation sharing bread and wine with fellow Christians, and watched as the church has tried to live up to the encouragement from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned.1

I pray often, and nobody knows I'm doing it. I have prayed in school all mylife, but it never caused a fuss, because I didn't need official sanction, a loudly announced time at the school's flagpole, or a mandated moment of silence in order to accomplish the task: a few words between me and God.

I say the Pledge of Allegiance without coercion or irony, and don't drop the "under God." But I do wonder how I'd feel about the whole exercise if I didn't believe in God, and was being made to recite the Pledge.

I revere the Constitution and its attempts to speak to every generation of Americans, and the hundreds still to come. I also recognize that the Constitution is a political document, not a sacred one. It was crafted by politicians as a handbook to get us through the rough spots in American daily life. It was crafted in response to the particular grievances against the British monarchy and the fresh memory of failing self-government under the Articles of Confederation.

While it was very much a product of one hot summer in Philadelphia in the infancy of a fragile and insecure country, the national charter has aged magnificently. The Constitution helps maintain a voluntary consensus, a submission to the rules of a shared enterprise, in a country not defined by blood, clan, land origin, or religious belief.

The adaptability of the Constitution has gotten our country through uncomfortable and conflict-filled ages, including a blood-soaked spasm that saw one vast section of the country pull away from that consensus umbrella to save human slavery. When the Civil War began, slavery enjoyed recognition under the Constitution. When the smoke from millions of rifle rounds and cannonballs cleared, over a million people were dead, and that same Constitution forbade the ownership of one human being by another.

Whenever it is called for at a public occasion, I sing the national anthem, even though it must be the hardest national anthem to sing on this anthem-filled planet. And I'm especially fond of the final, frankly religious, stanza.2

Why tell you all this?

I tell you this because, until recently, I thought of all of the above as pretty normal. However, today, I feel as if I'm no longer living in the country I was raised in. Something valuable in the accommodation we made for one another is gone, and getting it back will take something more than just groping our way forward.

I tell you all this also because trying to discern the secret agendas of American journalists (I am one) has become something of a parlor game. One of the most offensive markers of our era is the implied division of our citizens, by our citizens, into Real Americans and everyone else, Patriots and everyone else, and Christians and everyone else. Of all the assumptions a reader might make about me, Christian Patriot might not have readily come to mind. Northeasterners, Latinos, reporters, and Christians outside certain denominations have, to some people, been traditionally suspect: someone who is all those things is only more so.

Ours was not founded as a Christian country. In the 230 years since then that label has only become less appropriate. We do have a unique status as the wealthy, industrialized country with the largest numbers of religious believers, active congregants, and people who merely say they believe in God. The gross numbers visible from a cruising-altitude-look at the country hide a complex mosaic of belief and a broad continuum of conviction as to what belief in a Creator means to our country today.

Our national life is cobbled together from a mix of noble dreams and grubby politics. That is no shame, but rather a realistic combination of the forces that move us as a people. Yet, more and more Americans, in full backlash against one another, want purity of purpose in the sausage-making of policy. And when they don't get it, they often identify the culprit as religion: there is both too much of it, and too little of it, in our shared civic life.

These are strange days.

I grew up at a time when it seemed every second adult had a cross of ashes on his or her forehead on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian penitential season of Lent. I grew up at a time when half my schoolmates would open up their lunches for a week in the spring, to inspect the version of a "sandwich" their mothers had cobbled together from various fillings and matzoh. Passover days were part of the heartbeat of the neighborhood, keeping time for everyone as we moved through the year.

Also in spring, hundreds of other kids were dragged to department stores for their Easter clothes, and on that Sunday the streets were filled with surprisingly cleaned-up-looking kids, some with Brylcreemed hair, coming back from church and heading to relatives' for dinner.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Holy Vote by Ray Suarez Copyright © 2006 by Ray Suarez. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Ray Suarez is a senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He came to the NewsHour from NPR's Talk of the Nation, and prior to that he spent seven years covering local, national, and international news for an NBC affiliate in Chicago.

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Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thomas
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Rue
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Congratulations thomas!
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Thistlefire
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