David Swartz and Brantley Gasaway. Swartz teaches history at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky and he is the author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism. Gasaway teaches religion at Bucknell University and is the author of a forthcoming study of the evangelical left with University of North Carolina Press.
Over at Religion in American History, Gasaway interviews Swartz on his new book. In part one of the interview, their conversation ranges from evangelical historiography to how Swartz chose his topic for research. Here is a taste:
Brantley Gasaway (BG): Many people are interested in how authors come to study their subjects—tell us what led you to write about the evangelical left.
David Swartz (DS):
any enterprising graduate student slogging through comprehensive exam lists, I
was on the lookout for a gap in the scholarship of American religious
history—and archival materials to exploit that gap. When I read a piece by
progressive evangelical activist Ron Sider online suggesting that some
“enterprising graduate student” take a look at the Evangelicals for Social
Action archives, I knew immediately that I had a project.
On a more personal level, this project was an attempt to
figure out my own parents (history is ultimately autobiography, right?). They
had grown up in the 1970s. They ran a pretty egalitarian marriage.
They sang “They Will Know We Are
Christians by our Love” during worship services and would have been dismayed by
an American flag in the church sanctuary. I ate food my mother (and father!)
cooked out of More-with-Less, a
cookbook with lots of vegetarian recipes. And I knew many like them,
church-goers who were not comfortable with the idea of American
as a Christian nation, a budget that prioritized the military over poverty, a
punitive criminal justice system, and the like. And yet they shared their faith
and lived out the kind of warm piety so common among evangelicals. This was an
idiosyncratic combination that I never read about in news reports and scholarly
books. I was curious about how typical they were—and why they seemed so
marginalized in the public eye.