This event is part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Symposia Series, which is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.
November 30, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, New York
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: I am turning off my cell phone, and I would counsel you all to do the same thing, although, in my case, the cell phone is so much smarter than me that it's not easy to do -- and various other little electronic devices.
Well I'd like to welcome you all to this Council symposium on evangelicals in U.S. foreign policy. This meeting is webcast, so we're all live. I believe the cameras are mostly trained on us, so the rest of you can relax. And the meeting is also on the record, and there are members of the press present. So just be advised.
I would remind you all -- ask you all to be sure you do have your cell phones off, and any other devices. And let's see if there is -- let's see, okay, I think that covers the -- this part of the business.
This meeting is one of a series of symposia that we're having at the Council on Foreign Relations on religion and international relations. The symposia along with some roundtables are made possible by a very generous grant from the Luce Foundation, and I would like to acknowledge some members of the Luce Foundation who are with us this morning: Terry Lautz and Michael Gilligan. We certainly appreciate your interest in our work.
Also we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Ken Shaw who is -- who works with me on religion and foreign policy at the Council as a senior -- adjunct senior fellow, and is really I think one of the, in addition to being extremely valuable to the work that we're doing here at the Council, and absolutely key to this symposium, is producing some very interesting scholarly work, and I think we will be hearing a good deal more of it as he goes on with it.
We will be having several sessions today. The symposium ends at 2:00 p.m., and in this first session we're going to be trying to lay some groundwork. We're going to be talking about historical trajectories for evangelicalism, and evangelicals in American foreign policy, because evangelicals, they're not some sort of rigid, robotic, uniform group of people who are the -- semper idem is not what evangelicals aim for, and certainly not in the United States what they are in terms of their political influence.
So we want to look at some of the varieties of evangelicals, political activism, influence, and also the development of what we think -- what we understand today to be the modern American evangelical movement.
We are very fortunate in having three leading experts to give us the benefit of, in many cases, your years of research and study into this. I'm going to ask them to keep their opening remarks cruelly short, as sort of a five-minute opening thing. Then I will try to engage in conversation, and we will open this to the floor for questions, answers, further discussion.
And we had talked a little bit about our order. It's kind of hard to do, because all these guys know so much that you could structure this discussion in many different ways.
I won't bother you with a long biography on each, a long introduction, because they are in your printed program. I would advise you to take a look. But all of our speakers today have bios in this program.
And let's start with William Martin, maybe, to give us a kind of an overview of the historical emergence of the evangelicals that we're looking at today.
WILLIAM MARTIN: It might probably be useful to start with a definition of who it is we're talking about when we talk about evangelicals and fundamentalists. And the common characteristics that are used to designate them are, one -- and this is probably the most important -- very strong view of Scripture, either held literally, or very close to literally, but believing that this is the sufficient word for faith and practice, and is the word of God, given by God, inspired by God, and binding on us today.
But also is the -- an expectation that a person -- that evangelicals will have had some kind of notable experience as a sentient person, not just as an infant; but as a person who is aware of what they are doing; some kind of relationship with Jesus that they commit their lives to Christ in a significant way.
And thirdly there is the impulse to activism, which involves certainly evangelism, the necessity of witnessing to others, and trying to bring others -- convince others to become Christians. But it also involves an activism in applying their strong beliefs to all aspects of their lives. And that has played out differently as we'll talk about today.
The evangelicalism was really the primary form of Protestant religion in this country, but in -- in -- especially strong, and probably never stronger, than in the middle of the 19th century, after -- with Darwinism, German Biblical theology, with urbanism, with widespread immigration, that evangelical hegemony was pretty well broken up, or certainly challenged. And rising to meet that came what we've come to call fundamentalism, and it's a name they gave themselves as people who were sticking to the fundamentals of the faith. That was very strong in the first and second decades of the 20th century. Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan, others were champions there.
After the Scopes trial, other kinds of things, that went -- and there was a real split between the fundamentalists and the modernists. And after the Scopes trial the fundamentalists went into retreat in a way, at least from the public sphere, but they strengthened their hold on what they believed. And we have some of the strongest forms of fundamentalism during that -- during that period.
In the early 1940s, a group of more broader spirited and more intellectual people who wanted to engage the culture more came to all themselves neo-evangelicals, and out of that came the National Association of Evangelicals. Billy Graham wasn't in at the very beginning of that but certainly very soon became the spokesperson, the leading figure of evangelical Christianity.
From the Cold War onward, particularly, evangelicalism with its policy, or foreign -- pertained to foreign policy was marked by a very strong anticommunism. In Billy Graham's 1949 Los Angeles crusade, which really brought him to national prominence, just a few weeks before that, the Soviets had exploded the first atomic bomb. So that enhanced the -- the fact that they had the bomb and that they were also -- God -- it wasn't just communism, it was godless communist -- created a strong anticommunist streak within evangelicalism that continued pretty much as long -- before -- until the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Billy Graham continued to do that, and was thought to be an enemy of the Russians, the communists, regarded him for 30 years as a strong person that they didn't want to have anything to do with. Later on that modified considerably.
I think we're going to talk probably as much as anything today about contemporary evangelicalism, particularly after this session. And with Reagan, the moral authority that later the Christian Coalition, what we call the Christian Right, came in expecting more that they would have their issues such as abortion, like prayer, prayer amendments, school vouchers, addressed. And Reagan didn't address that very much; he really pretty much gave them nothing on those scores except photo ops.
But he did provide State Department briefings for evangelical leaders, and they abetted or bought into his hard line communism. For example, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network donated millions of dollars to support the contras in Honduras and Nicaragua. On his programs and other ways, Robertson lionized the Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt, General Rios Montt, who was also a Pentecostal, and brutally killed thousands of indigenous people. Jerry Falwell defended apartheid, characterized Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress as Soviet puppets. So there were a number of ways in which they continued that.
Also -- am I taking too much time here?
