This magazine began in October 1956 amid a time, like today, of significant global transition. The same week the first issue of Christianity Today came off the press, Hungarians took to the streets in an effort to reform—or even throw off—Russian domination. Before CT's third issue was out, Soviet tanks had rolled into Budapest. Thousands of Hungarians died.
Despite heightened alarm about Soviet aggression, however, Western allies decided not to intervene because of their ongoing preoccupation with another crisis. In late July, Egypt, under the charismatic Gamal Abdul Nasser, moved to seize the Suez Canal from Britain. When the crisis finally ended, the shift in world power was complete, with the United States emerging as the most powerful nation on earth. European empires were history, the Israeli-Arab conflict had intensified, and more and more oil money was flowing to strongly Muslim Middle Eastern states.
In September, Elvis Presley appeared for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, to the consternation of many evangelicals. In October, the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, was in its 11th month. Planning was under way throughout the nation to launch the interstate highway system that President Eisenhower, soon to be re-elected, had signed into law a few months earlier, and with it a new suburban America was born. Also in 1956, Searle, a giant drug company, submitted to the Food and Drug Administration its formula for the first birth-control pills.
Whether American evangelicals were up to the challenges of this rapidly changing world was an open question. The nation seemed to have moved beyond evangelical influence, and evangelical Christianity itself was in a parlous state.1