Religious Rhetoric and American Politics
The Endurance of Civil Religion in Electoral Campaigns
Publication Year: 2012
From Reagan's regular invocation of America as "a city on a hill" to Obama's use of spiritual language in describing social policy, religious rhetoric is a regular part of how candidates communicate with voters. Although the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test as a qualification to public office, many citizens base their decisions about candidates on their expressed religious beliefs and values. In Religious Rhetoric and American Politics, Christopher B. Chapp shows that Americans often make political choices because they identify with a "civil religion," not because they think of themselves as cultural warriors. Chapp examines the role of religious political rhetoric in American elections by analyzing both how political elites use religious language and how voters respond to different expressions of religion in the public sphere.
Chapp analyzes the content and context of political speeches and draws on survey data, historical evidence, and controlled experiments to evaluate how citizens respond to religious stumping. Effective religious rhetoric, he finds, is characterized by two factors-emotive cues and invocations of collective identity-and these factors regularly shape the outcomes of American presidential elections and the dynamics of political representation. While we tend to think that certain issues (e.g., abortion) are invoked to appeal to specific religious constituencies who vote solely on such issues, Chapp shows that religious rhetoric is often more encompassing and less issue-specific. He concludes that voter identification with an American civic religion remains a driving force in American elections, despite its potentially divisive undercurrents.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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In spring 2011, I attended a speech by Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) at an interfaith dialogue at St. Olaf College in Northfi eld, Minnesota. Ellison’s talk occurred just a few weeks after he had taken part in controver-sial congressional subcommittee hearings that had been called to investigate “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that ...
1. A Theory of Religious Rhetoric in American Campaigns
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Beyond all differences of race or creed, we are one country, mourning together and facing danger together. Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism. And many have discovered again that even in tragedy—especially in tragedy—God is near. In a single instant, we realized that this will be a decisive decade ...
2. Religious Rhetoric in American Political History
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Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always see those Potomac lights; that they will always fi nd there a city of hope in a country that is free. And let us resolve they will say of our day and of our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act “ worthy of ourselves; ” that we did protect and pass on lovingly ...
3. Religious Rhetoric and the Politics of Identity
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Family and God, honor, duty and country: now, let’s face it, some ridicule these principles as relics of the past. But when our problems are at their worst, when our hope is strained, when drugs and crime and the abandonment of children challenge the very character of our country, we know where to turn. Our tested values provide the only ...
4. Religious Rhetoric and the Politics of Emotive Appeals
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I’m going to fi ght for my cause every day as your President. I’m going to fi ght to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank Him: that I’m an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on earth, and with hard work, strong faith and a little cour-From Puritan jeremiads to the Bryan’s populist invocations, one defi ning ...
5. The Consequences of Religious Language on Presidential Candidate Evaluations
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This is the source of our confi dence—the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and In this passage, President Obama is invoking a by now familiar genre. Even in the midst of great uncertainty, America has a divinely inspired place in the world order. But when a president speaks, do Americans ...
6. Civil Religion Identity and the Task of Political Representation
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It’s not about the Republicans sending hecklers to my rally. It’s about Jerry Falwell picking the next justices of the Supreme Court. And this election is about leadership. It’s about what we expect a president to Hanna Pitkin defi nes to represent as to “make present again.” In Ameri-can politics, elected representatives go about the task of making their ...
7. The Rhetorical Construction of Religious Constituencies
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With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the fi nal judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work Religious rhetoric is a defi ning feature of the American political cam-paign. Although the contours of the genre have changed over time, it ...
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2012