The Christian Right in American Politics: Marching to the Millennium

By John C. Green; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The Christian Right's Long
Political March

John C. Green, Mark J. Rozell, and Clyde Wilcox

THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT HAS FASCINATED PUNDITS, JOURNALISTS, and social scientists for more than twenty years. As one of the few conservative social movements to achieve significant political influence in the postwar period, it has repeatedly defied conventional wisdom. Its initial appearance in the late 1970s surprised observers, and its persistence over two decades was unexpected. Indeed, there have been numerous obituaries for the movement—followed by dramatic revivals of its fortunes. The 2000 election is a good example: while many observers touted the decline of the Christian Coalition, the broader movement helped George W. Bush win the Republican nomination and the White House. Bush repaid this critical support by choosing former Senator John Ashcroft, once the favored presidential candidate of the movement, as U.S. Attorney General. Indeed, the Christian Right has been engaged in a long and torturous “march toward the millennium,” from outsider status into the thick of American politics. Here the “millennium” represents a date rather than progress toward the movement's goals—which remain largely unfulfilled.

This long political march has spurred extensive research on the Christian Right. Scholars have described the religious communities that form the core and peripheral constituencies of the movement (Wilcox 1992; Leege and Kellstedt 1993; Kohut et al. 2000; Layman 2001), and the attitudes and activities of leaders of these communities, especially pastors (Jelen 1991; Guth et al. 1997). A great deal is known about the social characteristics, religious doctrine, and political beliefs of Christian

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