Revitalizing US Civil Society by Reconceptualizing Civil Religion and Its Virtues

  • Rosemary P. Carbine
Part of the New Approaches to Religion and Power book series (NARP)


US civil society is arguably in decline if not effectively endangered. Civil society refers to a shared associational and discursive space of political inquiry, deliberation, and decision making among all citizens with different viewpoints about pressing issues that confront our common life and that connect to the common good. According to theologians and ethicists such as David Tracy, Francis Fiorenza, Jeffrey Stout, and Rebecca Chopp (Carbine 2006), practices that foster civil society in an increasingly pluralistic global setting are intertwined with civic virtues of mutual respect for the life, liberty, and equality of others, especially religious others. These virtues ground and emerge from the giving and exchanging of arguments, listening to and speaking with others in publicly accessible ways that recognize but bridge religious differences, and a willingness to consent to, dissent from, and/or risk a changed opinion about matters of common concern. By contrast, judging from recent political trends, US political discourse and public life are currently fractured, marked by a culture of labels and lies, which eviscerates civil society and its virtues.


Civil Society Common Good Civic Virtue Civil Religion Pluralistic Democracy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alter, Jonathan. 2010. “The Illustrated Man.” Newsweek, September 6.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, Glenn. 2010. “Make the Pledge—40 Days and 40 Nights.” December 10. Available at Scholar
  3. Begley, Sharon. 2010. “I’m Mad as Hell…and I’m Going to Vote!” Newsweek, October 11.Google Scholar
  4. Bellah, Robert. 1970. “Civil Religion in America.” In Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World, 168–186. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  5. Blow, Charles M. 2012. “Lincoln, Liberty, and the Two Americas.” The New York Times, November 23.Google Scholar
  6. By The People. 2007. “Dialogues in Democracy: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in the 21st Century.” November 8–11. Available at and For this event’s discussion guide, see Scholar
  7. Carbine, Rosemary P. 2006. “Ekklesial Work: Toward a Feminist Public Theology.” Harvard Theological Review 99.4: 433–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chait, Jonathan. 2011. “War on the Weak.” Newsweek, April 10.Google Scholar
  9. Cunnigen, Donald and Marino A. Bruce, eds. 2010. Race in the Age of Obama. Bingley, UK: Emerald.Google Scholar
  10. Dionne Jr., E. J. 2008. Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Espinosa, Gastón, ed. 2011. Religion, Race, and the American Presidency. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  12. Fernandez, Manny. 2013. “White House Rejects Petitions to Secede, But Texans Fight On.” The New York Times, January 15.Google Scholar
  13. Fernandez, Manny.-. 2012. “With Stickers, a Petition, and Even a Middle Name, Secession Fever Hits Texas.” The New York Times, November 23.Google Scholar
  14. Flannery, Austin. 1996. Vatican Council II: The Basic Sixteen Documents: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Goldberg, Michelle. 2006. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  16. Griffith, R. Marie. 2011. “The New Evangelical Feminism of Bachmann and Palin.” Huffington Post, July 6.Google Scholar
  17. Harvey Wingfield, Adiaandjoe R. Feagin. 2010. Yes We Can? White Racial Framing and the 2008 Presidential Campaign. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Hellwig, Monika K. 2005. Public Dimensions of a Believer’s Life: Rediscovering the Cardinal Virtues. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  19. Hunter, James Davison. 2010. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ingersoll, Julie. 2009. “Mobilizing Evangelicals: Christian Reconstructionism and the Roots of the Religious Right.” In Evangelicals and Democracy in America: Religion and Politics. Vol. 2, edited by Steven Brint and Jean Reith Schrodel, 179–208. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Laderman, Gary. 2011. “Republicanity—The GOP Transformation is Nearly Complete.” Religion Dispatches, July 17.Google Scholar
  22. Landsberg, Mitchell. 2012. “Poll: Most Americans Do Not Identify Obama as Christian.” Los Angeles Times, June 23.Google Scholar
  23. Lizza, Ryan. 2011. “Leap of Faith: The Making of a Republican Front-Runner.” The New Yorker, August 15.Google Scholar
  24. Maier, Pauline. 1998. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  25. Maier, Pauline. 2010. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787–1788. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  26. McNeill, Alex. 2010. “Me the People: A Day with the Tea Party.” Religion Dispatches, August 30.Google Scholar
  27. “Michele Bachmann’s Hurricane Comments Were Only a Joke, She Says.” 2011. The Guardian, August 30. Available at
  28. Miller, Lisa. 2010. “Saint Sarah.” Newsweek, June 21.Google Scholar
  29. Murphy, Andrew. 2010. “Beck Plays Prophet—Politics Pervade.” Religion Dispatches, September 1.Google Scholar
  30. Obama, Barack. 2006. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  31. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. 2011. “The Tea Party and Religion.” February 23. Available at Scholar
  32. Public Religion Research Institute. 2010. “Survey: Religion and the Tea Party in the 2010 Elections.” October 5. Available at Scholar
  33. Restoring Courage. August 24, 2011. Available at
  34. Restoring Honor. August 28, 2010. Available at and–1.
  35. Romano, Andrew. 2010. “America’s Holy Writ.” Newsweek, October 25.Google Scholar
  36. Schama, Simon. 2011. “The Founding Fathers, Unzipped.” Newsweek, July 4 and 11.Google Scholar
  37. Shields, Jon A. 2009. The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shiffrin, Steven H. 2012. The Religious Lef and Church-State Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Stout, Jeffrey. 2010. Blessed Are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America. Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Townsend, Kathleen Kennedy. 2011. “Ayn Rand vs. America.” The Atlantic, August 23.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ada María Isasi-Díaz, Mary McClintock Fulkerson, and Rosemary P. Carbine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosemary P. Carbine

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations