A sweeping look at the roots of today’s culture wars over abortion, sexual identity, and the intersection of sexuality and racial differences, Griffith studies the great schism between religious conservatives and progressives about women's control over their bodies.
Griffith’s observations are eerily prescient. Whether one tolerates misogyny or apologizes for it is a highly variable thing ... Moral Combat is an impressive history of a massive fault line running through American history and politics: namely, sex. In eight rich chapters that span a century, Griffith traces the ridge where the tectonic plates of very different kinds of Christians have abutted... The book’s vast scope is humanized through Griffith’s artful use of key figures to anchor each chapter ... Griffith clearly demonstrates that American history is not a story of religion vs. sexual freedom. Rather, it is one of extraordinarily varying religious approaches to such freedoms ... With its crisp prose and lively quotations, Moral Combat is accessible for a wide readership. It is also a critical scholarly contribution to the intersecting histories of sex, race, politics and religion in the United States.
R. Marie Griffith probes the answers to these questions, and so much more, in Moral Combat, that rare academic work that weaves incisive research into a spellbinding tale of American piety and its restless twin, sex ... She comes by her arguments honestly...and spins her story with skill and grit. As with Frances FitzGerald’s magisterial The Evangelicals, Griffith breathes spirit into dry history, fashioning sinew and muscle onto brittle bones ... Moral Combat hews to a simple argument — those who seek plurality and change will wrestle unto death with those invested in tradition and order — making its case with vivid anecdotes ... Griffith’s diagnosis is dark but spot-on: Christianity has ruptured over the political weaponization of gender. Similar to class warfare and the legacy of slavery, reactionary puritanism is an enduring strand in our national DNA.
Moral Combat offers a concise and much-needed reminder of a liberal religious tradition with a distinguished record of defending women’s and sexual rights. Still, it would have been improved by a conclusion that could identify enduring themes in its case studies. A fuller discussion of funding would have complicated the story ... The book also neglects to ask why progress toward sexual freedom has been so uneven ... But these complaints about what a book doesn’t cover should not diminish the importance of what it does ... The story Griffith tells is crucial, particularly because America is such a religious country, and liberals need all the allies they can get.