Randall Balmer's book is a fascinating discussion about the Religious Right in America and its influence on politics. He writes from the point of view of a self-confessed Evangelical whose upbringing mirrors that of many evangelicals in the U.S. However, his personal stance on certain issues puts him at odds with the Religious Right, those who claim the mantle of evangelicalism, and this book looks closely at several areas of politics and theology where Balmer believes the Religious Right are wrong and where they are highlighting minor points and missing the vital overarching themes of the Gospel, such as care for the poor and outcast.
His subjects range from debates about women priests, homosexuality and abortion to the change in nature of traditional Baptist beliefs; from discussions about creationism and
intelligent design to the Religious Right's desire to remove the wall between church and state. Balmer's writing style is always easy to read with personal comments and insights along with reports of conversations. The usual suspects in this kind of book – Pat Robertson, Dr. James Dobson and Jerry Falwell – pop up as examples of the extreme nature of some of the Religious Right, and reading some of their words in black and white on the page is pretty frightening. Balmer isn't reticent about his own voting choices (being firmly a
Democrat), although he is by no means always positive about the Democrats and their record in office, but the overall theme of the book - that the Religious Right are hijacking various issues as a power struggle and trying to influence the Republican party - is a persuasive one.
Like Englishman Stephen Bates's book on this theme, God's Own Country, the reader is left with a healthy fear of some of the excesses of the Religious Right, with the wholehearted hope that most people don't see evangelicals or the church like this, and with considerable concern for the future of evangelicalism in the U.S. unless the moderates get themselves into the fray. Sobering reading.