USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

At its most basic level, evangelical Christianity is characterized by a belief in the literal truth of the Bible, a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” the importance of encouraging others to be “born again” in Jesus and a lively worship culture. This characterization is true regardless the size of the church, what the people sitting in the pews look like or how they express their beliefs. Evangelical institutions include not only churches but also primary schools and universities, large and small non-profit organizations, media companies and several political groups.

Though its history in America is much longer, Evangelicalism began to significantly influence American politics and culture in the 1970s, culminating with the Reagan Revolution and the rise of the Religious Right. Today its influence continues to extend well beyond its own religious orbit. In Southern California, we are watching how both megachurches and small communities of young evangelicals are adapting to new social and cultural challenges.

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“Is this the end of evangelicalism? If the term refers to the form of conservative American Protestant Christianity dominated by white men in large churches that has had a significant sociopolitical impact—particularly in the Republican Party—over the past 30 years, then probably yes.”

—Richard Flory
“Is American Evangelicalism Really Disappearing?”