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tv   Frances Fitzgerald Discusses The Evangelicals  CSPAN  May 27, 2017 9:00am-10:01am EDT

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corporate ceos decided to invest millions -- not, not -- billions of dollars in making sure that washington worked well for them. they made that investment, and it paid off. [inaudible conversations] >> good evening. i'm the president and ceo of the atlanta history center. welcome to on the's lecture. before we get started, you may have noticed a few cameras in the room. please turn off all of your devices. and also, if you're to ask a question at question time,
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everybody has to come to the microphone or they'll cut the entire session. so please do that if you're interested in asking a question. this is, we're very excited about tonight's program. it's a pleasure to welcome tonight's livingston lecture featuring journalist and author francis fitzgerald. this lek which are's made -- lecture's made possible through the livingston foundation. in 1972 francis fitzgerald published fire in the lake, the vietnamese and americans in vietnam, a history of vietnam and the united states' military involvement in that country. the book was awarded a pulitzer prize, a bancroft prize and be national book award. she has since authored numerous critically acclaimed works from american history and her or works have appeared in the new yorker, new york times magazine and rolling stone. tonight fitzgerald will discuss her most recent book, the evangelicals: the struggle to
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shape america. she traces the history of protestant and evangelism from its beginnings in the great awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries to its current influence at the intersection of religious and political life. she also explores the future of the evangelical movement and america undergoing significant demographic and cultural change. the book has received quite critical acclaim for its scope, detail and timeliness. "the new york times" book review says, quote: anyone curious on the the state of american protestantism will have a trusted guide in this bancroft and pulitzer prize winner. we have long needed an overview of this vitally important religious sensibility. and fitzgerald has now provided it. tonight we're very lucky to have the distinguished university professor of christian ethics and director of the center of theology and be public life at mercer university and a widely,
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and widely regarded as a leading pastor, writer of 22 books, speaker and activist. he is president of the society of christian ethics and president-elect of the american academy of religion. in addition to that, he also in the book was pleased to find out that his picture is in the book as well. [laughter] so please join me in welcoming francis fitzgerald and dade gushy. [applause] well, good evening. we'd like to thank all of you for being here this evening and all who are watching via c-span. ..
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and my happy task this evening is to get the ball rolling by asking as many questions as i can fit in in about 40 minutes, and then you will will have the chance you in the audience in atlanta to ask some questions yourself. so i will start this way, welcome to atlanta. i'm sure you enjoyed our traffic this evening as you made your way from the airport. i will start off by asking you this, frankie, is that okay, frankie? what motivated you to do a lot of research on evangelicals and to decide to devote so much attention to the evangelical community? where was the interest point for your? >> let me preface this by saying the last time i met david
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gushee, i met him only once, i was interviewing him and i'm not sure that i like this change of role. [laughing] >> but any case, i began thinking a long time ago about how important evangelical was to american life, and in particular, to all kinds of things that i studied like textbooks, like ronald reagan, and by accident in 1980 i was teaching in lynchburg virginia and a professor at this liberal arts college said, you know there's a huge fundamentalist
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church next door and you must go and see it. and so i went and it was paul wells church. as it happened he was just starting the moral majority. so my editor had never heard of him before said yes, okay, write a piece about them because he was starting to make news. i wrote less about him really at the time that about his community. because i felt that the people who belong to the church were perhaps as far away from my own sensibility as anyone i knew. i thought well, to try and understand this country you have to understand that. i did a few more pieces on evangelicals, particularly recently, but eventually it
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occurred to me that it was perfectly impossible to understand the evangelical right without understanding its history. because a lot of their doctrines, ideology make perfect sense in the context of the 19th century, but it seems completely insane to people today. you know, like the apocalyptic prophecies and so on. i said to myself, this task. >> take the story of american evangelicalism back to the beginning in america, as you do in the book. can you just sketch how does american evangelicalism began a really take off?
