Jesus and Justice

Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics

Peter Goodwin Heltzel
Foreword by Mark A. Noll
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npkzw
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  • Book Info
    Jesus and Justice
    Book Description:

    This timely book investigates the increasing visibility and influence of evangelical Christians in recent American politics with a focus on racial justice. Peter Goodwin Heltzel considers four evangelical social movements: Focus on the Family, the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Community Development Association, and Sojourners.

    The political motives and actions of evangelical groups are founded upon their conceptions of Jesus Christ, Heltzel contends. He traces the roots of contemporary evangelical politics to the prophetic black Christianity tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the socially engaged evangelical tradition of Carl F. H. Henry. Heltzel shows that the basic tenets of King's and Henry's theologies have led their evangelical heirs toward a prophetic evangelicalism in a shade of blue green-blue symbolizing the tragedy of black suffering in the Americas, and green symbolizing the hope of a prophetic evangelical engagement with poverty, AIDS, and the environment. This fresh theological understanding of evangelical political groups shines new light on the ways evangelicals shape and are shaped by broader American culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15573-0
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-x)
    Mark A. Noll

    Since the 2004 presidential election, when “values voting” was considered a key to the victory of George W. Bush, a spate of books has appeared on the relationship between religion and politics. Most concentrate on evangelical voters; many are marked by partiality or panic. The general result has frequently been to heighten cultural conflict without improving political understanding or deepening religious insight.

    Peter Heltzel’sJesus and Justiceis a different kind of book. It offers a singular interpretation of the recent history of the evangelical Christian Right by way of theological analysis. At its heart is patient, but also prophetic,...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)

    The American political establishment’s fascination with evangelicals is entering its fourth decade. Beginning with Jimmy Carter’s 1976 candidacy for the presidency and continuing through Barack Obama’se 2008 election, evangelicals have stood, conspicuous and vehement, on the political stage, and the world has watched with wonder.

    From the spin-based efforts of the Sunday morning pundits to the emotional and personal responses of journalists and writers, there has been no shortage of tools used or perspectives drawn from in the attempt to quantify this phenomenon. Historians have considered the past. Sociologists have looked at demographics. Political scientists have analyzed tactics.

    Yet all...

  6. PART I: EVANGELICAL HISTORY
    • 1 THE LION IS ROARING
      (pp. 3-12)

      Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus on Thursday, January 3, 2008. In his column the next morning, David Brooks spoke for millions when he wrote: “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses. . . . This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times...

    • 2 REVIVAL, RACE, AND REFORM: THE ROOTS OF MODERN EVANGELICAL POLITICS
      (pp. 13-44)

      On Saturday, August 9, 1801, thousands of settlers assembled at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, for a revival that would transform the face of American religion. Black and white, rich and poor, northern and southern, people from all over the country poured onto the Cane Ridge to revive their souls. With apocalyptic thunderclaps, this revival produced spiritual shock waves, a signal of the social crisis that was about to spread throughout the land. As blacks and whites worshiped together, it became clear there would eventually have to be a holy reckoning concerning the enslavement of Africans in the southern interior. In the...

    • 3 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’S THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS
      (pp. 45-70)

      Martin Luther King Jr. is the most compelling religious leader of the twentieth century and one of the most difficult to fully understand. He is increasingly considered a moral hero for a new generation of evangelicals, which presents an important question: how does King relate to the evangelical tradition? Debate about this subject has been ongoing within the evangelical world since the 1960s. Two articles that appeared in a 1966 edition ofFreedom Now, a progressive evangelical publication, centered one two questions: first, was he a fundamentalist, and second, was he a communist?¹ The author of the two articles concluded...

    • 4 CARL F. H. HENRY’S UNEASY CONSCIENCE
      (pp. 71-88)

      At the time when Martin Luther King Jr. was gaining attention as an international social prophet from a fundamentalist Baptist heritage in the South, another prophet, this one from the white northern fundamentalist Baptist experience, emerged: Carl F. H. Henry. As Billy Graham was evangelicalism’s global evangelist, Carl Henry was evangelicalism’s theological architect. After Graham’s famous Los Angeles Crusade in 1949, his evangelistic crusades drew capacity crowds, becoming a symbol of the spiritual vitality of the evangelical movement during the 1950s. Although fundamentalists had always been zealously evangelistic and missional, these crusades helped to build a movement of conservative Christians...

  7. PART II: EVANGELICAL POLITICS
    • 5 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: NURTURING AND DEFENDING THE FAMILY
      (pp. 91-126)

      “Tell us about your recent trip to Alaska,” Tony Perkins asked James Dobson in the opening session of the September 22, 2006, Vote Values Forum in Washington, DC. Dobson demurred at first, saying, “Tony, I told you not to bring that up,” but then told the story of going on a bear hunt with his son, Ryan. They were alone in the woods when a big old grizzly charged, and in a split second Dobson raised his rifle and killed him. Dobson turned to the audience and said, “Those of you who don’t like hunting,deal with it!” In this...

    • 6 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS: FOR THE HEALTH OF THE NATION
      (pp. 127-159)

      In 1947 the publication of Carl Henry’sThe Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalismsounded a loud wake-up call to political engagement for American evangelicals who had been comfortably lulled into complacency by their increasing cultural power in the wake of the American victory in World War II. Henry was one of only a few prophets calling American evangelicals to move beyond fundamentalism, seeking to transform their fundamentalist heritage by encouraging them to become more educated, cultured, and politically engaged. Henry was also one of the founding fathers of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

      The NAE is an important, ongoing locus...

    • 7 THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION: A QUIET REVOLUTION
      (pp. 160-177)

      In the post–civil rights era John Perkins emerged as one of the most important black evangelical leaders, cofounding the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). Forged in the fires of the racial hatred of Mississippi, Perkins is one of the pioneer leaders of prophetic evangelicalism in the United States. Several generations of evangelical leaders have been inspired by his writings and teachings on the three R’s of Christian community development: redistribution, reconciliation, and relocation.

      Driven by the egalitarian ideal of antebellum revivalism that informed King’s theological vision during the civil rights movement, CCDA is ane evangelical social movement with roots...

    • 8 SOJOURNERS: THE GREAT AWAKENING
      (pp. 178-202)

      September 11, 2001, changed the face of American politics. On the day when the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, were attacked by terrorists, America was wounded to the core, but it pulled together with international friends to get through the crisis. When President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq, the evangelical church was divided. Many evangelicals equated Christian patriotism with unquestioning support of the president’s decision to go to war, but a smaller group of evangelicals joined international protests of an American invasion of Iraq.

      Jim Wallis was among those...

    • 9 EVANGELICAL POLITICS IN A SHADE OF BLUE GREEN
      (pp. 203-218)

      The maturation of evangelical public theology is cast in a shade of blue green. The long tragedy of black suffering is pitched in blue; against that backdrop, an emergent holism within evangelicalism is saturated in green. From colonial times to the present, black Christianity has continually induced a prophetic transformation of American evangelicalism from within. Now, in the third millennium, we are witnessing a historical unfolding through the reconstitution of a prophetic evangelicalism in the post–civil rights era. Evangelicalism is singing and listening to the blues; it is evolving and growing green.

      Jesus Christ is at the center of...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 219-250)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 251-259)