MEAD: I think you've got a little bit more. I'll tell you when you --
MARTIN: All right, fine, fine. I don't want to leave out some good things -- I want -- I have to talk about Billy Graham and the presidents, and I talked about all of them except Nixon, which was an oversight. (Laughter.) But there's a strong and -- Andrew will talk about this more I think -- but there is a strong opposition that the United Nations has been a favorite whipping boy. They have opposed the United Nations because for one thing it was -- it seemed to be a threat to national sovereignty. There was a strong streak of unilateralism here.
Also it felt that the United Nations was trying to impose sometimes Marxist, secularist, humanist views on America, particularly those obtaining to traditional family values, things having to do with abortion, contraception -- contraception outside of marriage.
Like most very conservative religious groups, there is a strong interest in issues pertaining to the libido, to sexuality, and playing out in a number of ways. They opposed the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing, because they felt it contravened their views on the role women ought to play. It came up in other ways as well.
They had a strong interest throughout in religious freedom and in human rights. There is talk of a 10/40 window, a latitude belt around the world where it was thought to be the greatest possibility for evangelism, and this, as well as just believing in human rights, has caused evangelicals to have a strong role in pushing for human rights; played a strong role in the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, creating a group that monitors these. And Richard Lamm who is here today, is a strong participant in that. That has been not only for Christians, although it has arisen from persecution of Christians, restrictions on evangelism. But they have also pressed for religious freedom for other groups as well, and I think that has had a strong positive effect.
Two things I want to just very quickly here that Walter said that evangelicals are not immutable. On three issues the -- on Israel, evangelicals have been strongly, strongly supportive of Israel. Just in the past year a group of very prominent evangelicals have called for greater attention to the rights of Palestinians; have called for a Palestinian state, explicitly stating that they should come in most of the West Bank.
AIDS -- 10 years ago there was -- that -- AIDS was seen pretty much as a punishment of God for sinful behavior. Now evangelicals, Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son, other evangelicals, have taken a leading role. This week Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, is holding a three-day conference; 50 international speakers from 150 countries; Hillary Clinton is speaking; Barrack Obama has already appeared on this. So they're changing on that. And also on global warming, originally thought to be just God's not going to let the world heat up, and we have not much time left anyway. But now evangelicals are taking a lead role in an initiation called Creation Care, but also the Evangelical Climate Initiative. So there's been a great deal of change in that, and it'd be a mistake to overlook that.
MEAD: Okay, well thank you, that was a very helpful start. You want to change microphones there? I think we were having a little technical problem.
Let me take this opportunity to also say that this program we're having this morning is part of a whole series of counter initiatives on religion, and foreign policy. We've developed a national outreach program where we've invited members of the religious community, professors in seminaries, pastors of churches and so on, to engage with Council fellows and our work on a regular basis.
That's being led by Irina Faskianos, the head of our national program, who was here today I think -- was here earlier anyway, and will probably be around again. So say hello to Irina if you see her. And all of this is kind of led by Richard Haass -- our president's very strong personal conviction that work on religion and foreign policy is key to where the Council needs to go to the kind of work we need to do.
Well, I'd like to now turn to Leo Ribuffo for a sort of -- to enrich our view of this history.
LEO P. RIBUFFO: Well, I'm going to -- in the course of today give you my four commandments, but I'll just start with two, and maybe I'll get to the rest of them later depending on how the conversation goes.
The first is, thou shalt not quote John Winthrop's City Upon a Hill relating to American foreign policy unless you've actually read the sermon, which is quite status, and know that the phrase comes from Jesus.
And one of the reasons that light commandment is something I think is worth considering is, we need to have a sense that American foreign policy has diverse inputs, and religion has become something of the flavor of the last several years. And heaven knows I would not discourage people from paying attention to something I've studied for decades. But clearly in fact this notion that there is a Puritan mission and that can be seen always and everywhere in American expansion for instance is something we have to be very aware of, very wary of. Much of the 19th century expansionism -- Manifest Destiny was a nonsectarian providence which would not be surprising, since the army was disproportionately Catholic.
Other countries have expanded without a Puritan tradition. The French have their mission to civilize. So that -- so this is important. It is not the be-all and the end-all.
It is related to my second commandment: Thou shalt not commit theological determinism because evangelicals and fundamentalists seem to cosmopolitan internationalist audiences, I think in general, to be a little strange. And certainly outside of the United States, what I begin with is, just keep calm. Because this tradition seems a little strange, there is a tendency, and I think our friends, journalists, are prone to this, to find a quotation, oh, George Bush said the Iraq war came from God. That explains everything. Whereas nobody in this room I suspect would find a quotation from George Bush saying, capitalism is great, and then move to economic determinism. Actually I'd probably be closer than anybody else in this room to do that.
So we have to understand that evangelicals over time have changed in -- in lots of ways. You'll have a lot more this afternoon on the relationship between Bible prophecy in the Middle East, and that has been very important for evangelicals and fundamentalists for a long time. But even there the interpretation has changed.
In the 1920s and 1930s, your typical fundamentalist would say, the Jews will be gathered back into the Middle East before Jesus come, but they will be in league with the antichrist and should be punished. After World War II, fundamentalists and evangelicals moved into a philosemitic interpretation of the Bible; same words, but they adapted to the horror of Hitlerism, to the general American movement in a more tolerant direction. This is only one of a handful -- this is only one of many, many examples we could give of fundamentalists, evangelicals, like you and me, being influenced by a multiple number of sources, as we are complicated people all.
The third and final point I would want to make is that in regards to foreign policy, theological conservatives, evangelicals and fundamentalists have not always been hawkish. In some sense in the 1910s and '20s and '30s they were among the more dovish constituencies in the United States. The dominant foreign policy tradition in the United States, certainly here, is Wilsonianism But I think there's an equally powerful, or almost as powerful, grassroots sensibility which might be called Bryanism, William Jennings Bryan, the noninterventionist, in general fundamentalist, who, although not as sophisticated, came up with very good arguments against World War I.
