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The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention blocked the establishment of Christianity as a national religion, but they could not keep religion out of American politics. From the election of 1800, when Federalist clergymen charged that deist Thomas Jefferson was unfit to lead a "Christian nation." to today, when some Democrats want to embrace the so-called Religious Left in order to compete with the Republicans and the Religious Right, religion has always been part of American politics. In Religion in American Politics, Frank Lambert tells the fascinating story of the uneasy relations between religion and politics from the founding to the twenty-first century.
Using examples from across U.S. history, Lambert shows that religion became sectarian and partisan whenever it entered the political fray, and that religious ones. Religion in American Politics brings rare historical perspective and insight to a subject that was just as important-and controversial-in 1776 as it is today.
"Lambert's clear and well-conceived analysis is framed within his understanding of religious culture as a competitive marketplace. . . . Students and scholars interested in church-state issues in the United States will not regret reaching [this] book. Lambert's judicious treatment of sources and his attention to context give his work an authority that quotation warriors usually lack. Religion in American Politics may not be edgy, but it is wise."—Chris Beneke, Journal of Southern History
"The reader is introduced to important actors and arguments and, after reading this volume, will have enough direction to pursue further investigation. The book is also a joy to read; Lambert not only has a felicitous style, but often finds just the right quotation from a protagonist or scholar to make a particular point without belaboring it. For general readers, or as a starter for an undergraduate course in American religion and politics, this book would be a fine choice."—James L. Guth, Cambridge Journals
Of the writing of books about the rise and rumored fall of the religious right there is no end. But most of these tend toward the genre of the rant, which is why Lambert's new book is important. It gives a history of the intertwining of evangelical faith and political engagement in America that displays no obvious agenda other than to illuminate. He lays religionalongside other competing influences in American politics and has an eye for fascinating (and quirky) fights over religion in early America: should the mail run on Sundays, as the religiously disinclined Thomas Jefferson preferred, or should the nation honor the fourth commandment? (Answer: the debate vanished once telegraphs could operate 24/7). Recent efforts to align Christianity and specific political positions are not without precedent in U.S. history, as Lambert makes clear. That early history is riveting, especially when it is counterintuitive: ironically, Massachusetts-the bête noir of evangelical voters now-was the last state to discontinue public funding for the Congregational Church in 1833. Lambert's treatment of more recent religious trends, from the Civil Rights movement to the rise of the religious right and left, feels a bit more boilerplate. Yet the whole book will be useful as a handy, clear and fair treatment of this most contentious subject. (Mar.)Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
CHAPTER ONE: Providential and Secular America: Founding the Republic 14
CHAPTER TWO: Elusive Protestant Unity: Sunday Mails, Catholic Immigration, and Sectional Division 41
CHAPTER THREE: The "Gospel of Wealth" and the "Social Gospel": Industrialization and the Rise of Corporate America 74
CHAPTER FOUR: Faith and Science: The Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy 104
CHAPTER FIVE: Religious and Political Liberalism: The Rise of Big Government from the New Deal to the Cold War 130
CHAPTER SIX: Civil Rights as a Religious Movement: Politics in the Streets 160
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Rise of the "Religious Right": The Reagan Revolution and the "Moral Majority" 184
CHAPTER EIGHT: Reemergence of the "Religious Left"? America's Culture War in the Early Twenty-first Century 218
Posted July 20, 2013
A Tour de Force in elegant writing. I learned so much about how religion has always sought to influence politics since this countries founding. And this book is current up to the present day battle between the religious right and religious left. There is too much to comment on but I will say it did a secular Buddhist's heart good to know that whenever conservation religious forces have sought to turn this country into a theocracy there have always been religious forces on the left to oppose. Thank God it's not all up to us atheists. (HaHa) And thank you Secular Humanist society for recommending this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.