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>> well, the first great awakening was started in the 17 \40{l1}s{l0}\'40{l1}s{l0}, and it began in the church of jonathan edwards who was the most sort of establishment kind of figure really. but one day when he was preaching, that sermon of his about the spider hanging over a fire is always coated, but apparently he didn't do that very much. but he was always remind people, but he would offer a way for individuals to come to try to understand god. eventually this church became
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just a boil with religious sentiments. it turned out this was happening in various other little parts of the country. around the same time this english preacher was actually and anglican profession came here and he preached up and down the eastern seaboard from city to city. he was such a compelling presence that the great actor david garrett said that he could attract a huge crowd just by pronouncing the word mesopotamia. [laughing] it was whitefield who really
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took over the first great awakening and moved it from state to state, and he was the first anticolonial celebrity. and the way he brought the americans together before the revolutionary war. the next great awakening, and by the way, all these were happening europe at the same time, these same kinds of revivals. after the revolution, perhaps baking tin you could say it began, went into the 1840s, 50s even. but that was a much larger and more emotional affair where methodists and baptists, in
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particular, went out and the methodists were horseback riders and they went from town to town. they would give these revivals and it would be tremendous excitement on the frontiers. and the excitement sort of grew from town to town because everybody wanted to have this really ecstatic experience that these preachers entertained. and full of what one called bodily agitations, you know, laughing and falling down and writing around and so forth. but these preachers were very numerous and interesting in that they preached a very simple
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bible and sort of immediate conversion. and they were very democratic in other ways, too. they were rebels against the established churches, and the established social hierarchies in virginia and in the new england. they would sort of badly criticize the anglican establishment in virginia and the establishment in boston. you know, one went so far as to say, i think this was john leland, a baptist, that there should be no political establishment at all, that only the relationship should be between the individual and god. this was a complete disruption,
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but on the other hand, a sort of, the solution to the problem of people leaving their families, leaving their communities, going away into the woods starting afresh. and not having those hierarchies to depend on anymore. so they eventually established their own churches, methodists, baptists, and presbyterians. for a time it was a very well moment. then in the cities, the last thing i will say about this, is that the new england anyway they were real reformers.
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the evangelicals began programs who cared for the indigent, for immigrants. they started the public school system in this country, and, indeed, they were the first mass base for abolition. people were always, always said that william lloyd garrison was responsible for this, but he was very too radical for the religious people and he was an anarchist and a feminist at the same time. that was going too far for them. so the mass base was established by charles finney and his convert theodore wells, who is
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really the hero of the story. >> essentially evangelicalism became heart and soul of american religion as the country spread west. >> it did. >> and it becomes impossible to understand the development of our country, without understanding the spread of evangelicalism across an increasingly dominant role in the heartland america, as well as in big cities and everywhere. in the book you talk about what i considered to be a very fateful difference between southern and northern evangelicalism. could you say a word about that? >> the south was rather isolate at the time. it was a rural community, very few towns, much less big cities. it was, of course plantations and slaveowners and so forth.
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whereas the north was a good deal more cosmopolitan, always. always had catholics and jews, intellectuals of the sort that the south did not. so when there was this break between the two over slavery with a large denominations splitting apart on geographic lines, it didn't really heal for long after the civil war and the south of began to develop really its own kind of religion, whereas the north began to be more and more diverse, diverse from ideas from europe and so on. of course in the 1880s the
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arrival of darwinian evolution leaked into the general populace, and the higher criticism of the bible for scholars and specialists. and that of course affected the clergy a good deal. so i divide starts to open between liberals and conservatives. the liberals start questioning the traditions of their churches as well as everything else. they do important new ideas -- they do import new ideas from europe, so that the conservatives look to england for these apocalyptic prophecies
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that were simply all about at the time, particularly in england after the french revolution, that the world was going to hell and that the apocalypse was upon us and there was various scenarios woven around this. >> the south ended up on a separate trajectory of development from the north in its religion, and the north, by the late 19th or early 20th century, was splitting apart what became known as fundamentalist and moderators a little bit later. a lot of people to understand this, that really the religious landscape if you know anything about the protestant religious landscape, what we know as our mainline denominations comes from the liberal side of this split mainly and what we know of our evangelicals are fundamentalists come from the conservative side. can you say a little more about that trajectory, but some of the
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issues were that made the wedge impossible to overcome? >> well, it really was a great split, and it happened slowly with the two groups really not talking to each other very much. but just after the first world war when everyone was excited on all kinds of accounts, the fundamentalists decided that they could take over the presbyterian church and the baptist church. so the fundamentalists actually begin by meeting those who would do battle royale against the modernists. this effort failed only really
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because there were a lot of people in both denominations who wanted to keep the denominations together in order to promote missionaries and so forth, and to do good in local quarters. when this divide came it was a huge sort of splintering, and the splintering was noticed in particular by the press at the scopes trial of 1925, which is a really important moment simply because of how it was interpreted. and it was, as you remember, the place where the great lawyer clarence darrow humiliated
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william jennings bryan in a debate outside with thousands of people listening. he really humiliated him because brian was really not a fundamentalist. he was anti-evolution and so on but he also, he went back to the time before fundamentalism really. he was a democrat and a populist, and as they rarely were, and so he had not paid much attention to this sort of nitpicking of fundamentalists theology and interpretations of the bible. so clarence darrow really by nitpicking on his side overcame
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bryan's knowledge of the bible and events and so on. so the press went away from this saying that, this was in rural tennessee this took place, thinking that fundamentalists were a bunch of pics, rural hicks who were just eventually going to be run over by the powers of modernity. but in fact, the fundamentalist preachers of the day were very educated men who preached in new york city, in st. louis and in these tall steeple churches.
