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Religion Publishing: A Vital Part of the Public Policy Debate.

Work Title: Religion Publishing: A Vital Part of the Public Policy Debate

Work Author(s): Eugene Schwartz


Byline: Eugene Schwartz

Religion publishing remains a profitable business opportunity for publishers large and small, as well as a fount for fueling public debate on religion and public policy. This is despite the fact, as Larry Carpenter says in this issue of Faith, that "the Christian books section is undergoing its version of the 'sophomore slump.'" He notes that while blockbusters from authors such as Rick Warren and Bruce Wilkinson have been in short supply recently, a consistent revenue stream can be generated by the right mix of "the right authors."

Henry Carrigan, Jr., in his opening review of books on religion and society, writes that "American society has struggled with establishing a healthy and productive relationship between religion and society" ever since the first amendment was added to the Constitution. He traces a trajectory of "numerous books in the past forty years till the present," charting the ebb and flow of "society's fascination and repulsion with religion."

In Jeffrey MacDonald's survey of books on the flash points of religion debates, he observes that "America is grappling with one overarching mega question ... what role should religion play in the pubic square?" Books abound that deal with issues such as government's faith-based initiatives, gay marriage, abortion, and display of the Ten Commandments. They go beyond "whether God bleeds red or blue," and ask "about how to incorporate religious faith into the politics of a diverse country."

Christianity was planted early in the America we know. At first, Native Americans were displaced by the Europeans who brought their Christian faith and customs with them. Later, when African slaves were brought here, their ancestor worship, animism, and mystical belief systems were replaced by conversions to Christianity.

Within Christianity, there were profound differences between Protestants and Catholics, and among the Protestant denominations: Lutherans, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Quakers, Baptists, and the many others that emerged.

By the time of the Revolution, every American town was home to churches of all kinds. Moreover, the Jews who had already settled here, the freethinkers and atheists who enjoyed their liberty under the First Amendment, and the sprinkling of Muslims and those of other sects, also felt safe in their liberties.

They all believed, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Virginia Statute of Religion in 1779, that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." And all Americans expected, as Tom Paine said in Common Sense in 1776, that it is "the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors" of religion.

Publishers in America today continue to be the major enablers of that freedom to profess and argue for one's "opinion in matters of religion," or, as Henry Carrigan also notes, to question and challenge it. It is no small thing.

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Author:Schwartz, Eugene
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Previous Article:Travels in Imagination.
Next Article:The View from Above: The Role of Religion and Society.

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