Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite

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  • Advance Praise forFaith in the Halls of Power:

    How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite

    Faith in the Halls of Power is an extraordinary, definitive examination ofevangelical participation in American cultural and political affairs. Lindsaybrings a gift for thoughtful, clear writing to bear on an impressive amountof research, and the entire project is guided by a sincere and refreshingeffort to be fair. It sparkles with insight.

    Frederica Mathewes-Green, columnist for Beliefnet.comand author of Facing East: A Pilgrims Journey

    into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy

    Who are those evangelicals? Where did they come from? And what do theyintend to do with our country? Such questions asked by innumerable Ameri-cans receive in this book a response that is both sympathetic and critical.Michael Lindsay puts all of us into his debt with this thoughtful analysis of therise of a new center of leadership in our public life.

    The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief,First Things

    An outstanding book. If more proof were needed that simple stereotypesabout American evangelicals, whether from Left or Right, are inadequate,this book supplies it abundantly.

    Mark Noll, author of Americas God

    Given the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the evangelicalmovement in the U.S., Michael Lindsay has produced a work of lastingimportance. A keen and disciplined researcher of the religious scene,Lindsay has drawn upon hundreds of personal interviews with evangelicalleaders representing the power centers of politics, academe, entertainment,and business. He brings readers a clear and authentic account of the extentto which evangelicals are changing America.

    George Gallup, Jr., Founding Chairman,The George H. Gallup International Institute

    Evangelicals are sometimes painted as complete morons; sometimestheyre marginalized, sometimes demonized, sometimes ignored. Seldomare they presented as amultifacetedmovement with texture, tension, depth,and even paradox.Michael Lindsay strikes the needed balance and presentsthe state of the union for evangelicals in the U.S.

    Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian

  • Michael Lindsays new book gives us a strikingly lively account of Ameri-can evangelicalism at a time when an elite that was once largely closed toevangelicals now includes them in significant numbers. He makes it clearthat evangelicalism is a diverse phenomenon, even in some respects anamorphous one, but in one regard, devotion to radical individualism,evangelicals are more similar to than different from other Americans. Inthis crucial respect they cannot be considered counter-cultural, which maybe encouraging or depressing news depending on ones point of view.

    Robert Bellah, co-author of Habits of the Heart

    Drawing on hundreds of personal interviews, Michael Lindsay has richlycaptured what C. Wright Mills would have never seen a half-century agobut has now become a potent pillar of Americas power elite. United byfaith and friendship, evangelicals have built the networks, acquired theassets, and embraced the calling to remake American politics and culture.Faith in the Halls of Power is a compelling portrait of one of the most far-reaching but least appreciated social transformations of our time.

    Michael Useem, Professor of Management and Directorof the Center for Leadership and Change, Wharton School,

    University of Pennsylvania

    The stereotype of evangelical Christians as uneducated, rural, and cul-turally marginal has been slow to break down. Yet evangelicals are promi-nent among political and economic power brokers, active in culturalproduction, and increasingly well represented among elite university stu-dents. Michael Lindsay does a large service by tracing the extent andpathways of this change. He shows an incorporation into the Americanmainstream that is changing not only U.S. society at large but also theevangelical movement that has long seen itself as marginalized. That somany have been slow to see the pattern of change makes his book all themore welcome.

    Craig Calhoun, University Professor of the Social Sciences,New York University

    Whether you are a disgruntled evangelical who sometimes fears that themedias caricature of evangelicals is true or a skeptic who dismisses evan-gelicals as members of the flat-earth societyor something in betweenthis is the book for you! Through D. Michael Lindsays first-rate scholar-ship, we are given a fair and accurate account of who evangelicals really areand how they have influenced our culture for the good. In our age ofdivisiveness and distrust, this is a welcome contribution.

    Rebecca Manley Pippert, author of Hope HasIts Reasons and Out of the Salt Shaker

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    faith in the halls of power

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  • faith in the

    halls of power


    How Evangelicals

    Joined the American Elite

    d. michael lindsay


  • 3Oxford University Press, Inc., publishes works that further

    Oxford Universitys objective of excellencein research, scholarship, and education.

