Kyvig, David E.
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Department of History
Cold War--Religious aspects--Christianity||Millennialism--United States
A millennial narrative, created by an amalgamation of various apocalyptic and millenarian movements, has had a defining influence on the evolution of cultural identity in the United States. This study argues that evangelicals, as key guardians and interpreters of that paradigm, were able to utilize it to reconstruct their subculture's relationship with the dominant national culture during the Cold War. First, Cold War events fit well into evangelicalism's premillennial worldview. The prospect of nuclear warfare and the creation of the state of Israel appeared to be direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The secular apocalypticism that accompanied these developments, combined with conservative evangelicals' embrace of anticommunism, helped to legitimize evangelicalism in the national, secular domain. Second, evangelicals used familiar religious practices and structures to take action amid the rising apocalyptic tension. Prayer and mission work were evangelical responses to predictions that the end-times were near and political acts in a Cold War context. They demonstrated the complex mix of hope and doom that intermingled within evangelicalism's premillennial paradigm. Furthermore, as Cold War constructs dichotomized the world into good and evil, secular apocalypticism paralleled and sometimes justified the premillennial worldview. The result was the demarginalization of American evangelicalism. Scholars have traced conservative Protestantism's decreasing influence on the U.S. dominant culture with the rise of historical criticism and Darwinism in the beginning of the twentieth century. They have also noted the re-emergence of evangelicalism in the late 1970s and the 1980s with the growth of the religious right. In this later period, conservative Christians separated themselves from the mainstream to demand certain cultural changes. This dissertation will argue that Cold War evangelicals' merge with the mainstream culture created a politico-religious power base for their later counterparts. The premillennial paradigm, coming out of a larger millennial narrative and working within the Cold War context, proved the key to evangelicalism's new relationship with the dominant national culture in the middle of the twentieth century.
Lahr, Angela M., "Millennial dreams and apocalyptic nightmares : evangelical and secular identity in the early cold war" (2005). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 3966.
ix, 355 pages
Northern Illinois University
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