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Book Review

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experienced significant growth in membership and financing.
She notes that the Republican party captured 75% of the
evangelical vote in the mid-term elections which put the
Republicans in control of the House for the first time in 40 years,
but the influence of the Christian right appeared to be faltering at
the end of the Clinton presidency.
FitzGerald suggests that the Christian right movement
was reenergized in 2000 with the election of President George
W. Bush. She points out that he had been born again, spoke
their language, and knew how much Republicans depended
on the Christian right with its influence on evangelical voters.
FitzGerald states that his first administration saw a growing
alliance between the two, as the President gave them access to
the White House and supported some of their initiatives. The
primary Christian right leaders, at that time, were James Dobson,
the founder of Focus on the Family, and Richard Land, the head
of the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
According to FitzGerald, during the President's second
term, the Christian right's alliance with the unpopular Bush
administration created a backlash, even among evangelicals, who
feared that they had become identified as part of the Republican
Party. She states that many leading evangelicals began distancing
themselves from the Christian right as a result. These "new
evangelicals," took up social justice issues, such as poverty and
climate change.
FitzGerald argues that the decline of the Christian right had
begun by that point, explaining that Jerry Falwell and many other
Christian right leaders had died, or retired, and no one took their
place. She further asserts that baby boomers and subsequent
generations had absorbed the social changes that had taken place
since the 1960s, were not concerned about the same issues as the
older generations and were more tolerant of the views of others
and saw the U.S. as a pluralistic society.
FitzGerald points out that, after Barrack Obama won the
2008 election, some of the "new evangelicals" actually came out
in support the president's health care bill, which was opposed by

the Catholic bishops and the remaining Christian right leaders,
who considered the mandates on contraception and abortion a
violation of their religious freedom. The passage of Obamacare
coincided with the economic crisis on Wall Street. According to
FitzGerald, the reaction to the economic crisis was the formation
of the Tea Party, and the Christian right activists joined the Tea
Party, which was the larger and more powerful group at that
point.
By the time of the 2016 election, the evangelical world
had become a complex place; one where the Christian right
no longer dominated the landscape. Donald Trump winning
the Republican nomination with many evangelical votes left
evangelical leaders confused. As a result, FitzGerald argues that
the Christian right is splintering with its numbers shrinking, and
America will eventually look more like secular Europe.
I enjoyed the book, and it was definitely worth reading. It
is well-written, after all, FitzGerald is a Pulitzer Prize winning
author, and the source material is all thoroughly documented. It
would be a great read for a political junkie, or religious junkie
(if there is such a thing). I must admit that the read was a bit
slower for me through the first few chapters, which focused on
the religious roots of evangelical movement, and certainly my
interest, and speed, picked up as we approached the present. In
fact, to that extent, it almost felt as if I was reading two, separate
books-a religious history of the movement and an analysis of the
modern religious, cultural and political impact of the movement.
I would not change anything about her approach, since I believe
that the religious history of the evangelical movement she
provided was critical to a complete understanding of the topic.

Martin A. Darocha, CPA

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Andrew F. Fick, Esquire, is with the Reading law firm of
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He is Chair of the BCBA's Citizenship Committee, and he
also serves on the Board of Directors for MidPenn Legal
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The Barrister Fall 2017

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