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so that no one saw. and so instead of disappearing, these fundamentalists pastors, powerful ones, started creating their own preached elms in various parts of the country, hundreds of churches, their own small denominations, parts of larger denominations. and this went completely unnoticed until after world war ii. >> talk about that. the word evangelical gets retrieved after world war ii. who did that and why did they do it? >> well, i say in the book it's billy graham, and was in the popular way but it was also a lot of his friends and mentors
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like ogden day and others. what became the national association of evangelicals wanted a national revival. they thought they could get at the time because just after world war ii america became an extremely religious country. people going home again. it's always a conservative. after wars, but also it was sort of an anti-communist thing. people thought they were being true americans if they went to church, any church, said eisenhower, doesn't matter what church you go to. but it builds character, virtue. anyway, billy graham, wanting to build this national revival
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found that the fundamentalists simply turning too many people off. they were too bigoted, to narrow, too difficult. and so he in turn cut them off and called himself an evangelical, which some people were not angry at everybody, but who had much the same theology but sort of calm down, watered down if you want, but it was a kinder, gentler fundamentalism. >> so billy graham gets a lot of attention in your book, and probably most people in this audience or who are watching have some memory of billy graham. billy graham on tv. billy graham doing revival.
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how about billy graham hanging out with richard nixon? talk about that relationship and the beginning of a politicization of evangelicali evangelicalism. >> well, billy graham liked powerful people. he always did. they were extremely helpful to him, the rich and the powerful politicians, because they would make his state revival is much easier, it would be with him and they would get the shining glow of the league ran around them. he would seem even more important than he was by having senate leaders. democrats and republicans alike for a line time but he became --
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and longtime but he became very attached to richard nixon long before nixon ran for president. so that's kind of, was his downfall because he became too close and he changed his views to nixon's views really and he started to defend the nixon administration, so that when the vietnam war came to its terrible climax, he was part of, among the people to be blamed for it, and later for watergate, which he did not denounce early enough. >> as i read your book i thought of billy graham as a foreshadowing, almost novelistic.
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he's a foreshadowing of what happens after him. he was one person a larger-than-life figure, but by the late 1970s you have an entire organized movement to make a marriage happen between conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism and the republican party, which we know it is the christian right. a lot of the figures that, a lot of the tv back in the day, jerry falwell, pat roberts, all of them stride focaccia pages. talk about the birth of the christian right and kind of its trajectory. >> well, i think it was preceded by a sort of sort of fundamentalism in the south. it was a second upsurge but it was the first upsurge in the south. and it happened at virtually the same moment in industrialization
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and urbanization than the first one had in the north. and as we all know that creates cultural disruptions of all kinds, and people come into the cities who had sort of traditional evangelical beliefs suddenly find themselves back to the wall, as it were, and they find themselves under attack so they become more fierce. and then the liberals find themselves under attack and so forth. but what was different from billy graham in this case was that jerry falwell, et al., et al., plant to make a mass movement and early graham never did.
