Medieval America: Cultural Influences of Christianity in the Law and Public Policy

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9780739188101: Medieval America: Cultural Influences of Christianity in the Law and Public Policy
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Well into the twenty-first century, the United States remains one of the most highly religious industrial democracies on earth. Recent Gallup surveys suggest that 76 percent of Americans believe that the Bible is divinely inspired or the direct word of God. In Medieval America, Andrew M Koch and Paul H. Gates, Jr. offer a thoughtful examination of how this strong religious feeling, coupled with Christian doctrine, affects American political debates and collective practices and surveying the direct and indirect influence of religion and faith on American political culture.

Koch and Gates open a more critical dialogue on the political influence of religion in American politics, showing that people’s faith shapes their political views and the policies they support. Even with secular structures and processes, a democratic regime will reflect the belief patterns distributed among the public. Delving into a perspicacious analysis of the religious components in current practices in education, the treatment of political symbols, crime and punishment, the human body, and democratic politics, they contend that promoting and maintaining a free, open, and tolerant society requires the necessary limitation of religious influence in the domains of law and policy. Readers interested in religion and politics will find much to discuss in this incisive exploration of Christian beliefs and their impact on American political discourse.

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About the Author:

Andrew M. Koch is professor of political philosophy at the Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Paul H. Gates, Jr. is professor of communication law in the Department of Communication at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Review:

This book examines the ways that religious beliefs affect the development of law and public policy in the US. Koch and Gates (both, Appalachian State Univ.) adopt the position that US public policy is developed through conflict between an in-group and an out-group. When the in-group is Christian, the public policies produced will have a strong Christian component. In chapter 1, the authors present their argument that there is a persistent element in US culture that can be considered medieval. Medieval culture is pre-modern and its ideology is based in religious truths and universality. The remainder of the book examines the history of public policies that are created by the influence of religion in the political sphere. Chapter 2 describes the contours of the debate over teaching evolution in public schools. Chapter 3 examines the development of the US flag as a quasi-religious icon. Religious influences on crime and punishment are the focus of chapter 4. Chapter 5 considers the impact of religious views on the functions of the human body. The final chapter emphasizes the authors' argument that their work is not anti-spiritual, but anti-dogmatic. US public policy should be grounded in modern concepts, not ancient writings. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

Medieval America is a fascinating and insightful analysis of the intersection of religious thought and the law. Contrasting the worldview of religious doctrine with that of the Enlightenment tradition, Professors Koch and Gates astutely tease out the often subtle influence of religion on public policy and on the development of legal doctrine. From flag desecration statutes to controversies over evolution and sexuality, this work provides a thoughtful and highly accessible look at a vital topic. (Matthew D. Bunker, University of Alabama)

In Medieval America, Andrew Koch and Paul Gates explore the continuing tensions between religious and scientific worldviews in American politics. Their argument will intrigue and trouble all who would defend American democracy against its increasingly vocal “medieval” critics. (Nancy Love, Appalachian State University)

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