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 countryhe told them that they were crucial. For example, Reagan's 1983 "evil empire" speechone of the most significant speeches of the 20th centurywas 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, ...1