The New Republic Asks: "Will the Evangelical Left Rise Again?"

Elizabeth Stoker Bruening’s piece on the Evangelical left provides a nice overview of the progressive wing of evangelical Christianity.  The title is a bit deceiving, since she does not really attempt to answer this question.  So let me ask it again, “Will the Evangelical left rise again?”

Sometimes I feel many progressive evangelicals tend to look back longingly and nostalgically on three main periods of American religious history:

1.  Antebellum America:  This was a time when Evangelicals were on the cutting edge of social justice issues such as abolitionism and women’s rights.  (Of course there were also a lot of Evangelicals who were not in favor of abolitionism or women’s rights–it would be interesting to know the demographics here).

2.  The Progressive Era: A time when some Evangelicals were concerned about social Christianity in the context of industrialization.

3.  The 1970s:  The era when Carter brought together a coalition of “born-again” Christians concerned with some progressive issues.

Sometimes I wonder if the longing to reclaim the spirit of these eras is the mirror image of the longing for a Christian founding usually associated with the Religious Right.

We are all in search of a useable past–a past that inspires us to move forward in the present.  We just look for it in different places.

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