CHESTERTOWN, MD—A scholar whose study of America’s religious attitudes and institutions has revealed a surprising mix of polarization and tolerance will discuss his findings at Washington College, Thursday, September 29. David Campbell, co-author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (Simon & Schuster, 2010), will speak at 4:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.
Campbell is the John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C. Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and the founding director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy. He is also the author of Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life and the editor of A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election.
As an expert on religion, politics, and civic engagement, he has often been featured in the national media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio, as well as the major television networks. American Grace, which Campbell co-wrote with Harvard professor Robert Putnam, won the 2011 Woodrow Wilson Award from the American Political Science Association, an honor given annually for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs. Booklist called American Grace “an essential resource for anyone trying to understand twenty-first-century America,” and the Washington Post called it “the most sweeping look yet at contemporary American religion.”
Offering a mix of historical sweep and detailed narrative, American Grace follows the decline of religious observance in the 1960s, its resurgence in the 1970s and 80s with the rise of evangelicalism and the Religious Right, and the exodus of young people from organized religion in the 1990s. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly applauded Campbell and Putnam for persuasively arguing two apparent contradictory theses: “First, that a ‘new religious fault line’ exists in America, a deep political polarization that has transcended denominationalism as the greatest chasm in religious life; and second, that the culture is becoming so much more accepting of diversity that the first thesis will not tear the country apart.”
Examining data from two large national surveys, Campbell and his co-author reveal surprising aspects of the nation’s religious life today, among them that between one-third and one-half of all American marriages are interfaith, that some one-third of Americans have switched religions at some point in their lives, that 89 percent of Americans believe others outside their faith can still get to heaven, and that young people are more opposed to abortion than their parents but more accepting of gay marriage.
In mid-August of this year, Campbell and Putnam co-wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which they discussed what their research had revealed about the origins of the Tea Party, its particular mix of religion and politics, and its dwindling popularity. “Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics,” they wrote. “The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.”
Campbell’s visit to Washington College is sponsored by the College’s Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture and C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. The lecture is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow. For more information about Campbell and the book, visit http://americangrace.org/index.html.