Evangelical wins and losses during the Reagan years.

“Christians are everywhere, and we´re going to exert our influence in all walks of life. This is not a passing fad. We are here to stay.”

So said Jay Grimstead, founder of the Coalition on Revival, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., July 4, 1986. On a day resonant with patriotism and American tradition, Grimstead and the several score fellow-clergy and Christian leaders gathered with him had reason to sound upbeat about the evangelical impact upon America.

The signs, after all, were good. A well-loved, conservative President, untarred by major scandal or political disaster, was at the apogee of his popularity. Evangelical Christians, according to some counts, numbered close to 60 million Americans, many of them eager to support a popular Christian television broadcaster, Pat Robertson, in a possible run for the White House. By superficial criteria, the star of evangelical Christian influence was high in Washington’s political firmament.

Today, just two years later, any fair-minded observer is forced to admit that the star has sunk somewhat lower. There is, of course, still an evangelical presence in the city. Organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals and the Christian Legal Society, to mention but two closely involved in legal and legislative matters, keep working at the nuts and bolts of issues of Christian life and liberty. Youth With a Mission’s newly constituted National Christian Center, as well as long-established groups such as the Christian Embassy and Fellowship House, are vigorous in their efforts to salt the life of the nation’s capital with Christian witness.

But the sense of excitement and anticipation many evangelicals ...

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