Steven P. Miller is the author of The Age of Evangelicalism: America’s Born-Again Years (Oxford University Press, 2014)and teaches history at Webster University and Washington University's University College.
Long before Sarah Palin met CPAC and the Duck Dynasty clan discovered A&E, George Gallup Jr. famously declared 1976 the “Year of the Evangelical.” Subsequent commentators often pluralized “evangelical.” They might have done the same for “year,” too. In many years hence—1980, say, or 2004—it was 1976 all over again, to judge from the headlines. Those election years highlighted the Christian Right, a force that was not on Gallup’s radar screen back when Jimmy Carter was the prototypical evangelical in public life.
The years of the evangelicals were not only about campaign politics, however.
In his best-selling 2008 book, The Family, Jeff Sharlet probed the sprawling but mostly secretive work of a longstanding Christian outreach to political leaders in the United States and, increasingly, around the world. The Family, better known as the Fellowship, surfaces each year as sponsor of the National Prayer Breakfast.