Politics, Religion, and the Common Good: Advancing a Distinctly American Conversation about Religion's Role in Our Shared Life

Martin E. Marty, Author, Jonathan Moore, With Jossey-Bass $23 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7879-5031-6

Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and senior editor of Christian Century magazine, argues that religion can contribute to the common good but it can also be dangerous and must be approached with caution. According to Marty, citizens who are inspired by their religious beliefs to do good can improve the nation as a whole, although religious institutions no longer have the political cachet they once possessed. He believes that religion can be divisive, disruptive and even violent but asserts that it is nonetheless key to the well-being of the nation. Religion can provide a ""voice for the voiceless,"" give people strength during a crisis, counteract excessive individualism and energize people who might otherwise be politically apathetic. Marty notes that religiously motivated individuals need not wait for their church to catch up to their political commitments: civil rights activists, he suggests, were inspired by religious convictions to protest Jim Crow long before official church bodies agreed that segregation and disenfranchisement were un-Christian. In this election year, readers will find especially relevant Marty's exploration of the tensions between America's separation of church and state and Americans' desire for our leaders, especially our president, to be religious. This book offers a balanced and thoughtful contribution to the ongoing conversation about faith and the public sphere. (May)