Book Review: Britain and Ireland: Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America's Heartland

AuthorStratos Patrikios
Date01 September 2013
Published date01 September 2013
Subject MatterBook Review
Pastor provides some historical background and anec-
dotes from his extensivecareer working with government
officials to weave a narrative advocating enhanced trilat-
eral cooperation, which would enable North America to
compete with the European Union and China. He calls
(US) Americans to recognise that ‘[i]n terms of trade,
energy,immigration, travel, and secur ity,there are no two
countries that matter more to the United States than its
proximate neighbors’ (p. 19). Rejecting incremental
changes in favour of a large-scale overhaul of ineffectual
systems, Pastor takes government leaders to task for pan-
dering to extremists and challenges (US) Americans to
become leaders in an integrated North America (p. 28).
He issues a worthwhile challenge for Mexicans,
Americans and Canadians to interrogate their stereo-
types about one another and reconsider the machina-
tions of pundits in light of surveys that seem to indicate
trends of trust among the variegated populations. I
particularly appreciate his argument that ‘the United
States takes its neighbors for granted’ despite the role
that Mexico and Canada play in continental economic,
social and security initiatives (p. 6).
As Pastor demonstrates, politics involves people, not
just governments and administrations. However, despite
his comprehensiveoverview of policies and institutions, as
well as his discussion of public opinion surveys, I found
some of his comments about Canada and Mexico con-
fusing.For example, he notes:‘Because it encountered the
most advanced civilization, Mexicans have been more
credible in taking pride in their indigenous heritage’ (p.
67). Furthermore, he states: ‘Canada does not have a
problem with illegal migration ... It might be that Cana-
da’s winter is a more effective deterrent than the US
Department of Homeland Security’ (p.92). These rather
glib assessments of two fraught national contexts seem to
belie his warning against stereotyping one’s neighbours.
Pastor encourages leaders in Mexico, the United
States and Canada to realise the potential for economic
prosperity through coordination, collaboration and tri-
lateral agreements. His text provides an overview of the
economic issues facing the three countries of North
America, but more contextualisation regarding each
nation state’s history, society and political traditions
would have modelled the ideal balance of a truly North
American community.
Amanda Murphyao
(Carleton University, Ottawa)
Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in Ameri-
ca’s Heartland by Robert Wuthnow. Woodstock:
Princeton University Press, 2012. 484pp., £24.95,
ISBN 978 0 691 15055 0
Red State Religion examines the historical developments
that have led Kansas to be considered today one of the
most conservative and Republican states in the US.
Robert Wuthnow’s detailed account of the state’s reli-
gious and partisan history over the past 150 years uses
a wide range of empirical sources, including official
statistics, personal diaries and oral histories.The author
draws a ‘tenuous’image of faith and politics in Kansas,
one that is not always staunchly regressive or solidly
Republican (p. 22).A ‘free’ state, Kansas was also among
the first to allow women to vote and hold office (p.
110). Even Prohibition was promoted as a progressive
cause for the protection of women and children
(p. 122).
The main argument can be summarised as follows:
the way religion and politics were organised in the state
was not so much the product of conservative moral
activism, but depended on pragmatic concerns that
reflected the needs of the local community.Wuthnow’s
account of Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 campaign speech
at the Methodist church in Atchison, less than two
years before the outbreak of the Civil War, is a good
example of this type of pragmatic explanation:‘Had the
Baptist Church been ready in time, there is a good
chance that its leaders would have in any case been
reluctant to host Lincoln. Unlike the Methodist
denomination, which had a separate congregation in
Atchison to which southern Methodists could go, the
Baptist Church drew its members from both the South
and North, and may well have discouraged discussions
of politics for this reason’ (p. 23).
The key limitation of the book is a methodological
one, which weakens generalisability. Unlike many
studies of religion and politics in the US or compara-
tively,Wuthnow argues refreshingly that to understand
the relationship between religion and politics in non-
simplifying terms, one needs to study how the two
forces connect at the local level.He justifies the narrow,
in-depth focus on a single case as a representative
example of small-town America (p.xi, p.362): a land of
fiscal conservatism, distrust of big government, religious
activism and predominantly white Christian. Political
scientists and historians with an interest in religion and
© 2013 TheAuthors. Political Studies Review © 2013 Political Studies Association
Political Studies Review: 2013, 11(3)

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