The New School’s Luke Hodina interviews 2018 NBCC Non-Fiction Award Finalist Frances FitzGerald about her book The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

For the past four years, the National Book Critics Circle has partnered with The New School’s MFA Creative Writing program, allowing the students to interview each of the NBCC Awards Finalists. In addition to building excitement for the Awards Finalist Reading and Ceremony held at the New School March 14th-15th, these interviews have built an intergenerational bridge between the writers of today and tomorrow.

This year, as part of the ongoing collaboration, and in support of the NBCC’s conversation about reading, criticism, and literature that extends from the local to the national, Brooklyn Magazine will publish and promote the interviews between NBCC Finalists and the current students of The New School.

Billy Graham died today. How would you characterize his legacy?
I think his real legacy is creating evangelicals. There was not such a thing before that. That is to say, in the nineteenth century, all Americans were evangelicals. Then the term went out of use because of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Graham began as a fundamentalist himself, as a boy and as a young preacher. But he wanted a wider audience, and he wanted reconciliation between more moderate Protestants and fundamentalists. He found that fundamentalists just wouldn’t do that. They were too separatist and difficult, so he cut his ties with them, and started calling himself an Evangelical. That’s how we now define evangelicals; it’s Billy Graham’s achievement.

You’ve been writing about evangelicals since the eighties. What has sustained your interest for such a long time?
Well, I’ve done a lot of other things in the meantime—I wrote a very long book about Reagan and Star Wars, and I did a lot of other magazine writing and published a picture book about Vietnam today—so it was sort of an on-and-off interest, until Bush came along. He was the favorite among evangelicals, and he was, in theory, doing a lot for them. I went back to the story, and then I realized that you couldn’t really understand evangelicals without understanding the history, and particularly the Fundamentalist-Modernist conflict. But also, you couldn’t understand their sense of sort of owning the American past. Because in a way they did.

Read more at the source: BKMag – Interview with 2018 NBCC Non-Fiction Award Finalist Frances FitzGerald

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