Meet the Conservative Evangelicals Practicing ‘Strategic Hibernation’ in the American Northwest

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They might embrace their marginal status, but they don’t plan on staying marginal forever.

In September 2020, about 150 Christians gathered to stage an informal Psalm Sing in the parking lot of Moscow, Idaho’s city hall. They were there to protest the local mask mandate.

Five individuals were cited by police for violating the local order to wear masks, and two were arrested “for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer.” One of the event’s organizers was Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, a 900-member congregation with historical connections to Christian Reconstructionism (also known as theonomy), a movement that hopes to see earthly society governed by biblical law. One month earlier on Twitter, Wilson had framed his concerns about the issue in revealing terms: “Too few see the masking orders for what they ultimately are. Our modern and very swollen state wants to get the largest possible number of people to get used to putting up with the most manifest lies.”

In Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest, historian Crawford Gribben recounts how in recent decades conservative evangelicals, inspired by assorted strands of theonomy and survivalism, came to settle in the Pacific Northwest. Gribben explores how this group of “born-again Protestants who embrace their marginal status” has thrived in the wilds of Idaho and adjoining states, proposing “strategies of survival, resistance, and reconstruction in evangelical America.”

Turning toward triumphalism

Gribben describes his book as a “social history of theological ideas” based on long-distance interviews of several subjects and in-person fieldwork. Rather than crafting a journalistic exposé or a theological critique, …

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