Take a look at this list of First World Countries from the collaborative Nation’s Online Project. Based on this list, I‘d guess that only in Turkey and Israel does religion play as big of a role in politics as in the U.S. (OK, I’ll give you Italy, too. Probably can’t have The Vatican in your backyard without it having a big influence.)
The truth is, America is a very religious nation. The fact that we can practice the religion of our choice without government intervention, does not, of course, mean that people can not bring their religious views into their politics. There are books out the wazoo concerning the interplay of these strange bedfellows in America.
We’re going to look at some examples…
Is this one too far to the right?
The Stoning of Sally Kern: the liberal attack on Christian conservatism and why we must take a stand by Sally Kern
It may be awhile before Oklahoma has another politician who gets as much press for controversial comments as State Representative Sally Kern. In this book, Kern addresses her critics. You can read the raison d’étre for her book in her own words from this article in the conservative Tulsa Beacon.
Is this one too far to the left?
Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future by Robin Meyers
So often, when politics and religion meet in a book, one side/party is explaining why the other side/party is wrong. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might remind us.) In this YouTube video interview, Oklahoma author Rev. Robin Meyers gives us his reason for writing this book.
Ah! Perhaps this one is just right!
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell
I’ll be honest with you. I would be much more apt to read Robin Meyers’ book than Sally Kern’s tome. That’s because my religious and political sympathies lie more in Rev. Meyers’ court. But, perhaps, I would be better served reading American Grace, which is being touted as a “groundbreaking examination of religion in America.” The book is based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life. One reviewer says it “will do to religion what the Kinsey Report did to sex: document, dissect, and assess the role religion plays in our national experience.”
In addition to assessing the role religion plays in American culture and politics, the authors address three “seismic shocks” they say have lead to polarization in our society: the plummet of religious observance in the 1960s; the resultant rise of evangelism and the Religious Right in the 1980s; and the disaffection from religion by the young in the 1990s and 2000s.
The book is full of charts, graphs, maps, and surprising findings—like how the the growth of interfaith marriages and friendships, and the exploration of different faiths (even the proclivity of Americans to change their faiths) is making it difficult to sustain interreligious hostility in our country. Perhaps, the authors surmise, this is America’s grace.