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God Wills it Presidents and the Political Use of Religion

Written by David O'Connell

Part of the American Presidents Series Series

God Wills it Presidents and the Political Use of Religion Synopsis

God Wills It is a comprehensive study of presidential religious rhetoric. Using careful analysis of hundreds of transcripts, David O'Connell reveals the hidden strategy behind presidential religious speech. He asks when and why religious language is used, and when it is, whether such language is influential. Case studies explore the religious arguments presidents have made to defend their decisions on issues like defense spending, environmental protection, and presidential scandals. O'Connell provides strong evidence that when religious rhetoric is used public opinion typically goes against the president, the media reacts harshly to his words, and Congress fails to do as he wants. An experimental chapter casts even further doubt on the persuasiveness of religious rhetoric. God Wills It shows that presidents do not talk this way because they want to. Presidents like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were quite uncomfortable using faith to promote their agendas. They did so because they felt they must. God Wills It shows that even if presidents attempt to call on the deity, the more important question remains: Will God come when they do?

God Wills it Presidents and the Political Use of Religion Press Reviews

American presidents have drawn on religious themes since Washington's presidency, long before Theodore Roosevelt described the president's unique perch as a 'bully pulpit.' In God Wills It, O'Connell (Dickinson College) takes a refreshing look at presidential religious rhetoric, arguing that it is often more than mere decoration meant to evoke a shared cultural legacy. Religious rhetoric, O'Connell argues, is used by presidents 'trying to strategically accomplish their agendas.' In short, religious rhetoric is employed to guide public opinion regarding important policy goals. The question at the heart of O'Connell's work is whether presidents have been successful in using religious rhetoric in this manner. O'Connell pursues an answer by examining the religious rhetoric of post-WW II presidents and closes his work with a fascinating experiment in the efficacy of religiously themed speech. Overall, O'Connell's surprising results challenge simplistic conventional wisdom regarding Americans' receptiveness to religious appeals from the White House... Highly recommended. - P. F. Campbell, Choice Magazine

Book Information

ISBN: 9781412854863
Publication date: 30th November 2014
Author: David O'Connell
Publisher: AldineTransaction an imprint of Taylor & Francis Inc
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 352 pages

About David O'Connell

David O'Connell is an assistant professor of political science at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, USA. His work is published in Presidential Studies Quarterly. This is his first book.

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