Religion and American Politics

author: Alan Wolfe, Department of Political Science, Boston College
published: Feb. 25, 2012,   recorded: March 2005,   views: 2799
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Alan Wolfe vigorously denies that a theocracy is rising in the United States. In his richly detailed tour of the nation’s current Christian revival, he focuses on two very different movements. “Fundamentalists turn their back on culture; they can grow up and never meet anyone who doesn’t share their faith,” says Wolfe. But evangelical Christians “feel an obligation to engage, and as annoying as that engagement can be, it means that evangelicals have to be seduced by modernity.” This is good news for liberal values, believes Wolfe, because the evangelical movement, which participates more in contemporary culture, is far more dominant. He describes the explosive growth of mega-churches in American exurbs, where thousands of congregants flock to hear Christian rock music and messages about loving Jesus and each other. While they’re “put off by overt religiosity,” they still talk about sin. Yet strict prohibitions against such activities as dancing are starting to fade. The bestselling books at Christian book stores (after Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life) tend to be diet books such as Slim for Him. Wolfe believes Americans are shaped by culture and religion, and when the two clash, “culture almost always wins.” He dismisses the notion that the Christian right or even moral values won the 2004 election for George Bush, and disputes the idea that “we’re turning against modernity in the direction of a fundamentalist religious revival.” He believes that a small clique of Christian lobbyists have influenced the current administration around such issues as stem cell research, and that Congress is shamelessly pandering to these groups, rather than speaking for American Christians, who, says Wolfe “are as American as they are Christian.”

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