Robert Putnam discusses religion and politics with Council on Foreign Relations members

March 21, 2012
By tomsander


Robert Putnam discussed “God and Caesar in America” with leaders from the Council on Foreign Relations on March 21, 2012 and took their questions.



We’ve seen rapid growth of inequality in America and much more than that the decline of economic mobility in the next generation….Increasingly, the most important determinant of how you do in life is how well-educated and wealthy your parents were.  Even if you’re hard-working and smart, kids coming from working-class backgrounds, not just among blacks but also among whites — this is a class issue –  [increasingly don’t have a fair chance].  The issue I’m currently focused on is how did it happen that we’ve had a rapid decline in the opportunities for kids coming from less well-off backgrounds.

I remember very vividly in my youth, in a small Republican pretty conservative mid-west town in the mid-50s.  As the issue of Brown vs. Board of Education came onto the screen, I remember my conservative pastor saying in a sermon “racism is a sin.”  He was not just saying racism is bad or we ought to fix this for national security reasons; he was making a connection between my religious beliefs and social justice.  What I’m worried about is that almost no one in America is saying today that the fact that increasingly some of our kids in America won’t have a chance to get ahead because of decisions their parents made, I think is a sin.  I think it’s awful.   I’m not talking about the distribution of income.  The issue of kids’ chances is not on the agenda of almost any major religious group in America.  And I think that is an appalling indictment of religion in America.  I’m not talking about a prophetic voice; I’m talking about them saying ‘this is wrong.’

Audio available here.


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