In preparation for a panel involving media figures I will moderate at ETS in Washington DC in November on evangelicals and the media, I am now reading a series of books on evangelicals and the public square. I finished the first one today. The author is a writer for Salon.com, who describes herself as a secular Jew. She portrays much of the religious right as led by people who want to turn the US into a Christian theocracy, something that strikes me as an exaggeration and overgeneralization. She covers a wide array of topics: intelligent design, AIDS, homosexuals, the courts, faith based organizations, abortion and abstinence movement as well as the belief that the USA was founded as a Christian nation. The book is full of complaints about the religious right and sets forth the fear of what might happen if these theocrats succeed. The stealing of individual liberties and rights is her concern as she comes close in spots to saying that the movement operates on the edge of fascism and has roots and similarities to the old John Birch movement. The book is a call to secularists to be as organized as the right is and for citizens to return to Enlightenment and reason. She sees no historical merit in any of the views taken by the right and writes with a combination of quotations from them and citations of data about them. For those of the right to make their case in society seems to be ruled out of bounds because of their religious roots in their arguments. The bulk of the book is a harangue and alarmist with a few caveats in spots to protect against such a charge. The discliamers do not really cancel out the tone. The book does in spots reveal how some Christian leaders have been quite sloppy about how they express themselves in a society that is set up constitutionally to protect rights of both the majority and minority with checks and balances. Still it is a revealing treatment about how some on the secular left see the evangelical movement and where the cultural wars have us as a nation with lines being drawn between the sides. In spots the research on some of the topics is interesting for what it yields about how resources are contended for and distributed. She also claims correctly in spots that conservatives sometimes overstate their case or ignore evidence counter to their particular empahsis. At those levels, the book is worth some reflection, although the portrait is decidedly one-sided, reflecting the advocacy that is at the core of the book's thesis. The nature of the advocacy means that at many points it is the pot calling the kettle black. I will note other books as I complete them.
Coming Kingdom: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg - Sept 25