Now this is complicated, and it's related to thou shalt not commit theological determinism. Before World War II the most hawkish section of the country was in the south, but that wasn't out of theological reasons, even though you have a lot of evangelicals and Baptists who are hawkish. It's related to a Southern militant tradition; loyalty to the Democratic Party.
So we are going to get into this in greater detail. All I can say as a final line is, we historians were a pain in the neck. We don't have grand Huntingtonesque theories. You have to pay attention to the fact that God is in the details. (Laughter.)
MEAD: Well, thanks very much, I think, for a reminder among other things that Jimmy Carter is as much in the mainstream of evangelical political history in some ways as a Bryanite evangelical; as Jerry Falwell can.
ANDREW PRESTON: Thanks, Walter. I guess I'm batting cleanup in this order, so I'm going to probably touch on some things that Bill and Leo have already touched on. But I might touch on them in a slightly different way, or in a bit more detail.
And one of the things I wanted to do was sort of look at what I see as a paradox, and one of the more interesting paradoxes, of the evangelical -- or at least the evangelical -- the evangelical thought when it comes to foreign policy. Evangelicals are very idealistic. They are very, as Bill was saying, activism is central to who you are as an evangelical. But as Bill was also saying that I'd like to look in a little more detail, evangelicals are quite unilateralists. They are certainly against multilateral institutions, not just UN, but also, religious multilateral institutions like the Federal Council of Churches, which later became the National Council of Churches, which is of course still around today, the World Council of Churches.
This is a running feud through the 20th century between evangelicals and fundamentalists, and these larger multinational, multi-lateralist, multdenominational organizations. So it wasn't just the UN.
And I'd like to sort of look at how this emerged, and certainly look at the tenets of evangelical thought, which also dovetail nicely with secular strains of unilateralism. And this to me explains a lot of the convergence of views between religious conservatives on foreign policy but also political conservatives, people who aren't particularly religious, but are also unilateralist.
One reason I would say is theological, as Bill was saying, evangelicals and fundamentalists, to varying degrees, but all usually put a very strong emphasis on the Bible and on Biblical inerrancy. The Bible is -- should be taken literally -- to be literally true, and that it is the word of God and can't be compromised upon.
This, to me, suggests that to the very -- to the very core of the evangelical world view it's not a world view that is very open to compromise. That's kind of a loaded statement. That's not to say that evangelicals don't like to compromise and can't compromise on certain issues, and that they, you know, don't work well with others. That is certainly not the case.
But when it comes to core issues, extremely important issues, it's a difficult thing to sit down and to compromise on these core issues, with -- at a body like the UN with states that are either officially atheistic, if it's communist, or it could be a Muslim theocracy or some other theocracy. And that, to me, for partly theological reasons, certainly explains why evangelicals hold a particularly strong view on that.
The other reasons are more political. One Bill talked about is multinational institutions, or multilateral institutions impinge upon American sovereignty. And evangelicals, through the 20th century, became more and more patriotic, not just in the Cold War, but before the Cold War. Even in the late 19th century, early 20th century, evangelicals became much more patriotic than their liberal counterparts; certainly their liberal religious counterparts.
And so organizations like the UN constrained American sovereignty. And the other reason of course is that sitting in the UN you have to work with regimes who you might not otherwise like to work with, and this constrains -- this could constrain your behavior.
This goes back to the founding of the League of Nations, which fundamentalists were extremely -- on the whole extremely opposed to, although as Leo said, you can't always generalize. You can't say that this is always consensual. But the League of Nations in 1919 was fiercely opposed by evangelicals and fundamentalists for largely the reasons that I'm talking about. And it was supported quite strongly by religious and political liberals for the -- you know, for the exact same reasons, the flip side of the same coin.
Other episodes highlight this, especially during the Cold War. Mainline liberal churches had UN prayer Sundays. Some churches had written into the order of service explicitly a prayer for the UN once a month, one Sunday per month at a liberal Methodist or Congressionalist church. The National Council of Churches supported in the 19 -- mid-1950s and the early 1960s exchanges with clergy from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which was extremely controversial, not among religious liberals, but extremely controversial among religious conservatives. How can you invite a Soviet churchman, an orthodox priest, who is only allowed to preach because the Kremlin is allowing him to preach, and he is preaching a message that the Kremlin more or less has given to him -- this is the criticism -- how can you have him come over to the United States and sit down and talk with him about core issues like human rights and freedom and democracy and -- and those sorts of things.
Another way of looking at it, I don't think it's a coincidence -- I'm not saying that one causes the other -- but I don't think it's a coincidence that detente, which is the only time in the Cold War certainly, and one of the only times in the 20th century where American political leaders tried to bleed ideology and morals and value out of foreign policy as much as they could, and deal with the Soviet Union and China and other dictatorial regimes more or less as equals; that it's no coincidence that this system breaks down in the mid to late-1970s at the same time that the religious right is rising to prominence, and it's criticized. Obviously their criticisms of detente are undermining support for detente at home, and that has a lot to do with it.
But to me the dynamics of the sort of -- the wax and -- the waxing and waning of ideology and morals and values, and how they influence foreign policy, this is part and parcel of the whole process.
I just want to say one more quick thing, and to talk just very briefly about anticommunism, and also to say that this is not just a Cold War phenomenon. Anticommunism among evangelicals and fundamentalists goes back at least to -- around the same period as their opposition to the League of Nations. That's obviously immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution, 1917, 1918, 1919. And evangelicals and fundamentalists were one of the few constituencies in the United States not to soften their views on Soviet communism in the 1930s under the New Deal. But then especially during World War II, and I would stress not to see sort of sharp breaks in history, historians are very fond of change. They are also somewhat less fond of continuity. I would stress continuity in this sense, and not looking at sort of the Cold War as a sharp break, but to see the roots of Cold War anticommunism very much alive during World War II, and looking to evangelical pressure, anticommunist pressure, not to buy into the sort of Uncle Joe notion that Stalin was going through, what Franklin Roosevelt said was going to converge eventually. The United States and the Soviet Union will -- America will become a bit statist; the Soviets will become a bit less statist; and eventually at some point the two will merge decades later and we'll have peace and harmony and prosperity.
