Francis Schaeffer has changed thousands of lives, including mine. This other, earlier “Pope Francis” might not bear the same weight he once did. However, a Christianity Today readers’ poll once placed him above John Calvin in influence. Following World War II, Schaeffer had left behind separatist fundamentalism to help Billy Graham and the Jesus Movement usher in a golden age of evangelical conservative prestige.
Long before Sarah Palin met CPAC and the Duck Dynasty clan discovered A&E, George Gallup Jr. famously declared 1976 the “Year of the Evangelical.” Subsequent commentators often pluralized “evangelical.” They might have done the same for “year,” too. In many years hence—1980, say, or 2004—it was 1976 all over again, to judge from the headlines. Those election years highlighted the Christian Right, a force that was not on Gallup’s radar screen back when Jimmy Carter was the prototypical evangelical in public life.
The years of the evangelicals were not only about campaign politics, however.
Mitt Romney angered evangelicals during his first White House run in 2008 by blurring the theological lines between their faith and his Mormonism. Lurching in the other direction, he irked them again by scarcely mentioning religion at all during this year’s GOP primaries.
We’re in the Money!” announces the cover of Christianity Today (June 12). “How Did Evangelicals Get So Wealthy, and What Has It Done to Us?” the subhead asks. Michael S. Hamilton’s lead article defines the “us” as the parachurch organizations which, by Hamilton’s estimate, have combined budgets of $22 billion. Both he and, in another article, John Stackhouse Jr.
When Americans discuss the great crisis facing the Roman Catholic Church, they usually are thinking of the notorious sex abuse scandals. Vatican authorities, though, worry more about another crisis, one with potentially far graver implications for the church—the explosive growth of Protestant and Pentecostal numbers in what has always been the solidly Catholic stronghold of Latin America.
When asked where the new members of liberal churches will come from, David Jenkins, former Anglican bishop of Durham, replied: “Where they have always come from—the evangelicals.” This is only partly true, of course. Most members of liberal churches were born or married into a mainline congregation. Yet it is true that many members of liberal, mainline churches are former conservatives.
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