The Aaa Guide To The Evangelical Heartland

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, by Randall Balmer (Oxford, 246 pp.; $19.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Lyn Cryderman.

Ever since Newsweek magazine designated 1976 as the Year of the Evangelicals, politicians, journalists, authors, and assorted pundits have been trying to figure out who the evangelicals are.

Usually, the confusion is obvious. Watching the President try to woo evangelicals away from Pat Robertson in the early stages of the 1988 presidential campaign was almost high comedy. The Episcopalian from Texas never seemed to understand that the evangelicalism of his opponent was not the same evangelicalism as that of either Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell.

But don’t blame Mr. Bush. Our own unsavory tendency toward factionalism presents the uninitiated onlooker with a fairly muddied corporate image. We’re evangelical and something else. Some of us are Pentecostal; others are charismatic; many believe the Bible is without error; some don’t; a few worship in churches that use incense and follow a liturgy; most go by the name Baptist preceded by one of several adjectives that further cull the flock. If we’re not exactly sure where to place the theological and cultural boundaries of evangelicalism, how should we expect outsiders to do it any better?

On The Glory Road

Though not a true outsider, historian Randall Balmer has come up with a delightful way to describe “the evangelical subculture.” In Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, he infuses a first-person, pop-journalism style with enough scholarship to make it both respectable and fun to read. Balmer’s strategy for discovering evangelicalism is to exit the four-lane expressways connecting ...

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