David Swartz Puts the InterVarsity Support of #blacklivesmatter in Historical Perspective


Tom Skinner @ Urbana, 1970

Last week we did a post on InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s recent embrace of the #blacklivesmatter movement.

Over at The Anxious Bench, David Swartz, the author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatismhas provided some historical context to this development.

Here is a taste:

Missing from the breathless reporting (one critic titled his piece “Dorothy, This Is Not Your Parents’ InterVarsity Anymore”) on Urbana ’15 was a sense of historical perspective. As I’ve written about at length in my book Moral Minority, InterVarsity in fact has a long tradition of social activism. In 1967, for example, students drafted a resolution complaining that “there are no black men in leadership positions on the national staff.” Following Urbana ‘67, InterVarsity’s magazine wrote that very little “escaped criticism at the convention. … Anything that seemed to show intolerance came under their indictment, with impatience toward racism leading the list.”

At Urbana ‘70 the funky strains of Soul Liberation, a band of black musicians wearing afros, colorful outfits, and African symbols, welcomed attendees. The mostly white audience hesitated at first, unsure of what to make of “Power to the People,” a song full of idioms from the emerging Black Power movement. But the swell of students soon rose to its feet to sing and clap along, delighted by the radical departure from the usual hymns.

Tom Skinner, a black evangelist, then rose to deliver the evening sermon, a searing critique of racial prejudice in American society. Cheered on by over 500 black students who had arrived early to secure seats right in front of the podium, Skinner preached, “You soon learn that the police in the black communities become nothing more than the occupational force in the black community for the purpose of maintaining the interests of white society. … You soon learn that what they mean by law and order is all the order for us and all the law for them.”

Echoing Martin Luther King, Jr., Skinner contended that the white evangelical moderate remained strangely silent. “Christians supported the status quo, supported slavery, supported segregation.” “Even today, evangelicals “go back to their suburban communities and vote for their law-and-order candidates who will keep the system the way it is.”

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with Shawn Young

Shawn Young is Assistant Professor of Music at York College of Pennsylvania. This interview is based on his new book, Gray Sabbath: Jesus People USA, the Evangelical Left, and the Evolution of Christian Rock (Columbia University Press, 2015).

JF: What led you to write Gray Sabbath?

SY: The book was a new version of my doctoral dissertation.  My interest in the topic developed after attending this community’s music festival. My wife actually introduced me to the event. 

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Gray Sabbath?

SY: The collective embrace of liminality is the driving force behind communal structure and success.  This group accepted a certain amount of ambiguity and, in doing so, was able to tamper with a number of cultural assumptions often associated with both evangelical Christianity and contemporary Christian music.

JF: Why do we need to read Gray Sabbath?

SY: Given the continuance of the so-called culture wars (and as we approach a new election cycle that will most certainly be defined by religious ideology), it is important for readers to add to their understanding of the unmistakable connections between cultural production (in this case, music), religious belief, and political identity. 

JF: When and why did you decide to study American music history?

SY: My interest in music developed when I was around the age of eight, first with the music of The Beatles, then with the band Kiss. In high school I was a band geek (trumpet and bass guitar), I marched in Drum and Bugle Corps, and enlisted in the U.S. Army Band, where I performed for about five years.  After my enlistment I volunteered for my uncle, who own a Christian concert production/promotion company.  As a fan of contemporary Christian music (CCM) I welcomed the opportunity to carry equipment and rub elbows with my heroes.  

When I was in college I played in a number of rock and jazz groups, completed an internship in the Nashville CCM scene, then met my wife, who formed a new band with me and introduced me to the Cornerstone Music Festival.  After college (and after working for a local church, a record label, and MARS Music Inc.) I was hired by Greenville College (academic home to the CCM group Jars of Clay), where I taught coursework in CCM.

I suppose my interest in American music history is a synthesis of various stages in my life, not the least of which was my ongoing connection to this industry and its various subcultural expressions. 