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he was content. but this was, it came up from the grassroots really. you can't credit these creatures with being, having totally novel ideas. there are all kinds of things that preceded it, like the terrible textbook wars in west virginia, the upsurge of conservatism in southern california. all kinds of things, and sort of issues began to appear, issues most of them having to do with resentment at the novelties of the 1960s, the kids, you know, from feminism to protests
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against the wars, you know, women dressing in blue jeans and guys wearing their hair long. it all came at once and it was huge in the sense that the issues were enormous and they were added to by the supreme court, which had really since the 1940s had been trying to make the status more neutral arbiter between various religious groups and non-religious people. so it all sort of happened at the same time, and it was a bit delayed because the real reaction came in 1980 as opposed to the '60s. at that point falwell, with the
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help of these blue right operatives from washington, d.c., who had their own little conservative pacs and so forth, persuaded him to great the moral majority and to structure it in rather sophisticated ways. in their view it should have included conservative catholics as those everybody else, but falwell was only able to attract other fundamentalists. he didn't really succeed in creating this mass movement. on the other hand, it made a big fuss and there were a lot of southern baptists around in this. reagan carried the south which for him was the point of why he paid so much attention to these
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folks. eventually they came to be a kind of merger of ideas between, social ideas, between the republican party and the christian right, and the democrats again were pushed left on all these issues which they were not before and that's where the great division in our politics begins. >> and remains. >> and remained. >> so the republican party ended up at its center of gravity in the evangelical south, especially in the midwest, and, but who would you say got the better of this exchange when the clergy and the activists from the religious evangelical community engaged the politicians from the republican party, who wins? are both gaining or are they being played by the politicians? >> mostly it's the politicians
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who win. there was very little legislation that the christian right wanted ever passed by anybody, including george w. bush. but they would make up to them and give them publicity and that's what falwell understood, that in one speech of ronald reagan's would do more for his cause than the million speeches i pastors. -- by pastors. he went along with reagan on issues that were not at all moral or religious. for example, nuclear weapons policies and star wars and south africa and so on. he wanted to show that evangelicals could be a faithful
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part of the republican party. and, indeed, they begin to vote, republicans for various reasons, but actually some of the biggest leaders in the south were southern baptists preachers who were ahead of other people in turning the south republican. gradually something like a third of the republican party is made up of evangelicals. led by the christian right. so it's inevitably politicized. people, there were a lot of evangelicals who tried to get out of that and do, you know,
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believed that only god was king. they simply disappeared because the more political people took up the air of the press and the media. and so what happened eventually was a lot of liberals, a lot of people became kind of disgusted by this and completely turn off and just, you know, forgotten they existed except at election time when they just hated them and knew nothing about them. so that's where i came in.
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>> how did abortion become the central organizing issue, or do you agree became the central organizing issue and how did that happen for the christian right? >> i do. it's a fascinating story because evangelicals in the 60s and 70s were very much, for therapeutic abortions as they were called, and that meant abortion is fine in cases of incest or rape or harm to the mother. now, harm to the mother met not only physical harm but psychological harm as well. so that left an enormous gap of possibilities where you could have an abortion and you say, you know, otherwise i would've been just too depressed for
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words, and so on. but evangelicals, north and south, really approved this. the reason, or lease a good part of the reason was that, was that abortion was a catholic issue, and even at that time, i mean, really into the '60s evangelicals like many liberal protestants couldn't stand the catholics, sort of them sort of a medieval tyranny that dictated everybody's ways of thinking and policies and so forth. so it took a long time for the christian right to, only some of them, to convince their peers and also the laypeople that abortion was, in fact, murder as the catholics said it was.
