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Official, professional site for author, speaker and blogger Karl Giberson. 

The Anointed

The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age

Belknap: Harvard University | October 2011


American evangelicalism often appears as a politically monolithic, textbook red-state fundamentalism that elected George W. Bush, opposes gay marriage, abortion, and evolution, and promotes apathy about global warming. Prominent public figures hold forth on these topics, speaking with great authority for millions of followers. Authors Stephens and Giberson, with roots in the evangelical tradition, argue that this popular impression understates the diversity within evangelicalism—an often insular world where serious disagreements are invisible to secular and religiously liberal media consumers. Yet, in the face of this diversity, why do so many people follow leaders with dubious credentials when they have other options? Why do tens of millions of Americans prefer to get their science from Ken Ham, founder of the creationist Answers in Genesis, who has no scientific expertise, rather than from his fellow evangelical Francis Collins, current Director of the National Institutes of Health?

Exploring intellectual authority within evangelicalism, the authors reveal how America’s populist ideals, anti-intellectualism, and religious free market, along with the concept of anointing—being chosen by God to speak for him like the biblical prophets—established a conservative evangelical leadership isolated from the world of secular arts and sciences.

Today, charismatic and media-savvy creationists, historians, psychologists, and biblical exegetes continue to receive more funding and airtime than their more qualified counterparts. Though a growing minority of evangelicals engage with contemporary scholarship, the community’s authority structure still encourages the “anointed” to assume positions of leadership.


Stephens and Giberson have produced a stunning and well-documented indictment of the Evangelical right wing. Here is a ‘must read’ for anyone wanting an insight into one of the most powerful religious-political movements in modern American culture.
— Owen Gingerich, author of God’s Universe
Two talented writers join forces to introduce us to some of the most influential religious and cultural leaders in contemporary America—such ‘experts’ as Ken Ham, David Barton, Jim Dobson, and Hal Lindsey. I know of no better place to discover how the conservative half of America lives and thinks.
— Ronald L. Numbers, author of The Creationists: From Creation Science to Intelligent Design
This is an important book on a pressing topic that should be read by everyone concerned with the place of religion in American life today.
— Michael Ruse, author of Charles Darwin
The Anointed demonstrates how questionable ‘experts’ emerge and flourish within American evangelicalism. Stephens and Giberson function as knowledgeable guides into this intriguing—and troubling—‘parallel universe.’
— Randall Balmer, author of The Making of Evangelicalism
The authors are evangelicals, a historian and a physics professor who here take a stand against false prophets within the evangelical movement, men who isolate it from scientific understanding and intellectual engagement.
— Library Journal
Two Evangelical Christian college professors rise triumphantly to the challenge of explaining the leaders and the culture of the religious Right without rancor or condescension. Those leaders, most lacking academic credentials for the positions they take, include creationist Ken Ham, Christian-America propagandist D. James Kennedy, amateur historian David Barton, family psychologist James Dobson (the only genuine professional among them), and End Times biblical exegetes Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. They are portrayed within the historical contexts of their fields in four long chapters, for instance, Lindsey and LaHaye within the American apocalypticism that earlier produced the Millerites. To illustrate what Stephens and Giberson say is a common development, the invaluable fifth chapter limns a 25-year-old and the “parallel culture” of the religious Right in which he grew up,

gradually abandoning the peculiarities pushed by its leaders without leaving the faith. The last chapter argues the typically American character of the distinctive evangelical causes and their leaders, who, if not scientists, historians, or biblical scholars, are all business entrepreneurs who “grew” self-led organizations.
— Booklist
“Conservative American Christians often turn to different institutions and authorities to learn the “truth” about science, family life, and history. Stephens (Eastern Nazarene Univ.) and Giberson (emer.,Eastern Nazarene) explore some of the individuals and institutions to which evangelicals turn, including the work of Kentucky’s Creation Museum and the Institute for Creation Research, historical research on American origins done by David Barton’s Wallbuilders, and the family life advice of James Dobson and Focus on the Family. The book also tells the story of a Christian college student who transferred from a fundamentalist college in Tennessee to a more liberal evangelical college in Massachusetts, showing how one person both inhabited and challenged networks of authority in searching for a personal faith. The book’s final chapter explores the role of “anointing” for authority in evangelical circles and the reasons that some figures and institutions gain authority. With its coverage of wide-ranging figures and issues, the book reveals important facets of ways evangelicals maintain both their ideology and boundaries in what they perceive as a threatening culture. This insightful work is an important contribution to readers’ understanding of the ways evangelicals maintain their self-identity and worldview. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers.”
— A. W. Klink, Duke University

Other media:

The Anointed was nominated for the 2013 Grawemeyer Award, valued at $100,000. It is probably a long shot, but we are hoping. Read is the submission.

Critical Review on by a conservative historian

Nice review in Church and State