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Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite
D. Michael Lindsay
Oxford University Press, 2007
352 pp., $74.00
W. Bradford Wilcox
Need a Long Spoon?
Thankfully, the publication of Faith in the Halls of Power suggests that the American publishing industry's season of silliness when it comes to covering evangelicalism's influence in the public square has come to a close. In the last two years, we have had to endure such awful books as Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy and Randall Balmer's Thy Kingdom Come, with their crude and simplistic attacks on populist evangelical efforts to shape public policy and the culture. By contrast, sociologist D. Michael Lindsay's new book offers a nuanced and engrossing account of the complex role that evangelical elites are now playing in U.S. politics, academia, the entertainment industry, and corporate America.
Instead of dreaming up a right-wing evangelical cabal guided by the Christian Reconstructionist writings of R.J. Rushdoony and intent on taking over American politics, academic life, popular culture, and business, Lindsay looks hard at evangelical elites in these different domains and reports what he finds. Among other things, Lindsay finds that American evangelical elites approach these domains from a range of political, ideological, and theological perspectives. He points to politically progressive evangelicals such as former President Jimmy Carter and to hard-to-pin-down figures such as Dr. C. Everett Koop—who angered the religious right by calling for early sex education and condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS—to remind us that evangelical leaders in public life are not uniformly associated with the right wing of the Republican Party.
The portraits Lindsay paints of evangelical elites in academia, business, and Hollywood also suggest a good deal of ideological heterogeneity in their midst. For instance, he quotes an evangelical Hollywood director who has this to say about Ted Baehr's Movieguide, which evaluates the moral content of films: "It is stuff like this that trivializes the artistic works we are seeking to produce. Am I going to censor my work for ...