Almost a week after Jerry Falwell's death, the New York Times runs a piece this morning on the changing nature of the modern evangelical. Whereas Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and those like them are all about fire and brimestone, and pushing their extreme agenda loudly in the public sphere, the modern evangelical is... less so. They play their extremism closer to the chest. Rabid opposition to a woman's right to choose is still the ultimate litmus test for an evangelical, but today's younger evangelical doesn't hate gay America as much as he or she would have 10 to 20 years ago. And, some of them are recognizing that we need to take care of our environment - a notion Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson scoff at - and the poor.
So, they're becoming less extreme and hateful. But still, extreme and hateful. With some exceptions, of course, like David Kuo, former deputy director of the office of faith-based community initiatives in the Bush administration. In a piece on NPR, Kuo reflected on Falwell's legacy, and it's not an entirely rosy picture.
At 26 million strong, almost 10 percent of the country's population considers itself evangelical. How did such a small block of Americans become so powerful as to hijack an entire political party?