Religion and Politics in the United States
|The United States is, by all
measures, a highly religious nation. Since 1944, the Gallup organization has
asked: "Do you believe in God?" For more than sixty years, the percentage of
the population expressing belief has ranged from 91 and 99 percent (between
two and seven time the level of belief exhibited in most wealthy
democracies). Indeed, it is difficult to understand recent elections without
considering the role of religion in shaping voting behavior. According to a
Pew poll conducted in 2004, 78 percent of evangelical Protestants voted for
Bush. Kerry's support was found among African American Protestants (83
percent support), Latino Catholics (69 percent support), Jews (73 percent
support), and unaffiliated voters (72 percent
support), a category including unaffiliated believers, "seculars," agnostics, and atheists. If the Bush administration appears to be beholden to Evangelical Protestants, it is for a simple reason: they provided 40 percent of his votes. At 26 percent of the population, this group is a core component of the Republican coalition. In the wake of the 2004 election, many Democratic strategists openly wondered whether a Democrat could win the presidency without attracting the support of Evangelical Protestants.
Although public opinion polls are important in interpreting contemporary politics, one cannot understand the trajectory of American political development without examining the role of religion. Major events (e.g., the American Revolution, the Civil War) and reform movements (e.g., the abolition, suffrage, temperance) were shaped, in part, by waves of revival that swept the nation. Similarly, the social gospel movement played an important role in setting the stage for the Progressive Era and New Deal reform agendas. In the postwar period, the politics surrounding civil rights, the Vietnam war, women's liberation, gay rights, and abortion were infused with religion. Often, religion supported contradictory positions--opponents and advocates of slavery, for example, believed that they were furthering the cause of Christ--and it is often unclear whether religion serves as a motivating factor or a justification for otherwise self-interested actions.
This class will begin with an overview of American religious beliefs today and their role in politics. We turn, then to an examination of the role of religion in the evolution of the American state and public policy. The course concludes with an examination of the role of religion--Evangelical Protestantism in particular--in the Bush presidency and the question of whether the Democratic Party can succeed in the electoral arena without engaging people of faith.
Throughout the course, we will examine the role of religion in politics through the lens of social science. Thus, it makes sense to say a few words about what this course is not about. First, this is not a course in comparative religion. We will not be exploring specific religious doctrines. We will not be giving "equal time" to each sect. Because our subject is the political impact of religion in the United States, we will be concerned with the sects that have had the greatest influence. For example, when considering the contemporary period, we will unapologetically concentrate on protestant Christianity rather than Buddhism or Scientology. Second, although some students may reveal their religious preferences during this term, this is neither a forum to proselytize nor to denounce other's religious convictions or lack thereof.
|There are three books available for
1. Robert Booth Fowler, Allen D. Hertzke, Laura Olson, Kevin den Dulk, Religion and Politics in America, 3rd ed. (Westview Press, 2004).
2. Damon Linker, The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege (Anchor, 2007).
3. James A. Morone, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History (Yale University Press, 2004).
There will be many readings available on-line. If you cannot access JSTOR, you can go to Blackboard and download the readings there. They are in pdf format which will require that you have Adobe Acrobat Reader (a free download from www.adobe.com). Some of the readings may make biblical references. If you do not own a Bible, there are many online versions with decent search engines, including www.bible.com.
|Seminar Presentation (10
Each participant will be required to introduce a set of readings at one point during the semester. The presentation--not to exceed five minutes--should provide a brief critique of the readings and identify useful questions for discussion. It should be accompanied by a set of questions for discussion (approximately 1 page).
Brief Essays (60 percent):
Final Essay (30 percent):
In his 1922 book What I Saw in America, G.K. Chesterton noted that America was "the only nation in the world founded on a creed" and observed that it was "a nation with the soul of a church." Is this observation accurate today? How does being a "nation with the soul of a church" impact on domestic politics and policy? How does it shape our foreign policy and our understanding of the nation's mission in the international arena?
This paper should not exceed 15 pages double spaced and is due before the final session. Papers should be submitted via email (email@example.com) as Microsoft Word attachments.
|I. An Overview of Religion and Politics in the United States|
|September 11||Course Introduction|
|September 18||Survey of Religion in the United States
William Dean; Mark A. Noll; Mary Farrell Bednarowski; J. Bryan Hehir, "Forum, Public Theology in Contemporary America." Religion and American Culture, Vol. 10, No. 1. (Winter, 2000), pp. 1-27.
