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.