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Hippies of the religious Right: The counterculture and American evangelicalism in the 1960s and 1970s

Preston David Shires, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Much has been written about the rise of the Christian Right in the late 1970s. Most of what has been written, however, has focused on the Christian Right as a reactionary movement within the ranks of American evangelicalism. Evangelicals, so the argument goes, had become so rankled by the successes of political and social liberalism during the turbulent 1960s that they finally burst out into the field of politics to beat back the liberals and reconstruct America according to the criteria of old-time religion. Although the “reactionary argument” is not without merit, it fails to give due consideration to another aspect of the Christian Right. This dissertation seeks to demonstrate that many Christian Right activists did not come out of a fundamentalist or Pentecostal or even new evangelical background but rather came out of the counterculture. For these youth, converting to biblically-grounded Christianity was an act of rebellion against their theologically liberal and mainstream parents. In the early 1970s, no one could confidently predict where these new Christians would end up politically. There was a hope among politically liberal evangelicals that the neophytes would become a part of the Democratic Party. But during the course of the decade, Republican operatives joined forces with politically conservative evangelical leaders and convinced the majority of these countercultural but Christian youth to support Republican causes and Republican candidates. Once the countercultural Christians melded into the larger evangelical movement, most observers no longer detected their presence as a distinctive group. But the countercultural spirit was indeed in evidence. And as one looks at the cultural pedigree of some of the radical activists of the Christian Right, one discovers that many of them were of countercultural descent. In the final analysis, it is hard to argue that the Christian Right could have arisen without the participation of countercultural Christians. The Christian Right, then, was not only a reaction against the sixties, it was also an expression of the sixties counterculture.

Subject Area

American history|Religious history|Political science

Recommended Citation

Shires, Preston David, "Hippies of the religious Right: The counterculture and American evangelicalism in the 1960s and 1970s" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3074101.