With God on Our Side

William Martin, Author
William Martin, Author Broadway Books $27.5 (432p) ISBN 978-0-553-06745-3
Paperback - 436 pages - 978-0-553-06749-1
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The confluence of politics and religion in American life is explored with insight and style in this important new book from Martin (A Prophet With Honor), a professor of sociology at Rice University. Focusing on the modern era, the author analyzes the significance of church and clergy in the tradition of social action, from the civil rights movement through the growth of the Christian Coalition. In a blend of fast-paced journalism and in-depth scholarship, the text incorporates numerous interviews with, and personal accounts by, key figures, weaving together many frayed threads of meaning in contemporary American political life. Scrupulously fair, pointing out what he sees as the media's biases and double standards, Martin details the events and personalities that have infused our politics with religious fervor. From JFK's Catholicism to Billy Graham's flirtation and subsequent disillusionment with politicians; from Jimmy Carter's born-again candidacy to the rise of evangelical political action groups; from Ronald Reagan's courtship of the Moral Majority to the current configuration of the surprisingly diverse religious right, Martin deftly guides the grand tour, putting the fiery social issues of our times--abortion, homosexuality, public education, AIDS and gun control--in the context of the conservative Christian agenda. Martin concludes with a masterful essay on the subtle interpretation of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison regarding separation of church and state, affirming their non-ironic proposition that the health of America's religious communities derives from being apart from the corrupting power of politics. Photos. Author tour. (Sept.)
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