Jesus and Justice

Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics

Peter Goodwin Heltzel

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July 21, 2009
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300124330
Cloth

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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.

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.

"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

"This important work illuminated current political issues . . . by placing them into a distinct theological context. . . . Highly recommended." —E. B. Scott, Choice

"Written with rhythm and style, Jesus & Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics offers a sharp critical analysis of the progression of evangelicalism and its expression in the public square." —Mae Elise Cannon, Prism

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