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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 89 of American political office, business, aca- demia, arts, and entertainment. We meet evangelical executives in large firms; evan- gelical professors at prestigious universi- ties; evangelicals employed in music, film, television, and fine art; and evangelicals at the pinnacles of national, state, and local politics. These are not men and women scraping for shards of authority; these evangelicals have, as Lindsay’s subtitle sug- gests, “joined the American elite.” Faith in the Halls of Power is a rare feat not only in terms of its comprehensive- ness, but also in its unique approach: on page after page, Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, lets his subjects speak for themselves. Instead of filtering the subtle- ties of evangelical social capital through sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, we hear, for example, former Enron executive (and whistle-blower) Sherron Watkins explain her own understanding of how Christians are called “to create wealth for people to use for God’s purposes.” We hear a Holly- wood screenwriter say, “Prayer is the spine of what I do,” and a pair of Ivy Leaguers cite their “heart for ministry” on exclu- sive college campuses. Voices like this fill the volume, and Lindsay lets them speak without interpretive encumbrance. The drawback of this approach, one that has been cited by both critics and fans, is that it can’t address the pratfalls of evan- gelicalism in the manner of investigative journalism. No doubt there is muckraking to be done here. Lindsay conducts many of his interviews in cafes, restaurants, and cozy offices, and as he sits across from wealthy ministers, CEOs of firms such as Wal-Mart, and members of current and past presidential administrations, our read- erly reflex is to want him to dig for dirt. But Lindsay’s restrained approach of- fers something we’ve never quite had before: an extensive overview of evangeli- cal self-perceptions. Much of the media coverage about evangelicalism lacks a basic grasp of the faith. GetReligion.org exists to point out the news media’s con- stant mistakes in covering religious beliefs and practices, and a great deal of its out- put concerns repeated errors in defining and describing evangelicals. They are, as Lindsay writes, “the most discussed but least understood group in America today.” That alone is justification for this project’s singular approach. Further, Lindsay’s use of direct quotes captures the nuanced, deeply symbolic language of evangelicalism: “I felt called,” “God gave me this platform,” “My rela- tionship with Jesus is not hidden.” To hear these quotes is to gain a quality of under- standing that could not otherwise be had, and to know they were uttered by people who hail from institutions that have pro- foundly shaped our country’s culture is to comprehend the way faith actually works in many people’s lives: it is indelibly inter- twined with everything else, so much so that we can hardly see it or even sense it. As Lindsay argues, faith informs the work that these prestigious men and women want to accomplish, and at the same time, their work speaks into their faith. The symbiotic relationship between faith and secular work is echoed in another volume published last year, From Pews to Polling Places, edited by J. Matthew Wilson. It offers essays from a range of scholars, including the omnipresent Pew Forum re- searcher John C. Green. Unlike Faith in the Halls of Power, this book focuses exclusively on politics, but like Lindsay, Wilson presents a study in exploding simple stereotypes. After a series of case studies on the po- litical practices (or lack thereof ) of evan- gelicals, African-Americans, Mormons, Jews, and atheists, Wilson offers a con- cluding essay that makes a point that al- most never gets made: everyone is caught up asking how much the political process should be open to religion, which assumes that religious people want to be involved in the political process. But in fact, for many people of faith, politics is a tempta- tion, not a mission. It’s a veritable Tree of A BREATH OF THE HIMALAYAN TRADITION August 2-30, 2008 Rancho La Puerta proudly hosts a yoga ashram with Swami Veda Bharati and his highly acclaimed international faculty. Imagine being in our beautiful setting and sharing the pathways through nature with other guests from around the world: a glimpse of saffron robed scholars walking beneath the oaks... the long, vibrating tone of brass singing bowls... As a Ranch guest, you will have the option of attending Swami Vedaʼs lectures and some of the yoga classes taught by his outstanding faculty, including our well-known long-time Ranch guest yoga instructor Mehrad Nezari. Please join us...at our regular prices—there will be no extra charges for the several “Himalayan Tradition” lectures and classes each day that are specifically open to all guests—if you choose to partake. All of the Ranchʼs other classes and activities are in full swing, making this the perfect mind/body/spirit fitness vacation. For more on Swami Veda’s worldwide reputation, please visit www.swamiveda.org. The year ’round fitness resort and spa MAY 80-105.indd 89 MAY 80-105.indd 89 3/6/08 11:36:40 AM 3/6/08 11:36:40 AM