Thumpin' It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today's Presidential Politics

Jacques Berlinerblau, Author . Westminster John Knox $16.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-664-23173-6

Georgetown University professor Berlinerblau (The Secular Bible ) makes the unoriginal argument that American politicians on the left and right use Scripture in their speeches, and that policy wonks on both sides of the aisle draw on the Bible to defend positions on the environment, stem-cell research and foreign policy. Berlinerblau finds politicians' use of Scripture to be shallow—they offer “poor and tendentious readings,” throwing in a verse here or there and failing to acknowledge Scripture's internal diversity and contradictions. A few of Berlinerblau's sweeping historical assertions are questionable—did the U.S. really undergo a “thoroughgoing” secularization in the first 75 years of the 20th century? A wealth of scholarship on the persistence of conservative religion and the extent to which religion shaped liberal agendas such as feminism would suggest not. His tone has the faint veneer of sarcasm (“Enter, as if on cue, the Evangelical Climate Initiative”), so when he gives speechwriters tips about using Scripture effectively—be vague, avoid “theological depth”—it is hard to tell if he is being sincere or snide. Two concluding chapters assess the ways leading presidential candidates, from Clinton to McCain, present their religious bona fides. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/03/2007
Release date: 12/01/2007
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