For a fascinating slice of recent American cultural history, let me suggest Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter by Randall Balmer, chair of Dartmouth's Department of Religion. Balmer describes Carter as a "progressive evangelical," a brand of peculiarly American Christianity that had flourished at the end of the nineteenth century (think William Jennings Bryan) but then mostly disappeared in the 1920-50s. Carter's faith-based presidency, however, could not stem the rise of the "religious right," fueled by bitter public controversies over tax-exempt status for segregated Christian colleges, abortion, and prayer in public schools. These decidedly non-progressive evangelicals helped swing the 1980 presidential election to Reagan and pushed the "redeemer" of American politics (after the traumas of Watergate) back to Plains, Georgia, as a one-term president. Balmer admires Carter's courage but admits that his "frenetic benevolence" probably compromised his political effectiveness. A great read!