Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics  -     By: Peter Goodwin Heltzel
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Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics

Yale University Press / 2009 / Hardcover

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Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 224
Vendor: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 9.25 X 6.13 (inches)
ISBN: 0300124333
ISBN-13: 9780300124330
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Publisher's Description

This timely book investigates the increasing visibility and influence of evangelical Christians in recent American politics with a focus on racial justice. Peter Goodwin Heltzel considers four evangelical social movements: Focus on the Family, the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Community Development Association, and Sojourners.

The political motives and actions of evangelical groups are founded upon their conceptions of Jesus Christ, Heltzel contends. He traces the roots of contemporary evangelical politics to the prophetic black Christianity tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the socially engaged evangelical tradition of Carl F. H. Henry. Heltzel shows that the basic tenets of King’s and Henry’s theologies have led their evangelical heirs toward a prophetic evangelicalism in a shade of blue green—blue symbolizing the tragedy of black suffering in the Americas, and green symbolizing the hope of a prophetic evangelical engagement with poverty, AIDS, and the environment. This fresh theological understanding of evangelical political groups shines new light on the ways evangelicals shape and are shaped by broader American culture.

Author Bio

Peter Goodwin Heltzel is assistant professor of theology, New York Theological Seminary, and an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  He lives in New York City.

Publisher's Weekly

Heltzel, a professor of theology at New York Theological Seminary and an ordained minister, narrates the history of black and white race relations in the American church since 1801, using the lenses of the “beloved community” of Martin Luther King Jr. and of the “Kingdom of God” of Carl F. H. Henry, a founder of Christianity Today and peer of Billy Graham. “The difference in the way [King and Henry] treated racism demonstrated the differences in their understandings of Jesus,” he writes. The author then views four evangelical organizations (Focus on the Family, the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Community Development Association, Sojourners) to study their records on race politics in contemporary society. The leaders of each organization provide studies in contrasts. Heltzel concludes that Focus supported evangelism among white conservatives who put civil rights as a secondary concern. In the 21st century, NAE, CCDA and Sojourners believe that civil rights are the primary concern of the faith community; Sojourners’ 1996 Call to Renewal campaign to end poverty was intended to empower the poor in a postracial society. This scholarly book could be used in a college course, but it may soon need revision in sections that rely heavily on contemporary events and views. (July) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews

"This book bursts onto the scene just as the blue and red map begins to break up both in politics and in religion.  To persist with simplistic oppositions between evangelical and progressive Christians is to miss the kairos of our time.  Heltzel maps the moment with a stunning new itinerary, historically important and theologically disclosive, of the American Jesus--the prophetic way of  a blue green Christology."—Catherine Keller, author of God and Power: Counter-Apocalyptic Journeys

"Heltzel offers a genealogy of American evangelicalism that casts important light on its complicated relationship to American politics and America's painful history of race relations. American evangelicalism is positioned inside of, and not apart from, such matters. This alone merits a serious consideration of Heltzel's work." —J. Kameron Carter, Duke University Divinity School and author of Race: A Theological Account


“With this head-turning first book, Peter Heltzel emerges as the most provocative new interpreter of American evangelicalism.  Offering much more than fresh insights on a widely discussed subject, Heltzel illuminates a way beyond the culture wars.  Jesus and Justice will change the way we think about Christianity and politics.”—Charles Marsh, author of The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, From the Civil Rights Movement to Today

“In Jesus and Justice, Peter Heltzel offers an informed, passionate critique of evangelical political involvement. This important book will very likely alter the terms of the debate over evangelicalism and politics.”—Randall Balmer, author of The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond


“Peter Heltzel's Jesus and Justice boldly explores the complexities of race within American evangelicalism. Heltzel does not shy away from the difficult questions of racism nor does he gloss over the crucial moments of connection between black and white evangelicals. This work heralds with passion and intelligence an evangelical imagination ripe for the Obama era.”—Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Princeton University


"Compelling . . . provocative . . . deep and well-argued."--Mary Manjikian, Religious Studies Review

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