A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State
In this fascinating, well-documented historical exploration of religious expression in American life, Hart (The University Gets Religion) argues that while religion has long had a voice in the public square, its current influence is extraordinary. Hart moves smoothly back and forth through American history as he traces the substance of debates over America's providential role, religion and public education, what it means to be a nation ""under God"" and the dream of a unified national faith. His discussion of the 19th-century rise of anti-Catholicism and the evolution of Roman Catholic attitudes toward involvement in American political life (as exemplified in the campaigns of Al Smith and JFK) is particularly engaging, as is his critique of the current enthusiasm for ""compassionate conservatism."" Evangelicals have not only lost the idea that churches had a singular spiritual role, but have also surrendered the notion, argues Hart, ""that the churches' task is ultimately more important than the state's."" One only wishes that he could have made a stronger argument for his central premise-that the claims and character of Christianity mean that believers living in a democratic state must balance, not confuse and conjoin, their dual sets of duties, both as pilgrims and citizens.