    Oxford New YorkAuckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong KarachiKuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi

    New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto

    With offices inArgentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France GreeceGuatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal SingaporeSouth Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam

    Copyright # 2007 by D. Michael Lindsay

    Published by Oxford University Press, Inc.198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016

    Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,

    electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,without the prior permission of Oxford University Press.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataLindsay, D. Michael.

    Faith in the halls of power : how evangelicals joined the American elite /by D. Michael Lindsay.

    p. cm.Includes bibliographical references.

    ISBN 978-0-19-532666-61. EvangelicalismUnited StatesHistory.

    2. Elite (Social sciences)United StatesHistory. I. Title.BR1642.U5L56 2007

    277.3'083dc22 2007004790

    1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2

    Printed in the United States of Americaon acid-free paper

  • To Rebecca and Elizabeth

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  • contents

    preface xi

    introduction 1

    part i: campaigns, coalitions, and the oval office

    1: Presidents and Politics 15

    2: Allies and Enemies 38

    part ii: intellectuals and the groves of academe

    3: Knowledge to Change the World 75

    4: Life of the Mind 94

    part iii: artists, celebrities, and the public stage

    5: From Protest to Patronage 117

    6: A Cultural Revolution 137

    part iv: corporate titans and the corner office

    7: Faith-Friendly Firms 161

    8: Executive Influence 186

    conclusion: Move-the-Dial Christianity 208

    appendix 233

    notes 255

    references 301

    index 317

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  • preface

    Iwas sitting at my desk at the Gallup Institute when the phonerang. What are the figures on the rising number of evangelicalssince the 1970s? asked the journalist on the other end of the line. Ihad been asked the question before. Most people assumed that thenumber of evangelicals had grown dramatically since Jimmy Carterran for president. Though evangelicals had been an important partof Americas past, until Carter referred to himself as born again onthe campaign trail, they were not seen as very important to Americaspresent and even less so to its future. We have since learned other-wise, but most people assume that the rising prominence of Amer-ican evangelicalism is a result of burgeoning numbers: Evangelicalsare more prominent because there are more of them.

    The reality, though, is that the number of evangelicals in thiscountry has remained remarkably stable since the 1970s. In 1976,when Gallup first asked the American public if they were bornagain, 35 percent of U.S. adults said yes. Twenty years later, thefigure had inched up to 39 percent. In 2006, 41 percent of adultsin this country described themselves on the Gallup Poll as bornagain, or evangelical. If their numbers are not swelling consider-ably, then something else must explain the rise of evangelicalismwithin the nations higher circles. That is the purpose of this book.

    My interest in the role of faith in American public life began as acollege student, but it was during my tenure at Gallup that I becameparticularly interested in the evangelical movement. For the last tenyears, I have been thinking about American evangelicalism and itsrising prominence in different parts of our society. I spent the lastfive years actively examining this subject by conducting hundreds ofin-depth interviews and analyzing thousands of pages of data. Thisbook is the culmination of that research.

    The first leader I interviewed was Richard Mouw, president ofFuller Theological Seminary. He agreed to meet with me because

  • he knew my graduate school advisor, who wrote an e-mail intro-duction on my behalf. At the end of my two hours with Mouw, Iasked him to introduce me to some of his peers. Within a fewmonths I had interviewed thirty prominent evangelicals. Eventually,I interviewed 157 leaders of evangelical institutionspastors atlarge churches, college and seminary presidents, and heads of or-ganizations within the evangelical world. At the end of the inter-view, I would ask these interviewees to identify public leaders whosefaith was an important aspect of their life. Since these institutionalleaders headed evangelical-leaning organizations, most of their rec-ommendations were individuals who either would identify as evan-gelical or who were very familiar with the evangelical movement.Most even volunteered to help me secure contact details or requestan interview with the people they recommended. Because of thesepersonal connections, many public leaders who would not normallygrant a university researcher an hour-long interview agreed to talkto me. This technique, which I call the leapfrog method, is de-tailed more fully in the appendix, where I also provide detailedinformation on the methodology employed while researching thisbook. My big break came from Daniel Vestalthe head of the Co-operative Baptist Fellowship and the father of a college friend ofminewho is a close friend of President Jimmy Carter. I asked Ves-tal to put in a good word for me with President Carters staff, andwithin days someone from the Carter Center called to set up theinterview.

