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.


Anonymous said...

The fact that the mixture of religion and politics is so specific to the United States speaks to Du Bois's assertions on the problems with democracy. It seems, with Balmer's Jesus is Not a Republican, and considering the past eight years, that religion for at least some politicians can be used as a platform or a basis around which to build a campaign and or worse, an administration. In other words, polticians who have no real plans or concrete intentions use their religious views and beliefs as a framework and as a way to attract voters, even though as we have come to learn the faith of a politician as little to no bearing on how well they will run the government once in office and if anything, they use their religion as a backbone and sometimes as justfication for their actions.The attempts by the Religious Right and similar conservatives to assign Jesus Christ and Christianity to the Republican Party is just another way of saying "we have no plans", especially in the way of social progress.Most of the scientific and social changes that have occured in the past eight years, especially with stem cell research and gay rights have only been met with protest by the Bush administration.

Edgar said...

Hello. My name is Edgar and I'm an editor at, the debate website. Since we both cover American history and religion, I thought I'd drop you a note. I would've e-mailed you but I couldn't find an address.
See, we're currently having a discussion about whether or not the U.S. is a Christian nation. You can see it here:
Although vetted experts are the ones doing the debating, anyone can contribute by choosing a side and posting comments about the experts' arguments.
Check it out and, if you have the time, let me know what you think at