Guest / Limited Access /
The Shepherd
Scott Suchman

When Rick Warren arrived at the Faith Angle Forum in Key West, Florida, in May 2005, the megachurch pastor addressed one of the last remaining groups in America that knew almost nothing about him: journalists. In the room were 20 of the most influential voices in media, including New York Times columnist David Brooks, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, and The New Yorker's Elsa Walsh. Although The Purpose Driven Life had already sold 25 million copies, says Brooks, "I'm not sure many in the room had heard of him."

For many elite journalists at the time, modern American Christianity was a strange and vaguely menacing hydra featuring the heads of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and the crazed sandwich-board prophet who breathed fire in their general direction on the local street corner. Yet here was Warren, an exemplar of evangelicalism's West Coast variety, a species redolent of sunshine and casual conviviality. He distributed handshakes and hugs and thoughtful compliments on recent columns and reports. "Suddenly you saw a very different world," says Brooks. "This was not some fringe preacher. That had an impact on the group."

Now, eight years later, a new evangelical standard-bearer, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, is addressing the same assembly. The move from Warren to Keller speaks to how American Christianity has changed in the interim. Whether the media have kept apace on such changes is debatable. There's no question that the mavens of mainstream media are still wont to treat "fringe" figures as central ones. Witness the elevation of Qur'an-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones to the status of an evangelical icon and a convenient ...

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

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

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueHip-Hop Theologians and Preachers
Subscriber Access Only Hip-Hop Theologians and Preachers
The artists most shaping the movement.
RecommendedShould Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?
Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?
Even at the ballot box, morality is not relative.
TrendingBen-Hur
Ben-Hur
A new twist on the tale of the Christ.
Editor's PickThe Good (and Bad) News About Christian Higher Education
The Good (and Bad) News About Christian Higher Education
‘Christian colleges are as strong as they’ve been since the 1920s,’ says historian William Ringenberg. But there are challenges on the horizon.
Christianity Today
The Shepherd
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2013

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