BBC Radio 4's Analysis: Is God on their Side?, was broadcast on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 at 20:30 GMT.
Preacher and politician
"It was goodbye Jack Daniels, hello Jesus," remarked George W. Bush after he successfully tackled a serious drinking problem. Much attention outside the United States has focused on the alcoholism overcome, very little on what replaced it. Precisely the reverse is true in America.
There, the President and the Republican party have drawn much of their electoral strength from close ties to socially conservative religious groups, particularly those with evangelical roots. They critically influence swathes of policy from foreign affairs to what is taught in taxpayer-funded schools - and their impact is growing. It is often overlooked that this impact is not confined to the Right of politics either.
Just in recent times, from Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter onwards, liberal voices have been strongly influenced by religiosity. But why should this be? In this week's edition of Analysis, Andrew Brown examines where the combination of politics and faith is leading US politics and what its implications are.
The politico-religious movements are deep-rooted, inter-connected, rich and powerful. They not only lead and shape debate about controversial issues. They help guide, sustain and inspire communities which, in turn, regularly vote and take on leadership roles. Regardless of political standpoint, such groups draw on the rich religious dimensions of American history and self-identification to reflect the growing importance of Southern and Texan values across the US. Accordingly, they underline a significant shift in US culture.
But why are these religious movements proving so lastingly powerful? What makes Southern White Protestantism so radical-and so different from other evangelical groups? And how much further and deeper does the impact of these groups have to go?
Analysis explores the beliefs, the world view and the aspirations of the politically religious in America to discover why so many have come to believe that God, uniquely, is on their side.
Presenter: Andrew Brown
Producer: Simon Coates
Editor: Nicola Meyrick