    Over the three years I spent collecting data, I took twenty-eighttranscontinental trips and logged over three hundred thousandmiles. I traveled to seventy-two different places, from Boston to SanDiego and from Seattle to Miami. When funds ran low, familymembers donated frequent flier miles and hotel points that allowedme to keep going. I interviewed people in their offices and homes,restaurants and coffee shops, hotel lobbies and conference centers.Some interviews were warm and personable, with participants in-troducing me to family members. Others were more distant andformal. Across all of them, I sought to learn more than just whatleaders had to say. I studied the ways they presented themselves,their interactions with others, and the informal cues they droppedduring our time together. Some wanted to know more about me,my background, and my interest in the topic. But most were willingto talk even without that information, largely because they trustedthe person who introduced us. I am also convinced that some peo-ple agreed to be interviewed simply because I was willing to wait forthem. The leaders studied in this project work extremely long hours,

    xii Preface

  • but I was willing to wait months, sometimes years, for an interview.Persistence and patience paid off in the end. In essence, personalconnectionsoften helped by the kindness of mere acquaintanceswere essential.

    The novelty of this study also played a role. Dozens of leadersmentioned that they had never been interviewed about their faith,and many of them said they had been looking for a chance to weighin on some of these matters. This, of course, means that some ofthemprobably most of themhad a point they were trying tomake, an organization they wanted me to mention, or a personallegacy they wanted to help craft. Without being obsequious oroverly intrusiveimpulses that I felt at various moments during theprojectI have attempted to convey their humanity and the com-plexity of their religious identities. While working on the book, Ifollowed the critical empathy approach of Marie Griffith, thehistorian of American religion. According to her, critical empathymeans communicating as accurately as possible the perspectives ar-ticulated by the people I interviewed while also applying broaderanalytical interpretations and the critical perspectives offered byothersboth inside and outside the groupto what I studied. Asshe writes in Gods Daughters, The lived worlds of human experi-ence, after all, are not identical to peoples descriptions of theseworlds. As a result, I try to recount both the content and the spiritof what various people told me, but I also reserve the right to com-ment on what they are not saying in these accounts and to point toinconsistencies and unintended consequences that flow from theiractions. In the end, they may not agree with all of my conclusions,but I hope they will sense my earnest desire to present a full, bal-anced perspective with all of the subtlety and complexity of the livesthey lead and the worlds they inhabit.

    In addition to the interviews, I attended numerous meetingswhere evangelical leaders were in attendance. These included boardmeetings of large evangelical institutions, conferences for evan-gelical donors, retreats, and strategy sessions involving evangelicalleaders. Finally, I conducted archival research on 110 evangelical or-ganizations, programs, and initiatives. Annual statements, financial re-ports, correspondence with donors and external constituents, mediacoverage of particular groups, and internal documents provided byorganizational leaders all yielded helpful information. I used these toinvestigate not only their missions, goals, and strategies but also theresources at their disposal and the challenges they faced.

    Undertaking this kind of study on public leadership and faithrequired the assistance of many knowledgeable sources. I am

    Preface xiii

  • especially grateful for the time and energy of a select group of peoplewho particularly understand the evangelical world and helped me un-derstand it. For being generous with their expertise and insights,I thank this special group that includes Bob Buford, Corey Cleek,Andy Crouch, Kate Harris, Peb Jackson, David Lyle Jeffrey, GabeLyons, Richard Mouw, Roxanne Robbins, Mark Rodgers, DavidWills, and Sean Womack. A larger group offered their help to se-cure interviews with individuals whose participation was particularlyimportant. I am grateful for their willingness to contact people theyknew through a variety of waysas college roommates, business as-s...


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