In the eye of the storm: Bill Clinton, the culture war, and the politics of religion

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Cohen, David B.
Wells, John W.
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We examine the religious aspects of the Clinton presidency by exploring two general themes. The first is the extent to which President Bill Clinton’s own theology was used as a source for mobilizing his supporters and bolstering his public policy positions. The President’s ability to adopt the tone and substance of moderate Baptist preachers is critical to understanding why, even in light of his famous “Sista Soldier” comment during the 1992 campaign, as well as his willingness to support public policies not popular among leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, Clinton was nonetheless extraordinarily well regarded among African-American voters – a key constituency of the Democratic Party. In the immediate aftermath of the impeachment crisis, the President used his address at a national prayer breakfast to ask for forgiveness and to seek redemption from the nation’s religious figures. The second theme illuminates the extent to which Mr. Clinton became a symbol in the nation’s ongoing “culture war.” The level of animus expressed by conservative ministers and leaders toward the Clinton presidency has no contemporary equivalent and this is at least partially explained by his becoming such a symbol. President Clinton was routinely cited as a specific example of the nation’s moral decline by leading fundamentalist clergymen, conservative pundits, and lawmakers. We contend that many of the political battles fought during the Clinton years had their genesis in the theological and religious struggles pre-dating his presidency; these battles are still being waged even after the turn of the twenty-first century in a post-Clinton era.
Cohen, David B. and Wells, John Wilson. (2007), In the eye of the storm: Bill Clinton, the culture war, and the politics of religion. Journal of Religion & Society, 9.
Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center, Creighton University
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