And evangelicals, mostly on grounds of religious liberty, on the fact that the Soviet Union not only was atheistic, but atheistic in a way that they said we are going to set up a rival state, and that's very much how evangelicals looked at it. And they got in huge arguments with religious liberals.
So these -- I see these sort of deeper historical roots of a lot of the trends that we certainly saw in the Cold War, right up to the end of the Cold War, and that we continue to see today.
MEAD: Well, great. I think one common element here is this evangelical opposition to anything that would be seen as a kind of a global unification of mankind on some basis other than Biblical principles as they understand them. And it's important to kind of draw the connection, which is implicit I think in what you guys said. But a lot of this goes back to the evangelical rejection of the Roman Catholic Church at the Reformation, and then particularly in American religious history, the continuing streak of Puritanism, of rejecting an unreformed Church of England, or denominational structures that were seen to reflect this idea again of a kind of universal organization of mankind based on human rather than divine precepts and presuppositions.
So that communism, any sort of nonevangelical attempts to get a religious organization of the world, or even a secular attempt to create a world order based on a kind of lowest common denominator approach to common elements in different traditions is likely to trigger some of these evangelical one might say allergies or antibodies to this kind of human universalism. Is that a good --
PRESTON: Yes, I think so. You've pointed out, and I've pointed out in other things as well, the phenomenally popular Left Behind series of books that have sold 60-70 million copies, and they are really a novelization of the premillenialism that'll be talked about later on today. But in the very first volume of those, the person who is going to be the antichrist becomes secretary general of the United States.
By the way the Council on Foreign Relations is often mentioned as organizations that are threatened --
MEAD: I understand that some have said we're actually agents of the antichrist. But this is an on-the-record meeting so we should probably not go too much further.
MARTIN: I can't footnote that. But it is -- it also -- and this comes back -- one of the differences between fundamentalists and evangelicals, is that fundamentalists tend to be much more separate, and it's been said by a number of people that one way to tell the difference between those who like Billy Graham and those who don't like Billy Graham. And you can go a step further and say, those who don't like people who like Billy Graham. (Laughter) You separate from -- so a key -- evangelicals are more likely to say, preach the word, spread the gospel. Fundamentalists are more likely to say, be ye separate, to draw the circle around, and try to maintain purity, which I think speaks to the whole idea of national purity --
MARTIN: -- religious purity and so forth.
MEAD: Well, if we take this kind of opposition to these universalist, non-Biblical or anti-Biblical approaches as a key of evangelical engagement, how then can we predict anything or say anything about evangelical responses to Islam and toward various forms of Islamic activism? Because you know certainly in an extreme people are aspiring to a global Islamic caliphate, although that seems to be somewhat far off, as a practical matter and -- so that what people are looking at from the West is a religion or a set of religious movements that are opposed to evangelicals on certain points, but are not necessarily vigorously creating a kind of unified counter world order. I mean, what would you say based on history? How is the evangelical response to Islam likely to develop?
You want to start off?
PRESTON: Sure. Thanks, Walter.
I think there are some surface similarities, but I wouldn't push them too far, and I think the differences are more important. The one key difference is that communism was -- there was no communist monolith; the communists in their world view were much more consensual and unified than Muslims are today around the world. The notion of a caliphate and of a universal Islamic world order I think is confined to a pretty small radical fringe of Islam whereas communism was, you had variants of communism, but mostly, on the, you know, on the most part, I know there are -- there are some exceptions, communists foresaw a world order that would be communist, and most communists actively worked toward that goal.
So I'm not sure there is a much potential for conflict between Islam and conservative Protestantism, or evangelicalism and fundamentalism, as there was with -- as there was with communism.
MEAD: Anybody else want to get in on it?
RIBUFFO: Sure. Maybe it's why I'm on the left side of the stage, but I'm going to quibble a little here. My third commandment is: Things change. Who in 1960 would have predicted the emergence of a Catholic left and a Jewish right? Now I'm not saying that within five years evangelicals and fundamentalists are going to embrace the Kucinich campaign. But I do think that there -- that there is a suppleness. And if we went back even to the '50s, let alone the '30s and the '20s, and we found what evangelical and fundamentalist leaders were saying about Catholicism, we would -- not to mention many theologically conservative Protestants -- we would not envision the good Protestant-Catholic relations we have today on the whole.
So depending on how the situation in the world develops, how Islam develops, there may not be an inherent clash of civilizations, or theologies. I would -- I would certainly hope not. And I would very much -- very much underscore that in any social movement you can think of, you should be wary of automatically inferring that what the political and intellectual leaders at the top of the movement say, and assuming that everybody down in the rank and file goes along.
And I will give you what is not foreign policy, but is pretty vivid. Fundamentalist and evangelical teenagers are not supposed to have sex or abortions; they do.
MARTIN: Shocking. And you'd pointed out that apparently not all Muslims get along with each other.
RIBUFFO: There are rumors to that effect.
MARTIN: It's been in the paper. It's also -- stop that. Billy Graham in 1986 in his crusade in Washington which is -- I was starting to work on a book then about Billy Graham, which I did finish unlike some other books -- and said several times to large public gatherings that we must not see Muslims as enemies; that we believe in the same God; we have many things in common; and we need to build bridges here.
Franklin Graham, his son, has been quoted repeatedly as saying that Islam is a very wicked and evil religion. And I think Franklin does feel, he has stronger views on a number of things than his father, and is less universalistic in that sort of way than his father. But Franklin has also done an enormous amount of benevolent work with his Samaritans First organization, and in a number of those places Christians have been very badly persecuted by Muslims. So he comes from a -- it's important I think to see his remarks in that kind of a light, that he has a somewhat different perspective on it.
It's also, you do hear fundamentalist preachers, television preachers, and evangelical preachers, saying some pretty negative things about Muslims, but you also hear them saying, we need not to see people as enemies; make a friend with a Muslim. A lot of evangelicalism works on an individualistic basis. Make friend, befriend, get to know them. So there is not this kind of intransigent hostility that is automatic when Muslims and evangelicals -- when evangelicals are dealing with Muslims?
