There is no more accomplished student of American Protestantism than Martin Marty. This week, he muses on how odd it is that evangelical leaders are teaming up with Catholic bishops to fight the Obama administration. Evangelicalism, he writes, has in the past few decades shifted from a type of private piety to a publicly political category:
“Evangelical” in this case has become the code word for the ever-expanding population of conservative Protestants who joined and join some Catholics on the front lines of Cultural Warfare. They may be great-great-great grandchildren of nineteenth-century Protestant activists, but in most of the twentieth century such activists had backed off and changed their mission. In 1970 in Righteous Empire I could speak of Evangelicalism as largely “Private Protestantism,” which “accented individual salvation out of the world” over against what latter came to be called “Mainline.” It had been “‘Public’ Protestantism,” which was more exposed to the social order and the social destinies of citizens. Note: there remain plenty of ‘Mainline’ and ‘Public’ Protestant Activists in action today, but the cameras and microphones have turned attention from them. What is going on and what has gone on with the Mainliners, who have left a cultural niche or a political canyon to be occupied by activist “Public Evangelicals?” In one word, “Accommodation,” specifically “The Accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment.”
READ THE REST: Protestant Accommodation by Martin E. Marty.