JF: What is your next project?

SY: I’m currently working on a cultural history of rock & roll, which will be a student textbook.  The next major work of scholarship will likely involve something about Army music
JF: Thanks, Shawn!

And thanks to Abby Blakeney for facilitating this installment of The Author’s Corner

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.

The New "Books and Culture" is Here

I just got my copy in the mail today.  I immediately read the following two reviews:

Eric Miller’s review of Peter Hales’s Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now.  Miller writes:

However [John] Winthrop may hover over Hales’ story, his own vision and hope are most decisively inspired by the classic Emersonian ideals: the spontaneous discovery of an inward connection to a greater reality; a harmonic convergence of self and society; above all, a religious confidence that The Self Knows, and that our true enemy is the enemy of the self.  Will these ideals be enough to save us from the mighty surges of history Hales with such acuity uncovers?  Many of us, still poised at that watchtower, listening to that howling wind, find ourselves looking for rescue from another direction.  Still: Read this book

Todd Ream and Drew Moser’s review of Randall Balmer’s Redeemer; The Life of Jimmy Carter. Ream and Moser write:

Redeemer is a biography of Jimmy Carter that has little to do with Jimmy Carter in critical places. As the story advances, it reads at times more like an account of the rise of the Moral Majority in evangelical America, with Carter cast as an almost accidental antagonist.  The book’s epigraph sketches its narrative and theological arc and its fundamentally ironic perspective: He came unto his own, and his own received him not, John 1:11 (King James Version).”  But Balmer’s irony isn’t calculated to elicit cheap sneers; it grows out of the tangle of American history.  And if his book isn’t entirely satisfying as a biography, he does succeed–in contrast to previous biographers–in rightly portraying Jimmy Carter’s Christianity as the driving force behind his political and personal life

We did an interview with Balmer last week about this book.

I am sure these reviews will appear soon on the B&C website.  Stay tuned.

I should also add that there is an ad on page 18 for the 29th Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History to be held on September 25-27 at Pepperdine University.  Learn more about the conference here.  Though the ad does not provide details, and the conference program has not been released, I can spill some of the beans and let you know that the following historians/authors/friends of this blog will be speaking in various capacities over the course of the weekend: Charles Marsh, Daniel Williams, Lendol Calder, Allen Guelzo, John Wigger, Jim LaGrand, Colleen McDannel, Thomas Albert Howard, Margaret Bendroth, Beth Barton Schweiger, Jay Case, Eric Miller, Chris Gehrz, Jonathan Den Hartog, Timothy Hall, Christopher Shannon, Darren Dochuk, Mark Noll, Molly Worthen, David Bebbington, Shirley Mullen, Jana Riess, Mike Kugler, Randall Stephens, Ed Blum, Randall Balmer, Jonathan Yeager, Bill Trollinger, Tracy McKenzie, Brad Gundlach, Warren Throckmorton, Paul Contino, John Wilson, Don Yerxa, and Wilfred McClay.

See you in Malibu.

The Author’s Corner with Randall Balmer

Randall Balmer is Mandel Family Professor in the Arts & Sciences and Chair of the Department of Religion at Dartmouth College. This interview is based on his forthcoming book, Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter (Basic Books, May 2014).

JF: What led you to write Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter?

RB: I was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Deerfield, when Jimmy Carter emerged onto the national stage. Like many evangelicals, especially those reared within the evangelical subculture, I was astonished to hear a politician speak unapologetically about being a “born again” Christian. It was a bracing moment, especially for someone who was considering a bid for elective office someday (I actually ran for a seat in the Connecticut legislature in 2004). Mark Hatfield was a hero of mine, of course, especially because of his advocacy for progressive evangelicalism, and I served as an intern for John B. Anderson and the House Republican Conference in 1975. But Carter’s boldness about his faith made a deep impression on me.

