Garry Wills: His new book focuses on the tension between Evangelism and the Enlightenment in American history

Historians in the News

The social historian and essayist Garry Wills is one of our most lucid public intellectuals, and no one working today writes more clearly or with greater authority on the intersection of religion and public life.

"Head and Heart: American Christianities" is a major contribution to the national debate over separation of church and state and ought to be read by anyone perplexed by the current interplay of religion and politics.

If you've wondered whether Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was right when he said recently that America was founded as a "Christian nation," whether other Republican presidential candidates' views on evolution are electorally relevant, what effect Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Methodism has on her social views or whether a candidate's stand on abortion must determine your vote, then this is your book.

Wills' argument is that American history has been marked by an oscillation between Enlightenment and Evangelism -- between head and heart. He contends that the fruitful tension between these two poles contributed directly to the U.S. Constitution's single wholly original contribution to the political tradition: "disestablishment of the official creed and separation of church and state." It is precisely this innovative separation, Wills contends, that has allowed religion to flourish in America as it does nowhere else in the developed world. It's also why he finds the hostility toward separation evinced by George W. Bush and the religious right so alarming....
Read entire article at Tim Rutten in the LAT

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