Daily Archives: January 9, 2010

God’s Economy details the history of the “faith-based initiative”

God\'s EconomyGod’s Economy: Faith-Based Initiatives and the Caring State, a recent University of Chicago Press publication by Lew Daly brings to the fore the intellectual history of the faith-based initiative. Digging through the Daniel Coats Papers, Daly, a senior fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan public policy research and advocacy organization, traces the roots of the faith-based initiative to the pluralist tradition of Europe’s Christian democracies, in which the state shares sovereignty with social institutions. Daly argues that Catholic and Dutch Calvinist ideas played a crucial role in the evolution of this tradition, as churches across nineteenth-century Europe developed philosophical and legal defenses to protect their education and social programs against ascendant governments. Daly untangles the radical beginnings of the faith-based initiative and the influence of this heritage on the past three decades of American social policy and church-state law. Daly also makes an effort to free the concepts from the narrow culture-war framework that has limited debate on the subject since Bush opened the White House Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001 and as President Obama signals a sharp break from many Bush Administration policies. Like Bush’s faith-based initiative, though, Obama’s version of the policy has generated loud criticism–from both sides of the aisle–even as the communities that stand to benefit suffer through an ailing economy. Daly believes that many have long misunderstood both the true implications of faith-based partnerships and their unique potential for advancing social justice. God’s Economy serves as a major contribution to the study of American religion and politics.