Evangelical Historians and the Political Left

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi speak to the press aboard a plane en route to a campaign event in Piedmont

Over at his Patheos blog , Darryl Hart wonders why I am always picking on the way Christian conservative political candidates use religion, but I am never critical of the way Christian progressives use religion in the political sphere.

He writes:

What is not exactly right is the tendency of evangelical historians to go after the bad theology of conservatives and remain silent about the not so great theology of liberals or progressives. I don’t read everything that Randall and John write, but I cannot recall them or their allies taking issue with Jim Wallis’ selective reading of the Bible to endorse left-of-center politics. Maybe evangelical historians don’t follow the left as much as they do the right, and certainly the theocon right is more inflammatory than the Christoliberal left. But I wonder if the selectivity stems from political convictions that run more toward the left than the right.

It’s a free country and historians have as much freedom to side with the left as the right. But at some point academic disinterest should kick in and make politicians of either party targets of historians who study religion when those public officials misuse faith. Telling me that the left doesn’t misuse faith is like Captain Renault telling Rick Blain that he was “shocked, shocked,” to find gambling going on at Rick’s Cafe.

A couple of quick responses:

First, I am glad that Darryl (in a part of the post that I did not quote above) thinks I am on the mark when I suggest that Ted Cruz may be a dominionist.

But I digress.

Second, I am happy to critique the way progressives misuse religious faith.  But the last time I checked, Jim Wallis was not running for President of the United States.  I hope I get a chance in the near future to write about Hillary Clinton’s use of faith in the general election, but let’s face it, those of use who write about religion and politics have a lot more to work with on the GOP side.  I criticize Ted Cruz because of his faulty view of the American founding and the implications that such a faulty view has on his politics. Ultimately, my critique of Cruz is a historical one.

3 thoughts on “Evangelical Historians and the Political Left

    • Darryl: This is a fair point. I am happy to call Wallis out if and when he manipulates the past to serve his own political ends. I have done this with Howard Zinn on numerous occasions and I imagine that Wallis is a Zinn fan. So I will keep my eyes open. On the other hand, Wallis does not claim to be a historian as Barton does. Again, I would be happy to critique Wallis’s faulty view of history (what specifically do you have in mind?), but critiquing Barton just seems more in my wheelhouse as a historian.

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