www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Embarrassing economists -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

Sherow for House -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

It can't get crazier (wanna bet?) -10/24/2014, 9:04 AM

Digital distractions -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Orman for Senate -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal persecutors -10/23/2014, 10:00 AM

Kids do count -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

Needing the past in the future? -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

In praise of hunting -10/22/2014, 10:30 AM

What is a CID? Will it work for mall? -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Judging importance on the ballot -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Kansas Speaks -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Find another school -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

It's better now -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

The answer is to bomb Mexico? -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

Falling revenue -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

School facilities -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Look ahead, not back -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Secret Service needs to step up its game -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Roosevelts were true leaders -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Moral bankruptcy -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Expect some sort of change in Topeka -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

'A tale of two countries' -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

The last of the Willie Horton ads? -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

Finding answers to the future of Kansas -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

College: Where religious freedom goes to die -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Honoring Hammond -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Do statistical disparities mean injustice? -9/26/2014, 9:53 AM

World university rankings -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas experiment -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Two anti-choice parties -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Not in the same old Kansas anymore -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Domestic violence -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Back to war we go -9/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Piling on the NFL -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Emma Watson looking for a few good men -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Renter runaround -9/23/2014, 7:32 PM

Enough is enough -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

Life of politics in the state -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

What is and is not child abuse -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Cannabis politics and research -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Future of The Mall -9/21/2014, 6:14 PM

Multiculturalism is a failure -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

State education rankings -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Kobach gone wild -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Book offers a closer look religion and politics

Published on -8/26/2012, 1:58 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Written by Princeton sociologist and native Kansan Robert Wuthnow, "Red State Religion" is a new book that chronicles the influence of religion on Kansas' historical and political development. His effort moves beyond Thomas Frank's conclusion ("What's the Matter with Kansas?") that religion is being used by Republicans to distract working class voters from their political-economic interests, to a more detailed and nuanced understanding of the ways that religion almost always has been woven into the political fabric of Kansas.

Wuthnow does a masterful job of detailing how each religious denomination approached the settlement of Kansas and the strategies they used to expand their flocks as immigrants pushed development westward. The important role of religion at that time was to spur and then anchor community development. The Methodists were particularly entrepreneurial, using itinerant ministers to tend to the spiritual needs of these new communities. If a new community survived to become a town, a Methodist church was often the first church erected. Thus, Methodism remains the predominant religion of rural communities across Kansas.

As Kansans, we know the religious influences were particularly strong among the abolitionists in the 1850s and 1860s. Religion was an equally potent force in the 1870s and 1880s, when Methodists and a number of other Protestant religions led efforts to ratify and then enforce the 1880 state constitutional amendment to ban the sale and production of alcohol. The battle over temperance would be waged on and off until 1986, when Kansans finally approved a constitutional amendment to permit liquor by the drink ("open saloons").

No discussion of religion and politics in Kansas would be complete without a conversation about abortion and the rise of the Religious Right within the Republican Party. Unlike Thomas Frank, Wuthnow has no dog in this fight. For this reason, Wuthnow's account is unrivaled in the richness and depth of historical description.

The beginning of this critical period dates back to the 1974 U.S. Senate election between Sen. Bob Dole and Congressman Bill Roy, just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade. With its large union workforce and sizable Catholic community, Wichita was a Democratic-leaning city that Dole desperately needed to win. The Dole campaign tagged Roy as an abortion provider and abortion proponent. With pro-life supporters distributing flyers in church parking lots, Dole won the Catholic vote and Wichita, saving his political career. Dole's election in 1974 was a preview of the power of the abortion issue to mobilize religious people, especially Catholics.

This power came into full view during the Summer of Mercy abortion protests in 1991 in front of Dr. George Tiller's abortion clinic. The Catholic diocese in Wichita, under Bishop George Gerber, encouraged its parishioners to protest. On a Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer, Gerber himself joined protesters while a number of Catholic priests were arrested.

In the end, the Summer of Mercy reinforced the political changes first initiated in 1974. Even though prior to 1991, Kansas Democrats maintained an uneasy alliance between its pro-life and pro-choice members (Democratic Gov. Joan Finney also joined the protests). After the Summer of Mercy, more Catholics found themselves voting for Republican candidates based largely on the abortion issue. This shift transformed Wichita and Sedgwick County from a reliably blue area to reliably red one and hurt Kansas Democrat's capacity to compete within the county and in statewide contests.

Wuthnow's book is a reminder that even though today's headlines may read that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity engineered the conservative takeover of the Kansas state Senate, the reality is that this conservative victory was more than 35 years in the making.

Religion and politics in Kansas? Now that's a powerful mix.

Joseph A. Aistrup is a professor of political science at Kansas State University.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News