October 19, 2017

Evangelist Billy Graham speaks to more than 100,000 Berliners at the Olympic Stadium in Germany, June 27, 1954. (AP Photo)

Evangelicals have become one of the most politically powerful groups in America. But how? And is their power reshaping our notion of how religion and government should interact? To find out, we spoke with Daniel Williams, professor of American politics and religion at the University of West Georgia, and Darren Dochuk, professor of U.S. history at the University of Notre Dame.

Three Takeaways 

  • Evangelicals felt John F. Kennedy posed a huge threat to the power of protestant America. As a Catholic, Kennedy publicly endorsed the separation of church and state, and reassured people that, in his America, no “Catholic prelate would tell the president... how to act.”
  • The counterculture of the 1960s felt, to an increasingly powerful population of evangelicals, like a turn for the worse. And evangelicals responded with their own brand of political action.
  • Evangelicals had a bit of a liberal streak early on. Before being strongly associated with the right, evangelicals supported labor movements and left-leaning social justice reforms.

More reading 

  • Evangelicals loved Jimmy Carter — at first. But, eventually, they jumped ship. Salon takes a deeper look at why. (You can learn more about evangelicals in the ‘70s via this video).
  • Christianity is on the decline in America and the The New York Times says Trump can’t save it.
  • Take a look at one of the early crusades from evangelical leader Billy Graham, and one of his last, 50 years later.

innovation hub, Daniel Williams, Darren Dochuk, Culture, Kara Miller, WGBH, pri

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