chapter  4
Birth Control in the Age of Billy Graham
Pages 36

Conservative Protestantism seemed to be battered and beaten in the 1930s, a once-dominant religious and cultural movement humiliated at the Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925 and ill-suited for survival in twentieth-century America. Yet, to the surprise of virtually all observers, conservatives regrouped during that decade and actually turned some of the new tools of modernity to their advantage. By the 1940s and 1950s, conservative Protestantism would exhibit even greater strength and again exert itself in public life, while jettisoning the pejorative term “fundamentalist” and claiming exclusive use of the “evangelical” label. Meanwhile, in wake of the 1936 One Package court decision, the birth control movement swung in a markedly conservative direction, to which it held until the early 1960s. When the “population explosion” scare brought the issue of contraception back into public debate during the late 1950s, most leading conservative Protestants still opposed the practice. However, by 1968, the primary journal of the “New” Evangelicals— Christianity Today —not only embraced birth control as permissible, but also as a positive good. More surprisingly, Evangelical leaders called as well that year for a liberalization of the nation’s antiabortion laws.