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Politics, Religion, and the Common Good: Advancing a Distinctly American Conversation About Religion's Role in Our Shared Life – April 17, 2000

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • jossey-bass; 1 edition (april 17, 2000) (1605)
  • Unknown
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Review Text

  • By Anthony G Pizza on July 26, 2004

    Theologian/professor Martin Marty begins this important, well researched book speaking of President Clinton confessing, "I have sinned," to a body of clergy at a White House religious leaders' breakfast. Marty cites this as a notable enough blurring of public and private religious practice, considering the still recent history of Clinton's adultery, perjury, and subsequent impeachment.But the date- September 11, 1998 -only recalls the same date three years later when worldwide religious and political ends met with unspeakable horror in New York City, Washington, DC and rural Pennsylvania. Although written before 9-11 and George W. Bush's election, "Politics, Religion, and the Common Good," is a timely, cautionary study of how faith-filled people should dialogue in American public life.The book grew from the Public Religion Project, organized by Professor Marty at the University of Chicago where he has taught and chaired for 35 years. It was the first of a two-part paper drawing from sponsored conversations to "promote efforts and bring to light and interpret the forces of faith in a pluralistic society."Marty's writing style (he wrote the book with Jonathan Moore) is scholarly and objective (if a bit aloof) and his approach thorough. He examines benefits religious foundation brings to public debate through churchgoer, interest group, congregation, denomination. He consistently demonstrates the blurry line dividing church and state in everything from tax law to historic preservation to faith-based efforts combating homelessness, hunger, abortion and war. But he also acknowledges political factions dividing religious groups, who often point to the same scriptures to justify their opposing ends.Marty also invokes history to prove his points. He shows the roots of "separation of church and state," showing how founding fathers James Madison and Thomas Jefferson interpreted a phrase which influenced American law without being included in even one of its key documents. He also discusses unity of religion in the rise of the ecumenical movement, its attempts at social change and the politics it requires for unity.You wish Marty could have written the entire book with the panache and passion of his final chapter, where he urges people of faith to join the national debate and let their voices be civilly heard to solve problems. Yet, despite some obtuse prose, "Politics, Religion, and the Common Good," is a quick-reading level-setting volume introducing players and playbook in faith-based political debate. Worthwhile reading in an election year based on ideology, and highly recommended.


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