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
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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