for RNS News Service on Nov. 6, 2010
MIDDLEBURY, VERMONT—Middlebury College's James Calvin Davis debunks popular myths of both the political left and the political right in this brisk new book, In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us
(Westminster John Knox Press).
By dissecting the so-called impregnable wall between state and religion, Davis demonstrates how religion persists as a strong element of on both sides of political debate, how we can recognize and understand it, and why we need more of it.
"I wrote this book because I am—like many Americans—frustrated by American political debate," said Davis. "If you're on left, you're boxed in as having no religion at all. If you're on right, you're boxed in as having fundamentalist beliefs. I really think that most Americans aren't far left or far right. We're somewhere in the middle between the two extremes."
Americans in the middle, Davis continues, aren't given good opportunities in which to clearly voice their beliefs. Davis's book concisely explores this "muddled middle" and how religion can and already does play a key role. In Davis's point-by-point discussion of such hot-button issues as abortion and gay marriage, Davis shows readers how to articulate complex moral and social issues in an increasingly complex world. Davis also gives readers ways to talk with one another without degrading the conversation.
About the author: James Calvin Davis is Associate Professor of Religion at Middlebury College and has published two books about Roger Williams, including On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams (Harvard 2008). He is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).