Eric's Reviews > God in the White House: A History: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush

God in the White House by Randall Balmer
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's review
Jun 25, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: american-history, non-fiction, modern-history, politics, christianity, books-from-library
Read in June, 2008

I picked this up at the library because it looked interesting. That proved to be the case, but the author's bias kept it from being any better. In fact, that bias leaves the reader under-informed and distorts the author's analysis.

The author gives it away in his introduction. He doesn't care for the so-called Religious Right, though he maintains that he's tried to be "fair" in this history. He should have tried harder.

Balmer examines the faith of each president back to JFK to see what impact, if any, it played in their administration. With JFK, all we learned was that JFK wanted religion to play no role in the campaign, and that many evil Protestants didn't want a Catholic in the White House. Nothing earth-shattering there.

LBJ got some glowing accolades for his Great Society programs and some demerits for Vietnam. Not until the last chapter does Balmer mention, very briefly, that LBJ was not a nice guy. For example, he once purposely urinated on a Secret Service agent (as recounted in this excellent book). You'd think Balmer would mention that.

Nixon was given his usual treatment, with his domestic accomplishments largely glossed over. We read a lot about the evangelicals who supported him, though.

In fact, that's the main flaw of the book. Balmer spends way too much time on the Religious Right, and never once mentions the Religious Left and the role it has played. It's a glaring omission.

He also slams Dubya for Iraq and signing a bill that supposedly authorizes torture, and notes how that is in conflict with his supposed faith. You'd think Balmer would mention the faith-based initiatives, the AIDS initiatives, the efforts to combat world-wide slavery, and No Child Left Behind, all programs that just might reflect Dubya's faith. But nothing. Not even a passing reference. Another glaring omission.

Balmer hasn't written an honest, unbiased history. It's just a hit job masquerading as history.

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