Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics

Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics

Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics

Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics

Synopsis

The Statue of Liberty - depicted on a roadside billboard - did not carry her customary torch and tablet. Instead, she shielded her eyes from words that towered beside her, words that highway drivers could not possibly avoid: "We are no longer a Christian nation." Underneath was the name of the man who spoke them, the nation's president, Barack Obama. He had made the original statement - "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation, at least not just" - four years earlier. Since then those words had appeared, in one form or another, not just on billboards but in a host of other venues, a visible symbol of America's divide over religion and politics. In Faith in the New Millennium, a group of leading historians explores the shifting role of religion in American politics in the age of Obama, shedding new and fascinating light on the interplay of faith and politics. Each of the sixteen contributors examines a contemporary issue, controversy, or policy through a historical lens. In an age of the 24-hour-news-cycle, where complexity is often buried under bluster, these essays make a powerful case for understanding the stories behind the news. They tackle such topics as immigration reform, racial turmoil, drone wars, foreign policy, and theunstoppable rise of social media. Taken together, they reveal how faith is shaping modern America, and how modern America is shaping faith.

Excerpt

Future generations of Americans will likely look back on the time between September 11, 2001, and the end of the Obama presidency as a period of substantial transformation. The global economy crashed and then began to rebound, but only tentatively, and with new crises seemingly always on the horizon. Innovative technologies from the iPhone to Twitter have changed the way people communicate. China is now challenging the United States for economic supremacy. Global warming is stoking fears for the future. Terrorists in search of weapons of mass destruction threaten the world’s peace and security. Politics in the United States has become dysfunctional, with apparently insurmountable divides between “red” states and “blue” states. Fracking is now a topic for dinner-table debate. Americans’ sense of community and commitment to the greater good have waned. The US military is deployed around the world in conflicts that never seem to end. Cuba is opening up. Newspapers are closing down. Global pandemics from Ebola to the bird flu inspire fear and dread. Gays and lesbians are securing rights long denied.

And in concert with all of these transformations, the nature and practice of religion and its impact on American political culture is shifting in equally profound ways. On one level, the tumult in this realm should surprise no one. After all, the fusion of religion and politics in the United States has always generated energy, controversy, and dramatic change, baffling many Americans (and much of the world) at each striking turn. The nation’s unique political structure is partly responsible for the sustained potency of the “God factor.” At its very founding, the United States helped pioneer the separation of church and state, yet in the process paradoxically . . .

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