New Book To Examine Political Behavior Of Clergy

Aug. 24, 2004

by Julie Campbell Carlson

At a time when more interest is focused on the intersection between politics and religion, Pulpit and Politics: Clergy in American Politics at the Advent of the Millennium, a new book to be published by Baylor University Press in October, examines the political behavior of clergy in the United States.

Editor Corwin Smidt, professor of political science and director of the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College, based the book on data gathered during the 2000 Presidential election. His work examines the relationship between belief and behavior, theology and politics, religious commitments and social activism from African-American, Baptist, Jewish, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic and other religious groups.

"The intersection of religion and politics has always been central to the American experience," said Dr. Vanessa B. Beasley, assistant professor at SMU and author of You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric. "This book reports on how clergy from most of the major U.S. denominations view this relationship, paying special attention to how, when, and why these religious leaders have felt compelled to speak out."

Among Smidt's findings are data that show a decline in the level of approval for almost all forms of clerical political activity among mainline Protestant clergy; that mainline Protestant clergy no longer consistently exceed evangelical Protestant clergy in terms of their levels of approval for either church-based or personal political activities; and a consistent drop in reported activity for all forms of political behavior between 1989 and 2001 among both evangelical and mainline Protestant clergy.

For more information, contact Smidt at (616) 957-6233 or by email at smidt@calvin.edu. For more information about the release of Pulpit and Politics, contact Dr. Carey Newman, director of the Baylor University Press, at (254) 710-3522.

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