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Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament Hardcover – July 3, 2006

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Describing himself as "a jilted lover" whose evangelical faith "has been hijacked by right-wing zealots," Balmer accuses those zealots of distorting the Gospel, ignoring the legacy of nineteenth-century evangelical activism, and failing to appreciate "the genius" of the First Amendment. They quote the Bible out of context while offering literalistic interpretations, in the process poisoning attempts at meaningful conversation and diminishing faith itself. As a political liberal and an evangelical Christian, Balmer doesn't find the two terms mutually exclusive. Yet the voices of his brand of quieter evangelicals are drowned in the din of the vocal Religious Right, for unlike the Pat Robertsons of the world, "we don't have radio or television programs, let alone entire media networks." Balmer insists that evangelicalism is a diverse movement--indeed, the most important social and religious movement in American history, "America's folk religion." In the measured tones befitting that diversity, he discusses abortion, homosexuality, school vouchers, and creationism. If he changes no minds, he still offers a welcome alternative to Religious Right railing. June Sawyers
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"(Randall Balmer's) analysis of the deceit and hypocrisy at the heart of the religious right is devastating." The Guardian "Balmer's prophetic, heartbroken new book (is) a short and thorough account of the current state of evangelical Christianity in the US." FT Magazine" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (July 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465005195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465005192
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,704,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A prize-winning historian and Emmy Award nominee, Randall Balmer is Mandel Family Professor in the Arts & Sciences at Dartmouth College. Before coming to Dartmouth in 2012, he was Professor of American Religious History at Columbia University and at Barnard College for twenty-seven years. He has lectured at the Chautauqua Institution, the Commonwealth Club of California and the Smithsonian Associates and to audiences around the country. He has been a visiting professor at Dartmouth College and at Rutgers, Yale, Drew, Emory, Northwestern and Princeton universities, and he has also been a visiting professor in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Mr. Balmer was Adjunct Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary for seventeen years, and from 2004 through 2008 was a Visiting Professor at Yale Divinity School. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2006.

Mr. Balmer, who earned the Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1985, has published widely both in academic and scholarly journals and in the popular press. His commentaries on religion in America have appeared in newspapers across the country, including the Des Moines Register, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the San Diego Times-Union, the Dallas Morning News, Slate, the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Newsday, the Albany Times-Union, the Nation and the New York Times. His first book, "A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies," won several awards, and his second book, "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America," now in its fifth edition, was made into a three-part documentary for PBS. Mr. Balmer was nominated for an Emmy for his script-writing and for hosting that series.

His second documentary, "Crusade: The Life of Billy Graham," was aired on PBS and also appeared in A&E's Biography series. "'In the Beginning': The Creationist Controversy," a two-part documentary on the creation-evolution debate, was first broadcast over PBS in May 1995 and then recut and broadcast in fall 2001.

The author of a dozen books, Mr. Balmer has co-written a history of American Presbyterians, a book on mainline Protestantism, and another book, "Protestantism in America," with Lauren F. Winner. Other books include "Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism," published by Baylor University Press, and "Religion in Twentieth Century America," part of the Religion in American Life series, published by Oxford University Press. A spiritual memoir, "Growing Pains: Learning to Love My Father's Faith," published by Brazos Press in 2001, was named "book of the year" (spirituality) by Christianity Today. More recently, "God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush," was released by HarperOne in January 2008, and "The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond" was published by Baylor University Press in 2010. His first biography, "Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter," was released in 2014.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Maxwell Johnson VINE VOICE on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a progressive Catholic and self-avowed liberal, I was prepared to dislike this book. I anticipated shallow proof-texting of the sort found in nearly all books written by evangelicals--just proof-texting in a different direction. Instead, I found calm, reasoned discourse that systematically dismantled the myth of the modern theocracy sought by so many Christian conservatives today.

I share with another reviewer the suspicion that those who accuse Dr. Balmer of anger have not read his book. The text is anything but angry. It is, in fact, rather self-effacing. The author clearly sets out the limits of his own knowledge and does not claim for himself any particular "gifts of the Spirit" that sharpen his insights or validate his positions. He writes with gentleness and compassion about people who consistently behave dishonestly and who pervert the spiritual values to which they claim exclusive right yet one never senses that he is out to exact revenge on political or religious enemies. Though he deals with political issues from beginning to end, Dr. Balmer's book is more a cri de coeur than a polemic.

Dr. Balmer invites people to think. Alas, several of the reviews on this site amply demonstrate that many will not.
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83 of 96 people found the following review helpful By J. Johnson VINE VOICE on July 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Randal Balmer writes as one who has a love/hate relationship with evangelicalism. He loves the passion for the gospel, and loves the history of the evangelical movement. However he is greatly troubled by the rise of the religious right, their abandonment of traditional evangelical values and their claim to speak for the Christian community. This book is a needed corrective.

Balmer first examines the nature of evangelicalism and its history, showing that it has not always been in bed with the republican party. He shows how evangelicalism shifted to the Republican Party during the Carter Administration, and tells tales from the inside about how the focus shifted from the attack on the evangelical subculture due to government tring to revoke the tax emempt status of Bob Jones University, to abortion, simply seeking to find an issue the movement leaders could coalesce around. He examines the retreat of Baptists from their traditional position (best stated by Roger Williams and John Leland) in favor of seperation of church and state to a community that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.

Balmer writes as an endangered species-an evangelical who is socially/politically liberal because he takes scripture seriouslly. He attacks the selective literalism of the religous right and calls us to take the call of scripture to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God seriously.

Advice-read with an awareness of where you are in the hermaneutic circle and this can be a quite useful book. It places Balmer in the company of Jim Wallis (God's Politics) as an important voice of the christian left.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on January 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In addition to his credentials as a professor of American religion at Barnard College, Columbia University, Randall Balmer writes as an insider who was born, raised, and educated within conservative evangelicalism. In addition to affirming his evangelical identity, he also declares himself a political liberal. Balmer has written elsewhere how and why he remains grateful for his Christian heritage despite significance ambivalence (Growing Pains; Learning to Love My Father's Faith, and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America), but in his most recent book his ambivalence turns to acerbic vilification.

Evangelicalism's marriage to conservative politics, Balmer says, has poisoned public discourse, distorted the Gospel so that it barely resembles the message of Jesus, betrayed its nineteenth-century forbears who were in the vanguard of progressive causes like abolition, and alienated a sizeable number of fellow-evangelicals who have tired of explaining to their friends that their Christian faith "does not mean that we take our marching orders from James Dobson or Karl Rove." After a brief introduction he devotes successive chapters to the religious right's litmus tests --abortion, homosexuality, first amendment disestablishment (including the "Ten Commandments Judge" Roy Moore), school vouchers and public education, creationism, and the environment. Throughout his book Balmer argues that the right has often acted not out of moral principle but for political expedience. For example, school vouchers go overwhelmingly to religious schools and to wealthy people; would right wingers lobby for the issue so hard if vouchers were given only to families whose household income was below a certain threshold?
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68 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Becky Garrison on July 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Speaking as both an evangelical and a professor of American history, Randall Balmer offers an insightful and penetrating look at the underbelly of the Religious Right and how this group has become champions of their own socio-political agenda instead of messengers of the "Good News." Balmer provides an in depth and thoughtful historical analysis as to how the Religious Right came to dominate the evangelical wing of the Church. This committed Christian speaks with authority and conviction as one, who has traveled the country and witnessed firsthand the devastation this new group of evangelicals has wrought upon the faith.
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