Proselytizing and Politicizing: Evangelicals and the Shaping of the Modern Presidency

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2012-08

Authors

Jimenez, Trent Joseph

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Abstract

Conservative evangelical Christians, operating on a belief that the United States was not living up to its covenant with God, entered politics where they sought to use their vast media resources in conjunction with a charismatic leadership to influence presidential politics and establish their conservative policy agenda. Since 1960, the conservative evangelical presence and influence can best be seen through the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. Each of these presidents is responsible for the evolution of the conservative evangelical agenda between 1960 and 2004, as well as their realignment with the Republican Party. A historic, qualitative analysis of conservative evangelicals reveals that John F. Kennedy's Roman Catholic identity in conjunction with anti-New Deal sentiment, and a growing uneasiness with the secularity of the United States ignited the political mobilization of conservative evangelicals. While the perceived poor leadership and secular policy stances of Jimmy Carter pushed any remaining conservative evangelicals away from the Democratic Party, Ronald Reagan and the rhetoric of "God and Country" cemented the evangelical/Republican realignment. Finally, George W. Bush and the emphasis on ''the values voter" became the fulfillment of conservative evangelical hopes. Each of these presidents catered to the evangelical agenda. Presidents Kennedy and Carter provided the negative stimulus to conservative evangelical political mobilization, while Reagan and Bush catered to their rhetoric and promoted their agenda. As a result, evangelicals, drawing upon a long history, have defined religion in their own terms in American politics and discourse.

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Keywords

Religion, Evangelicalism, Politics, Christianity

Citation

Jimenez, T. J. (2012). <i>Proselytizing and politicizing: Evangelicals and the shaping of the modern presidency</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.

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