N.J. Demerath III, "Excepting Exceptionalism: American Religion in Comparative Relief," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 558, (Jul., 1998), pp. 28-39
Fowler et al, Religion and Politics in America, chapters 1, 2, 3, 10, 12
|September 25||Voting, Interest Groups, and Elites
Fowler et al, Religion and Politics in America, chapters 4, 5, 6
James L. Guth, Lyman A. Kellstedt, John C. Green & Corwin E. Smidt, "America Fifty/Fifty." First Things 116 (October 2001): 19-26
John C. Green, Corwin E. Smidt, James L. Guth, and Lyman A. Kellstedt, "The American Religious Landscape and the 2004 Presidential Vote: Increased Polarization." Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (February 2005)
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, "Religion & Public Life: A Faith-Based Partisan Divide." (2005)
|October 2||Maintaining (or Creating) the Wall of
Fowler, et al, Religion and Politics in America, chapters 8, 9
McCreary County, Kentucky, et al. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky et al. (2005)
|II. Religion and American Political Development|
|October 9||At the Founding, 1630-1776
Morone, Hellfire Nation, introduction, chapters 1-3
Daniel L. Dreisbach, "Thomas Jefferson and the Mammoth Cheese." Religion and Liberty, 12, 3 (2002)
Mark A. Noll, "The American Revolution and Protestant Evangelicalism." Journalism of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Winter, 1993), pp. 615-638
|October 16||The Abolitionist Movement and the Civil War,
Morone, Hellfire Nation, chapters 4-7
William Ellery Channing, Slavery (1835), Introduction
Frederick Douglass, "Fourth of July Oration" (1852)
J. Albert Harrill, "The Use of the New Testament in the American Slave Controversy: A Case History in the Hermeneutical Tension between Biblical Criticism and Christian Moral Debate." Religion and American Culture, 10, 2. (2000): 149-186
|October 23||The Response to Industrialism and the Rise of
the Activist State, 1870-1960
Morone, Hellfire Nation, chapters 8-13
|October 30||Religion, Politics, and Activism: the 1960s
Morone, Hellfire Nation, chapter 14
Sydney E. Ahlstrom, "The Radical Turn in Theology and Ethics: Why It Occurred in the 1960's." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 387 (Jan., 1970), pp. 1-13.
Adam Fairclough, "The Preachers and the People: The Origins and Early Years of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1955-1959" Journal of Southern History 52:3 (August 1986): 403-440
Martin Luther King, Jr., "Paul's Letter to American Christians."
Allison Calhoun-Brown, "Upon This Rock: The Black Church, Nonviolence, and the Civil Rights Movement." PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 33, No. 2. (June 200) pp. 168-174
Richard John Neuhaus, "The War, the Churches, and Civil Religion." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 387 (January 1970), pp. 128-140
James J. Farrell, "Thomas Merton and the Religion of the Bomb."
Religion and American Culture, 5, 1.
|III. Religion and Contemporary American Politics|
|November 6||The Culture War and the Rise of the Religious
Fowler et al, Religion and Politics in America, chapter 7
Morone, Hellfire Nation, chapter 15
Phillip E. Hammond, "The Curious Path of Conservative Protestantism." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 480 (July 1985), pp. 53-62
Ronald E. Hopson and Donald R. Smith, "Changing Fortunes: An Analysis of Christian Right Ascendance within American Political Discourse." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 38, 1. (1999): 1-13
Donald G. Mathews, "Spiritual Warfare: Cultural Fundamentalism and the Equal Rights Amendment." Religion and American Culture, 3, 2 (1993): 129-154
Visit the Christian Coalition website. See the vision statement.
|November 13||The Bush Presidency and the Limits of Revival
Linker, The Theocons, entire
|November 27||Can the Left Reclaim its Religious Base?
Jim Wallis, "The Democrat's Religion Problem." Sojourners Magazine, 33, 2 (February 2004): 5
Louis Bolce & Gerald De Maio, "Our Secularist Democratic Party." The Public Interest, Fall 2002
Rob Garver, "Leftward Christian Soldiers," The American Prospect Online, June 24, 2005
Review the section on "our values" the issues, and the Jacksonville Declaration at the Christian Alliance for Progress website.
|December 4||Course Conclusion and Discussion of Final Essays|