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.”