Our blog contributor Seth Dowland has just published an important article in Church History, well worth your time: " 'Family Values' and the Formation of a Christian Right Agenda," Church History 78 (September 2009): 606-631. Seth explains the unpredictable contingencies behind the success of a cadre of evangelical ministers who "developed a political philosophy that connected defense of the 'traditional family' with opposition to abortion, feminism, and gay rights." By the close of the 1970s, he argues, "the Christian right had devised rhetoric that made liberal reformers enemies of the family and positioned 'family values' as mainstream fare." Eschewing the polemical fare of journalistic accounts, Seth shows how the coalescing of the "traditional family" theme was far from predictable or inevitable; "The emergence of family values as the centerpiece of the Christian right agenda occurred as movement leaders defined a particular vision of America in a capacious rhetoric of public interest and common good. In so doing, they set terms for political debate that continue to resonate."
Next up (tomorrow) we'll have a contemporary report about many of these same issues, from a visit to Colorado Springs by a graduate student from Norway who's writing her dissertation in part on Focus on the Family. Stay tuned!