It’s axiomatic among historians that history is written by victors, but I’ve always been drawn to the underside of those triumphalist narratives. My first book was an account of the Dutch Reformed Church in the decades following the English Conquest of New Netherland in 1664, and when I first started writing about evangelicalism, evangelicals were hardly culturally ascendant, although they were beginning to make a bid for cultural and political power.

Jimmy Carter, following his bruising political defeat in 1980, is not generally seen as a victor, although his activities since leaving the White House have burnished his reputation considerably. But I’ve always been drawn to his story, replete as it is with the evangelical tropes of striving, success, failure, and redemption. In purely historical terms, the narrative is quite remarkable—coming out of political obscurity to win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency in 1976 with his grassroots campaign. In doing so, by the way, he rid his party—and the nation—of its most notorious segregationist, George C. Wallace of Alabama, by beating Wallace in the Florida Democratic primary. I don’t think that Carter has ever received sufficient credit for that.

I’d been batting about the idea for a biography of Carter for several decades, but I always found reasons to delay, in part because I didn’t have an angle on the project. I did research at the Carter Center and the presidential libraries of Reagan and Ford. I also did archival work at Liberty University and Bob Jones University, but the most important work I did was in Paul Weyrich’s papers, which (improbably enough) are held at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. My findings there allowed me, finally, to demonstrate beyond all doubt that the genesis of the Religious Right had nothing to do with the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.

Even with all of this research, the book itself remained elusive. I remember that I sat down at Thanksgiving 2012 and considered seriously the possibility of abandoning the project altogether. After a bit more dithering, I simply started writing; an entire draft emerged about six weeks later. Writing is how I think.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter?

RB: Redeemer argues that Jimmy Carter rode to the presidency on the twin currents of his reputation as a “New South” governor and a brief recrudescence of progressive evangelicalism as articulated in the 1973 Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern. As president, he sought to govern by those lights—and was, to a remarkable degree, successful in doing so—although many of the same evangelicals who supported him in 1976 turned rabidly against him four years later.

JF: Why do we need to read Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter?

RB: Redeemer is the first biography of the thirty-ninth president of the United States to take his faith seriously as a way of understanding Carter and the religiously turbulent times in which he lived.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

RB: The short answer is that I was profoundly influenced by two historians at Trinity College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: Douglas Frank and John D. Woodbridge, respectively, both of who remain friends to this day. For the longer answer, I’d have to take you along on automobile trips we took as a family when I was growing up as a preacher’s kid. My father, a pastor for forty years in the Evangelical Free Church, would plan our vacations around the denomination’s annual conference at different venues throughout North America. In mid-June every summer, we would pile into the family sedan (my father despised station wagons) and head off from southern Minnesota to Denver or Wisconsin or from Bay City, Michigan, to Ocean Grove, New Jersey, for the annual conference. In 1970, I recall, the sedan carried my parents and all five sons, pulling a travel trailer from Des Moines across the Rockies to Seattle and back. I loved those trips. I would look out the window and watch the landscape scrolling by hour after hour. I became enchanted with America and all of its regional diversity.

JF: What is your next project?

RB: Twenty-five years ago, I published a book entitled Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. This summer (2014), Oxford University Press will release the fifth edition of that book, with a new chapter (Latino evangelicals) and an afterword that provides an update on many of the people and the places I wrote about in the previous editions. Beyond that, I’m planning to collaborate with my son, Christian, on a film documentary about Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska. Finally, my wife, the estimable Catharine Randall, and I are working on a biography of a fascinating turn-of-the-twentieth-century Canadian woman who was a spiritualist, a journalist, a labor organizer, a women’s rights activist, an entrepreneur, an environmentalist, and a fan of Walt Whitman.

JF: Thanks Randall!

