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Cover image for 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
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperOne, c2012.
Physical Description:
440 p. : col. ill. ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
The prodigal : Falwell's early years -- The road to Damascus : Falwell's conversion -- The preacher : founding Thomas Road Baptist Church -- Family of faith -- Building a religious empire -- Wading into the religious-political estuary -- Starting the Moral Majority -- Proximity to power -- The Moral Majority matures -- The First Amendment : Falwell v. Flynt -- The perils of power : political missteps -- Scandal and retrenchment -- Liberty University : the next generation of culture warriors -- Back in opposition : the Clinton years -- Falwell's last years : controversy and consolation.
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
"Born in 1930s Appalachia, Jerry Falwell would become, by the end of the twentieth century, the most prominent evangelical leader the nation had ever seen--indeed, for many, he was 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. And although he was initially ambivalent about getting involved in politics, Falwell and his controversial Moral Majority rose to prominence during the paradigm-shifting 1980 election. His work intersected with the major issues and leaders of the day, from Larry Flynt to Billy Graham, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton. Now, journalist Michael Sean Winters unpacks the key moments of an unlikely life and its impact on religious and political life in the United States. He recounts the night of Falwell's 1952 conversion (incidentally the same night he met the woman who would be his wife for nearly 50 years). He describes Falwell's "I Love America" rallies of the 1970s, and how the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979 catapulted Falwell into the political arena and made him a household name. And he brings to life a man with sincere beliefs and enthusiasm for his work--a lightning rod who enraged the left with his polarizing tactics, but whose political cooperation prompted fundamentalist Bob Jones, Jr., to famously call him "the most dangerous man in America.""--Provided by publisher.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 322.10973 WIN 1 1

On Order



An acclaimed reporter presents the first major biography of the legendary, and divisive, conservative pastor who reshaped the landscape of American politics--Jerry Falwell. At a time when the Tea Party movement is dominating much of America's social and political discourse, the story of Falwell's Moral Majority will resonate strongly. Indeed, Falwell's language may sound familiar to anyone who has heard recent speeches by figures like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, or Michelle Bachmann.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

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.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This is the story of a sincere man. Jerry Falwell believed in biblical fundamentalism so completely that he couldn't understand that his vision was opaque to many others, Christians as well as unbelievers. In this engaging, well-balanced sociological rather than personal biography, an excellent journalist emphasizes the two major efforts of Falwell's public career: to build a church in Lynchburg, Virginia, that would exemplify Christian community and evangelism, and to defend traditional morality in America by means of politics. He succeeded at both endeavors. Falwell crafted the archetypal megachurch, providing for education, preschool to graduate school, and many humanitarian services (a facility for recovering alcoholics was the first such frill he set up) as well as worship. Far more famously, he booted conservative evangelicalism out of its self-chosen isolation since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and into the heart of the Republican Party. The only truly ill effect of his efforts, Winters maintains, was that, to achieve his political goals, he reduced Christianity to ethics, thereby contributing to the drift of Americans in general away from a Christianity shorn of its salvific, metaphysical power. What may most impress many is that, for all his fulmination, Falwell truly distinguished sin and sinner: two of his sharpest adversaries, Ted Kennedy and Larry Flynt, became his lifelong friends.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2010 Booklist

Choice Review

Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, is well presented in this biography. Winters takes a multipronged approach to explaining Falwell's rise to prominence in party politics and the impact of Falwell's efforts on US politics today. Winters's approach first focuses on the chronology of Falwell's life, documenting his life since birth into a successful yet dysfunctional family during the Great Depression. The highly narrative style engages the reader immediately. The book chronicles Falwell's founding of the Moral Majority (little known is that the first presidential candidate that the Moral Majority endorsed was Democrat Jimmy Carter), and the achievement of a significant impact on Ronald Reagan's presidential election in 1980 and other elections at federal, state, and local levels. Winters looks at how emerging social issues, such as abortion rights and gay rights, fueled Falwell's efforts to bring his religious beliefs to shape US political life. The combination of these factors helped Falwell become the best-recognized evangelical affecting US politics. Winters also demonstrates Falwell's impact in the 21st century, particularly with his discussion of Republican leaders such as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. T. S. Fine University of Central Florida

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 The Prodigal: Falwell's Early Yearsp. 13
2 The Road to Damascus: Falwell's Conversionp. 29
3 The Preacher: Founding Thomas Road Baptist Churchp. 47
4 Family of Faithp. 67
5 Building a Religious Empirep. 79
6 Wading into the Religious-Political Estuaryp. 95
7 Starting the Moral Majorityp. 113
8 Proximity to Powerp. 157
9 The Moral Majority Maturesp. 195
10 The First Amendment: Falwell v. Flyntp. 251
11 The Perils oú Power: Political Misstepsp. 275
12 Scandal and Retrenchmentp. 305
13 Liberty University: The Next Generation of Culture Warriorsp. 331
14 Back in Opposition: The Clinton Yearsp. 355
15 Falwell's Last Years: Controversy and Consolationp. 373
Epiloguep. 389
Acknowledgmentsp. 397
Notesp. 401
Indexp. 427
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