www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

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

Green fields in northwest Kansas -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Consolidation by starvation -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

School mergers tricky -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Hotel tipping -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Abuse video revealed nothing we didn't know -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Lessons from 13 years ago -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

The zero option -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Why branding ISIS matters -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

School efficiency -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Favors and loot for sale -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

The 'college experience' -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Ellis schools -9/11/2014, 10:10 AM

Hold on, Mr. President -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

The best bathroom -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

The day the world stood still -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

No one can play your part -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Playing candidate dress-up -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Congress at work -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Schmidt is the answer -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

The liabilities of cannabis use -9/8/2014, 9:21 AM

Downtown decision -9/8/2014, 9:21 AM

Why are red states so far behind? -9/8/2014, 9:20 AM

Taylor's next move -9/5/2014, 10:16 AM

Consider trees to spruce up yard -9/5/2014, 10:15 AM

Washington takes action to reform VA -9/5/2014, 10:15 AM

Umbehr stands out -9/4/2014, 12:25 PM

Leadership education -- it's not a scam -9/4/2014, 12:24 PM

Not supporting Brownback's re-election -9/4/2014, 12:23 PM

A fair fair debate -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Suicide in today's age -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Regulation overreach -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Sharpton, Kobach's common ground -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

In charge of all -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Pocket-book debate? -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Educating voters on education -9/2/2014, 9:33 AM

Crazy election season in Kansas -9/2/2014, 9:33 AM

An erosion of authenticity -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Blasphemy, free speech and the 'black mass' -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Labor Day -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Flexing muscles -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

Blacks must confront reality -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

The leadership scam -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

Green monster -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

The resurrection of Rick Perry -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

Senate campaign -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

Right to be heard? -8/26/2014, 10:08 AM

Over-covering Ferguson -8/26/2014, 10:07 AM

Figuring out the tax debate -8/26/2014, 10:07 AM

An obvious ploy -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Not-so-beautiful sunset -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Cannabis therapy -- Why bother? -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Business climate of Kansas -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

James Foley: Courage in the face of danger -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

Festering wound -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

Big banks settling -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Tuition pays for this -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

College textbook scam -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Policing a riot -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Evil strikes back -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Art appreciation -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Abuse of power -8/20/2014, 8:22 AM

Ferguson police arrest reporters for reporting -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Don't 'got milk' -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Another road map to success? -8/19/2014, 10:05 AM

It's the abuse of power, stupid -8/19/2014, 10:04 AM

Riots in Ferguson, and what they mean -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

One of billions -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

The GOP presents: Barack-nado -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Media and Missouri: What's going on? -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Answer the bell -8/15/2014, 8:58 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
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.