The Rise and Fall of the Religious Right (1961-1989)
Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?
Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is Satanic.
Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Donald Trump: If they don't like it here, they can leave.
Speaker 5: You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Speaker 6: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican Party? And the answer is absolutely not.
Speaker 7: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.
Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.
Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.
Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon. And we choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Do you?
Keith Simon: Patrick, Dan, have you guys done 23 Me, Ancestry, those kind of stuff?
Dan: I've never done any of them.
Keith Simon: You've never done any of them?
Patrick Miller: I've done 23andMe. My genes have been tested, so if I ever kill someone they could potentially go to 23andMe and find my genetic-
Keith Simon: Is that why you took the test?
Patrick Miller: Yeah, I say I want to hold myself accountable so I never murder.
Keith Simon: Why do people take those? To find out they're-
Dan: What are they... These are just finds out about your ancestry, where you come from.
Keith Simon: I think that's the case. Yeah people are really into that stuff. I get asked what nationality am I, what my history is? And I really don't know, because I have no connection to my biological father. So I really have no way of answering of that question.
Patrick Miller: Would you in public tell us what your birth name was supposed to be?
Keith Simon: Well not supposed to be, is what it was.
Patrick Miller: Okay I didn't know that, I-
Keith Simon: This is my given name when I was born until I was about four or five. Are you ready?
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: Roland Keith Blomeyer the third.
Patrick Miller: Oh no.
Keith Simon: Which the funny thing about that is there's two other people that was the original and then the second, and they kept doing it. They didn't learn their lesson.
Patrick Miller: Blomeyer the first. Well thanks for sharing your history Roland. It's good to be on the podcast with crosstalk
Keith Simon: You guys are so safe.
Patrick Miller: No, but I did the test for a slightly different reason. I do know my father but my father was adopted so we don't know our nationality. And I've always been curious about this, he hasn't been as curious about it. And so I wanted to know what my background was and if possible maybe try to connect with some of my biological relatives and learn a little about our ancestry. What's the history, how did I come into existence? I've just found that to be an interesting question.
Keith Simon: And were you able to get very far in that project or crosstalk
Patrick Miller: I've gotten down some roads with some people, but it's all a little bit wiggly because this is based on genetic tests so you-
Keith Simon: You don't know.
Patrick Miller: Don't trust for certain if all of it's correct. But I think everybody has at least some base level interest in their family past and family history.
Dan: I've only experienced people telling me what my ancestry is based off of my paleness, so they just see crosstalk
Keith Simon: crosstalk you're Irish or...
Dan: Yeah they immediately say, " Are you Irish? You seem light skinned." I'm like, "No, I don't know what I am." But crosstalk
Keith Simon: That's funny. So today is part two of a three part series on the rise of the religious right.
Patrick Miller: Hopefully it'll be three parts, I mean this part might have to be split up into two. We'll see what happens.
Keith Simon: Okay a multi- part series on the rise of the religious right, which kind of could be called the rise of the Christian right. Because that was the major religion that was involved in it. And the reason we're taking this on is because we think we should know our ancestry. Just like we want to know our family ancestry, didn't know where we came from, and to get an idea of the context of our life. So I think it's wise if we have some knowledge about where our ideas came from. And if we understand the rise of the religious right we're going to explain a lot of what we see going on in current evangelicalism.
Patrick Miller: It's really interesting to look at some numbers. Ryan Birch, he's a sociologist at... is it Eastern Illinois?
Keith Simon: I think so yeah.
Patrick Miller: He's tracked how evangelicals have voted over the last few elections. And in 2008 77% of evangelicals voted for Republicans. In 2012 76% of evangelicals voted for Republicans. 2016, 77%. But the all time high actually comes in 2020 when 80% of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.
Keith Simon: And just to be clear it's white evangelical?
Patrick Miller: Yes, white evangelicals.