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i would say that it wasn't until the end of the '80s that evangelicals in any number began to believe this. and, of course, the two parties split apart on this as they had on the other issues. so the democrats being the pro-choice people became impossible to vote for. you can't vote for somebody who is allowing murder. simple as that. and evangelicals became probably more catholic than the catholics on abortion. why? because it was a part of what
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the understood as the whole victorian patriarchal family. so there were social logical reasons as well as strictly theological reasons for opposing abortions. anti-abortion feminism actually rose over the years. the younger generation today, the millennial generation, is very liberal on issues of homosexuality, but it is absolutely firm on abortion. >> so that issue isn't going away. >> it's not. >> and partly what you're describing there is the broadening of a permanent left-right split type to religion, so that it's not just protestant conservatism is catholic conservatism, mormon,
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jewish, muslim, whatever. so our politics has become really geo- tribal and it isn't really changing. would you agree with that? >> i think that's to accept the last election. there is what john c green, the great sociologist, called the god gap and the god gap said people who are very religious no matter what tradition they come from, these christian traditions, are always more republican than the left church going left pious in that tradition. so it's perfectly true that this division started to cut through all the denominations. >> so now you can explain why 81% of white evangelicals voted for donald trump. we will get that answered here this evening. [laughing]
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you talk about it very, very present at the end of your book. do you have a thought about what that says about the landscape that you described in your book? >> yeah, it says quite a lot to me. first of all during the primaries, virtually all the christian right leaders such as they are today, and they are not as half as powerful as the used to be, came out for ted cruz, a few for marco rubio but there was a big never trump action among the pastors who were leading this. but it turned out that their congregations or laypeople in general, and perhaps the god gap, made some difference because they were the ones who
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voted for trump. there was a poll done by an evangelical polling firm called -- forgot the name right now, southern baptists. it was done before the last election, you know, late october, early november. asked people what he should go most important them in voting. and they noticed that evangelical pastors would answer personality of the candidate, religious freedom, the selection of the supreme court justices, abortion. exactly what you would imagine
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from sort of right wing religious people, religious evangelicals. the lady on the other end said what was important to them was economics and national security. complete differences. and so a complete loss of control if you want. and also, i mean, privatization which has been shown for some time, evangelicals voted for a mormon, you know. that's not what they would have done if they were really keeping strictly to their religious commitments. they voted for all kinds of people.
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because of what they thought that that person would do for them, and they mostly have been disappointed, but not entirely because, and he certainly were not entirely disappointed by george w. bush. probably they will be disappointed by donald trump either. if you notice that mike pence. who else? betsy devos. even rick perry, ben carson, even the attorney general. a lot of them, some of these people are definitely christian right. others are connected to the movement and have always had christian right as their base of
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support. so he has in his cabinet, you know, practically half his cabinet now. he hasn't touched on the major subjects of abortion or homosexuality yet, but he certainly pleased them in many ways. >> including the supreme court. well, shall we, the are so many more questions to ask but we want to give you all the chance to ask some of these questions. so if you'd like to ask a question, please come to the microphone. ask a question. don't make a statement, please, and asked a brief question, otherwise bad things will happen to you, is my understanding. [laughing] so brief question for our author. yes, sir. >> since the 1820s or 30s or so, has the movement been driven
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by personality or ideology? >> well, i think both. and i think in the case of some people, they created the ideology. i mean, dwight moody who was one of the base preachers of the mid-19th century, 1870s, '80s, he put all kinds of strands of doctrine together, that he found in england and the united states, and he crisscrossed them and nobody noticed particularly because he is such a perfect american. he was also i must say, the heads of large corporations, and i mean, quite literally.
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his views on poverty were, it shouldn't exist, didn't exist except people didn't work, you know, didn't want to. but any case, he was a very, very powerful personality and it was his disciples who created the fundamentalist movement. >> there's so many interesting personalities who are profiled in the book. you have to read it. james dobson gets extensive treatment. whenever james dobson? remember jim and tammy faye? jimmy swaggart. it's an interesting group, and more than we can talk about this evening. >> you haven't said anything about the civil rights movement in the 60s and its effect in the south. >> well, that's quite right.
