The American Conservative claims that “conservative evangelicals are more Republican than Republicans.” The piece is good not only for plugging a forthcoming title by Darryl Hart (From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelical Protestants and the Betrayal of American Conservatism) but also for raising the question about just what social and political gospel is if not the legacy of conservative evangelicalism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. If Dougherty gets the religious rightists right, and I think he does, what was exactly so wrong about Protestant liberalism? One can’t help but think it wasn’t so much having a socio-political gospel but having the wrong socio-political gospel. At least, when Jerry Falwell was asked to weigh in about civil rights in the 50s and 60s he sure sounded two-kingdoms-ish when he refused claiming it wasn’t his duty to comment on social and political issues. Then came the 60s and the Moral Majority. Could it have been that Falwell didn’t want to chime in because the cultural status quo at the time was aligned with his personal outlook so why rock the boat? But when the tide changed and push came to shove it was time to dive into the Bible and find proof texts for social, political and cultural conclusions? Lest anyone think this is cheap shot at the righties, when it comes to taking Christianity captive for culture, it could be that you don’t get Jerry Falwell without Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a helpful syllogism that some Reformed use to point out narcissism in the ranks: I am Reformed; I think X; therefore X is Reformed. It could just as easily be more broadly applied to generic evangelicalism to distill a similar notion that Christian faith and ideological outlook are synonymous: I am a Christian; I think X; therefore X is Christian.