The Christian Right is frequently accused of threatening democratic values. But in The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right, Jon Shields argues that religious conservatives have in fact dramatically increased and improved democratic participation and that they are far more civil and reasonable than is commonly believed.
Shields interviewed leaders of more than thirty Christian Right organizations, observed movement activists in six American cities, and analyzed a wide variety of survey data and movement media. His conclusions are surprising: the Christian Right has reinvigorated American politics and fulfilled New Left ideals by mobilizing a previously alienated group and by refocusing politics on the contentious ideological and moral questions that motivate citizens. Shields also finds that, largely for pragmatic reasons, the vast majority of Christian Right leaders encourage their followers to embrace deliberative norms in the public square, including civility and secular reasoning.
At the same time, Shields highlights a tension between participatory and deliberative ideals since Christian Right leaders also nurture moral passions, prejudices, and dogmas to propel their movement. Nonetheless, the Christian Right's other democratic virtues help contain civic extremism, sharpen the thinking of activists, and raise the level and tenor of political debate for all Americans.
"It could be argued that The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right actually comprises three books. One is about the Christian right. One is about the anti-abortion movement. One is about democratic theory. . . . Provocative."--Peter Steinfels, New York Times
"Shields brings to light a wealth of new data on the Christian Right in a way that helps us better think about the historical rise of the movement, as well as its similarities to and differences from the far better scrutinized social movements of the Left. His organization of this data around the norms of deliberative and participatory democracy helps us deepen our understanding of one of the most active areas of civic engagement in the United States over the last several decades. These contributions make The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right of use to students, scholars, and journalists alike."--Ziad Munson, Perspectives on Politics
"It is always refreshing to encounter contrarian viewpoints, especially about topics that rarely receive more than superficial treatment in the media or academe. . . . The book's middle chapters, on the relationship between the Christian Right and 'deliberative democracy,' are well worth the volume's cost. Much of Shields' analysis rests on a perceived tension between partisan mobilization and public deliberation."--John G. Turner, Books & Culture
"A remarkable new book . . . The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right is by no means a pro-life tract. It is an excruciatingly careful study, studded with the expected graphs and statistical data--but not to the point of spoiling its readability--in the service of probing the curious permutations in contemporary political alignments."--Richard John Neuhaus, First Things
Table of Contents:
List of Tables and Figures ix
CHAPTER ONE: Democratic Education in the Christian Right 19
CHAPTER TWO: Christian Radicalism 46
CHAPTER THREE: The Varieties of Pro-Life Activism 68
CHAPTER FOUR: Deliberation and Abortion Politics 100
CHAPTER FIVE: Reviving Participatory Democracy 115
CHAPTER SIX: Participation, Deliberation, and Values Voters 147