MEAD: Did you want to jump --
PRESTON: Just a very quick point. Another key difference is that especially in the early Cold War, the threat, the communist threat, was also an internal threat; not just that there were subversives and Soviet spies, but that Americans themselves could be converted to communism.
I'm not sure -- there's obviously the terrorist threat, which has this analogy to Soviet spies -- I'm not sure that anybody is worried that Muslims, fundamentalists, are going to be converting millions of Americans to their worldview.
MEAD: Well, this is interesting then. We have something that is very rare on a Council panel, we have something like an emerging consensus on this panel that there may not be the kind of basis, while there will be religious competition between evangelicals and Muslims, there may not be -- anti-Islam may not be the kind of foundational center of evangelical politics that anticommunism was for many evangelicals for much of the 20th century. Is that a fair summary view?
MARTIN: I think it is. If you take into consideration that things like evangelicals work for peace in Sudan, and in pressing that on to Darfur, has arose, to a great extent, out of the persecution of Christians by Muslims. And certainly there is this -- there is that fear.
But they also work in things like the International Religious Freedom Act and the commission. And Billy Graham in 1980 when he was visiting the Soviet Union pressed the members of the central committee that Americans feel very seriously about religious freedom, and you are always going to have trouble with American unless you give religious freedom. And he pressed for Jews to have the right to immigrate to Israel, for Muslims to be able to worship freely, for Orthodox to be able to attend seminaries, and also for young people of all these religions to be able to worship freely, to express their faith freely, and not have that count against them with respect to getting into universities or entering various occupations.
So right along with leaders, and I think second tiers of leaders as well, in pushing for religious freedom have, out of a sense of fairness, recognized this ought to apply to Muslims as well.
So there's not that kind of bitter hostility that you find in some quarters that runs throughout.
RIBUFFO: I would like to add two words. And the two words are: Jimmy Carter. We have a --
MEAD: That was the two words.
MEAD: We need to actually turn this over to the audience at this point, and give them a chance to sort of ask some questions and take it where they'd like to go.
I'd like to remind you that a question is generally a fairly short statement, and the last word on it is usually uttered in a kind of a rising inflection of the voice.
Gene Rivers. Would you identify yourself briefly.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Gene Rivers from Boston. I'm here representing the Church of God in Christ, and Bishop Charles E. Blake, the oldest and largest Pentecostal denomination in the state.
Very quickly: for purposes of our discussion today, when we mention the term evangelical, are we discussing, A, evangelicals, which is a fairly demographically complex phenomena; or are we talking really about white evangelicals, and could we bring a bit more analytic precision and demographic precision to the discourse? Because the narrative described over the 20th century is a much more complex phenomena, because you have blacks, conservative Protestants who represent -- have different views on creationism, to foreign policy throughout the entire 20th century.
So my question is, could we, A, be more demographically precise in sort of the analytic generalizations? And two, could we be a bit clearer in saying, are we talking about white evangelicalism; white fundamentalism; or the black conservative Protestantism? Because the subtext of the entire evangelical experience, especially since it comes out of the South, is the racial card, which informs every single issue, domestic and foreign.
So when we talk about purity, was that mentioned, was there was concern with racial purity. And it runs throughout the entire theological discourse and the sociological and historiographic stuff, which is decent, alludes to that. Thank you.
MEAD: That's a very interesting point. Anybody on the panel care to respond?
MARTIN: Yeah, I can speak to that. I think it's an excellent point, and when we talk about Christian right, this is largely a white evangelical phenomenon. If you imagine here a four block square, American religious groups can fit into this pretty well. We've got one quarter of that is Roman Catholic -- these are approximate -- and for a long time that was dependably Democratic; now it's dependably split, just almost right down the middle.
You have another quarter mainline Protestants; now their segment is diminishing somewhat, and rather somewhat steadily, but it's diminishing, but still around a quarter; then you have white evangelical Protestants, who are about a quarter and rising a little bit. Then in the other quarter you have black Protestants, Pentecostals, evangelicals, fundamentalists. And then you have other religions, Jews and non-religious people.
And it's important -- and when I've written about and talked about the Christian Right I usually start by saying we're really talking about white evangelical Protestants, primarily, and that's a very good point to make.
RIBUFFO: All right, Jimmy Carter, again -- (laughter) -- that's four words now. (Laughter.) We have this, we have this conceptual problem, I think -- particularly the way this issue was covered in the media, that when an evangelical, white or black, becomes more moderate we stop speaking about them as evangelicals. And we say, well, they're drifting off into theological liberalism, the real evangelicals are those who think that while Jacques Chirac is going to make a comeback as the Antichrist and so forth, and so forth, and so forth, well, we really should be -- we really should be very, very, very aware of that.
MEAD: I didn't realize that Jacques Chirac was in the Book of Revelations, but it makes a lot of sense. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: I'm Josh Walker from Princeton University. I'm really surprised. When I looked at the panel I thought there was going to be one word that's going to come up over and over again, and the word I didn't hear was missionaries. I'm wondering what the role they have, because when you talk about historical trajectories, almost all the literature I've read has pinpointed either missionaries or missionary movements in this country having a large impact. So I wonder if you had any comment on missionaries?
PRESTON: You're absolutely right, Josh. And that's something that any of us could have mentioned. It's -- at least in the history of American foreign policy, if you look at the religious influence on American foreign policy, the story, you know, missionaries are almost always a big part of the story -- of Woodrow Wilson, John Foster Dulles and China missionaries, and, you know, that's, that's the story.
It's a bit more complicated than that -- it's a bit more interesting than that, but just in a nutshell, when it comes to evangelicals and foreign policy, and missionaries, the mainline dominations that dominated the missionary enterprise in the so-called "golden age of missionaries" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they began to wither, along with mainline Protestants and liberal Protestantism in this country withered, in the 1950s and '60s and '70s. And certainly in terms of missionaries, they were replaced by evangelicals to the point that, by the 1980s, some estimates have it as 95 percent of American missionaries abroad were -- belonged to some evangelical organization or mission board, or whatever.
