For decades, evangelicals have lamented their lack of representation or respect in politics, media, education, and business. Michael Lindsay, a sociology professor at Rice University, says that's no longer true. His latest book, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, reflects an unparalleled degree of research of evangelicals in high-profile leadership positions. Christianity Today senior writer Tim Stafford interviewed Lindsay to find out what he learned about today's newly empowered evangelicals.
You conducted 360 in-depth interviews with American evangelical leaders from every walk of life. What prompted you?
In the late 1990s, I was working for the Gallup Institute as a consultant on religion and culture. One of my responsibilities was to handle media inquiries. In the run-up to the 2000 election, there were lots of calls from reporters saying, "I need the numbers on evangelicals and how they have grown over the last 30 years." And as I looked into it, I realized that the number of Americans who self-identified as evangelicals hadn't changed much. What had changed was that evangelicals had become much more prominent. And that got me wondering what was going on.
The media's portrait of evangelicals has focused on the obviouspopular evangelicalism. Yet you found something distinct, a hidden evangelicalism.
I wouldn't say hidden, so much as one that's less understood, more behind the scenes what one person I interviewed called "move-the-dial" Christianityfolks who have their hands on commanding positions of American society. Just by their very presence, they have the ability to affect public institutionsfor instance, the way a corporate mission statement is worded, ...1