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Remembering Ronald Reagan

What Billy Graham, Jim Dobson, Pope John Paul II, and others are saying about the death of the former president—and what he said about evangelicals.

In some ways, one might be surprised that so many conservative evangelicals ever fell so deeply in love with a former Hollywood film actor who went into politics but rarely into church sanctuaries. But make no mistake: Ronald Wilson Reagan and evangelicals became inseparable. After giving him the presidency, conservative Protestants shaped Reagan's policies, and in turn Reagan's presidency shaped American evangelicalism.

In his presidential speeches to evangelical groups, the Great Communicator didn't just communicate that conservative Christians were important to him and to the country—he told them that they were crucial. For example, Reagan's 1983 "evil empire" speech—one of the most significant speeches of the 20th century—was delivered to the National Association of Evangelicals (photo). That speech included references to C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, "a great spiritual awakening in America," America's own "legacy of evil," school prayer, the Ten Commandments, and this telling litany: "an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of adultery, teenage sex, pornography, abortion, and hard drugs." (He reiterated many of these themes in other addresses to the NAE.) But significantly, the speech began with Reagan telling the Christian leaders how important they were to him:

I'm pleased to be here today with you who are keeping America great by keeping her good. Only through your work and prayers and those of millions of others can we hope to survive this perilous century and keep alive this experiment in liberty, this last, best hope of man.
I want you to know that this administration is motivated by a political philosophy that sees the greatness of America in you, her people, and in your families, churches, ...
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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns:
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