And this, to me, is one of the untold stories, at least in the historical literature, and it's how evangelicals have come to play a much larger role in foreign policy and bringing a lot of their -- you know, a lot of their foreign policy agenda, you know, bringing it into play.
MARTIN: I would really like to speak to that a little bit. When I was talking about this 10/40 window, that had to do with missionary work, particularly. But a lot of this -- a high percentage, I don't know what the percentage again of the evangelicals or Pentecostal evangelicals -- and a great many of those are propounding the prosperity gospel that you -- if you -- God wants you to be rich.
Now that has the advantage of optimism -- creating an optimistic spirit. It often brings with it technology because fundamentalists and the evangelicals are often very astute using technology of the latest sort. They are certainly not anti-modern in that sense at all.
Another aspect of that is -- a bit of a downside I think, is that they often also are preaching the pre-millennial doctrine which has a negative effect with respect to Muslims because -- again, we'll hear more today about Israel -- and if Israel can't have all of the land, that means Muslims are going to have to have some of the land in Israel, and that creates a friction.
It also -- the "one world," the fear of one world, often in those circles, brings out an anti-Catholicism. And it is the pro-capitalist aspect of the preaching -- the prosperity aspect of the preaching can bring tension with governments that may have a bit of a Marxist aspect to them.
And -- there was one other point I think I wanted to make, if I can think of it at the moment -- but in any case, those are aspects where the missionary work has both -- oh, I know what it is -- it is that the -- often these missionaries have a tendency in Pentecostalism to respect authority to a great extent, and that means that they will often -- as long as the state heads will allow them to preach freely, will allow them to be on the state television. And in return the -- Charles Taylor or others can come and sit on the front pew and they say, "our good -- our good Christian brother here," so they legitimize authoritarian regimes.
RIBUFFO: This happened in South Africa.
MARTIN: Yes. Yes.
MEAD: Yes, you had a --
QUESTIONER: In the trajectory of --
MEAD: Do you want to introduce yourself?
QUESTIONER: I'm sorry, Susan Thistlethwaite, I'm president of Chicago Theological Seminary, south side of Chicago. (Laughter.) And on the south side of Chicago, Dr. Preston -- continuing the interpretation of nuancing in terms of race -- there is a tremendous amount of conversion of African Americans to Islam, and we actually have a doctoral student studying this. We have graduated, and actually currently have, African American students who self-identify as both Christian and Muslim.
If you look in the Hyde Park Herald, from this past Wednesday, there's a story about a barber shop where every African American barber had converted in that shop to Islam, and they do a very nice job cutting people's hair and teaching them about Islam.
And so this -- this is not the case on the south side of Chicago. And is not only not the case, in the African American community, but also in my experience, in a smaller respect, among certain aspects of European American communities. So I just want to challenge that pretty strongly.
PRESTON: No, I don't -- I agree with that, I don't dispute what you're saying. I think there's a difference between the reality and the perception, that's all I was trying to make. In fact, the communist menace in the early Cold War, "the threat at home," there was no threat. The threat had passed in the '30s and early '40s, and even then the threat was extremely small.
And so all I'm saying is that there's a difference between what the reality's happening and what the perception. I'm not sure -- I can't cite any polling data, but I'm not sure that Americans as a whole, certainly white evangelicals and fundamentalists are as worried about this as they were about communism, about millions of Americans converting to Islam. You know, I could be wrong, but at least that's my sense.
The other thing -- I'm not sure if this, what I'm going to say actually answers your question but I think it's an interesting idea -- is that most polls of Muslim Americans -- let me rephrase it. In polling data done by the Pew Center and other places, show that Muslim Americans are easily the most content, or the most adjusted, or the most assimilated Muslim communities in the Western industrialized world.
A lot of that has to do with American notions of religious liberty and religious tolerance, and the of the separation of church and state which created a marketplace of religion -- which, you know, leads to a bewildering array of various denominations and which, again, leads to religious tolerance.
So, again, at home, certainly internally, what I see is not the same sort of tension between Christian and Muslim communities, which might be different on the south side -- south side of Chicago, I'm not sure. But it's certainly not the tension that I see where I come from in Great Britain, where there's incredibly intense Muslim-Christian and Muslim secularist tension -- or in the Netherlands, or in other places like that. So, to me, it's the difference between the reality that you're talking about, which I don't dispute, and a more diffuse, generalized perception which may not match the reality.
MARTIN: Also, Muslim Christians share many -- Muslim Americans share many of the views of the Christian Right on social issues. And also, I think many Americans are aware that a number of -- I'm not sure of the percentages, and perhaps your students would know this better, surely would -- a number of young black men have come to Islam through prison. And that has helped their lives in an immeasurable obvious way, and that has -- that serves to dampen resentment of Muslims.
MEAD: All right.
Yes, sir. Over here.
QUESTIONER: I'm Syed Z. Sayeed, religious life adviser to the Muslim Students Association at Columbia University. I'm an alumnus of Teachers College of Columbia from 1972. I have been in this country for almost 37 years, more than half of my life here, as compared to my life in India.
I just wanted to share with the distinguished audience here that the fact that Catholic bishop -- I mean, Catholic pope acknowledged the Muslims as legitimate group to coexist with Catholics in 1968 was an extremely important development around the world.
Since then, there has been more interaction between the Muslims and the Christians all around the world. I'm just going to raise this question -- taking into consideration the fact that the Muslims and the Catholics were probably the most bitter -- you know, in terms of their relationships over centuries. In terms of your understanding do you see any prospects that these evangelicals at some point might come to recognize that Muslims are probably not as bad as they were thinking?
MEAD: Anybody want to pick that one up?
