God's Right Hand
How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right
By Michael Sean Winters
(HarperOne, Hardcover, 9780061970672, 448pp.)
Publication Date: January 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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 nations 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 generations 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 Carters 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 pastors journey to reclaim America for Christand 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 womens groups. He battled with liberals and enforced a brand of orthodoxy on conservatives. He was a man of strong viewsand 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 Falwells ministry. His legacyas controversial as it is consequentialhas never been more palpable.
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.
Rev. Jerry Falwell was a typical kid, more interested in pranks than church or politics. But he went on to create some of the country's most important Christian fundamentalist institutions and leave an indelible mark on today's Republican party. Host Michel Martin speaks with Michael Sean Winters about his biography on Falwell, God's Right Hand. More at NPR.org
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“Jerry Falwell plowed the field that the Tea Party is flourishing in today. In this resonant and revealing biography, Michael Sean Winters captures the man, the political movement he created, and the beliefs that continue to sustain it now. Falwell matters. Winters explains why.”
“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.”
-George Stephanopoulos, on LEFT AT THE ALTAR
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.