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Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right Paperback – November 1, 2009
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I have read a number of political and religious titles in the past year and this is among the best in both categories. Dionne is a political analyst of the first rank, not at all like the many talking/shouting heads that populate cable news. He is also both knowledgeable and even pastoral when he discusses religion.
He definitely has opinions, but he never moves into attack mode. He can understand why many religious people are social conservatives, since religions are innately conservative. Again and again throughout the book, he not only gives the other side of an argument its due, but even declares how necessary his opponents are to a balanced viewpoint. Rather than try to use religion to support his views, he argues against any who do so without the humility to recognize the right on the other side. Religion deserves to be more than a tool for either political party.
Dionne provides a nuanced narrative of the use/misuse of religion by politicians. That doesn't mean he sees no role for faith based politics, both progressive and conservative. Indeed he says they both have a part to play. He deplores the restriction of religious fervor to gay marriage and abortion, without pretending that those issues are unimportant or irrelevant.
In case you think this all seems namby-pamby and wishy-washy, be prepared for his section on Terry Schiavo, which is scathing. He is not above a jeremiad, but the center of his book is pastoral, more pastoral than some pastors I've endured.
This is a book to rile you up and calm you down. To move you to action, but humility too. Simply the best book on religion and politics I have come across.
Readers, however, en route to accomplishing Dionne's purpose, are likely to find themselves overwhelmed with Dionne's recitation of unquestionable expertise on the role of religiosity in general, and find it tedious to extricate the current forces operating to not only strengthen even evangelical America but draw it away from its recent focus on sex.