MARTIN: Well, I think that what we're saying is that there is some movement in that direction and I expect that they will. Evangelicals have a strong tendency -- and this is a general statement, but I think it holds -- have a strong tendency to want to be nice to people, to want to be understanding and not to offend. Some -- what is often they're quoted as saying offensive things, but that is not part of their nature and I think they're -- that one will. But it's quite likely, particularly as we have a growing Muslim community in this country and they turn out not to be scary, that there will be a greater understanding at least in the United States.
Now you -- as Andrew points out, you have a somewhat different -- a considerably different situation in European countries. I mean, I'm not sure how that will work out. But I would be reasonably optimistic on that score.
MEAD: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTIONER: Betty Masham (sp), Geer Holdings (ph).
Where -- which category do you place the Mormons in and which countries are most missionaries going to today?
MEAD: Well, are Mormons evangelical? Let's start with that.
MARTIN: (Laughter.) I think they would see themselves as evangelical-plus. Mitt -- (laughter) -- Mitt Romney, in answering the question that you've probably heard him say, you had -- the person who asked, by the way, the difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists -- the young man who asked the YouTube question in the recent debate -- "Do you believe every word in this book? Every word in this book?" You can classify him as a fundamentalist, and that's fair enough.
Mitt Romney said, "I believe it is the word of God." He didn't say, I don't believe it is the only word of God or that there are further texts that update the word of God. Evangelicals don't count Mitt Romney or don't count Mormons as one of them, and Billy Graham has been criticized at times for saying positive things about Mormons and not -- has not sent inquirers from his crusades to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But he doesn't say negative things about them. People -- evangelicals appreciate -- they share in many respects the views toward family and morality and all of those things, but moreso there's an appreciation for them and recognize that Mormons -- I'll tell you the Mormons -- I write a monthly column for --
MEAD: All right. I think we've got the Mormons --
MARTIN: Okay. Yeah.
MEAD: But now what about the missionary question -- the second part of the question?
MARTIN: Missionaries --
MEAD: What country gets the most missionaries? Is that your question?
MARTIN: I don't know what countries --
MARTIN: -- sends or receives?
QUESTIONER: Latin America and Africa.
PAUL MARSHALL: (Off mike.)
MEAD: They come here, you mean.
MARSHALL: Yeah. We are in Nigeria, Korea --
MEAD: You want to identify yourself briefly?
MARSHALL: I wasn't going to speak. It's just it's --
Paul Marshall, the Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute.
Sorry for the interjection --
MEAD: (Cross talk.) No, that's -- thank you. That was helpful. Thank you.
MARSHALL: But yes, it is interesting. After the United States, South Korea, I believe, is now the largest exporter of Protestant missionaries.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
Terry Louts (sp), Louts Foundation (ph).
I'm struck that so much of the commentary has framed the evangelical history in terms of what is -- it is opposed to -- anti-communism, anti-modern, anti-secular, anti-Catholic, the list goes on. And I guess I'm wondering in light of the emerging agenda which seems to be more -- well, less anti, let's say, how do we explain the historical framework? Where is this coming from? And is this definition of evangelicals in opposition to something -- to many things, is this an accurate historical narrative for this movement? Is it mainstream or is it really peripheral?
RIBUFFO: Could I spout on that one?
RIBUFFO: There is a long tradition going back at least to the '20s and in some sense to the Enlightenment -- say evangelicals, theological conservatives are just hicks, rubes, Elmer Gantry, the H. L. Mencken bourgeoisie. And I don't think cosmopolitan commentators and audiences have gotten away from that to the degree which we would hope. And so we're just kind of pushed in that direction.
Certainly it's worth remembering that before the enormous split between religious liberals and religious conservatives in the '20s -- and we've had the sequel since the '70s -- there was cooperation between what we might call the theologically liberal and the theologically conservative social gospel. If we take someone like Charles Sheldon, the author of this enormously popular book "In His Steps" -- how do we live as Jesus would, what would Jesus do -- from the 1890s, it's not clear in retrospect whether we would call him a liberal or an evangelical. But he, like many others, mixed moderate social reform which in those days would have consisted of temperance, too, it would have involved strong American patriotism, it would have involved some help for the poor.
But I think you're absolutely right. I'm not sure that evangelicals are nicer than Catholics. I -- my parents were half of one -- one was one and one was the other and they both seemed okay to me. (Laughter.) But I'll -- it is certainly true that we need to have more of a sense of the positive aspect of this in American history.
MEAD: Did you want to --
PRESTON: Well, just very briefly, just -- I agree 100 percent with Leo. But also, I think evangelicalism in America and -- as elsewhere has also been very reforming. And a lot of it's -- I mean, we have mentioned a lot of things that evangelicals are in favor of -- very patriotic in favor of Israel, in favor of human rights. We touched on those themes already. But it also has a very reforming impulse which automatically means --
PRESTON: Yeah, which automatically means against and you're trying to reform what's there. So it's not just anti-communism and the sort of excesses of anti-communism. It's anti-slavery. It's abolitionism in the 1830s, '40s and '50s. It's temperance, so anti-alcohol. It's a lot of -- you know, a lot of anti or also --
I think it's just worth -- and as a moderator, I really shouldn't do this -- but I'm going to play panelist for a second here --
MEAD: -- and say that -- you know, that evangelicals had thought of themselves as the hegemonic leaders of America in the 19th century before this fundamentalist-modernist split in the '20s and sort of being dethroned and suddenly this is marginalized in a society which they once thought was theirs. There was a tremendous negative reaction and a defensive -- even more oppositional than usual kind of a response. But with the success of the neo-evangelicals that starts in the 1940s and now to a certain extent kind of current that circles around Billy Graham can begin again to start to aspire toward being maybe the leading current, though not the only current in American life.
You're seeing as it's moving from being a bitter, angry opponent trying to bash down the door to being a prudent household manager trying to keep the house running.
And I think that may be a theme behind a lot of the shifts that we're seeing in some of the politic developments that are coming in the evangelical world.
MARTIN: Well, Billy Graham called for a nuclear disarmament 25 -- more than 25 years ago.
