Reviewed by David R. Swartz

Leveling the Playing Field?

A report on the evangelical Left.

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The marketing and reception of The Party Faithful further reflect the difficulties of Sullivan's hope that Democrats can do more than just cherry-pick evangelical outliers from Republican ranks—or that the new movement is anything more than a coordinated effort by elite academics and political analysts. Sullivan's book enjoyed a sympathetic review in the New York Times, a big splash in Salon, and has been excerpted in Sojourners and Time magazine. But The Party Faithful has received astonishingly little attention among evangelical bloggers, let alone from rank-and-file evangelicals. And Sullivan herself complains about the persistent contempt of liberal Democratic politicos toward her project.

On the book's dust jacket, Jim Wallis predictably praises Sullivan for perceiving "the sea change going on in faith and politics in America." It's a nice enough endorsement. But Wallis, as a good activist should, has been predicting "a sea change" —specifically the death of the Religious Right and the rise of an evangelical progressivism—every year since the 1970s. To be sure, Wallis and Sullivan have more of a case now than at any other time since 1973. And Sullivan is spot-on in pointing out shifts toward the center in contemporary evangelical politics. But given the persisting limits of evangelical politics on the Left in the past three decades, Wallis and Sullivan's hopes for a large, robust progressive movement may well be dashed again.

David R. Swartz is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame and is working on a book, under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press, about the evangelical Left.

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