Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right by E. J., Jr. Dionne.
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.
Souled Out by E. J. Dionne, Jr. is a terrific book by a rational, intelligent voice for a progressive Catholicism which I found so inspiring in articles and books when I was young. It gives hope to so many who feel silenced now by the current orthodoxy - and that those voices will rise up and bring moderation and love to the public debate.
I order this book and mistakenly sent it to the wrong address! The people at South Beach went out of their way to give me a credit and sent me a new copy that arrive in 4 days! Service like that keeps me returning when looking for a book! Many, many thanks for all of your help. I will be back.
The author seems to walk a politically correct tightrope rather than label the religious right for what it is...further his focus betrays a connectedness to the Roman Catholic Church which makes many of his remarks irrelevant to those who do not profess the same allegiances.
The purpose of "Souled Out," explains Dionne, is to explain why the crude exploitation of faith for political advantage by the Religious Right is over. This move was partly aided by neo-atheist writers demanding that believers live up to their proclaimed values, and asserting (Sam Harris) that "Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one."
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.