Is there anything else you would like to say about the book?

It wasn't one of my major works. It was a quick aside. It was fun to write some military history, because I've always enjoyed reading it.

What are you working on presently?

I have a book called The Birth and Triumph of Christianity about to go into production. It's a follow-up on a little book I did about fifteen years ago called The Rise of Christianity. That was the beginning of my attempt to do history and I am deeply dissatisfied with it even though it was very nicely received. 

This book is about three times as long. It's not a history of Christianity. The subtitle is, New Perspectives on Major Episodes. That means I can skip everything I do not want to cover and focus on the things I have something to say about.

I'm now working on a book called, How Denominations Die: the Continuing Self-Destruction of "Mainline" Protestantism. There are quotation marks around "Mainline" because they are no longer mainline. What happened to these big denominations? They killed themselves. They did it theologically and they did it with radical politics. They offended older people, who voted with their feet.

Some progressives say that evangelicals are making the same mistake on the opposite side, by confusing their faith with conservative politics.

What happens with "progressives" is that they cannot get any traction amongst evangelicals. Their audience, or their intended audience, is largely among the "mainline" congregations and the media that favor them. I don't think they have found much traction amongst most evangelicals -- and I think that's for the same reason that everybody has fled the old mainline. You get tired of hearing that capitalism is sinful and that Cuba is the way of the future, and other kinds of idiocy like that. Yet when I look at evangelicals using survey data, they are not a bunch of right-wing Republicans. They're conservative, but they're about equally Republicans and Democrats. It's religious and not political conservatism that defines them. 

Very clearly, evangelicals don't like abortion. They do like school prayer and a few things like that. If those were right-wing issues, then sure, evangelicals would be right-wing. But if they're not right-wing issues -- and the majority of Americans agree with evangelicals on those issues -- then I fail to see that there's anything right-wing or scandalous about it. But when it comes down to meat and potatoes politics, evangelicals are not that different from the rest of America, and that's important for people to understand. A whole lot of them voted for Obama. Whether they will do so again, I don't know. 

So, I think those guys are entirely wrong. I am tired of people like Mark Noll worrying about "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind." What do they expect? I don't consider it a scandal that a bunch of laymen don't want to read academic books. It's not a scandal that ordinary evangelicals are not left-wing seminary professors.

Too many evangelical intellectuals want to be the house conservative at the liberal banquet. So Martin Marty will invite you to his table because you can be the token evangelical. I'm sorry, but I'm not a token anything.

 

Rodney Stark lives and writes in New Mexico, and serves as co-director for the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.