Outsiders No More

How conservative Christians scrapped, wheedled, and bargained for their place at the table.

With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America
By William Martin
Broadway Books
418 pp.; $27.50, hardcover

In an autocracy, one person has his way; in an aristocracy a few people have their way; in a democracy, no one has his way.
—Celia Green, The Decline and Fall of Science

When Washington Post writer Michael Weisskopf called the followers of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "largely poor, uneducated and easy to command" (Feb. 1, 1993), he was wrong in every particular, but perhaps right in a fundamental assumption: The followers of Falwell and Robertson (like many other evangelicals) are political and cultural outsiders, marginal to his Beltway universe. They are like hungry children looking in through the picture window on the feasts of the powerful. After Robertson read Weisskopf's statement on the 700 Club, more than 500 of his "followers" called the Post to declare (rightly) that they were not particularly poorer, less educated, nor easier to command than any other identifiable voting population.

At one time, evangelicals were largely working-class Americans who did not seek higher education, except for Bible colleges and seminaries. But the economic boom after World War II, combined with the surge of evangelical institution-building, helped take care of that. Today evangelicals are none of the things Weisskopf suggested. But while there may be minivans in every garage and framed diplomas on the walls of their studies, they still feel shut out of the centers of influence in our society: segregated de facto from the media elite, the universities, and other mavens of liberal culture.

William Martin's fall 1996 book, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, can be read as the ...

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