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i should've mentioned it at the start of all the irritations, i mean, that created the christian right movement. because even though people did not mention it at the time, i mean, falwell had been a huge segregationist, as had many in the southern baptist convention. but race was not mention any longer by 1980. 1980. it was all about morality and so on. underneath it, it was certainly about the civil rights movement. it was certainly about the disruption in their own view of this hierarchy of society, and
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their feeling that society was going, becoming totally chaotic. so people like criswell who was the head of the first baptist church in dallas, he had been an major segregationist and changed his tune, began to talk about integration us as left-wingers and people had to worry about quasi-communists. and part of this disruption, whole disruption of the '60s, you know, as if they were like
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the kids on the campus who were rioting in the streets. and so these parallels were made and people understood them very well without ever having to say it. >> and there was one specific public policy fight with this guy crystallized, and that was segregationist schools in the south especially. >> in fact, that was what these new right operatives said was the real reason for the rise of the christian right, which was the u.s. taxes, regulations on christian schools as well as other schools. they had to have, to be desegregated to a certain extent, and it was the resistance to this harmful
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federal regulation that did it. please. >> i was raised in an evangelical church and i have been to a few of them throughout my adult hood, and i'm kind of at a crossroads moment personally and it wanted to hear what your thoughts were on this. it seems like anytime there's these movements where you have this moment of impasse within the ranks, there's a lot of times these splits. you think of martin luther and you know, all of that. it feels like that to me in evangelicalism, because while you have people who will overwhelmingly voted for donald trump, you also have this kind of new faction of evangelicals who are still very conservative in many ways, but not when it comes to issues of social justice for integration, things like that. do you think that i am just working my way out of evangelicalism, or do you think
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that there is more of me that it feels very reformation like to me, what feels like how can evangelicalism continue as a united movement when, especially right now, if feels like there's just no way we can agree because the route is so deep? >> that's a very good question and i have no answer as far as you are concerned. but it's true and we haven't mentioned this, the growth of social justice party within, among evangelicals. and it's true that there's enormous splintering, i descrie one part of it between the christian right pastors and the laypeople. but the other one is between social justice people and so-called below the belt issues
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people. >> there's a whole chapter on the new evangelicals, and that's where i get mentioned so you definitely want to get to that chapter. very important, very important. [laughing] did i mention my picture was in the book? [laughing] so the new evangelicals begin to surface. there always were symptom you mentioned some people but then a whole movement begins to develop, especially in reaction to george w. and around the obama years, but then so you got your old right and you have your new evangelicals who tend to be more social justice but you also document a kind of third group who remain more conservative politically but they were definitely allergic to donald trump. you probably name others but my suggestion would be there is no putting humpty dumpty back together again. though sanctions are not going to come together. would you agree with that? >> i think he would know better
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than i what about that. i mean, because you see them or regularly every day. but it's not a so there's going to be no evangelicals. it's just that they are going to live apart. in their thinking. >> there's another group, the exit evangelicals. their name is legion. many, many people who having been turned off by the whole thing, especially the christian right, have said this name doesn't work for me anywhere, this community is not my community. i'm going to go someplace different. >> yeah. that's very important. to some extent they find a lot of features to simplistic and they become catholics or somewhere where they can find, also a body of doctrine that pleases them. it used to be, i'm looking at
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the minister right in front of me. that evangelicals became sort of mainline and at the top of the heat was the episcopalians, for social reasons. that's how you moved up in society. even when i visited falwell's church in 1980s, episcopalians were at the top of the heap. but the evangelicals have taken over our consciousness, and i wonder if that spirit can continue or whether they will be like the rest of us, you know. >> there are still an awful lot of what you call mainline
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protestants, but they have been dwarfed inside by the evangelicals and influenced partly because the evangelicals have proven more effective in working the media in the last 40 years. and so than mainline though, there must be at least 20% or, maybe 15% of the the american population still? >> and evangelical population is declining, first time, just a small bit. but it's declining for obvious reasons, which is that people, you know, become more middle-class, have fewer children and so there are fewer baptisms. >> and to the extent that evangelicalism will have a future, it's probably true of all religion in america, our is a multiethnic, multi--- any moment that is unable to assimilate multiple cultures,
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hard to see how it is much of a future in united states. i think were just about out of time, so why don't we thank frances fitzgerald for her excellent book. [applause] >> i believe we will now have a book signing. is anything else you would like to say? >> books are 25% off. [laughing] >> thank you all for coming. [inaudible conversations] >> on sunday june 4, author and journalist will be our guest on in-depth. >> if you grew up looking thousands and thousands of faces until one day you see that one
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face that you feel is put on earth just for you and that you fall in love in that moment, for me trump was like that except it was the opposite. when i first saw it on the camping trip i thought this is a person who is unique, horrible and amazing, terrible characteristics were put on earth specific for me to appreciate, or on appreciate, or whatever the verb is pure because i have really been spending a lot of the last ten to 12 years without knowing it preparing for donald trump to happen. >> he is a contributor to rolling stone magazine and is the author of several books including smells like dead elephants, dispatches from erotic empire, the great arrangement, a story of bankers,
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politicians and the most audacious power grab in american history and his most recent book, insane clown president. during our live three-hour conversation we will take your calls, tweets and facebook questions. ..


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