Thursday, August 7, 2008

Religion and Politics

To enrich our discussion and the 1980s and the rise of the Religious Right, this post provides additional resources for investigating the intersection of faith and politics.

(Read more about this picture of George W. Bush here.)

The subject of countless books and studies, and various documentaries, the rise of the Religious Right and its life in contemporary politics, most notably emerging during the 1976 and 1980 Presidential elections, and significant factor in the 2000 and 2004 election, is an integral part of understanding contemporary America. And, of course, discussions and questions about religious faith have been a part of the 2008 presidential campaign. The latest installment on the topic is Stephen Mansfield's book on Barack Obama's faith.

The well known evangelist Billy Graham was the subject of some important studies that appeared last summer--all on the topic of religion and politics. The ABC documentary "Pastor to Power: Billy Graham and the Presidents," is a nice companion to the book by Time writers Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy titled The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. Since last summer, another important book to appear is Randall Balmer's God in the White House. Here's a radio interview with Balmer about his book.

Back to Billy Graham, Balmer's documentary on Graham is a good one, and Rice University sociologist William Martin wrote one of the most important biographies on Graham.

Here's a trailer for a documentary on George W. Bush's religious faith, and at the end there's a clip of him speaking at Second Baptist Church in Houston in 1999. There's also a picture of Bush on the campaign at this SBC in Stephen Mansfield's The Faith of George W. Bush.

In a previous post I mentioned the documentary The Jesus Factor (you can view the entire documentary on-line; this is a very helpful resource with tons of material for discussion). You may also want to check out historian Randall Balmer's 2006 essay "Jesus is Not a Republican." And here's a group supporting Jesus for President (and here too). Evangelical activist and author Jim Wallis here answers the question, "Was Jesus a Politician?" Finally, sociologist and author Tony Campolo weights in with "Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?"

The radio show Speaking of Faith also recently aired shows on evangelicals and politics. One is on the progressive evangelical Jim Wallis, the other on the conservative activists Rick and Kay Warren. Most recently, Speaking of Faith had a show on a generational dynamic in evangelical political action.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The End is Near...

Since tropical storm Edouard interrupted one class, we'll have to revise and improvise here at the end.

So, on Thursday we'll cover post-1960s American religious history including several key religious figures of the 1970s, the rise of the Religious Right, the resurgence (or rather the more visible) of the Religious Left, and then American religion in the 21st century.

I'll abbreviate my discussion of Lonnie Frisbee, perhaps the most famous Christian hippie preacher you've never heard of. David Di Sabatino put together a wonderful documentary, so you'll want to check out the website. Frisbee's life, ministry and significance in some ways still present the Religious Right (or what's left of it) with some challenges. In certain ways, as you will see, the spiritual manifestations present with Frisbee's preaching bring us full circle in terms of discussing popular religion and lived religion.

On Thursday we'll also spend some time talking about Jim Jones. His story began with such promise as he preached racial equality and (in essence) socialism in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s but ended dismally and tragically in 1978. I was only a year old when "it" happened, but ask your parents and they maybe can offer some memories of it. A new PBS documentary captures the triumphs, tensions, and tragedies of Jonestown. And here's an interesting site put together by some Rice students.

Finally, you should be well under way composing your final paper and putting together your PowerPoint presentation. We'll touch base and you can give a status report on Thursday, since it is due a week later on 8/14.