The ACLU’s Jeremy Gunn and his Evangelical dinner host both show an amazing lack of knowledge of U.S. history in Gunn’s piece Accommodating the faithful.
The first question was as follows:
First, could he identify any country in the world where there is more religious freedom than in the USA?
That’s not an entirely fair question. The basic problem is that the Americans are doing most of the rating, and no one here wants to admit if we have a problem.
Second, could he name any time in the history of the United States when Evangelical Christians have had more religious freedom (and political influence) than they do now?
Putting the issues of religious freedom and political influence together is where things get complicated.
Evangelicals have certainly had more political influence and cultural leadership in the past than now. Best example of this is the Civil War. The U.S. (well, the Northern states at least) had been in a long revival mode from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the opening shots at Ft. Sumter, as I detailed (along with the results) in Amazing Grace and the Army of Joshua.
The problem of political influence is simple: with a few well-trumpeted exceptions, Evangelicals have been effectively unable to carve out a meaningful position in the U.S.’s elite for a very long time, certainly since World War I and maybe earlier. As long as this country was driven by a populist, middle-class culture, no one really cared. But now, with the expanding role of government, elite positioning is more important, and Evangelicals have suddenly discovered this lacuna. So now we have to “take America back,” but that’s easier said than done.