Randall Balmer, an evangelical and professor of religious history, has written a new book, excerpted in the Chronicle of Higher Education under the title above. On a day when professed "values" candidates are trampling each other to be the first to marginalize Arkansas people on account of their sexual orientation, these words from "Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament" offer an antidote. A small slice:
By the late 1970s, the leaders of the religious right felt their hegemony over American society slipping away. One reading of the religious right is that many evangelicals believed that their faith could no longer compete in the new, expanded religious marketplace. No wonder the religious right wants to renege on the First Amendment. No wonder the religious right seeks to encode its version of morality into civil and criminal law. No wonder the religious right wants to emblazon its religious creeds and symbols on public property. Faced now with a newly expanded religious marketplace, it wants to change the rules of engagement so that evangelicals can enjoy a competitive advantage. Rather than gear up for new competition, as Beecher did in the 19th century, the religious right seeks to use the machinations of government and public policy to impose its vision of a theocratic order
The Bible I read tells of freedom for captives and deliverance from oppression. It teaches that those who refuse to act with justice or who neglect the plight of those less fortunate have some explaining to do. But the Bible is also about good news. It promises redemption and forgiveness, a chance to start anew and, with divine help, to get it right. My evangelical theology assures me that no one, not even Karl Rove or James Dobson, lies beyond the reach of redemption, and that even a people led astray can find their way home.
That sounds like good news to me. Very good news indeed.