Guest / Limited Access /

"In a sense," Billy Graham said in an address launching Christianity Today 50 years ago, "we are almost leaderless" in the evangelical movement. Half a century later, lack of leadership isn't a problem—we may have more leaders than followers.

When the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals in 2001 provocatively named Tim LaHaye "the most influential American Evangelical of the last 25 years" (for the breadth of his bestselling bibliography), few took notice. But since the presidential election, both religious and mainstream media have been trying to map the tricky network and hierarchy of the popeless priesthood of evangelical believers. Evangelicals are now seen as key political influencers, so observers want to know: Who's influencing them?

New York Times columnist David Brooks came early to the fight, challenging fellow journalists to stop quoting Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. "There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them," he said.

Evangelicals agree. A spring 2004 poll from PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly found that only 23 percent of self-described evangelicals had "warm or positive feelings" toward Falwell—the same percentage they gave "pro-choice groups." Robertson scored higher, at 34 percent, but still lower than labor unions (36%) and far below Pope John Paul II (44%) and James Dobson (40%).

The real spokesperson for evangelicalism, said Brooks, is John Stott, who is "always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice."

Christian publications followed Brooks with their own lists. Christian Retailing's "Top Fifty People" shrewdly broke up the names by category, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueMy Home Has 'Murder' in Its Name
Subscriber Access Only
My Home Has 'Murder' in Its Name
How Russell Jeung met Jesus among the Southeast Asian gangs of Oakland.
RecommendedTrump Won. Here's How 20 Evangelical Leaders Feel.
Trump Won. Here's How 20 Evangelical Leaders Feel.
Pastors, authors, and others weigh in on 2016 election.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickA Journey as Old as Humanity Itself
A Journey as Old as Humanity Itself
What’s behind our timeless fascination with religious pilgrimage?
Christianity Today
Who's Driving This Thing?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

February 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.