GOP Candidates and Their Evangelical Constituencies

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Is there a “Billy Graham” wing in American evangelicalism?

Last week I wrote about Marco Rubio’s new religious liberty advisory committee.  In that post I argued that the make-up of the committee suggests Rubio’s attempt to appeal to mainstream evangelicals.  I compared these evangelicals with those evangelicals who support the Ted Cruz and Donald Trump candidacies.

Today I learned that Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church, offered a similar analysis.  Here is a quote from an article at Roll Call:

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Trump, Cruz and Rubio are appealing to disparate camps of evangelicals.

“I would say that Ted Cruz is leading in the ‘Jerry Falwell’ wing, Marco Rubio is leading the ‘Billy Graham’ wing and Trump is leading the ‘Jimmy Swaggart’ wing,” Moore said, meaning that Cruz has largely followed the classic Moral Majority model that was the face of the conservative movement — he has received endorsements from figures such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson — while Trump “tends to work most closely with the prosperity wing of Pentecostalism” which tends to believe that God would financially reward believers.

I chose to use the adjective “mainstream” to describe the Billy Graham wing of evangelicalism.  This wing of evangelicalism, which I would associate with Christianity Today, Graham, Wheaton College, Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Campus Crusade for Christ (now called “Cru”) and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is the kind of evangelicalism that I am familiar with because it is the evangelicalism that  I joined as a teenager in the 1980s.

But after thinking a bit more, I wonder if this wing of evangelicalism is still “mainstream?”  Perhaps Moore’s “Falwell” wing or Trump’s “prosperity” wing may now be more mainstream.

Thoughts?

3 thoughts on “GOP Candidates and Their Evangelical Constituencies

  1. Evan: I have to agree with you here. The so-called New Calvinists do have a very combative spirit that are reminiscent of the Falwell wing. There seems to be a battle going on right now to see who are true heirs to the neo-evangelicalism of Carl Henry and the early N.A.E. I once had horse in this race, but I don’t think I do any more.

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  2. I do wonder whether there’s not something of a breakup underway in the Billy Graham wing. The recent events at Wheaton College certainly don’t seem to reflect the spirit of Billy Graham. Nor does Moore’s activism. Moore, along with fellow New Calvinists like John Piper, Phil Ryken, Owen Strachan, Denny Burk, et al., seem to be taking a tack that bears more similarities with the Falwell wing. In that sense, the Graham wing seems to be splitting into a Hybels/Warren camp and a Mohler/Piper camp.

    Besides, I doubt that it was supporters of Marco Rubio within Wheaton’s off-campus constituency who urged Jones to take action against Hawkins. That sounds more like something the Falwell wing (or the New Calvinist defectors from the Graham wing) would seek. In fact, I tend to see Wheaton’s actions as primarily motivated by a desire to reject expressly the “big tent” evangelicalism of Graham, Hybels, and Warren, in favor of something more along the lines of New Calvinism.

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