No state has voted Republican more consistently or widely or for longer than Kansas. To understand red state politics, Kansas is the place. It is also the place to understand red state religion. The Kansas Board of Education has repeatedly challenged the teaching of evolution, Kansas voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage, the state is a hotbed of antiabortion protest--and churches have been involved in all of these efforts. Yet in 1867 suffragist Lucy Stone could plausibly proclaim that, in the cause of universal suffrage, "Kansas leads the world!" How did Kansas go from being a progressive state to one of the most conservative?
In Red State Religion, Robert Wuthnow tells the story of religiously motivated political activism in Kansas from territorial days to the present. He examines how faith mixed with politics as both ordinary Kansans and leaders such as John Brown, Carrie Nation, William Allen White, and Dwight Eisenhower struggled over the pivotal issues of their times, from slavery and Prohibition to populism and anti-communism. Beyond providing surprising new explanations of why Kansas became a conservative stronghold, the book sheds new light on the role of religion in red states across the Midwest and the United States. Contrary to recent influential accounts, Wuthnow argues that Kansas conservatism is largely pragmatic, not ideological, and that religion in the state has less to do with politics and contentious moral activism than with relationships between neighbors, friends, and fellow churchgoers.
This is an important book for anyone who wants to understand the role of religion in American political conservatism.
Robert Wuthnow, a native of Kansas, teaches sociology and directs the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of many books about American religion and culture, including Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s and Small-Town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future (both Princeton).
"Robert Wuthnow, a brilliant sociologist of religion and himself a native of Kansas, gives us a careful sociological history of the intertwining of religion and politics in this quintessential red state. . . . In Wuthnow's nuanced and careful study, Kansans come across less as hayseeds or off-the-wall moralizers than as pragmatic conservatives, committed to traditional families and fiscal conservatism. They are skeptical of big government and dedicated to preserving simple and vital virtues. Wuthnow has penned a 'must read' book for those who would understand--and not just caricature--red state religion and how it intertwines with politics."--John A. Coleman, America
"With the publication of Red State Religion, we profit greatly from a majestically comprehensive account of Kansas' history. In turn, we get a truer story, one that inspires a less ideological reading of the state, perhaps freeing Kansans themselves from any notion of how they must think--or vote."--Alexander Heffner, Philadelphia Inquirer
"[Red State Religion] thoughtfully and compassionately explores the rich and complex political and religious history of the place."--Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Christian Century
"Red State Religion is a model of clarity and is surely one of the best books available on the intersection of religion and politics."--Al Menendez, Voice of Reason
"Elegantly written, passionately argued, and deeply researched, Red State Religion challenges our basic assumptions about the influence of the Religious Right in particular, and the role of religion in American politics more generally."--Andrew Preston, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
"[Wuthnow] takes Kansas state conservatism seriously in grounding his conclusions in archival research rather than journalistic sensationalism."--Choice
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Robert Wuthnow: