Debunking 'American Theocracy'

The Bush administration isn't too Christian, says politics professor James Kurth--it's not Christian enough.

The publication of Kevin Phillips' latest book, “American Theocracy,” reignited the debate over the impact of evangelical theology on U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Phillips argues that the evangelical perspective has had a profound affect on the Bush administration's approach to everything from its energy policy to decision-making on issues of war and peace, particularly the war in Iraq. Phillips is but the latest among critics of the influence of evangelical Christianity on American society.

One of the most original responses to the Phillips critique and others like it comes from James Kurth, a professor of political science at Swarthmore College and an evangelical Christian, who argues that the Bush policies are not overly Christian—in fact, he says, they‘re not Christian enough, but an expression of a secularized, “heretical” Protestantism. Kurth believes that evangelicals, far from being an overwhelming force in American politics, have been “bamboozled” by secular Republicans who have promised to reverse policies that threaten their Christian values. The recent defeat in the U.S. Senate of the gay marriage amendment is only the latest example. Kurth recently spoke with Beliefnet senior editor Alice Chasan about Phillips’ book, and about the role of Protestantism in American policymaking.

What is the “Protestant Deformation” about which you've written, and how has it led to what you call “secularized Protestantism”?


America, during its founding period, especially in Puritan Massachusetts, was rooted in a particular form of Reformation Protestantism—the Calvinist or Reform version. But as it passed from one generation to another, the original spiritual meaning of the religion was transmuted. And in some ways, the religion conformed itself more and more to the world. This tends to happen with any religion—the spirit may begin to depart and the material aspects comform to the outer world and become more prominent.

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Interview by Alice Chasan
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