Thanks to Megan Piette for organizing and facilitating The Author’s Corner

Schrag Lecture Recap

David Swartz

David Swartz’s Schrag Lecture on Thursday night was very well-received by the 70+ members in attendance in Messiah College‘s Alexander Auditorium. Swartz’s lecture, “Anabaptists, Evangelicals, and the Search for a Third Way in Post-War America,” focused on some of the main themes of his book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.  Swartz talked extensively about how the so-called “Evangelical Left,” represented by Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, Doris Longacre (author of the More-With-Less Cookbook), John Howard Yoder and others, struggled to navigate a middle ground between the Christian nationalism and free market principles of the Religious Right and the secularism and pro-choice stance of the Democratic Party in the 1970s.  

The audience was filled with people interested in the history of Messiah College, Anabaptism, evangelicalism, and the Brethren in Christ Church.  Their questions focused on the relationship between the Evangelical Left and the largely secular New Left, the role that the Internet is playing in strengthening the followers of the “third way,” and how many evangelical pastors such as Bruxy Cavey and Greg Boyd are either finding a home in Anabaptism or seriously considering moving in that direction.
It was fascinating to chat informally with some members of the audience after the lecture.  So many of them had lived through the early days of the Evangelical Left.  They followed Jim Wallis and the Post-American (later Sojourners) community, supported Ronald Sider’s Evangelicals for Social Action, or used the More With Less Cookbook.  They had come to hear Swartz, a young historian from Asbury College, treat their 1970s evangelical world as a subject worthy of historical investigation.  It was a great night.
My comments were brief.  I wondered aloud what role Catholic Social Teaching might have played in the thinking of the Evangelical Left.  I also noted, borrowing from James Davison Hunter, that it appeared that the Religious Right and the Evangelical Left were both trying to “change the world” through politics.  In other words, they both wanted to create their own version of a “Christian nation.”  I also wondered what role Messiah College played in the Evangelical Left.  Ron Sider wrote his famous Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger while he was directing the Messiah College Philadelphia campus.  How did the administration of a very apolitical Anabaptist school like Messiah College handle Sider’s willingness to use politics as a means of social change?
It was great to finally meet David Swartz.  I am so glad that Devin Manzullo-Thomas, the director of the Sider Institute, invited him to deliver this year’s Schrag Lectures on Anabaptism.  Both of them hit a home run on Thursday night and I was glad to be a part of it.

David Swartz at Messiah College: TONIGHT

If you are in the south-central Pennsylvania area tonight stop by Messiah College to hear Asbury University historian David Swartz deliver the Schrag Lecture, an annual lecture on Anabaptism sponsored by the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies.  Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home know Swartz for his outstanding book, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age Conservatism.

I am a big fan of Swartz’s work.  A year or two ago I read his Notre Dame dissertation, “Left Behind: The Evangelical Left and the Limits of Evangelical Politics, 1965-1988” (love the title!) when I was working on an essay on evangelical political engagement.  I started reading Moral Minority last year and finished it last night.  Since I am responding to Swartz’s talk tonight, I do not want to give too much away here, but I will say that this was one of the most interesting and engaging monographs I have read in the last year.

Swartz’s talk is entitled “Anabaptists, Evangelicals, and the Search for a Third Way in Post-War America.”  The lecture will be held at 8pm in Alexander Auditorium (Frey 110).  Don’t miss it!

Gasaway Interviews Swartz on the History of the Evangelical Left

When I think of the historiography of the evangelical left in American religion and politics, I think of David Swartz and Brantley Gasaway.  Swartz teaches history at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky and he is the author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.  Gasaway teaches religion at Bucknell University and is the author of a forthcoming study of the evangelical left with University of North Carolina Press.

Over at Religion in American History, Gasaway interviews Swartz on his new book.  In part one of the interview, their conversation ranges from evangelical historiography to how Swartz chose his topic for research.  Here is a taste:

Brantley Gasaway (BG): Many people are interested in how authors come to study their subjectstell us what led you to write about the evangelical left. 

David Swartz (DS): Like any enterprising graduate student slogging through comprehensive exam lists, I was on the lookout for a gap in the scholarship of American religious history—and archival materials to exploit that gap. When I read a piece by progressive evangelical activist Ron Sider online suggesting that some “enterprising graduate student” take a look at the Evangelicals for Social Action archives, I knew immediately that I had a project. 

