1989 Founding of the Christian Coalition: What are Christian Values and What Are They Doing in the Political Arena?
Debates over God and country are a pivotal part of our national discourse and have been since long before the founding of the United States. Are we a Christian nation? Should there be a “wall of separation” between Church and state? What is, and what should, the relationship between religion and democracy be? Does religion give us certainty we can apply to our politics–or just doubt?
With panelists Professor William Hutchison, Bill and Lauren Thomson of the Christian Coalition, and the Reverend Anne Fowler, we examine an important modern development in these debates. In 1989, fresh off a presidential bid, the Reverend Pat Robertson spearheaded the founding of the Christian Coalition. The Coalition has become one of the most influential organizations in our country, helping to elect everything from school committees to presidents, and has been at the forefront of our national discussion about values. Its advocacy has inspired–and antagonized–millions of Americans.
What does the Christian Coalition do and who does it represent? Does it return our country to its fundamental values and give Christians a voice in American politics? Or, as Senator John McCain said about Robertson during his own presidential campaign, does it serve as an “agent of intolerance?”
In this presidential election year, more than ever, the relationship between theology–especially a type of Christian evangelical theology–and the laws of our land is on the front burner. As we debate issues such as school choice, abortion, and gay marriage, Christian fundamentalists have taken center stage in their attempt to remake–or to retake–America.
William Hutchison was Charles Warren Research Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard Divinity School and the author of Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal. The author or editor of numerous books and articles, he taught at Harvard for more than thirty-five years. Professor Hutchison died in 2005.
William (Bill) Thomson is the former National Field Director of the Christian Coalition of America and is currently the State Director of the New Jersey Christian Coalition. In 2006 and 2007, he was a candidate for Chairman of the Bergen County (New Jersey) Republican Party.
Lauren Thomson is the State Director of the New Jersey Christian Coalition and a former candidate for Freeholder in Bergen County.
The Reverend Anne Fowler is Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts. She is past member of the Board of Directors of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
- Contract with the American Family by the Christian Coalition and Ralph Reed; Random House 1995
- Souled Out; Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right by E.J. Dionne Jr.; Princeton University Press 2008
- Divided by God; America’s Church-State Problem–and What We Should Do About It by Noah Feldman; Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2006
- Religious Pluralism in America; The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal by William Hutchison; Yale University Press 2004
- Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want by Christian Smith; University of California Press 2002
- The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition; The Inside Story by Joel D. Vaughan; Wipf & Stock Publishers 2009
- The Christian Coalition; Dreams of Restoration, Demands for Recognition by Justin Watson; Palgrave Macmillan 1999