God and Race in American Politics

Paul Harvey

I've just had the privilege of reviewing an important new work by Mark Noll (to be published later in Christianity Today -- I'll put up the link or review later once it's available): God and Race in American Politics: A Short History, based on a series of lectures Noll gave at Princeton in 2006.

I'll post something more about the review later, but for the present here are a couple of paragraphs in the book's "Theological Conclusion," where Noll lays out some ideas for what might be called a moral history of religion, race, and politics in American history:

Throughout American history, what I have called the broad Calvinist tradition has been responsible for many of the achievements, but also many of the problems, that require a consideration of contradictions, antinomies, and paradoxes. Most obviously, reliance on the Bible has produced spectacular liberation alongside spectacular oppression. . . . . The history of American race, religion, and politics from Nat Turner to George W. Bush is a narrative in which contradictions, antinomies, and paradoxes abound. For making sense of this tangled history, it is helpful to proceed from a standpoint with a scope for moral complexity as wide as the heights of goodness and depths of evil within that history. Historic Christian faith offers suich a standpoint from which it is possible to see how much believers themselves have done to promote the evils of racism in American politics while at the same time recognizing how often they have offered hints of redemption as well.


John Fea said…
Thanks, Paul. These lectures are available on-line at http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/lectures/
Edward J Blum said…
I have listened to the lectures - but have not yet read the manuscript - and I wanted to say how pleased I am to see Professor Noll taking an interest in issues of race. For a long time, I wondered whether he and Prof. Marsden would ever be interested in issues of racial justice; I'm glad to see it occurring.