Item description for Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament by Randall Balmer...
The distinguished author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory returns with a searing examination of a new generation of evangelical leaders who have hijacked the Christian faith on behalf of the Republican Party
For much of American history, evangelicalism was aligned with progressive political causes. Nineteenth-century evangelicals fought for the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, and public education. But contemporary conservative activists have defaulted on this majestic legacy, embracing instead an agenda virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party platform. Abortion, gay marriage, intelligent design--the Religious Right is fighting, and winning, some of the most important political battles of the twentyfirst century. How has evangelical Christianity become so entrenched in partisan politics?
Randall Balmer is both an evangelical Christian and a historian of American religion. Struggling to reconcile the contemporary state of evangelical faith in America with its proud tradition of progressivism, Balmer has headed to the frontlines of some of the most powerful and controversial organizations tied to the Religious Right. With a skillful combination of grassroots organization, ideological conviction, and media savvy, the leaders of the movement have mobilized millions of American evangelical Christians behind George W. Bush's hard-right political agenda.
Deftly combining ethnographic research, theological reflections, and historical context, Balmer laments the trivialization of Christianity--and offers a rallying cry for liberal Christians to reclaim the noble traditions of their faith.
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Randall Balmer is Professor of American Religious History at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a visiting professor at Yale University Divinity School. Balmer has published ten books, including Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, which was made into a three-part documentary for PBS. He lives in Woodbury, Connecticut, with his wife, Catharine Randall, who is also a professor and an author.
Randall Balmer has an academic affiliation as follows - Barnard College Barnard College, Columbia University Barnard College B.
Reviews - What do customers think about Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament?
Return to faith and good works Mar 23, 2008
The author is an evangelical Christian who wants to "reclaim the faith from the Religious Right." (p. xii) He is also a professor of history at Columbia University. He insists the Religious Right has lost its way from the teachings of Jesus and the words of the Bible into a morass of narrowness, legalism, censoriousness, and misogyny. He wants to recall them to Jesus' love of the poor, the marginalized, and the downtrodden, and to the teachings and work of evangelicals of earlier centuries of American history.
That the modern Religious Right organized around the anti-abortion fight after the Supreme Court's Roe-vs-Wade decision Balmer calls a myth. In fact, in 1971 the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution calling for legislation permitting abortion under conditions of rape, incest, or deformity of the fetus. The political awakening of the fundamentalists really dates to 1975. The occasion was the IRS attempt to revoke the tax exempt status of Bob Jones University for racist regulations. "The IRS attempt to deny tax-exempt status to segregated private schools, then, represented an assault on the evangelical subculture," (p.14).
Most of all, Balmer explains, the Religious Right is contradicting both its historical past and the tradition of the Bible. He describes Roger Williams as both the first Baptist and the founder of the principle of religious freedom. Williams invented and practiced the idea that religion could only be free by separating from entanglement with the state. It was Baptists who insisted on the first amendment and the Wall between Church and State. Contrary to their ideological forefathers, today's Religious Right expects the state to enforce their contentions against abortion and gays. Yet, in the New Testament Jesus says nothing about these issues, but plenty against divorce, which the religious have quietly accepted, and don't even inveigh against any longer. Most of all, Balmer laments that the Religious Right has made a devil's bargain with guns, war, and capitalism - forgetting their historic care for the poor, the mistreated, and the oppressed about whom Jesus had very much to say.
According to Balmer the search for tax finance for religious schools, and for political power has led the evangelicals astray and away from the best of their historic past. The church is best when separate from the state, promoting its moral vision, not attempting to enforce minority views on society.
Evangelicals from a historical perspective Feb 6, 2008
No need to add to other kudos for this book. It was refreshing to see an historically accurate recounting of the evangelical movement, rightly pointing out some of its achievements and shining light on its political hijacking by a few cynical folks who wanted to take it away from its social liberal roots and use it for its on purposes.
The Religious Right and politics in the US Jan 17, 2008
Randall Balmer's book is a fascinating discussion about the Religious Right in America and its influence on politics. He writes from the point of view of a self-confessed Evangelical whose upbringing mirrors that of many evangelicals in the US. However his personal stance on certain issues puts him at odds with the Religious Right, those who claim the mantle of evangelicalism, and this book looks closely at several areas of politics and theology where Balmer believes the Religious Right are wrong and where they are highlighting minor points and missing the vital overarching themes of the Gospel, such as care for the poor and outcast.
