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Prophecy Without Contempt: Religious Discourse in the Public Square

Cathleen Kaveny

3 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0674495039 / ISBN 13: 9780674495036
Published by Harvard University Press
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Title: Prophecy Without Contempt: Religious ...

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Binding: Hardback

Book Condition: New

About this title


The contemporary culture wars have as much to do with rhetorical style as moral substance. Cathleen Kaveny reframes the debate about the role of religion in the public square by focusing on a powerful stream of religious discourse in American political speech: the Biblical rhetoric of prophetic indictment. American reformers for all manner of causes-abolitionists, defenders of slavery, prohibitionists, and civil rights leaders-have echoed the thundering condemnations of the Hebrew prophets in decrying what they see as social evils. Although rooted in the denunciations of Puritan sermons, the rhetoric has evolved to match the politics of a pluralistic society. Kaveny shows how the fiery rhetoric of prophetic indictment operates in very different ways than the cooler language of deliberation and policy analysis. Kaveny contends that prophetic indictment is a form of "moral chemotherapy": it can be strong medicine against moral cancers threatening the body politic, but administered injudiciously, it can do more harm than good. Kaveny draws upon a wide array of sources to develop criteria for the constructive use of prophetic indictment. In modern times, Martin Luther King Jr. exemplifies how to use prophetic rhetoric to facilitate reform and reconciliation rather than revenge.


"Through solid historical insights and careful moral reasoning, Kaveny gives her readers something that has become increasingly rare: a strong religious voice that points not to a shouted dialogue of the deaf, but to integrity, community, healing, and ways of getting along. It is an important book for the times." --Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame

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