U.S. News: Billy Graham brought evangelicalism into respectability. What will his kids do?
From the cover of the new U.S. News & World Report, it looks like a story on Billy Graham and his family: "A Christian Dynasty: How Billy Graham's kids are following up his crusade." But Jeffrey Sheler's cover story really is a brief history of evangelicalism, with the elder Graham as a the main actor and foil.
Most readers of CT will be familiar with the story: The fundamentalist retreat after the Scopes trial, the split between evangelicals and fundamentalists over Graham's partnership with mainline churches and cultural re-engagement, increasing cultural prominence through politicians like Jimmy Carter, and becoming a political juggernaut in the 1990s. Sheler hits all the main points, and talks to the key players: Mark Noll, Randall Balmer, Martin Marty, Christian Smith, and William Martin, among others. All the titles in the magazine's online Bookshelf feature are also informed choices. No surprise there: Sheler has demonstrated his knowledge of the evangelical landscape in several earlier articles.
And CT readers won't be surprised by Sheler's conclusion about the direction of the evangelical movement, though it bears repeating:
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the evangelical movement in the near future, experts say, will be in coping with its new cultural status. When it emerged at midcentury, says Balmer, "evangelicalism was a counterculture" that defined itself against the secularism that dominated the American scene, especially in politics. Now, with the White House and other high offices occupied by some of their own, and with the phenomenal success of Christian books like the Left Behind novels and The Prayer of Jabez ...1
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