When You Might Want a Mulligan

A 2007 estimate of evangelical leaders (read elites):

Since 1976, hundreds of evangelicals. . . have risen to positions of public influence. But they have not done so by chance. The rise of evangelicalism is the result of the efforts of a select group of leaders seeking to implement their vision of moral leadership. They have founded organizations, formed social networks, exercised what I call “convening power,” and drawn upon formal and informal positions of authority to advance the movement. Sociologist Randall Collins has argued that recognition and acclaim are bestowed upon leaders and ideas through structured, status-oriented networks. Over the last three decades, the legitimacy that has come to the evangelical movement has come through the political, corporate, and cultural leaders who were willing publicly associate with it. Evangelicalism, with its history of spanning denominational boundaries is well suited to help evangelicals build connections and important leaders and prestigious institutions. They have formed alliances with diverse groups, giving the movement additional cachet and power in surprising ways. Leaders are often at the vanguard of a movement, and this book shows how evangelicals endowed with public responsibility have been at the forefront of social change over the last thirty years. By building networks of powerful people, they have introduced evangelicalism into the higher circles of American life. The moral leadership they practice certainly grows out of their evangelical convictions, but it also reflects the privilege they enjoy and the power they wield. Indeed, their leadership is an extension of-not a departure from-the elite social worlds they inhabit. (Michael Lindsay, Faith in the Halls of Power, 11-12)

Were Bush-era evangelicals ever set up for a fall?

The lesson here is beware when sociologists praise your movement, that includes you Young, Restless, Reformed, you.

Reading Other People's Mail

This communication to the most powerful government in the world inspired me to make public one of mine to the most powerful news reporting agency on the planet:

May 18, 2005

To the editor of the New York Times:

Mark Lilla’s brief for liberal biblical religion in “Church Meets State” is odd for a couple reasons. First, he does not recognize that “liberals” such as Henry Ward Beecher and Woodrow Wilson fit precisely his category of Protestant who spiritualized the Bible and then read liberal democracy back into scripture to justify such campaigns as the Civil War and World War I. Richard F. Gamble’s recent book, The War for Righteousness (ISI Books, 2003), well documents the liberal religious origins of sanctimonious government action. Second, Lilla fails to notice that the old liberal Protestant culture warriors who defended WASP America and today’s Protestant Right both share a utilitarian understanding of religion that evaluates faith by the good it does in this world, as opposed to the world to come. Perhaps a truly conservative Christianity of Augustinian vintage might distinguish church and state better than Lilla’s liberal version.

D. G. Hart
Philadelphia, PA
215-247-7654 (h)
302-652-4600 (o)

I’m betting none of the people to whom these missives were addressed read/reads them. What the on-line readers are supposed to make of these letters is anyone’s guess.