Seeds of intrigue about religious politics, firmly planted in 2004 when Republicans traced their victories to impassioned support from "values voters," are blossoming this spring in a bumper crop of new books on the topic.
Authors writing from a range of vantage points, including more than a few evangelicals, aim to decipher the meaning of today's cozy relationship between the ruling GOP and its church-going Christian base.
At the heart of many new releases lies a "let's get back to basics" project. Mindful of the success of evangelical Jim Wallis's bestseller God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It (Harper San Francisco, 2005), several titles search the Christian scriptures for themes and find them to be decidedly at odds with what Republicans have accomplished over the past decade in Washington, D.C. Others seek the heart of American evangelicalism by probing the tradition's not-always-conservative history. In the process, scribes of varied political stripes lament how the misuse of religion in the American politics of recent years has fanned flames of discord and made the world a more dangerous place.
"People love going back to the original sources and the original texts and the original political contexts," says Andrew Corbin, senior editor at Doubleday Religious, which releases The Politics of Jesus by Obery Hendricks Jr. in August. "They love to get to the roots of things."
By offering new takes on some age-old issues, publishers aim to strike a chord as resonant as any pipe organ's. But will the ones hearing the ka-ching of cash registers be from the long-ignored religious left? Or the camp of contrarian evangelicals? Will they be from the ranks of public authority figures who've never much entered the taboo territory of religious politics before now? Perhaps only God knows, but publicists are doing their best to make sure these writers aren't just preaching to their usual choirs.
Big Names, Big Books
Arguably the biggest eye-catcher of the season comes from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. Now a professor of foreign affairs at Georgetown University, in The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs she responds at length to persistent questions posed since 2001 about the proper role of religion in international affairs. Pragmatic in approach, Albright scolds the Bush administration for galvanizing America's enemies by cloaking …