On a more personal level, this project was an attempt to figure out my own parents (history is ultimately autobiography, right?). They had grown up in the 1970s. They ran a pretty egalitarian marriage.
They sang “They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love” during worship services and would have been dismayed by an American flag in the church sanctuary. I ate food my mother (and father!) cooked out of More-with-Less, a cookbook with lots of vegetarian recipes. And I knew many like them, church-goers who were not comfortable with the idea of American as a Christian nation, a budget that prioritized the military over poverty, a punitive criminal justice system, and the like. And yet they shared their faith and lived out the kind of warm piety so common among evangelicals. This was an idiosyncratic combination that I never read about in news reports and scholarly books. I was curious about how typical they were—and why they seemed so marginalized in the public eye.

Moral Minority

David Swartz put it best at his blog: “The first review is in–and it’s a big one.” 

Yes indeed. 

David’s book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Lefts in an Age of Conservatism is reviewed in this weekend’s New York Times Sunday Book Review.  Here is a taste of Molly Worthen’s review:

So why did the evangelical left seem to dissolve into irrelevance? Swartz argues that evangelicals’ mass enlistment in the conservative Republicanism of the “culture wars” was not the inevitable consequence of doctrine or history: Jesus did not leave behind a clear party platform. But while members of the Christian right set aside doctrinal differences to rally around a shared cultural agenda, the left fell victim to internal identity politics and theological disputes. Black and female evangelicals argued that the left’s leadership was too white and too male. Anabaptists who emphasized nonviolence clashed with Reformed evangelicals who had ambitious plans to transform American culture. Meanwhile, secular liberals, eager to make abortion rights a nonnegotiable plank of the Democratic platform, drove anti-abortion Christians into the arms of savvy Republicans.
Progressive evangelicals tried to halt this migration: “The energy of the pro-life movement must be removed from the ideological agenda of the New Right,” Wallis warned in 1980. As conservatives transformed the fight against abortion from a “Catholic issue” into the defining battle of the culture wars, Wallis and others countered with another idea borrowed from Catholics, the “consistent life ethic” opposing poverty, war and the death penalty as well as abortion. Yet left-wing evangelicals’ measured arguments were no match for cries that abortion is murder and family values are under siege. It seems they were not so mainstream after all: efforts at fund-raising fell flat, and by the mid-’80s half of the subscriptions to Wallis’s magazine, Sojourners, went to Catholics.
Congratulations, David.

David Swartz on Pro-Life Democrats

I am really looking forward to reading David Swartz‘s forthcoming book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservativism.

In a recent post at his blog, Swartz reflects historically on the Democratic Party’s recent decision to reject “differing positions” on abortion.  Here is a small snippet from his book:

As President Carter soon discovered, insurgent resolve launched the Party on a new pro-choice trajectory. Calling abortion “wrong” and explaining that Roe v. Wade was “one instance where my own beliefs were in conflict with the laws of this country,” Carter’s equivocations on abortion offended growing numbers on the political left. Pro-choice feminists denounced the Democrats’ official 1976 platform that recognized “the legitimacy of both pro-life and pro-choice views.” They condemned Carter’s support of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited most Medicaid payments for abortion. They resented the fact that devout, pro-life Catholic Joseph A. Califano, Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, enforced the Amendment strictly. Presidential assistant Margaret Costanza fielded an extraordinary number of phone calls from public interest groups, the public, and even other White House staff members “expressing concern and even anger” over Carter’s position. Costanza urged Carter to reconsider. The President wrote a stark “no” on her written request, adding that his public statement was “actually more liberal than I feel personally.” Costanza, in turn, called a protest meeting of nearly 40 high-level pro-choice female members of the administration in July 1977. Carter did not yield, and Costanza eventually resigned. In 1980 Democrats adopted an explicit pro-choice position and strictly enforced the new orthodoxy. Formerly pro-life, Ted Kennedy had declared to a Massachusetts constituent in 1971 that “wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized—the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.” Within a decade, Kennedy reversed course. Other pro-life politicians with evangelical or Catholic backgrounds such as John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Mario Cuomo, Bob Kerrey, Dick Durbin, and Bill Clinton, also become leading defenders of the right to choose. In fact, five of the contenders for the Democratic nomination in 1988—Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Paul Simon, Dick Gephardt, and Al Gore—had flipped to a pro-choice position under party pressure.

