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God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right Hardcover – January 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“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.” (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.” (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. (Commentary)

From the Back Cover

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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061970670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061970672
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,297,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps nobody in 20th Century politics polarizes responses more completely than Jerry Falwell. Five years after his death, nobody who came of age during the 1980s or 1990s can hear Falwell’s name without strong reactions, pro or con. Yet because he cultivated such strong reactions, he remains essentially enigmatic, more a pioneer or scoundrel than a human with comprehensible motivations. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate Jerry Falwell’s complicated legacy.

Michael Sean Winters combines biography with political history to contextualize Falwell firmly within his time. An adult Christian convert, Falwell initially avoided fame, and apparently never wanted any life other than a moderately ambitious country preacher. But while he quietly constructed a remarkably forward-thinking, innovative ministry, outside forces increasingly encroached on evangelical Christian turf. In forming the Moral Majority in 1979, Falwell merely recognized the signs of the times.

Following the PR nightmare of the Scopes “monkey trial,” evangelicals thought they’d struck a new bargain. They’d abstain from politics, and society would leave them alone. But postwar America didn’t honor its bargain. By 1979, cultural trends that remain conservative rhetorical staples—liberal media bias, secular vulgarity, government intrusion into church ethics—occurred, in ways they hadn’t before or since. Evangelicals felt compelled to act, and Falwell took point.

Before Falwell, public Christianity honored progressives like Reinhold Niebuhr and Dr. King. Falwell’s Moral Majority movement changed that dynamic.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Von Hildebrand on January 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've not made it fully through this important book, but it's sharp-edged analysis is breathtaking in what it unearths. Foremost is Winters' startlingly insight that today's political landscape -- its fault lines and battlegrounds and ideological armaments -- derive not from Reagan and his so-called revolution, but rather from the mind and manipulations of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority he built and deployed into partisan politics. With careful archival and historical research, moreover, Winters shows both how Falwell was able to accomplish this as well as revealing the peculiar architecture of mind, psychology, and theology behind it all. Many books of punditry and opinion purport to explain the origins of contemporary American politics, in God's Right Hand Winter's does the scholar's task of tracing real history. Highly recommended...
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Author Winters credits Reverend Falwell with building a disdain for government involvement in private enterprise and health care, and bringing his Moral Majority and millions of voters over the divide between religion and politics - mostly landing in the Republican Party where they've also mostly remained. Ironically, Falwell was the child of agnostic parents, and initially ambivalent about mixing religion and politics.

Falwell's interest in politics grew out of the Supreme Court's decisions on abortion, banning prayer in public schools, and taking away the tax-exempt status of religous schools, combined with the later push for gay rights. Republicans were already benefiting from a backlash against Civil Rights legislation - adding these religious issues helped put into the majority in many locations.

Falwell was a fundamentalist (saw the Bible as literally true) Baptist preacher. That immediately put him on the 'wrong side' (my opinion) of valuing intellectual curiosity (not). Winters also tells us that fundamentalists are generally more strident and inflexible than evangelists. Regardless, Falwell's political strength involved bringing fundamentalists such as himself together with evangelicals, and conservative Catholics and Jews.

Falwell's religion also became synonymous with patriotism and the tenet that American greatness is self-evident and divinely rooted. (Winters, however, does not explain the religious rationale for this connection. Likely explanations include America's attraction to millions of immigrants over hundreds of years, and some Puritans' belief that God had chosen them to lead the other nations of the Earth.)

Minimal government size and involvement (eg.
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Format: Hardcover
With the increasing secularization of society in the 1960s and 70s Evangelical and Fundamentalist pastors took up the call of Christian Reconstructionist theologians to "reclaim America for Christ." Jerry Falwell became the leader and spokesperson of this movement to politicize Christians and wage culture wars.

Michael Sean Winters has written a very informative biography of Falwell. As Winters points out, Falwell's entry into politics and culture battles diverted the church from its mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For followers of Falwell and like-minded Christians "morality" in America became the issue, not the salvation of souls. Dismissing the Bible teaching that Christians were foreigners and exiles in this world (II Peter 2:11), Falwell encouraged an idolatrously patriotic attachment to America. It would be difficult to overestimate the damage done to the church's witness by Falwell and other nationalistic Christians. "(Falwell) did not see, as many still do not see, that by reducing religion to ethics in order to gain access to the public square, he was participating in the privatizing of religion and thereby aiding the very secularization he sought to defeat" (p. 115).

As secularism advances Christians are increasingly less able to impact public opinion and government policy. Perhaps now we can concentrate on spreading the "Good News" of salvation through Jesus Christ rather than distributing Republican Party campaign literature.

This book is not without its flaws. Winters, a Roman Catholic who tips his hat to 30 priests in his acknowledgements, is not above favorably comparing leaders from his denomination with gaffe-prone, shoot-from-the-hip Falwell. Also, information about Falwell's personal life is minimal at best.
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