Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, is the John Phillips Professor in Religion at Dartmouth College. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, now in its fifth edition, and Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter.
Posts By This Author
What Happened to Social Reform Evangelicals?
Last week, President Donald Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual bipartisan event that brings together faith leaders and members of Congress. Using language like “I’ve been with you,” and “you better get out and vote on Nov. 3” — insinuating all those of faith gathered align with the president — Trump called once again on support from his most loyal followers: white evangelical Protestants.
Evangelicalism Is Dead. We Need a New Label for Our Faith
I don’t give up on evangelicalism lightly or willingly. Evangelicalism is in my DNA, and I’ll put my credentials as an evangelical up against anyone: evangelical parents, a preacher’s kid, gave my heart to Jesus at age three (and many times thereafter), youth group, Bible camp, graduated from Trinity College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. My father was a distinguished pastor in the Evangelical Free Church for 40 years; I honor his ministry and his memory.
Losing My Religion
RECENT POLLS SUGGEST that America’s vaunted religiosity is slipping, including the percentage of people willing to identify themselves as evangelicals. At the same time, the percentage of avowed secularists has risen. A movement calling itself the “New Atheism”—those adamantly opposed to religion—has attracted a considerable following.
The oracles of this movement—including Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens—deny any possibility of the supernatural, assert that religious belief is irrational, and posit that religion has caused untold evil and suffering throughout history. Because of their dogmatism and their refusal to countenance views other than their own, I refer to these people as “secular fundamentalists.”
Hard data may be elusive, but the latest generation of American young people is much less religious than the last, and the growing secularism they represent could be a byproduct of the polarizing effect of the Religious Right. With evangelical fundamentalism being the dominant and most public form of U.S. Christianity over the last generation, young seekers would rather turn away from all religion than adapt to the harsh expression of faith that excludes so many of their peers and often stands against their aspirations for fairness and equality.
Religious fundamentalism has tainted the reputation of Christianity. For many, unbelief has become more palatable than belief, if believing requires an embrace of the distortions that have so characterized U.S. Christianity over the last several decades.
What prompted the emergence of this New Atheism or secular fundamentalism? What historical forces contributed to its rise? The roots of this phenomenon go back more than three decades—to the political mobilization of a different species of fundamentalism that became the movement commonly known as the Religious Right.
Randall Balmer answers, "What is an Evangelical?"
The puzzle here is not that readers of the Bible would tilt toward the political left. That, for me, as well as for thousands of other American evangelicals, is self-evident. Jesus, after all, summoned his followers to be peacemakers, to turn the other cheek, to welcome the stranger and to care for “the least of these.” He also expressed concern for the tiniest sparrow, a sentiment that should find some resonance in our environmental policies.
No, the real conundrum lies in the subtitle the editors of Christianity Today assigned to Franzen’s article, which was titled, “A Left-Leaning Text.” Adjacent to a picture of a Bible tilted about 45 degrees to the left, the editors added the subtitle: “Survey Surprise: Frequent Bible reading can turn you liberal (in some ways).”
The fact that anyone should register surprise that the Bible points toward the left should be the biggest surprise of all.
The Downstream Media and the Death of Political Civility
Mitt Romney's Defining Moment
In what may be the defining moment of his campaign, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon, addressed the issue of faith and its bearing on his pursuit of the presidency. Pundits inevitably compared Romney's speech in College Station, Texas, with the speech that John F. Kennedy gave just down the road at the Rice Hotel, Houston, on September 12, 1960.
The parallels [...]
The Wizard of Colorado Springs
In spring 1998, James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family, was mad, and he traveled to Washington, D.C., to vent his fury.
Is God a Rams Fan?
If Kurt Warner is correct, maybe God studies the sports pages and fidgets with the remote control on Sunday afternoons like millions of American men.