Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America's Heartland

Princeton University Press
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No state has voted Republican more consistently or widely or for longer than Kansas. To understand red state politics, Kansas is the place. It is also the place to understand red state religion. The Kansas Board of Education has repeatedly challenged the teaching of evolution, Kansas voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage, the state is a hotbed of antiabortion protest--and churches have been involved in all of these efforts. Yet in 1867 suffragist Lucy Stone could plausibly proclaim that, in the cause of universal suffrage, "Kansas leads the world!" How did Kansas go from being a progressive state to one of the most conservative?

In Red State Religion, Robert Wuthnow tells the story of religiously motivated political activism in Kansas from territorial days to the present. He examines how faith mixed with politics as both ordinary Kansans and leaders such as John Brown, Carrie Nation, William Allen White, and Dwight Eisenhower struggled over the pivotal issues of their times, from slavery and Prohibition to populism and anti-communism. Beyond providing surprising new explanations of why Kansas became a conservative stronghold, the book sheds new light on the role of religion in red states across the Midwest and the United States. Contrary to recent influential accounts, Wuthnow argues that Kansas conservatism is largely pragmatic, not ideological, and that religion in the state has less to do with politics and contentious moral activism than with relationships between neighbors, friends, and fellow churchgoers.


This is an important book for anyone who wants to understand the role of religion in American political conservatism.

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About the author

Robert Wuthnow, a native of Kansas, teaches sociology and directs the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of many books about American religion and culture, including Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s and Small-Town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future (both Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 14, 2011
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Pages
504
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ISBN
9781400839759
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / State & Local / Midwest (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI)
Political Science / General
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Policy
Religion / Christianity / General
Religion / Religion, Politics & State
Social Science / Sociology of Religion
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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One of "our most insightful social observers"* cracks the great political mystery of our time: how conservatism, once a marker of class privilege, became the creed of millions of ordinary Americans

With his acclaimed wit and acuity, Thomas Frank turns his eye on what he calls the "thirty-year backlash"—the populist revolt against a supposedly liberal establishment. The high point of that backlash is the Republican Party's success in building the most unnatural of alliances: between blue-collar Midwesterners and Wall Street business interests, workers and bosses, populists and right-wingers.

In asking "what 's the matter with Kansas?"—how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union—Frank, a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests? Where's the outrage at corporate manipulators? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism? The questions are urgent as well as provocative. Frank answers them by examining pop conservatism—the bestsellers, the radio talk shows, the vicious political combat—and showing how our long culture wars have left us with an electorate far more concerned with their leaders' "values" and down-home qualities than with their stands on hard questions of policy.

A brilliant analysis—and funny to boot—What's the Matter with Kansas? presents a critical assessment of who we are, while telling a remarkable story of how a group of frat boys, lawyers, and CEOs came to convince a nation that they spoke on behalf of the People.

*Los Angeles Times

In a provocative book that explores the fascinating link between the creative and the sacred, Robert Wuthnow claims that artists have become the spiritual vanguard of our time. Drawing on in-depth interviews with painters, sculptors, writers, singers, dancers, and actors, Wuthnow includes the spiritual insights of accomplished artists who have gained prominence as Broadway performers, gospel singers, jazz musicians, poets, Native American painters, weavers, dancers, and installation artists. He profiles such national figures as novelist Madeleine L'Engle, playwright Tony Kushner, photographer Andres Serrano, sculptor Greg Wyatt, dancer Carla DeSola, and woodcarver David Ellsworth.

Situating these artists' reflections in the context of wider cultural ferment, Wuthnow argues that spirituality is coming increasingly to focus on the inherently ineffable character of the sacred—what artists refer to as divine mystery. As growing numbers of Americans doubt the adequacy of religious creeds in defining the sacred, they are turning to artists who seek a more intuitive sense of the sacred through symbols and imagery.

These artists provide rich insights into the social and cultural problems of our time. Many have been shaped by the growing ethnic, racial, and religious diversity of the United States. Many are at the cutting edge of new thinking about body, mind, and spirit, and many are seeking ways to integrate their understandings of spirituality with interests in nature and preserving the environment. For readers interested in exploring contemporary spirituality or engaged in spiritual pursuits of their own, this engaging, elegantly written, and erudite book will answer many questions about the changing moral and spiritual role of creativity and the arts.
The American Dream is in serious danger, according to Robert Wuthnow--not because of economic conditions, but because its moral underpinnings have been forgotten. In the past this vision was not simply a formula for success, but a moral perspective that framed our thinking about work and money in terms of broader commitments to family, community, and humanitarian values. Nowadays, we are working harder than ever, and yet many of us feel that we are not realizing our higher aspirations as individuals or as a people. Here Wuthnow examines the struggles in which American families are now engaged as they try to balance work and family, confront the pressures of consumerism, and find meaning in their careers. He suggests that we can find economic instruction and inspiration in the nation's past--in such figures as Benjamin Franklin, for instance, who was at once the prudent Poor Richard, the engaged public person, and the enthusiastic lover of life.

Drawing on first-hand accounts from scores of people in all walks of life and from a national survey, the book shows that work and money cannot be understood in terms of economic theories alone, but are inevitably rooted in our concepts of ourselves and in the symbolic rituals and taboos of everyday life. By examining these implicit cultural understandings of work and money, the book provides a foundation for bringing moral reasoning more fully to bear on economic decisions. It re-examines the moral arguments that were prominent earlier in our history, shows how these arguments were set aside with the development of economistic thinking, and suggests their continuing relevance in the lives of people who have effectively resisted the pressures of greater financial commitments. Demonstrating that most Americans do bring values implicitly to bear on their economic decisions, the book shows how some people are learning to do this more effectively and, in the process, gain greater control over their work and finances. At a time when policymakers are raising questions about the very survival of the American dream, Poor Richard's Principle offers an analysis of how moral restraint can once again play a more prominent role in guiding our thinking.

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