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About the Book

Beyond the Book

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-1-4696-1772-5
Published: October 2014

Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice

By Brantley W. Gasaway

In this compelling history of progressive evangelicalism, Brantley Gasaway examines a dynamic though often overlooked movement within American Christianity today. Gasaway focuses on left-leaning groups, such as Sojourners and Evangelicals for Social Action, that emerged in the early 1970s, prior to the rise of the more visible Religious Right. He identifies the distinctive "public theology"--a set of biblical interpretations regarding the responsibility of Christians to promote social justice--that has animated progressive evangelicals' activism and bound together their unusual combination of political positions.

The book analyzes how prominent leaders, including Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo, responded to key political and social issues over the past four decades. Progressive evangelicals combated racial inequalities, endorsed feminism, promoted economic justice, and denounced American nationalism and militarism. At the same time, most leaders opposed abortion and refused to affirm homosexual behavior, even as they defended gay civil rights. Gasaway demonstrates that, while progressive evangelicals have been caught in the crossfire of partisan conflicts and public debates over the role of religion in politics, they have offered a significant alternative to both the Religious Right and the political left.

About the Author

Brantley W. Gasaway is assistant professor of religion at Bucknell University.


“Offers fresh insight into the growth and development of an understudied segment of American Christianity.”
--Evangelicals for Social Action

“A complicated story told with considerable skill.”
--Christian Century

“Offers an important perspective on progressive Evangelicalism and will prove valuable to audiences ranging from students and scholars to general readers with an interest in either Evangelicalism or religious progressivism.”

"Gasaway clearly demonstrates the dynamic and often fluid nature of progressive evangelicalism that was gradually defined by their theology and the issues they wished to address."
--Journal of Southern Religion

"I see Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice as the 'go-to' book on this subject. Fair-minded, comprehensive, well organized, and accessible, the story opens up to many tantalizing topics. Against all odds, these progressives, while they did not prevail, endured, had many victories, and eclipsed the many better known mainline Protestants in American public life. These progressives did find ways to cohere, witness, and have impact. This is not a story of a final victory, but one with a kind of suspense."
--Martin E. Marty, The University of Chicago Divinity School

"A significant contribution to our understanding of progressive evangelicalism, Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice is a very good book on an important and timely topic. Grounded in extensive research, Gasaway's analysis demonstrates with skill and understanding the vitality and relevance of progressive evangelicalism."
--Randall Balmer, Dartmouth College

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