Is the Good Book Good Enough?: Evangelical Perspectives on Public Policy

Overview

The political emergence of evangelical Christians has been a signal development in America in the past quarter century. And while their voting tendencies have been closely scrutinized, their participation in the policy debates of the day has not. They continue to be caricatured as anti-intellectual Bible thumpers whose views are devoid of reason, logic, or empirical evidence. They're seen as lemmings, following the cues of Dobson and Robertson and marching in lock step with the Republican party on the "culture ...

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Is the Good Book Good Enough?: Evangelical Perspectives on Public Policy

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Overview

The political emergence of evangelical Christians has been a signal development in America in the past quarter century. And while their voting tendencies have been closely scrutinized, their participation in the policy debates of the day has not. They continue to be caricatured as anti-intellectual Bible thumpers whose views are devoid of reason, logic, or empirical evidence. They're seen as lemmings, following the cues of Dobson and Robertson and marching in lock step with the Republican party on the "culture wars" issues of abortion, gay rights, and guns. Is The Good Book Good Enough? remedies the neglect of this highly influential group, which makes up as much as a third of the American public. It offers a carefully nuanced and comprehensive portrait of evangelical attitudes on a wide range of policies and their theological underpinnings. Each essay applies an evangelical lens to a contemporary issue - environmentalism, immigration, family and same-sex marriage, race relations, global human rights, foreign policy and national security, social welfare and poverty, and economic policy. The result thoroughly enriches our understanding of evangelicalism as a prism through which many view a wide range of policy debates.

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Editorial Reviews

Comment Magazine: Cardus
The book serves simultaneously as a mirror held up to the evangelical movement, a critique, and an excellent primer for those seeking to understand the history and current state of evangelical contributions to public policy….Stephen Monsma contributes an excellent chapter on the history and current challenges of the American social welfare system….The authors conclude that it may be too early to tell whether the changing evangelical political movement reflects a maturing political mind. However, they make a convincing case that this moment presents remarkable opportunities to shape the movement's future direction.
CHOICE
Do Evangelical Christians offer a distinctive contribution to public policy debates? Students of religion and politics will benefit immensely from the richly textured, two-tiered response to this question in this superbly edited volume by Ryden (Hope College). At the first level, the book's diverse set of young and well-established scholars chronicles the long-standing and extensive (biblically based) engagement of Evangelicals across a broad spectrum of policy issues: environmentalism, poverty, criminal justice, immigration, human rights, national security, racial injustice, and the seemingly irreconcilable struggles over abortion and same-sex marriage. The second level is a more nuanced, self-critical discussion on the lack of a coherent theological framework for Evangelical policy participation. Several authors attribute this failure to an emerging apprehension among Evangelicals that their policy prescriptions are insufficiently grounded in a Christian (biblical) worldview and are instead mediated by ideology, partisanship, culture wars, and unfettered commitments to methodological individualism and free-market economics. Moreover, Evangelicals profoundly disagree over whether to enter policy debates qua Evangelicals or to translate their biblically informed policy positions into secular arguments. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduate collections.
Choice
Do Evangelical Christians offer a distinctive contribution to public policy debates? Students of religion and politics will benefit immensely from the richly textured, two-tiered response to this question in this superbly edited volume by Ryden (Hope College). At the first level, the book's diverse set of young and well-established scholars chronicles the long-standing and extensive (biblically based) engagement of Evangelicals across a broad spectrum of policy issues: environmentalism, poverty, criminal justice, immigration, human rights, national security, racial injustice, and the seemingly irreconcilable struggles over abortion and same-sex marriage. The second level is a more nuanced, self-critical discussion on the lack of a coherent theological framework for Evangelical policy participation. Several authors attribute this failure to an emerging apprehension among Evangelicals that their policy prescriptions are insufficiently grounded in a Christian (biblical) worldview and are instead mediated by ideology, partisanship, culture wars, and unfettered commitments to methodological individualism and free-market economics. Moreover, Evangelicals profoundly disagree over whether to enter policy debates qua Evangelicals or to translate their biblically informed policy positions into secular arguments. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduate collections.
Comment Magazine: Cardus
The book serves simultaneously as a mirror held up to the evangelical movement, a critique, and an excellent primer for those seeking to understand the history and current state of evangelical contributions to public policy….Stephen Monsma contributes an excellent chapter on the history and current challenges of the American social welfare system….The authors conclude that it may be too early to tell whether the changing evangelical political movement reflects a maturing political mind. However, they make a convincing case that this moment presents remarkable opportunities to shape the movement's future direction.
David P. Gushee
David Ryden's edited volume makes a very strong contribution at both a descriptive and normative level. Scholars and citizens concerned to discover a fair description of the current state of evangelical public policy engagement will find a state of the art depiction within these pages. Meanwhile, scholars, activists, and others who are looking for fresh thinking about how evangelical theological and ethical convictions should inform public policy views on a wide range of issues will also find considerable help in this book. Especially important are chapters on neglected issues such as financial reform, criminal justice reform, and the war in Afghanistan. I highly recommend this very important book.
Michael Cromartie
It is often thought that Evangelical Christians are pre-occupied with 'single-issues' in contemporary political disputes. But this important and helpful volume assembles some of their best scholars on a wide range of vital issues. This will be an indispensable resource for policy makers and students alike.
Corwin E. Smidt
An excellent overview of the public policy perspectives held by evangelicals, providing the reader with a sympathetic, yet critical, assessment of the starting assumptions and approaches that undergird the policy perspectives that many evangelicals advance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739177075
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 6/7/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

David K. Ryden is professor of political science at Hope College.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction:The Evolving Policy Agenda of Evangelical Christians 2 Section I. Engaging America: Evangelical Approaches to Domestic Policy Questions 3 1. Evangelicals and the Environment: From Political Realism to a Politics of Freedom 4 2. Evangelicals and Poverty 5 3. To Do Justly and Love Mercy: Using Scripture to Guide Criminal Justice Policy 6 4. Enlightened Economics and Free Markets 7 5. Better Late Than Never? Evangelicals and Comprehensive: Immigration Reform 8 Section II. Engaging the World: Evangelical Views on Global Issues 9 6. The Roots of Evangelical Humanitarianism and International Political Advocacy 10 7. Evangelicals and Foreign Policy in an Era of Conflict 11 8. "The New Internationals": Human Rights and American Evangelicalism 12 9. Evangelicals, Pakistan, and the war in Afghanistan: Scriptural Resources for National Security Issues 13 Section III. Engaging Culture: Counterforce or Capitulation? 14 10. Love Rightly Understood: Reflections on the Substance, Style, and Sprit of Evangelical Activism and (Same-Sex) Marriage Policy 15 11. Evangelicals and the Elusive Goal of Racial Reconciliation: The Role of Culture, Politics, and Public Policy 16 12. Politics, Evangelicals, and the Unavoidability of Metaphysics 17 13. The Good Book As Policy Guide: Characteristics, Critiques, and Contributions of Evangelical Public Policy Participation

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