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Faith in Public

Faith in Public

Going to War in Iraq and Doing Good at Home

(p.3) Chapter One Faith in Public
Public Pulpits
University of Chicago Press

What is the role of religion in American public life? Prophetic witness, voice of conscience, social activist and reformer, moral advocate and interlocutor? Or is it Good Samaritan, helping hand, loving heart and saving grace, community volunteer and charitable donor? This chapter tries to answer these questions to pin down the principles of religion in public, focusing on the practice of the mainline Protestant churches—Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ—over the last generation. It looks at what these churches have done, together with their allies and adversaries, in seeking to serve as “the public church”. The practical efforts of particular religious communities to live out and embody their faith in public inform the public rhetoric of religion and influence the moral argument of public life, just as religious communities in turn draw on these evolving and contested ideals to inspire their action and justify their practices. Thus the religious rhetoric of President George W. Bush offers an apt point of entry into the ongoing argument about religion's public presence and purpose.

Keywords:   religion, public life, mainline Protestant churches, religious communities, George W. Bush, United Church of Christ, public church

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