Controversies on the Campaign Trail.

AuthorMacDonald, Jeffrey
PositionBooks on religion and politics - Book review

Work Title: Controversies on the Campaign Trail

Work Author(s): Jeffrey MacDonald


Byline: Jeffrey MacDonald

Ever since evangelical President Jimmy Carter brought his bible with him to the White House, Americans have been trying to figure out what to do with an arguably new brand of poli-tics that overtly embraces religion. Politicians, first on the right and then the left, have grown bolder in their use of God-talk and Biblical motifs. Calls to ground a national agenda in faithful principles have recently risen from groups as varied as the conservative Focus on the Family to the liberal-leaning National Council of Churches. Every couple of years, the onus falls on a dis-cerning electorate to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Religion's big role in the run-up to November

In this election year, voters are witnessing the latest incarnation of a phenomenon that shows no signs of abating. Long before the presidential primaries began, every major figure seeking a party nomination had gone on the record as a believer in God. Most had taken pains to tell how faith functions in their day-to-day lives. Political observers expect many voters once again to cast ballots on the basis of which candidates reflect their own moral values. That religion will play a big role in the run up to November is all but certain. How it will shake out is anybody's guess.

Evangelicals, for instance, seem to no longer be shoe-ins for the religious right. Nearly a dozen new books from Christian publishers this year aspire to guide evangelicals toward a broader, Biblical agenda that prioritizes more than abortion, gay marriage and judgeships. To-day's Christian issues include global warming, third-world poverty and even CEO pay. Religion is arguably about to shape politics in some unprecedented ways.

As Americans try to make sense of it all, publishers of varied stripes are racing to deliver insight and context. They're showcasing authors who live knee-deep in the intersection of religion and politics and who are now keen to make their knowledge accessible to general au-diences. The result is a bevy of new books that explain: 1) how the nation came to revel in a re-ligion-soaked politics, 2) whether the founders would be delighted or outraged, and 3) where America ought to go from here.

Several titles take aim at perplexing dynamics in today's political environment and tell how they came to be. A prime example of this approach comes from two communica-tions scholars...

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