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God in the White House: A History

How Faith Shaped the Presidency

ISBN13: 9780060872588

ISBN10: 0060872586


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  • How did we go from John F. Kennedy declaring that religion should play no role in the elections to Bush saying, "I believe that God wants me to be president"?

    Historian Randall Balmer takes us on a tour of presidential religiosity in the last half of the twentieth century, from Kennedys 1960 speech that proposed an almost absolute wall between American political and religious life to the soft religiosity of Lyndon B. Johnsons Great Society; from Richard Nixons manipulation of religion to fit his own needs to Gerald Fords quiet stoicism; from Jimmy Carters introduction of evangelicalism into the mainstream to Ronald Reagans co-option of the same group; from Bill Clintons covert way of turning religion into a non-issue to George W. Bushs overt Christian messages, Balmer reveals the role religion has played in the personal and political lives of these American presidents.

    Americans were once content to disregard religion as a criterion for voting, as in most of the modern presidential elections before Jimmy Carter.But todays voters have come to expect candidates to fully disclose their religious views and to deeply illustrate their personal relationship to the Almighty. God in the White House explores the paradox of Americans expectation that presidents should simultaneously trumpet their religious views and relationship to God while supporting the separation of church and state. Balmer tells the story of the politicization of religion in the last half of the twentieth century, as well as the "religionization" of our politics. He reflects on the implications of this shift, which have reverberated in both our religious and political worlds, and offers a new lens through which to see not only these extraordinary individuals, but also our current political situation.

  • Randall Herbert Balmer

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    Balmer traces the cultures journey from the days of Kennedy and his famous speech promising to keep religion out of politics to George W. Bush trolling explicitly for believers votes . . . Balmer wisely counsels skepticism that candidates religious statements foretell moral governance.

    - The Boston Globe

    A thoughtful analysis of the nine presidents from Kennedy to George W. Bush. Balmer contends that no clear connection exists between a presidents faith and personal morality and his policies. . . Balmers critique of American Christians self-delusion and hubris is commendable.

    - Books & Culture

    "This book is nothing if it isnt timely... it serves as a reminder of who we are as a nation, where we came from, and why our founders, mostly northern European Protestants, were so fearful of mingling `the rhetoric of religion with the political stump speech."

    - The Buffalo News

    "[Balmer] discounts the notion that the United States is a Christian nation, calling it a comfortable myth... his research for this book is impeccable."

    - The Oklahoman


God in the White House: A History