Christian Nation? The United States in Popular Perception and Historical Reality

By T. Adams Upchurch | Go to book overview

Introduction
The Church-State Issue as Historical Entertainment

PERCEPTIONS

Americans have a fascination with the issue of separation of church and state. For generations, scholars and laymen alike have been interested in this complex and controversial topic. In recent years, the fascination has reached a crescendo, growing to the point that one wonders what could possibly remain to be said about church-state relations that has not already been said. Pick up a newspaper at random in Anytown, USA, and chances are that a church-state issue will appear periodically as a local concern. Watch television news talk shows or listen to radio talk shows, and odds are the result will be the same. Go to any large library or bookstore, and the shelves will likely be stocked with church-state books. A simple Internet search for “separation of church and state” will currently yield more than 2 million hits. Then there are publishing houses that are devoted to printing nothing but church-state literature. There is even a scholarly journal published under the auspices of a major university that is devoted to nothing but this one issue.1 Few other historical topics can boast of so much ongoing attention.

The driving force behind all this attention, more often than not, is the religious right (orthodox Christian organizations that oppose the complete divorce of church and state) and/or individual Christians who feel it necessary to share their faith and therefore their political views publicly and regularly. Columnist Stanley Fish complained about this evangelical outspokenness, expressing incredulity that Christian writers Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind series

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