Cold War Evangelicalism’s Theology of Dissimulation

By: Taylor West  

The Cold War was a time in which religion, according to Hannah Arendt and Kevin M. Kruse, was thrust back into the realm of politics. At the forefront of this struggle were American evangelicals who began to vie for political power and who would eventually wield tremendous political influence. They navigated this shifting landscape with a theology of dissimulation. Through this developing theology, evangelicals could maintain the fiction that they were "in the world but not of the world," a notion that scholars have pointed to as irrefutable evidence of evangelical apoliticism—a consensus that has held sway until quite recently. The evangelical theology of dissimulation—of feigning holy remove yet engaging undeniably in politics—was communicated via concepts related to militarism, market capitalism, and organicism. The purpose of this paper is to explore what these concepts communicated, to whom they were directed, and how they made up an expanding constellation of politic discourse in the erupting tensions of the Cold War. Second, this paper means to demonstrate how evangelicals stepped away from merely spiritual notions of salvation and how they refashioned their faith into a theoretical avenue to various earthly ends: a way to save the nation, to destroy communism, to protect idealized notions of masculinity, to achieve worldly prosperity. Finally, this paper will demonstrate how evangelicalism qua political solution was used to thwart social movements and social change, which evangelicals believed threatened to blur the most deep-set contours of their identity.

Evangelicalism, Politics, Religion, Cold War, History of Concepts
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Taylor West

Researcher, Contemporary History, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain