Randall Balmer to speak about faith, the presidency and the religious right

The author of a book about how faith has shaped the presidency since the 1960s will deliver the annual Cole Lectures at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He will deliver two lectures, the first dealing with the role of faith in the Kennedy through George W. Bush administrations, and the second on how to reclaim Christianity from the religious right.

Randall Balmer, professor of American Religious History at Barnard College and visiting professor at Yale Divinity School, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, and 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 24. The lectures at Benton Chapel on the Vanderbilt campus are free and open to the public. Audio of the lectures will be recorded for podcast at VUCast (www.vanderbilt.edu/news/), the website of Vanderbilt News Service.

“I think religion is part of our common vocabulary,” Balmer writes in God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. “Politicians want to be part of that conversation for their own well-being, so they speak the language of faith and politics. … [However,] with the exception of [President] Carter, there is very little connection between a candidate’s declarations of faith and the way he governs.”

The Oct. 23 lecture is titled “So Help Me God: Faith and the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush.” On Oct. 24, the topic is “Keep the Faith: Reclaiming Christianity from the Religious Right.”

The Cole Lectures were established in 1892 by philanthropist E.W. Cole for “the defense and advocacy of the Christian religion.” Speakers in the series have included Paul Tillich, George Buttrick, Don Beisswenger and Jim Wallis.

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS