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Fred­erick Hart’s “Cross of the Mil­lennium” Resin Sculpture.
Tracy Wilson | Collegian

Catholics are doing a better job of pre­serving America’s Christian char­acter than evan­gelical Chris­tians, according to Darryl Hart, asso­ciate pro­fessor of history. 

As a prelude to his new book on the same topic, “American Catholic: The Pol­itics of Faith During the Cold War,” Hart will host a lecture arguing for the Catholic con­tri­bution to Christian America at 4 p.m. on April 15 in Lane 125. 

“Roman Catholics are now making the most intel­ligent argu­ments for America’s Christian char­acter,” Hart said in an email to The Col­legian. “Evan­gel­icals are also arguing for a Christian America but not in the most thoughtful ways. Mainline Protes­tants, or lib­erals, turned against America during the 1960s and have never recovered.”

Though he’s written pri­marily about protestant Chris­tians in the past, Hart said he became “aware of the strong presence of Roman Catholics in the con­ser­v­ative world” when he entered American con­ser­v­ative circles almost 20 years ago, at the Inter­col­le­giate Studies Institute.

“I hope people will have some context for thinking about the second Roman Catholic to be pres­ident of the United States,” Hart said, speaking of Catholicism’s presence in America, “the place of Roman Catholicism in American history, and some per­spective on the ten­sions within the American Church.” 

Hart added that the lecture and book could also explain some of the appeal of Roman Catholicism at Hillsdale College.

Pro­fessor of History Paul Moreno said he agrees with Hart’s thesis that Catholic par­tic­i­pation has been sig­nif­icant in the fight to pre­serve Chris­tianity in America. 

“The Vatican thought Amer­icans were too American; American Protes­tants thought they were too Pope-ish,” Moreno said. “In the end, Amer­i­canism won. Today, American Catholics aren’t really a dis­tinct sub­culture. They are the median voters. For example, every can­didate who has won the Catholic vote since 1976 has won the pres­i­dential election.”

Moreno added that con­ser­v­ative protes­tants have joined Catholics in this fight. The real division, he said, is the battle between pro­gressive and orthodox denom­i­na­tions on the meaning of Chris­tianity, as soci­ol­ogist James Davison Hunter identified. 

Moreno said Hart’s book also focuses on the unique nature of the Catholic Church in America.

“Dr. Hart was kind enough to give me a signed copy, and I read it right away and thor­oughly enjoyed it,” Moreno said. “Dr. Hart is an astute his­torian and a gifted writer.”