RIBUFFO: Right and Reinhold Niebuhr opposed him. It was --
MEAD: Yes, Richard Land.
QUESTIONER: Richard Land. I'm head of the Ethics Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, but I'm here in my capacity as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and not in that capacity.
But I think that it's important to note there's more about this fundamentalist evangelical split. Carl F.H. Henry in 1948 wrote a very influential book called "The Uneasy Conscious of Modern Fundamentalism," and called for a reengagement, and was very much involved with Billy Graham, and was the founder of "Christianity Today" with Billy Graham's backing for this reengagement with the culture. And I think Billy Graham is sort of the litmus -- is one of the litmus tests. How do you feel about Billy Graham? And it really does focus on an evangelical impulse to try to change the culture through engaging the culture and reaching out to the culture and being salt and light. And the fundamentalist vision of you change the culture by withdrawing from the culture, by withdrawing from what you perceive to be doctrinal error and sort of, you know, being pure.
And you see this -- Billy Graham demanding that his crusades be integrated in the South in the early '50s, and the fundamentalist Bob Jones University castigated him for this. And then you had Billy Graham doing a crusade even before Vatican II -- and Vatican II is a very important event in terms of the Catholic-Evangelical response. Not even evangelicals changed, but after Vatican II Catholicism changed -- at least in it's attitudes towards Protestantism. He made the statement that he had more in common with Cardinal Cushing on theological issues than he did with most mainline Protestants and explaining why Cardinal Cushing was supporting the crusade and why Cardinal Cushing was on the platform at the Greater Boston Crusade.
And I would like your assessment -- Dr. Martin particularly and others as well -- about the waxing and the waning of evangelicalism versus fundamentalism. Because my experience of it in my own denomination is that it's to some degree generational. That the fundamentalism is older and is waning and evangelicalism -- the evangelical wing -- is rising and is younger.
MARTIN: I think that's true.
Just to talk about Billy Graham on Catholics: In 1954, Catholic priests -- when he held his crusade that latest -- or 1957 -- all summer in New York City, Catholics were told -- priests were told to preach against Billy Graham. In 1991 something like 250 Catholic churches participated in the crusade. That's a great change there.
I think you're right about the aging; although, as you said, a second round of fundamentalism -- around 1979-1980 in the Southern Baptist Convention a more conservative group gained the ascendancy. I think that has -- there have been some quiet splits and some noisy splits within that, but I think that's largely true what you have suggested. It also reflects a larger movement in evangelicalism so that denominational lines are becoming less important and the mega churches certainly are much more -- much less doctrinally concentrated.
So I believe that's -- fundamentalism loses its appeal eventually. One of my students went to hear Carl McIntyre, who was the most fundamental of the fundamentalists. And he went into his churches just within the last 10 years -- not long before he died. He lived a very long time and angry the whole time. (Laughter.) Went into his church -- there were about 15 people there and across the whole back -- Be Ye Separate! He was hanging on. And he has said of Billy Graham: The greatest disappointment in the history of the Christian church, because in 1957 -- and that's where we can really mark the real split between evangelicals and fundamentals -- that Bob Jones and John R. Rice and others split with Billy Graham because he accepted an invitation from the Protestant Council of Churches in New York to hold that crusade and said, "As long as they don't tell me what to preach, I will cooperate with anybody who invites me." And that spirit is dominant in evangelical Christianity -- though it's not the only one.
QUESTIONER: My name is Olin Robison, a long time member of the council, Middlebury College, Salzburg Seminar and Oxford University.
You guys have done a great job of giving us an historical overview. I'd like to fast forward into the 21st century. It strikes me that having grown up in East Texas -- and Bill Martin, I really appreciate the distinction between evangelical and fundamentalist, although I grew up both and didn't even know it. But it seems to me that an awful lot of the so-called mega churches in the United States claim to be nondenominational, but if you visit them they're in fact Pentacostalists.
Andrew, last Sunday I got a chance at long last to visit Holy Trinity Brompton in London, which is sort of the British version of a mega church. Now, they claim to be Anglican, but they're really Pentecostal.
MEAD: Our Pentecostal is agreeing.
QUESTIONER: Now, the point being that there are a lot of people who are something other than what they're claiming to be, I think. Would you comment on this as a phenomenon? Is this the wave of the future or no?
MARTIN: Oh, I think that the charismatic Pentecostal spirit is present. I mean, I've gone to -- I went to a church that became a mega church out of the churches of Christ, which are very, very conservative. It was the tradition I grew up in and there were people there holding up their hands. And you know, we didn't use to do that and separated from people who did that -- that that was more of a charismatic. So it's a soft kind of Pentecostalism. And in places, for example, the Lakewood Church where Joel Osteen preaches that has 45,000 or 40,000 people on Sunday is four blocks from my home. I've written about him for "Texas Monthly". I followed the Lakewood Church through nearly 30 years. And talking to his mother said, "Oh, yeah. We used to have speaking in tongues and people fell down, slain in the spirit. But now we four services we just can't do that. We've got to get them in and out." (Laughter.)
It's a softer form of Pentecostalism that has become adjusted to the marketplace.
PRESTON: Obviously, we've oversimplified. And there are those who argue -- like my friend Darryl Hart, a great historian of religion -- that there's a third kind of stewardship tradition that's neither liberal nor theologically conservative, Pentecostal or so forth.
But I think one of the things that's come up in the question period is the degree to which for some people these terms are fought over. And you might not like this analogy, but it's a little like who was a Trotskyism in 1937? Well, as a culturally Catholic, secular humanist, unreformed McGovernite, I haven't got a dog in this fight. (Laughter.) But I think we have to recognize that these are -- to use the current post-modern buzzword -- these are contested terms.
MEAD: Okay, great.
Well, it is our custom in the council to end our meetings on time, so we are about ready for our break. I want to -- I know you'll all want to join with me in thanking the panel. (Applause.) And we look forward to a really invigorating and challenging day. I think we've had a good start here.
Okay, see you guys in 15 minutes.
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