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Sacramental Politics

Religious Worship as Political Action


Brian Kaylor

Religion and politics have often been called taboo topics for polite dinner conversation, but in political campaigns and religious services, the two often mix. This book looks at how religious worship remains embedded with inherent political messages and behaviors, showing that conflicts between church and state exist not just in the public arena, but in each sanctuary and house of worship. To explore this religious-political tension, the book first examines more obvious examples of worship as political action, such as when candidates speak during church services or when political parties hold prayer services at party events. The initial analysis acts as a foundation for the idea of worship serving a political purpose, and is followed by analysis of non-partisan and less obvious political worship services. Religious sacraments (such as baptism, confirmation, communion/mass, and confession) function as key moments in which religious participants pledge allegiance to a power that resides outside Washington, D.C. or statehouses, thus highlighting the alternative political messages and space carved out through worship.
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The greatest influence on my research and writing has been Dr. Mitchell McKinney, who happens to be one of the series editors for this book. His mentorship during my M.A. and Ph.D. studies at the University of Missouri left an indelible mark on my style. That influence led to my dissertation winning several awards as a dissertation and a book (Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics). I am pleased he once again provided guidance and helped refine this present book. All errors or controversial ideas are, however, fully mine. I am also grateful for the many others at the Peter Lang team who played critical roles in moving this manuscript from my computer to published form, including Mary Savigar, Sophie Appel, Stephen Mazur, Jackie Pavlovic, and others who I may not even have known were assisting.

Other individuals have also been encouraging as I worked through this manuscript and as I sometimes talked out concepts (even though they did not always know I was fleshing out the ideas for this book). My colleagues at James Madison University, especially those in the “research group,” were particularly helpful. It was great to at least have support at the faculty level. Students in my courses at James Madison and in Bible studies at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church allowed me to talk through various issues related to religion and politics and often joined the dialogue with helpful perspectives. Also, I am ← ix | x → thankful for my encouraging colleagues...

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