By far, the most important (and provocative) book I’ve read this year belongs to perennial controversialist, D.G. Hart. His From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism is proving to be quite the conversation starter in evangelical circles.

Friend-of-Mere-O Christopher Benson has a fine review of Hart’s book at Books and Culture.

From his review,

Everyone loves an iconoclastic thesis, the kind that elicits a flabbergasted response of “Oh, really?!” Three immediately come to mind: in an essay on military service, theological ethicist Stanley Hauerwas argues that gays (as a group) are morally superior to Christians (as a group); in God’s Battalions, sociologist Rodney Stark argues that the Crusades were a justified war waged against Muslim terror and aggression; and in Defending Constantine, theologian Peter Leithart argues that the heresy of Constantinianism should not be named after the historical Constantine.

Add this eyebrow-raising thesis to the mix: in From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism (a book whose title and subtitle should have been switched), historian Darryl Hart argues that “the evangelical temperament is inherently progressive.” Despite being the largest single voting bloc in the Republic Party, Evangelicals—owing to their religious and moral idealism—are no more fitted to traditional conservatism than an armadillo is suited to Antarctica. Currently a professor at Hillsdale College, the premier academic enclave for conservatives, and prolific author of such books as A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, Hart offers a historical account of Evangelical political reflection since World War II.


“Despite supplying voters for conservative politicians,” Hart boldly says, “the born-again faith added nothing to the conservative mind.” Why? Evangelicals tend to believe that a political philosophy resting on anything other than special revelation denies “the priority of faith to all aspects of human existence; it is to suggest that Christ or the prophet Amos need to takes notes from lectures by Aristotle, John Locke, or James Madison.” Indeed, it is a bizarre notion that “a book written millennia ago is capable of addressing the specific challenges of modern statecraft,” as if the mission of Jesus or Paul was to form “a more perfect Union.” Even so, readers of this book would benefit from an excursus on the Bible’s proper role in public policy, political reflection, and the professional lives of public servants. Hart leaves the impression that the alternative to “Bible-onlyism” is an evacuation of holy writ from the halls of power, which, if true, puts him in the company of John Rawls more than John Calvin.

After having read Hart’s book myself, scratched my head in wonderment, and then applied its merit to my own thought, I find Christopher’s review fantastic. Read it, and then buy the book. Hart’s book is a game-changer and one that all Christians need to confront.

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Posted by Andrew Walker

Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One Comment

  1. WenatcheeTheHatchet November 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I just found out my city library has this book on the shelf. Thank God for city libraries. Yay. This looks like a very interesting book and I’ll be very literally checking it out.


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