From Publishers Weekly
The latest from reporter and author Dionne (Why Americans Hate Politics
) is a highly worthy alternative to polarizing arguments regarding religion, whether pro or con (neo-atheist tracts like Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great
). It's also a smart rebuke of those who would divert the faithful with a narrow set of values rather than viewing religion in a broader political context. Declaring that the era of the religious Right is over, Dionne looks to history, tradition, teachers and texts (including recent religious scholarship) to reassert both progressive and conservative views on how religion can play a legitimate role in matters of economics, social justice and morality. Dionne explodes the myth that George W. Bush was elected by evangelicals (he says gains among moderates were far more important); demonstrates the absurdity and unfortunate consequences of restricting religious political concerns to abortion and gay marriage (though he fully explores both); and examines the fate of governmental faith-based initiatives past and present. Along the way, Dionne considers the current crop of presidential candidates and provides a stinging analysis of the president and Congress's intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. Rousing and wry, Dionne's sensible voice makes a powerful case for broadening religious vision and visibility in the public square. (Feb. 27)
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Liberal commentator Dionne foresees different relations between faith and politics now that the religious Right is declining. He doesn’t, however, think that a religious Left will arise, although he does point out that the connection between progressive politics, on the one hand, and mainstream Protestantism and modern Catholic social thought, on the other, is longstanding and deep in American history. From a close parsing of the entire Christian vote in recent federal elections, he argues that Christianity in politics is properly thought of not as either conservative or progressive but as both, that the conceptions of “culture war” and “values” promulgated by the religious Right are too restrictive and partisan, and that the religious Right has short-changed Christianity by focusing exclusively on abortion, gay marriage, and end-of-life issues (e.g., the Terry Schiavo brouhaha). He turns to recent developments in Catholicism since Vatican II and among liberal Catholics as a springboard to his concluding injunction that Christians continue to participate in politics, out of Christian hope rather than self-righteousness. (But is the religious Right really shrinking?) --Ray Olson