Judgment Day at the White House: A Critical Declaration Exploring Moral Issues and the Political Use and Abuse of Religion

Gabriel J. Fackre, Editor Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company $12 (200p) ISBN 978-0-8028-4671-6
The last half of 1998 has been momentous for the Clinton administration. Since August, President Clinton has attempted to evade the sharp swords of politicians and lawyers in a struggle to maintain his innocence in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton's public speeches in August and September asking forgiveness for his actions now have sparked heated debate among theologians and moralists. In late September, 135 scholars signed a ""Declaration Concerning Religion, Ethics, and the Crisis in the Clinton Presidency,"" which is reprinted at the beginning of this collection of essays. The declaration protests the ""manipulation of religion and debasing of moral language in the discussion of presidential responsibility."" The signers also believe that ""serious misunderstandings of repentance and forgiveness are being exploited for political advantage."" In the first section of the book, six of the declaration's signatories--Jean Bethke Elshtain, Max L. Stackhouse, Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew Lamb, Don Browning and John Lawrence--debate the politics of repentance and forgiveness. A second section explores ""biblical, pastoral, and theological perspectives on public morality."" Here New Testament scholar Robert Jewett (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) argues that the Bible teaches that confession of sin is appropriate only in the religious community and not in the public square. In a third section, critics of the declaration speak out. For instance, Donald and Peggy Shriver, president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, New York, and former assistant general secretary for research of the National Council of Churches, respectively, argue that the declaration is not theological in intent, that is too judgmental and that it ignores the compassion and forgiveness for sinners that are the bulwarks of the Christian tradition. A final section includes remarks by national columnists like Stephen J. Carter, who contends that the Clinton crisis offers a good opportunity for the country to reset its moral course. These collected essays grapple honestly and courageously with a problem the American republic has faced since its founding--the relationship between religion and politics in America. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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