Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America

Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America

Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America

Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America

Synopsis

Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Nondenominational organizations like Campus Crusade account for much of modern evangelicalism's dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture. Despite the importance of these "parachurch" organizations, says John Turner, historians have largely ignored them.

Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Drawing on archival materials and more than one hundred interviews, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Beyond the campus, Bright expanded evangelicalism's influence in the worlds of business and politics. As Turner demonstrates, the story of Campus Crusade reflects the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society: its awkward marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence.

Excerpt

In June 1972, eighty-five thousand college and high school students converged for a weeklong festival. They lived in a “tent city,” listened to rock music, played in mud formed by downpours, and enjoyed being away from their parents. Yet this throng of students was different from the youthful gatherings more often associated with the late 1960s and early 1970s. These young people were in Dallas for Campus Crusade for Christ’s “Explo ’72”—at “Godstock” rather than Woodstock. The students spent the mornings listening to Bill Bright, Billy Graham, and other evangelical luminaries talk about Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and evangelism. On several afternoons, they visited Dallas neighborhoods, knocked on doors, and shared the contents of a small booklet entitled Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws? They visited the booths of agencies that sought to convince them to devote their postcollegiate lives to foreign missions. In the evening meetings, the assembled students applauded a large contingent of military personnel and cheered the South Vietnamese flag. Graham read a telegram from Richard Nixon, and a survey conducted by a local newspaper reported that the students favored Nixon over George McGovern in the upcoming election by a margin of more than five to one. On the final night of the event, tens of thousands of other Dallas residents joined the students for a “Jesus Music Festival,” featuring the music of Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. The young people in attendance swayed and danced to the music and pointed their index fingers to the sky in the “one way” symbol of the Jesus Movement. Explo ’72 revealed an evangelical youth culture—in some ways con-

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