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

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This volume's title is misleading, since it says little about either Billy Graham or Sarah Palin. Instead it is a kind of literary history of prominent evangelical Christians' thinking about political conservatism. A church historian, Hart examines the writings of such figures as Carl McIntire, Jerry Falwell, Marvin Olasky, Chuck Colson, and Ron Sider, among others. He shows how their moral idealism is at odds with the realism, prudence, and preference for stasis that has characterized political conservatism. At a time when many view the relationship between evangelicals and the Republican Party as unquestionably tight, Hart suggests born-again Christians may actually have more in common with the aspirations of progress, change, and social improvement championed by the left. And he sagely hints that younger evangelical leaders may be rethinking the conservative impulse and veering closer to the center left, if not to the Democratic Party. This book might have benefited from a historical overview of conservatism in its early chapters and from a more accurate title, but its insights are acute and on target. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

A critique of the claim that American evangelicals are "conservative."

Exploring a variety of writings, personalities and movements over the past several decades, Hart (Church History/Westminster Seminary California) explodes the conventional wisdom that evangelical Protestant Christians are by and large politically conservative. The author begins with an explanation of the emergence of evangelicalism out of early-20th-century fundamentalism, and the political viewpoints (and lack thereof) of mid-century evangelicals. Battered by the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, evangelicals found 1976 to be a pivotal year as they received impetus through the Bicentennial to re-enter the American political landscape in force, while also producing the first avowedly born-again president, Jimmy Carter.Carter's political leanings provided evangelical Protestants and the larger populace with the first realization that not all evangelicals are right-leaning.Indeed, after the evangelical heyday of the '80s, there has been a continual growth in the number and visibility of liberal evangelicals such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo.Such left-leaning evangelicals aside, Hart's main point is that "conservative" Christians rarely understand the tenets of true conservatism, and often subvert conservatism for evangelical purposes.Despite the title, Graham and Palin are hardly mentioned, with far more attention given to evangelical thinkers, kingmakers and established figures such as Pat Robertson and Francis Schaeffer.Erudite and well-researched, Hart's style is also approachable and often witty. Students of political theory will not be surprised by the author's work, but many general readers will be taken aback to learn that evangelical Protestantism isn't always—and perhaps is only rarely—conservative in nature.

Recommended for those interested in the intersection of faith and politics.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802866288
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 7/28/2011
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

D. G. Hart is the author or editor of more than twenty books on American religion, including A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State and Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham. A former director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicalism at Wheaton College, he is currently visiting professor of history at Hillsdale College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Irreconcilable Differences? Evangelicals and American Conservatives 1

1 Silent Minority 19

2 Young and Leftist 41

3 The Search for a Usable Past 65

4 Party Crashers 93

5 The Faith-Based Right 121

6 Left Turn 151

7 Conservatism without Heroism 179

Conclusion: Why Should Evangelicals Be Conservative? 207

Index 227

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