Danforth, “The Relevance of Religion”

Next month, Penguin Random House will release “The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics” by John Danforth (former attorney general of Missouri, United States senator from Missouri, and United States representative to the United Nations). The publisher’s description follows:

Former United States senator and ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth offers a fascinating, thoughtful, and deeply personal look at the state of American politics today—and how religion can be a bridge over our bitter partisan divide.

In an era of extreme partisanship, when running for office has become a zero-sum game in which candidates play exclusively to their ideological bases, Americans on both sides of the political aisle hunger for the return of a commitment to the common good. Too often, it seems, religion has been used as a wedge to divide us in these battles. But is it also the key to restoring our civic virtue?

For more than a decade, John Danforth, who is also an ordained Episcopal priest, has written extensively on the negative use of religion as a divisive force in American politics. Now he turns to the positive, constructive impact faithful religious believers have and can have on our public life. The Relevance of Religion is the product of that period of reflection.

In the calm and wise voice of the pastor he once aspired to be, Senator Danforth argues that our shared religious values can lead us out of the embittered, entrenched state of politics today. A lifelong Republican, he calls his own party to task for its part in creating a political system in which the loudest opinions and the most polarizing personalities hold sway. And he suggests that such a system is not only unsustainable but unfaithful to our essential nature. We are built to care about other people, and this inherent altruism—which science says we crave because of our neurobiological wiring, and the Bible says is part of our created nature—is a crucial aspect of good government.

Our willingness to serve more than our self-interest is religion’s gift to politics, John Danforth asserts. In an era when 75 percent of Americans say they cannot trust their elected leaders, The Relevance of Religion is a heartfelt plea for more compassionate government—and a rousing call to arms for those wishing to follow the better angels of our nature.

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