The Christian Right is commonly portrayed in the liberal media as the antithesis of secular democracy. With Bible-toting evangelizers, protesters with pictures of aborted fetuses, and political leaders who often cite Bible verses, the Christian Right does not seem like a force for liberal democratic virtues, some writers outside the conservative camp disagree though.
I came across an article about a student from Brown University who spent a semester undercover at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s conservative Christian college, in order to write a book about his experience. The author, Kevin Roose, produced a story about “rigorously normal” students in a setting where he expected to find "hostile ideologues who spent all their time plotting abortion clinic protests and sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls." While the Chancellor of LU, Jerry Falwell Jr., said, “We appreciate Kevin's generally positive tone toward LU but he admittedly comes from a culture that has very little tolerance for conservative Christianity and even less understanding of it,” the book still paints a surprisingly positive and normal view of a supposed conservative Christian training camp.
This article got me wondering whether there are other sources of praise for the Christian Right coming from a leftist perspective. I found an article in the NY Times reviewing a book by Jon A. Shields, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, titled “The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right.” This book argues that “Many Christian-right organizations […] have helped create a more participatory democracy by successfully mobilizing conservative evangelicals, one of the most politically alienated constituencies in 20th-century America.” The article explains that in his experience in training seminars for many Christian Right organizations the instructions given were: “Remain civil. Engage others in conversation by inquiring into their viewpoints. Eschew arguments based on religion or the Bible in favor of facts and reasoning that might persuade people regardless of their religious convictions.” He also argues that while there are many “radical” Christian activists these people are not the “representative figures that coverage in the news media often suggests.”
These books may be representative of the increasing involvement of Christian conservatives in the workings of politics above the level of purely social issues. As they realize the need to break the stigma of religious zealots, Christian conservatives need more support from the left such as these works by authors in the academia.