Faith in Thrall to Power


D. Michael Lindsay's Faith in the Halls of Power has received some admiring attention lately, including this review in Christianity Today, which notes that "from Hollywood to Harvard, evangelical elites are consistently less culture warriors than culture shapers." It sounds like a useful and quick read for the holiday season.

Today's New York Times Book Review features a partially contrarian review by Alan Wolfe. Wolfe gives Lindsay due credit for his extensive interviewing and his work at introducing a multi-faceted view of evangelicals to a readership likely beholden to a more simplistic view. Nonetheless, Wolfe challenges the author to interrogate his subjects more than he does. An excerpt:

Lindsay conducted 360 interviews in all, including one with Michael Gerson in 2005. “Christianity is not just a statement about personal piety,” Gerson told him; “it’s a statement about social justice.” It is, I guess, a worthwhile sentiment, not so much for what it says — don’t we all profess to believe in social justice? — but because the person who said it worked for a president singularly intent on cutting taxes to redistribute income to America’s wealthiest. It would be interesting to know how Gerson reconciled his faith with the priorities of his party. But don’t look to Lindsay’s book for an answer.

I haven't read this volume, but I also haven't heard much serious analysis coming from evangelicals (apart from a few of the usual suspects, Sojourners et al) about the wielding of economic power in our new culture of market uber alles, so I'm certainly sympathetic to Wolfe's point there. Time for some good evangelical populism, a la William Jennings Bryan? I'm not waiting with baited breath.


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