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.
In securing the release of the three American soldiers held in Yugoslavia, Jesse Jackson, Joan Brown Campbell and the other U.S. religious leaders who traveled to Belgrade pulled off a dramatic, unexpected success. On behalf of the soldiers, and in an effort to maintain contact with religious communities in Yugoslavia, the delegation made a risky journey.
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