Millennial Dreams and Apocalyptic Nightmares: The Cold War Origins of Political Evangelicalism

Hardcover | October 2, 2007

byAngela M. Lahr

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The Religious Right came to prominence in the early 1980s, but it was born during the early Cold War. Evangelical leaders like Billy Graham, driven by a fierce opposition to communism, led evangelicals out of the political wilderness they'd inhabited since the Scopes trial and into a much moreactive engagement with the important issues of the day. How did the conservative evangelical culture move into the political mainstream? Angela Lahr seeks to answer this important question. She shows how evangelicals, who had felt marginalized by American culture, drew upon their eschatologicalbelief in the Second Coming of Christ and a subsequent glorious millennium to find common cause with more mainstream Americans who also feared a a 'soon-coming end,' albeit from nuclear war. In the early postwar climate of nuclear fear and anticommunism, the apocalyptic eschatology of premillennial dispensationalism embraced by many evangelicals meshed very well with the "secular apocalyptic" mood of a society equally terrified of the Bomb and of communism. She argues that thedevelopment of the bomb, the creation of the state of Israel, and the Cuban Missile Crisis combined with evangelical end-times theology to shape conservative evangelical political identity and to influence secular views. Millennial beliefs influenced evangelical interpretation of these events,repeatedly energized evangelical efforts, and helped evangelicals view themselves and be viewed by others as a vital and legitimate segment of American culture, even when it raised its voice in sharp criticism of aspects of that culture. Conservative Protestants were able to take advantage of thissituation to carve out a new space for their subculture within the national arena. The greater legitimacy that evangelicals gained in the early Cold War provided the foundation of a power-base in the national political culture that the religious right would draw on in the late seventies and earlyeighties. The result, she demonstrates, was the alliance of religious and political conservatives that holds power today.

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From the Publisher

The Religious Right came to prominence in the early 1980s, but it was born during the early Cold War. Evangelical leaders like Billy Graham, driven by a fierce opposition to communism, led evangelicals out of the political wilderness they'd inhabited since the Scopes trial and into a much moreactive engagement with the important issues...

BAngela M. Lahr is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Westminster College, Pennsylvania

other books by Angela M. Lahr

The Rhetoric of American Civil Religion: Symbols, Sinners, and Saints
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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 5.98 × 9.29 × 0.91 inPublished:October 2, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195314484

ISBN - 13:9780195314489

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"For anyone struggling with the central paradox of American evangelicalism -- its otherworldly message and its this-worldly devotion -- Millennial Dreams and Apocalyptic Nightmares is a good place to turn. Lahr highlights an important factor in recent evangelicals' this-worldliness, namely,how millennial hopes and Cold War anxieties converged to politicize born-again Protestantism. Her deft weaving of political and religious history is intelligent and convincing." --D. G. Hart, author of The Lost Soul of American Protestantism