All of that sounds grim. It's certainly true that overselling of what the Christian Right could accomplish has often led to disappointment. Mistakes are evident, at least in hindsight. But the book's chapter on Iowa includes a sentence that should probably appear in every chapter: the Iowa Christian Right "has not obtained a large number of changes in public policy, although it has prevented the enactment of liberal policies." Stopping the liberal bulldozer is not as dramatic as standing in front of a column of tanks -- remember the photo from Tiananmen Square 15 years ago? -- but it also takes courage.
Heroic leadership is not necessarily the spectacular. George Washington first became famous for surviving a battle. But his effort from 1775 through 1781 deserves double honor, because he persevered despite loss after loss and only the rare, small victory at Princeton or Trenton. His success lay in keeping the British from having success.
These days, every time a liberal academic complains that the United States is behind the times -- oh, would that we lived in Sweden or France, where they have socialist onions and leeks a-plenty -- the Christian Right should smell a bit of victory. That should not lead to complacency -- if your defense is on the field almost all the time, sooner or later a safety or cornerback will slip and the opposition will score. But it also should not generate a mood of defeatism.
Also, we should not necessarily assume that one liberal victory portends the next. The left may become more shrill, because -- as Anthony Daniels wrote in the May 2003 issue of an interesting journal, The New Criterion -- "the disparity between what is expected of social and political change, and what it actually produces in the way of personal satisfaction, is laid all too bare. The increased shrillness is a sign of existential desperation."
Those in despair may push further, or -- if a Francis Schaeffer is there to guide them -- they may find true grounds for hope.
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