God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right by Michael Sean Winters | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right

God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right

by Michael Sean Winters
     
 

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Falwell did not eliminate the divide between religion and politics. Nor did he blur it. He jumped over it, bringing millions of voters with him, and he never looked back.
—from the Introduction

Mounting concerns over the nation’s moral decline. A populist critique of cultural elitism. Disdain for government involvement in private enterprise and

Overview

Falwell did not eliminate the divide between religion and politics. Nor did he blur it. He jumped over it, bringing millions of voters with him, and he never looked back.
—from the Introduction

Mounting concerns over the nation’s moral decline. A populist critique of cultural elitism. Disdain for government involvement in private enterprise and health care. These themes dominate our political discourse, and have for a generation’s worth of elections. And they are themes almost single-handedly brought to the fore by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. As America was questioning its most revered institutions in the wake of the Vietnam War and Jimmy Carter’s malaise, Falwell was building his own institutional strength and influence, answering a felt need for certainty in a suddenly uncertain world. In this highly anticipated major biography, Michael Sean Winters traces the polarizing pastor’s journey to reclaim America for Christ—and his tireless work to define the orthodoxy and vocabulary that the Republican Party has used to great success ever since.

Falwell was, for many, the face of Christianity in America. The child of agnostic parents, he made a name for himself as a pastor and later founded his own Christian university. Initially ambivalent about politics, his controversial Moral Majority catapulted Falwell into the political arena. His life intersected with some of the most notable figures of his time, from Ronald Reagan, whom he helped elect president, to the scandal-ridden Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Falwell stared down pornographers and wrestled with women’s groups. He battled with liberals and enforced a brand of orthodoxy on conservatives. He was a man of strong views—and he knew that those views were shared by millions of Americans who were disengaged with public life. Falwell led them into the public square, articulated a coherent rationale for their involvement with politics, and made them the largest and most organized constituency in the contemporary Republican Party.

Today, no Republican candidate can hope to win elections without the support of evangelicals and fundamentalists, and the Tea Party has adopted nearly wholesale the rhetoric of Falwell’s ministry. His legacy—as controversial as it is consequential—has never been more palpable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A blogger for National Catholic Reporter, Winters has written a balanced and highly readable account of the controversial pastor who roused evangelicals and mobilized them to engage in public life. Winters doesn’t fawn over Falwell nor ridicule him, but instead provides a critical assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. Readers will find the personable and friendly Falwell, capable of befriending Ted Kennedy and Larry Flynt, as well as the shrill and divisive Falwell, who accused producers of The Teletubbies of modeling gay sexuality to children, or warning that the United States does not deserve to survive if Roe v. Wade is not overturned. Love him or hate him, Falwell had an extraordinary ability to capture the public spotlight and shape the culture wars in ways that resonate today. This biography is especially useful as a snapshot of America’s religious and political fortunes during the second half of the 20th century. Winters offers provocative theories along the way. He suggests, for example, that conservative Southerners like Falwell transferred the racial superiority they had lost in the wake of integration into a national superiority that conflated patriotism with religious faith. (Feb.)
George Stephanopoulos
“Left at the Altar describes the Democratic party’s fickle relationship with faith and values voters with passion and insight. Michael Sean Winters has lived, worked in, and studied this world. No one knows it-or tells the story-better.”
Commentary
Winters credits Falwell with leading a movement that registered and motivated millions of voters. His legacy will be bringing a vast group of religious citizens into the voting booth. It is already hard to imagine our political landscape without them.
Kirkus Reviews
A sympathetic biography of the man who, for good or ill, became "the face of Christianity to millions of Americans" in the 1980s. A successful pastor and pioneering televangelist who built his Thomas Road Baptist Church from 36 members to a megachurch of thousands, Jerry Falwell (1933–2007) was distressed that as America descended into what he considered moral anarchy, Christianity was represented in the political arena primarily by complicit liberal clergy. He saw government oppression in Supreme Court rulings and IRS policies, and he rallied conservatives to a defense of their values with "a fighting faith, a muscular Christianity ready to do battle, not reach an accommodation, with the forces of secularization at work in the mainstream culture." Winters (Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats, 2008, etc.) effectively describes the worldview of a fundamentalist Baptist pastor that informed all of Falwell's actions. He did not fully comprehend the pluralistic values of the society he wanted to reform, or the difficulties of promoting a morality grounded in religion within the politics of a secular culture. He was capable of forming lasting personal friendships with such opposing figures as Ted Kennedy and Larry Flynt, and yet his goals and intolerant rhetoric were often deeply hurtful and offensive to millions; as Flynt put it to him, "You don't need to poison the whole lake with your venom." Winters focuses primarily on Falwell's political activities as a leader of the Moral Majority; an account of his parallel career as a pastor must await a more comprehensive biography. The author presents a thorough if indulgent account of Falwell's rise to national prominence, including the temptations, conundrums and missteps that befell him as his deepening involvement in politics drew him far afield from the biblical roots of his thinking. Falwell achieved few of the Moral Majority's goals, but he reshaped the Republican Party and national politics. An illuminating biography, though Winters is often too forgiving of Falwell's trespasses.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061970672
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/17/2012
Pages:
440
Product dimensions:
9.28(w) x 6.36(h) x 1.40(d)

What People are saying about this

George Stephanopoulos
“Left at the Altar describes the Democratic party’s fickle relationship with faith and values voters with passion and insight. Michael Sean Winters has lived, worked in, and studied this world. No one knows it-or tells the story-better.”

Meet the Author

Michael Sean Winters has written for publications including The New Republic, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Washingtonian, Slate.com, and America. He is a journalist for National Catholic Reporter and lives in Washington, D.C.

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