From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism

From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism

From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism

From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism

Synopsis

From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin provides an iconoclastic new history of the entrance of evangelical Christians into national American politics. Examining the key players of the "Religious Right" -- Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and many others -- D. G. Hart argues that evangelicalism is (and always has been) a bad fit with classic political conservatism.

Hart shows how the uneasy alliance of these unlikely political bedfellows has contributed directly to the fragmentation of today's conservative movement. He contends that the ongoing burden of reconciling the progressive moral idealism of religious conservatives with the sober realism of political conservatives increasingly threatens this precarious partnership. Moreover, Hart suggests that evangelicals are unlikely to remain politically conservative in the long term unless they stop looking to big government to solve societal woes at home and abroad and at last embrace classic small-government conservatism for its own sake.

Excerpt

For over twenty-five years an axiom of American politics has been that evangelical Protestantism is politically conservative. This notion involves the assumption that conservative religion and conservative politics go hand in hand. Prior to the 1970s, of course, evangelicals were known more for an other-worldly faith that made them more concerned with saving souls for the world to come than with turning out voters to decide on matters of the here and now. That is why evangelicals prior to the Reagan revolution had the reputation for being politically passive.

The word reputation needs to be emphasized because most evangelicals, like my parents, who did not have a television and so carted my brother and me over to our uncle’s to see a GoldwaterJohnson debate during the 1964 presidential campaign, cared about their nation and voted in ways that students of American religion and politics back then rarely noticed. During the 1960s no one really knew about the “God vote” except when Protestants pulled levers and punched chads for candidates who were not Roman Catholic. What is accurate to say of twentieth-century evangelicalism is that from World War ii until the rise of the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family, born-again Protestants lacked notable religious or political leaders or institutions that could rally them as an electoral bloc. Since Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, however, evan-

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