His subjects range from debates about women priests, homosexuality and abortion to the change in nature of traditional Baptist beliefs; from discussions about creationism and Intelligent design to the Religious Right's desire to remove the wall between church and state. Balmer's writing style is always easy to read with personal comments and insights along with reports of conversations. The usual suspects in this kind of book - Pat Robertson, Dr James Dobson and Jerry Falwell - pop up as examples of the extreme nature of some of the Religious Right and reading some of their words in black and white on the page is pretty frightening. Balmer isn't reticent about his own voting choices (being firmly a democrat) although he is by no means always positive about the democrats and their record in office, but the overall theme of the book - that the Religious Right are hijacking various issues as a power struggle and trying to influence the Republican party - is a persuasive one.
Like Englishman Stephen Bates's book on this theme, 'God's Own Country', the reader is left with a healthy fear of some of the excesses of the Religious Right, with the wholehearted hope that most people don't see evangelicals or the church like this, and with considerable concern for the future of evangelicalism in the US unless the moderates get themselves into the fray. Sobering reading.
Religion works best when not mixed with politics Aug 31, 2007
Balmer, a left-wing evangelical Christian, believes that his religious faith has been "hijacked" by the Religious Right. It seems that being a Christian and being a Republican has become synonymous in the minds of certain people, both within and without the faith.
The first chapter starts off discussing the Religious Rights' two favorite bugaboos--abortion and homosexuality. Jesus said nothing about either in the New Testament, but in the politicized churches of the Religious Right, that's just about all one hears about. What about poverty? What about racism? Oops, the Religious Right did spend a lot of energy trying to maintain Bob Jones University's tax exempt status....In any event, Balmer makes his point clear that abortion, undesirable as it is, is no place for government intervention.
Balmer provides a short history of the Baptist church (many on the religious right self-identify as Baptist). The early Baptist church supported a separation between church and state; this idea ended up getting written into the Bill of Rights. The politicized church of today would be unrecognizable to the early Baptists. It is noted that religion, predominantly various strains of Christianity, has thrived in the United States in this atmosphere of church/state separation. Balmer likens the need of the Religious Right to have symbols of the faith on public property, to Golden Calf-type idolatry.
Although admitting that parents have a right to choose schools for their children, Balmer considers any school situation other than public school potentially antidemocratic. This includes school vouchers, homeschooling, and (to a lesser extent) charter schools. Balmer also describes a "Patrick Henry College" that not only allows young evangelicals to continue their isolation from the world through their college years, but also encourages them to bring their beliefs into the political system (such as becoming a Supreme Court justice....)
Creationism, or Intelligent Design, or whatever they're calling it this week, is not only unscientific, but damages religious faith by requiring it to undergo scientific rigor.
There is one area where the Religious Right is starting to break ranks with the rest of the Republicans, and that is the environment. Evangelicals are moving away from a "dominion" model (let's use everything up) and towards a "stewardship" model (the Earth is the Lord's, and we as Christians are to take care of it).
The book concludes with a list of more Religious Right foibles, and finally, a reminder of what religious people ought to be putting their energies toward (such as abolishing torture, capital punishment, etc. as well as the usual war/racism/poverty stuff that Republicans haven't, in general, seen fit to deal with for one reason or another).
Balmer presents his arguments well. Occasionally, however, some of his personal political viewpoints, beyond what is covered in the book do come rushing out. For example, he seems to advocate vegetarianism to some degree, on page 151 ("not yet dead animal hanging from a slaughterhouse hook") and p. 186. He is a cheerleader for the public schools with all their faults, admonishing the Religious Right not to either modify them (e.g. having any sort of religious presence) or shun them (vouchers, private schools, etc.) On page 135, he gives the example of the radio to try to say that there is no "liberal media"--what about television?
It is interesting to compare this book with _Failing America's Faithful_, by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. (I reviewed it earlier). Despite the denominational difference (Townsend's a Catholic, Balmer's an Evangelical) the themes are similar; the Religious Right should not be allowed to monopolize Christianity in America. However, while Townsend advocates a left-wing version of the Religious Right, Balmer emphasizes that religion works best when it stays peripheral to political activities.
Where is the logic?? Jun 17, 2007
How can one who does not believe all the Bible -- only his own chosen verses, and many of those out of context -- argue against the failures of others whom he claims are not measuring up to the Bible's teachings ?? On another note, the Bible stands on its on teachings. You cannot argue for or against something on the basis of tradition. Truth is truth, right is right, regardless of what others say. Many of his arguments are moot, because he doesn't believe the truth of a book he seeks to defend. His arguments for the most part are his personal beliefs versus the Christian Conservatives. **** If you truly want to understand the role of religion and politics in American History, a better read would be "The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States" by Benjamin Franklin Morris. (Originally published in 1864 -- recently reprinted and available from www.americanvision.org) Another Good Read --
"America a Christian Nation" by Stephen Mcdowell. Let the facts speak for themselves.