A History: How Faith Shaped The Presidency From John F. Kennedy To George W. Bush
On Sale: January 1, 2009
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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‚ÄĒfrom
Kennedy's 1960 speech that proposed an almost absolute wall
between American political and religious life to the soft
religiosity of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society; from
Richard Nixon's manipulation of religion to fit his own
needs to Gerald Ford's quiet stoicism; from Jimmy Carter's
introduction of evangelicalism into the mainstream to Ronald
Reagan's co-option of the same group; from Bill Clinton's
covert way of turning religion into a non-issue to George W.
Bush's 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 today's 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
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