It is refreshing to see an historically accurate recounting of the evangelical movement, rightly pointing out some of its achievements and shining light on its political hijacking by a few cynical folks who wanted to take it away from its social liberal roots and use it for its on purposes.
Balmer is an historian and evangelical who decries the distortion of the movement's roots and its hijacking by a small group of cynical (that's got to be the only word for it) group of people anxious to improve their own political power and standing. The issue of abortion was not even on the right's radar screen until several years after Roe v Wade. As Balmer points out, abortion is barely mentioned in the Bible appearing -- and even then only very loosely -- in Psalms, Deuteronomy and Luke. Divorce had been the evil of choice until around 1979, but with the election of Ronald Reagan, darling of the right, they couldn't very well pick on divorce. (of course, Reagan had supported pro-abortion bills earlier in his political career.)
It remains ironic -- and a symbol of their political callousness -- they the number one issue for the religious right is tax cuts. Tax cuts, for heaven's sake. Balmer has every reason to be dismayed.
A list of his concerns posted on Amazon:
"Other issues championed by the Religious Right strike Balmer as equally disingenuous and/or misguided:
"Prayer in schools -- Jesus criticized those who made prayer into a spectator sport - "go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father."
"Creationism -- Until the intelligent design creationists "can devise experiments consistent with the scientific method to test their claims, they should stop parading as scientists." 140. "Intelligent design is religion, not science and the proper venue for the propagation of faith is the home or the church, not the university." 138.
"Home schooling -- "For much of the twentieth century, evangelicals found comfort within their subculture as a place of refuge from the outside world, which they came increasingly to regard as both corrupt and corrupting. The homeschool movement and the impulse to send children to religious schools merely represent an extension of that fortress mentality." 107.
"Anti-environmentalism - "for decades, evangelicals have neglected the environment because it seemed to them unimportant in their grander scheme of biblical interpretation." 145. Now groups such as the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship which is a coalition of Religious Right leaders aiming to counteract the environmental movement, with support from James Dobson, Charles Colson among other high profile of the Religious Right, simply "echo the pro-business and antiregulatory sentiments of political conservatives." 154.
"Torture - unconscionable silence. [Who Would Jesus Torture?:]
"Perhaps most disturbing of all is how "Leaders of the Religious Right [Dobson and others:] have expressed their disdain for toleration and for pluralism itself." 90. "Their ideology, laced as it is with the rhetoric of militarism, represents a betrayal of the faith. The shameless pursuit of affluence and power and political influence has led the Religious Right into shady alliances and has brought dishonor to the gospel." 189.