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Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ

The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America

John G. Turner

Publication Year: 2008

Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Nondenominational organizations like Campus Crusade account for much of modern evangelicalism's dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture. Despite the importance of these "parachurch" organizations, says John Turner, historians have largely ignored them. Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Drawing on archival materials and more than one hundred interviews, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Beyond the campus, Bright expanded evangelicalism's influence in the worlds of business and politics. As Turner demonstrates, the story of Campus Crusade reflects the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society: its awkward marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence. Founded in 1951 by Bill Bright (1921-2003), Campus Crusade for Christ is now the largest non-philanthropic evangelical "parachurch" organization in the United States, with more than 30,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $500 million. Unlike church denominations, which are often slow to change as a result of bureaucratic hierarchies, Turner explains that parachurches like Crusade account for much of the dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture that evangelicalism has demonstrated in the post-WWII period. In this history of Crusade and the charismatic founder and leader who brought business sense and salesmanship to the organization, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the university's secularization, showing how Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a viable and visible subculture at American colleges and universities and beyond. Turner relates how Crusade quietly but effectively enlarged evangelicalism's influence on American boardrooms, politics, and universities. He also examines how Crusade reflected the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society through its tumultuous marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence. According to the intro, the author situates himself as an outsider to Crusade specifically, but a participant in parachurch evangelicalism in his student years. He says he "occup[ies] a religious space between mainline and evangelical Protestantism, appreciating the piety of evangelicalism while lamenting its politicization and obessions with numbers and 'success.'" He notes that readers' opinions of the book "will likely hinge on their own relationship to [Crusade's] theology and mission." Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Nondenominational organizations like Campus Crusade account for much of modern evangelicalism's dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture. Despite the importance of these "parachurch" organizations, says John Turner, historians have largely ignored them. Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Drawing on archival materials and more than one hundred interviews, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Beyond the campus, Bright expanded evangelicalism's influence in the worlds of business and politics. As Turner demonstrates, the story of Campus Crusade reflects the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society: its awkward marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

That this book carries the name of a single author obscures the fact that its successful completion has depended on innumerable archivists, librarians, and readers. For searching their collections and sending me valuable documents, I am grateful to the helpful staff at the John Vaughan Library of Northeastern State University ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

In June 1972, eighty-five thousand college and high school students converged for a weeklong festival. They lived in a “tent city,” listened to rock music, played in mud formed by downpours, and enjoyed being away from their parents. Yet this throng of students was different from the youthful gatherings more often associated with the late 1960s and early 1970s. ...

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1. God May Choose a Country Boy

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pp. 13-40

William Rohl Bright was born on 19 October 1921, the sixth child and fifth son born to Forrest Dale and Mary Lee Rohl Bright. Since her last pregnancy had ended in a stillbirth, Mary Lee worried that she would not be able to carry her next child to full term. ...

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2. Campus Ministry at America’s “Trojan Horse”

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pp. 41-68

After deciding to found Campus Crusade for Christ, Bright wrote potential supporters to outline his vision, which fused spiritual and political concerns and objectives. He asserted that “the average collegian is spiritually illiterate” and—probably not counting Catholic or Jewish students ...

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3. Sibling Rivalries

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pp. 69-92

At the 1943 convention of the National Association of Evangelicals, Harold Ockenga asserted that “the United States of America has been assigned a destiny comparable to that of ancient Israel.” Evangelicals recognized that in order to fulfill that destiny, they needed to reassert their position of leadership in American society. ...

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4. The Conservative Impulses of the Early 1960s

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pp. 93-118

Despite Campus Crusade’s conflicts with Bob Jones University and the emerging charismatic movement, the organization grew quickly in the early 1960s, tripling in size to nearly three hundred staff on 108 campuses by 1963.1 The ministry maintained its small office in Los Angeles and the summer training grounds on Lake Minnetonka in Mound, Minnesota. ...

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5. The Jesus Revolution from Berkeley to Dallas

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pp. 119-146

On Monday, 23 January 1967, the campus of the University of California at Berkeley appeared poised to explode into another round of student protest and turmoil. The preceding Friday, the California Board of Regents—prodded by newly inaugurated Governor Ronald Reagan—fired Clark Kerr, president of the University of California system since 1958. ...

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6. The Evangelical Bicentennial

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pp. 147-172

The mid-1970s were heady times for American evangelicals. Dramatic conversions were front-page news. Shortly after going to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, Charles Colson announced his Christian faith in the best-selling book Born Again. ...

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7. America and the World for Jesus

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pp. 173-198

Despite the mixed success of Here’s Life, America, Bill Bright foresaw a massive acceleration of Campus Crusade’s ministries. Bright’s entrepreneurial style had always been to charge ahead and tackle new challenges rather than linger over setbacks. ...

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8. Kingdoms at War

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pp. 199-226

Whether it was Josh McDowell speaking to university students, Senator Bill Armstrong speaking to a group of executives, or a staff member conducting a Bible study at a high school, Campus Crusade staff and associates regularly encouraged individuals to make a commitment to believe in and follow Jesus Christ. ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 227-236

In July 2003, Campus Crusade’s staff members gathered at Colorado State University for the organization’s biannual staff conference. More than five thousand in attendance, they sang, swayed, and raised their hands to the high-octane praise music that pulsated through the university’s basketball arena. ...

Notes

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pp. 237-262

Bibliography

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pp. 263-278

Index

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pp. 279-288


E-ISBN-13: 9781469604756
E-ISBN-10: 1469604752
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807831854
Print-ISBN-10: 0807831859

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 20 illus.
Publication Year: 2008