Keri Ladner's remarkable study of the theology informing Jerry Falwell's political machinations during the final decades of his life merits close attention. The significance of this important book lies in Ladner's argument that Falwell appropriated the searing cultural critique of dispensationalism--that the world is doomed and headed for judgment--and combined that critique with calls for moral reform and political activism in these "last days."
From the 1970s until his death in 2007, Jerry Falwell merged American nationalism with an end-times approach to the Bible known as dispensationalism. In the process, he corrupted both, while creating a novel way for conservative Christians to understand current events as the fulfillment of prophecy. He taught that the events of the Cold War had been divinely foretold in the Bible and that America was God's chosen nation in these present "end times." By implementing his conservative economics known as "biblical morality," the country could be "saved" and would survive the coming wrath of God. This message, which was otherwise on the margins of American public life, found resonance in the backlash to the civil rights movement and especially in Ronald Reagan, a fellow believer in the end-times battle of Armageddon.
In organizing his voting bloc, the Religious Right, along the lines of dispensationalism and nationalism, Falwell claimed that America had to "return" to Protestant fundamentalism as a panacea to the liberal conspiracy, which included talk of climate change, affirmative action, women's liberation (including abortion), gay rights, and a nuclear freeze. This liberal conspiracy had supposedly been biblically prophesied yet would cripple America as it faced the impending wrath of God. The movement Falwell began found its savior in Donald Trump, God's man for undoing the conspiracy and restoring unregulated capitalism and an imagined American Christian nation.
- Publisher Fortress Press
- Format Hardcover
- ISBN 9781506493909
- eBook ISBN 9781506493916
- Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
- Pages 239
- Publication Date January 23, 2024
Randall Balmer, Dartmouth College
This is an important book. By expertly tracing the theological roots of Jerry Falwell, cofounder of the Moral Majority, Keri Ladner exposes the racism, contempt for the poor, American jingoism, and blind support for untrammeled capitalism--plus a huge dose of conspiracism--that infect today's religious right. Ladner, herself an evangelical Christian, uncovers an insidious, reactionary movement "that has divorced itself entirely from the Bible" and that ultimately helped produce the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Mark Potok, Senior Fellow, Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right
Fundamentalists in America had traditionally avoided politics for the sake of spreading the gospel, but in the late twentieth century, as Keri Ladner argues in this book, the Fundamentalist Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell "created a new political religion." He blended the end-time theology of dispensationalism with the right-wing causes of the day to produce a powerful ideology sometimes labeled "Christian nationalism." Its enduring legacy is a powerful factor in the public square of the 2020s.
David Bebbington, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Stirling