The Religious Right is flexing its powerful muscles these days; in the last month alone they have gained the right to prayers at school, forced public funding for religious institutions, and repealed a half-century-old right to choice for women. The tradition of separation of church and state espoused by our founding fathers seems to be in deep jeopardy. How have we arrived at this juncture?
One of the enduring myths in recent history is the fiction that the Religious Right galvanized as a political movement in response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Evangelicals, however, considered abortion a Catholic issue throughout the 1970s. Most evangelicals were silent when the Roe decision was handed down, and those who did comment actually applauded the ruling. The real origins of the Religious Right may surprise you.
Randall Balmer holds the John Phillips Chair in Religion at Dartmouth College, the oldest endowed professorship there. He has followed an interesting trajectory in life. He is an Episcopal priest who was born into a Evangelical Christian family and raised in that subculture, which was constructed defensively to avoid interaction with people outside of the subculture. His education exposed him to wider worldviews. He grew away from that subculture and became a recognized expert on American religious communities.
Two days ago, he gave a talk to the Columbia University community titled The Real Origins of the Religious Right, and Why It Matters.