A new book by a Washington State University Tri‑Cities associate professor of history examines the complex relationship between religion, race, and government‑led antipoverty initiatives, and how this complex dynamic resonates in today’s political situation.
In his book, titled “Fighting to Preserve a Nation’s Soul: America’s Ecumenical War on Poverty,” Robert Bauman explores organized religion’s role in the struggle against poverty and its impact on social movements, the on‑going “War on Poverty” (initiated by President Lynden Johnson in 1964), and the power balance between church and state.
“Previously, religious organizational involvement in the antipoverty efforts hadn’t been closely examined,” Bauman said. “I hope readers gain an appreciation for the historical roles of religious organizations and individuals, and how their influence continues to this day.”
In particular, Bauman’s book showcases how activist priests and other religious leaders were able to connect religion with the antipoverty efforts of the civil rights movement. For example, the Black Manifesto, issued by civil rights and black power activist James Forman in 1969, challenged American churches and synagogues to donate resources to the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization as reparations for those institutions’ participation in slavery and racial segregation.