God Wills It is a comprehensive study of presidential religious rhetoric. Using careful analysis of hundreds of transcripts, David O'Connell reveals the hidden strategy behind presidential religious speech. He asks when and why religious language is used, and when it is, whether such language is influential.
Case studies explore the religious arguments presidents have made to defend their decisions on issues like defense spending, environmental protection, and presidential scandals. O'Connell provides strong evidence that when religious rhetoric is used public opinion typically goes against the president, the media reacts harshly to his words, and Congress fails to do as he wants. An experimental chapter casts even further doubt on the persuasiveness of religious rhetoric.
God Wills It shows that presidents do not talk this way because they want to. Presidents like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were quite uncomfortable using faith to promote their agendas. They did so because they felt they must. God Wills It shows that even if presidents attempt to call on the deity, the more important question remains: Will God come when they do?
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Conceptualizing Presidential Religious Rhetoric
2. Aid, Arms, and Armageddon: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and the Religious Rhetoric of Defense
3. Holy Warriors: George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and the Religious Rhetoric of War
4. Protecting Our Blessings: Jimmy Carter and the Religious Rhetoric of Environmental Policy
5. All God's Children: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and the Religious Rhetoric of Civil Rights
6. I Have Sinned: Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and the Religious Rhetoric of Scandal
7. An Experimental Evaluation of Religious Rhetoric