Essay / Misc.

Most Influential Man in America

Hugh Hewitt and Evangelical Outpost are debating the name of the most influential man in America. Hewitt goes with Dobson and EO picks Rick Warren. Wrong.The most influential man on America is Pope John Paul II, but he is not an American so I assume he is not qualified. For the same reason, I assume Jesus Christ does not count either.Rick Warren is a great man. He is very influential, but his reach does not extend outside one part of the evangelical sub-culture. Traditional church groups have not heard of him. Dobson reaches more people. On coming to our new parish, I saw a Dobson parenting book in the library. It made me at home. Any book read by the Baptists and the Orthodox makes Dobson a better candidate. Those of us who are evangelical and traditionalists find Dobson a good friend and ally.However, let’s go beyond the obvious and try a deeper analysis. The most influential man in America is a Californian. It is Phillip E. Johnson, UC Berkeley Law Professor and intellectual gad fly. The most influential man is the man who influences the people who influence the most influential people on some issue of cosmic significance. Johnson has written books that have sold well, but of course he is not publishing machine like the wonderful Warren. He is a fine speaker, though he speaks to fewer folk in a year than the wise Dobson in a day.On the other hand, Phillip Johnson’s books have totally reshaped the discussion for everyone on the right regarding secularism and science. The most important are Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance. He all but invented the modern intelligent design movement and he is a source for ideas for Dobson and other leaders. He changed the creation/evolutionism debate for both sides. Especially if his crusades are successful, he will reshape the way all us see the world. I think he is the living public intellectual most likely to have been read by Colson, Dobson, Warren, Rick Santorum, and perhaps even Bill Gates. If influence is getting people to do what you say, than any man who can unite the divided religious folk around a program while dividing his foes deserves mention. Even his foes use the phrases he coined and discuss the questions he raised. They hate him as he meant for them to hate him, the ultimate sign of influence.

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