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Who are evangelicals?

Are they fundamentalists? Pentecostals? And why are they wary of Mormons?

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Noll: Yes, maybe. John Allen Jr., who writes for the National Catholic Reporter recently published a book titled The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church. He calls his first or second main trend ‘Evangelical Catholicism.’ He points to tens of millions of Catholics, especially in Latin America and Africa, but some in the U.S. and Canada, too, who, more or less, exhibit David Bebbington’s traits and yet who are loyal and faithful Catholics. Fifty years ago ‘evangelical Protestant’ and ‘Roman Catholic’ were mutually exclusive, but now there is considerably more overlap. Now, many traditional evangelicals would continue to insist that a Catholic simply cannot be an evangelical. But there are others, even quite conservative, who would say otherwise.

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Has the term "evangelical" become politicized?

Hodges: It has, to some degree. It is used to describe a voting-bloc subculture. In my opinion, evangelicals have assisted the media and the general public in politicizing it because we want to distinguish ourselves from right-wing fundamentalists and left-wing liberals, neither of whom fit into the mainstream of the populous. It is no secret that the Republican Party has the advantage when it comes to evangelical loyalty in our two-party system. 

Noll: Yes, but much more in the U.S. than elsewhere. There are some (not many, but a few) self-identified evangelicals in Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party, quite a few in Britain’s Labor and Scottish Nationalist parties. In Brazil, there are a few political parties organized by Pentecostal-evangelicals, but they have worked with a wide variety of other political parties. The American mania for reporting political races has rightly discovered that a very high percentage of white evangelicals support the Republican Party, but a substantial minority do not — and quite a few evangelicals remain in principle uninvolved in active politics. One intriguing item: Black Protestants in the U.S. share most of the standard evangelical traits; many share all of them. But we rarely hear of ‘evangelical African Americans for Obama,’ probably because it would force people to think self-consciously about what ‘evangelical’ means and also it would distort the standard story line for political reporting that gets used so often.

Mattingly: Totally. Many journalists now argue that Santorum is an evangelical because he votes like one, whatever that means.


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