cover image Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right

Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right

Randall Balmer. Eerdmans, $16.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7934-9

Balmer (Solemn Reverence), a Dartmouth University religion professor, delivers a brisk and informative reassessment of “the alliance between white evangelicals and the far-right precincts of the Republican party.” According to Balmer, the court case that galvanized Evangelical political action was not the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, but the 1971 decision in Green v. Connally, which threatened the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that discriminated on the basis of race. Evangelicals emerged as a political force in the 1970s after decades of retreat from secular society following the 1925 Scopes trial, according to Balmer, who details how opposition to state interference in “segregation academies” such as Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Christian Academy and Bob Jones University (which had its tax-exempt status revoked in 1976) sparked the formation of the “religious right.” Paul Weyrich and other political activists then “brilliantly shifted public perception of the movement away from racism toward a more high-minded defense of religious freedom,” setting the stage for conservative Christians, further galvanized by the abortion issue and fears of “secular humanism,” to turn against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. Enriched with lucid discussions of legal issues and incisive sketches of political and religious leaders, this revisionist history is sure to spark debate. (Aug.)