Prof talks about new book on religion and politics in elections

April 16, 2013  |  
Victor Wan-Tatah

Victor Wan-Tatah

Victor Wan-Tatah, professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, recently released his book “Religion and Politics in Presidential Elections, The Toxic Influence of Religion in Recent Presidential Elections.” The Xlibris publication came about because of Wan-Tatah’s strong feelings during the 2008 and 2012 elections. The book discusses the influence and distortions of religion in the cutthroat race for president. Wan-Tatah shares some observations about his book:

  • I slowly made up my mind to write about it as I watched the 2008 presidential elections. I felt more and more uncomfortable and dissatisfied with what I heard people say about what was going on, by way of associating and distorting information about black religion, especially people who did not seem to impress me as really knowledgeable about black religion but about Christianity in general.
  • People were motivated, not by learning, but by hate and lack of understanding of the sensitive nature of these issues. I began taking notes, reading and informing myself about issues to do with American Christianity, the American Religious Scene, new religions, early Christianity, contemporary theology, the black church and black liberation theology that, among other issues, became the target of critics. When then-candidate Obama was criticized for remaining in his church when the minister, Jeremiah Wright, preached sermons critical of America, I felt it was necessary to address issues.
  • With the entry of Mormon Mitt Romney into 2012 elections, I realized how important the Mormon factor had become in American politics. The more I read, the more I became very concerned about their political ideology. We need more scrutiny about what they perceive about America, how they see themselves in America with regard to the constitution, and also the future of America when and if the constitution comes under threat.
  • The chapter Demagogues and False Prophets becomes a potent issue in the re-examination and understanding of the interface between religion and politics in American democracy. Anyone who has spend some time looking at how they interact, or how they shouldn’t really interact, would immediately see the danger of blind adherence to ideology as if it were a religion, in such a passionate way, because then it dispels the opportunity of compromise, or understanding, or give and take, which is necessary in governing and in the political process.
  • The chapter on demagogues and false prophets is a kind of commentary on some key players in American politics who disregard the facts and are so narrow minded to the point that they don’t really feel that people who refuse to side with them are real people, or are as patriotic as they are.  I think that is a real danger. It is a much worse danger when you have people whose political ideas have been tainted or are fueled by religious ideas.
  • The very people who espouse different religious or theological ideas in a very fundamentalist and restrictive way fail to understand that the founder of their religion, which happens to be predominantly Christianity, would never really support what they say and has never espoused that narrow way of thinking.
  • Part of the problem has to do with ignorance, and the other part has to do with the nature of religious discourse for people who don’t know that much, and are therefore easily influenced and swept along by the easy solutions or answers that are provided by a fundamentalist mindset.
  • Because the book has to do with recent elections, it would make sense to have a sequel when the next election comes up; for me to be able to go back to what I said and see if religion has changed its influence from something toxic to something productive and healthy. I think it’s possible.

Wan-Tatah, a native of Cameroon, came to the United States in 1977, earned master’s and doctorate degrees at Harvard University and joined the YSU faculty in 1987.