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.
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 noblest traditions of their faith.
©2006 Randall Balmer; © & (P)2006 HighBridge Company
"With both scholarly credibility and popular stature as an expert, [Balmer's] professional success allows him to write a polemical book that takes some risks." (Publishers Weekly)
This book is well worth the read. It attempts (and I believe rather successfully) to point out how the conservative right wing Republican Party has appropriated and groundlessly hijacked the name, evangelical. In my opinion it points out the areas in which right-wing conservatives have inappropriately attempted to blend religion with politics and governmental policy. These include tax structure, attacks on public education, and the supposed rallying cry, abortion.
As a church historian Balmer points out the proud legacy of evangelicals in the 19th century. As active progressives, they worked against slavery and other cultural inequities from a position of being unaligned with the government. It is Balmer's point at the First Amendment is the greatest gift the founding fathers could have given religion in the US. This separation however is coming under attack as right-wing conservative "evangelicals" attempt to institutionalize one moral perspective on the legislation of this country.
Well written and engaging, this book points out the inconsistencies between the "reinterpreted" history that conservatives want to claim and the actual reality of what evangelicals were involved with in reality.
This is a refreshing book, in that it reveals the existence of "evangelical christians" who don't consider themselves part of the "religious right." Balmer describes the three decade long merging of the religious right with the Republican Party as a means to gain governmental power and support for their brand of religion.
He then reviews the history of state establishments of religion, and why the first amendment was added to the Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights. He argues that "freedom of religion" has been good for religion; while other countries, with established religions, see their religions withering away.
His book, among other things, is a call to evangelicals to reject the leadership of the religious right, and their attempts to "establish" their religion as the "official" one for the United States.
Balmer explains so much that just didn't make sense to me before. I recommend the book for evangelicals, and for anyone who has been concerned by the push, in recent years, to eliminate "separation of church and state."
I was a little trepid at first, but WOW ... this is a book about following Christ and living by the Gospels. The religion of Jesus rather than about Jesus. This is one sentence that sums up his views "The wanton abuse of natural resources is fundamentally incompatible with a view of creation as God's handiwork." If more people had this in their heart, the world would be a better place. Amen. 5 Stars
As a liberal in Conservative Church I completely and utterly identify with the author's point of view. This book makes convincing and compelling polemics and should be read by every Christian from every denomination.
Balmer makes an interesting analysis of how the religious right has drifted 180 out from its Baptist roots of 200 years ago. He eloquently makes the point that the separation of church and state actually strengthens rather than weakens faith. A couple points start to sound a little bit "rantish", but overall an interesting and thoughtful book.
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