God's Name In Vain

Stephen Carter

Published by Basic Books, 2001
ISBN 10: 0465008879 / ISBN 13: 9780465008872
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Synopsis: Stephen Carter argues that American politics is unimaginable without America's religious voice. Using contemporary and historical examples, from abolitionist sermons to presidential candidates' confessions, he illustrates ways in which religion and politics do and do not mesh well and ways in which spiritual perspectives might make vital contributions to our national debates. He also warns us of the importance of setting out some sensible limits, so that religious institutions do not allow themselves to be seduced by the lure of temporal power, and offers strong examples of principled and prophetic religious activism for those who choose their God before their country.

Review: God's Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics is a timely work of cultural history by Stephen L. Carter, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of The Culture of Disbelief. The book presents two interrelated arguments: "First, that there is nothing wrong, and much right, with the robust participation of the nation's many religious voices in debates over matters of public moment. Second, that religions--although not democracy--will almost always lose their best, most spiritual selves when they choose to be involved in the partisan, electoral side of politics." In making these arguments, God's Name in Vain cites historical anecdotes ranging from the Abolitionist movement to the Christian Coalition. Carter's writing is rhetorically powerful, his historical knowledge is estimable, and his spiritual and political convictions are passionate. But Carter's real crusade in God's Name in Vain is not intellectual, theological, or political. It is moral. He writes in the book's Introduction: "[M]orality, in religious terms, is nothing but the actual practice of one's religious faith. Religion is what we profess and morality is what it moves us to do. Politics needs morality, which means that politics needs religion." The idea is interesting, and it is popular, but it is a fallacy. Even Carter's most devout readers may be disappointed that his elegant ideology is blind to the reality of secular morality. --Michael Joseph Gross

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Title: God's Name In Vain
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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