The Historiography of the Religious Left

Ray Haberski is looking for the historiography of the religious left.  It is coming, Ray! 

In the next few years two young American religious historians will be releasing important books about the religious left.  I am happy to say that both of them are friends of this blog.

David Swartz of Asbury University will strike first.  (Or maybe I shouldn’t use such military metaphors for books on the religious left).  His book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism will be out with the University of Pennsylvania Press in September.

After you read Swartz’s book, check out the forthcoming study of progressive evangelicalism from Bucknell University’s Brantley Gassaway.  I don’t have a working title, but it will appear with the University of North Carolina Press in 2013.

I should also add that the picture above is from a December 2005 march on Capitol Hill to protest budget cuts that will hurt the poor.  It includes Tony Perkins, Jim Wallis, Mary Nelson, and Ron Sider.  The guy on the left holding the “Budgets Are Moral Documents” sign is Ron Tilley, a local Harrisburg evangelical activist and a pastor who I went to college and divinity school with.

The History and Future of the Evangelical Left

David Swartz, a history professor at Asbury University (KY), is one of our foremost authorities on the evangelical left.  His book Left Behind: Progressive Evangelicals in an Age of Conservatism will be out sometime this year.  In the meantime, check out his recent article in Society entitled “The Evangelical Left and the Future of Social Conservatism.”  Here is a taste:

In 1970 Mark Hatfield, a U.S. senator from Oregon, noted
critic of the Vietnam conflict, and an evangelical, gave the
commencement address at Fuller Theological Seminary in
Pasadena, California. Expecting to find seminarians who
viewed war in Vietnam as a holy cause against godlessness
and communism, Hatfield was shocked by shows of
solidarity with his own dovish stance. During the processional,
students in the balcony unfurled a banner that read,
“We’re with you, Mark.” Two-thirds of the seminary
graduates marching forward to receive their diplomas wore
black armbands over their gowns in protest against the war.
Hatfield, co-author of the Hatfield-McGovern Amendment
to end the Vietnam War, wrote later that for the first time he
sensed that “there were countless evangelicals, who
because of their faith in Christ, could not condone the
immoral and barbarian violence our nation was inflicting
throughout Indochina.”

Imagine Hatfield—a liberal Republican, an antiwar
evangelical, a pro-life and pro-welfare environmentalist—
surviving in today’s political climate. In the 1960s and
1970s Hatfield not only survived, but he flourished. He
never lost an election after high school and served in the
U.S. Senate for over 30 years. It seems surprising now,
given the ascendance of the religious right in the 1980s, but
there were many evangelicals who, like the senator, were
pro-life on abortion, antiwar on Vietnam, internationalist in
diplomacy, and pro-government intervention on poverty….

…We would do well to remember Hatfield and his cohort
as we consider the increasingly fragmented, amorphous,
and fluid nature of contemporary conservatism. The
evangelical left reminds us that social conservatism is an
unstable construct whose political and moral commitments
change over time—and that evangelicals, one of its primary
constituencies, are likewise culturally and politically ambivalent.
On one hand, younger Americans are more pro-life on
abortion, one of the typical measures of social conservatism.
On the other hand, younger Americans increasingly support
gay marriage and seem to be elevating economics above
traditionalist morality. The old categories—social conservative
opposition to civil marriage, biological intervention in
young and old life, economic regulation, and the privatization of religion–do not seem to hold.