Keith Simon: When you hear the word evangelical, that's used in a lot of different ways these days. Sometimes it's used as a political term, sometimes it's used as a set of religious beliefs. But here it's pretty clear that we get the point. Most people who are white and believe in Jesus, believe in the Bible, are voting overwhelmingly Republican. And how did that come to be?
Patrick Miller: This goes back to the ancestry thing, because if you go back to the'70s this would not have been a case. Evangelicals would have been pretty evenly split. In fact there were certain presidencies we had evangelicals voting in a majority of a Democratic candidate, not in the majority of a Republican candidate.
Keith Simon: In the last episode we talked a little bit about how most people believe that it's abortion that catalyzed evangelicals to get involved in politics. But it turns out that is not true at all.
Patrick Miller: So in our last episode we talked about the abortion issue just to kind of elicit interest. But what we really focused on was a period of time between 1945 and 1960. And it's during this time that America as a culture, as a nation, really began to think about itself as a Christian nation. Some people have called this ceremonial deism, it's this idea that unlike the Communists who are Godless, we are a Godly nation. We believe in God, that's the foundation of who we are as a people. By the end of the'50s we see the highest numbers in church membership in American history, 69% of people are church members. And then we said we're going to move onto the'60s, '70s, and '80s, because this is the period that what we call the religious right or what was called the Moral Majority or the Christian right, this is where it really begins to form. It wasn't in that God and country period, because that was both Republicans and Democrats. This new version of a Christian right it begins to take form over the next few decades.
Keith Simon: And you can't follow the rise of the religious right starting back in the late'40s going all the way to our current day without paying a lot of attention to one figure, and that is Billy Graham.
Patrick Miller: As you said in a different podcast, the way you can tell an evangelical in decades past was whether or not they liked Billy Graham. If you didn't like Billy Gram you're probably a fundamentalist.
Keith Simon: Exactly. And Billy Graham was one of the most popular Christians in American history because he was a man of integrity, a man that God used in a lot of ways to bring people to faith in Christ. But he was also very involved in politics. And the person he's most identified with is Richard Nixon.
Patrick Miller: Whoopsees.
Keith Simon: Now to be fair to Graham, he had relationships from Eisenhower all the way through Obama. But the president that he again is most identified with is Richard Nixon in the late'60s. But their relationship started all the way back in the'50s when Nixon was member of that US House of Representatives from California. And they were golfing buddies, and they bonded over their anti- communism. Both of them were very afraid that communism was having a bad effect in the world, and they were afraid that America was going to give into communism.
Patrick Miller: And Nixon, at least to Billy Graham, claimed to be an authentic follower of Jesus. In fact in 1968 at a crusade in Portland this is what Billy Graham said about Richard Nixon, he said, " There is no American I admire more than Richard Nixon." And he describes his experiences with Nixon later on, before the Watergate scandal, as being some of the most spiritual experiences in his life.
Keith Simon: But it wasn't just a spiritual relationship they had, it was also a political relationship. You might remember that Richard Nixon was Eisenhower's vice president and then when Eisenhower comes to the end of his term Nixon wants to run. And he does, he runs and gets the Republican nomination and faces off against JFK in-
Patrick Miller: The problem is that Richard Nixon doesn't look very good on camera and JFK did.
Keith Simon: In that debate.
Patrick Miller: In that debate. But really that's partially what it came down to, Nixon was like this sweaty bear who can't get his feet under himself.
Keith Simon: Sweaty bear?
Patrick Miller: Oh go watch the video.
Keith Simon: Are bears sweaty?
Patrick Miller: He's just sweating profusely. He just wasn't prepped and you got JFK is this nice looking, thoughtful, articulate guy. And so he loses.
Keith Simon: Well that's the whole thing though. They said, " If you heard that debate on the radio you thought Nixon won. If you watched it on television, you thought that Kennedy won." Well anyway Graham is torn. Should he publicly endorse Nixon or not? He writes a letter for Life Magazine and in that letter he endorses, fully publicly endorses, Nixon.
Patrick Miller: And he had never done this before?
Keith Simon: No, no. He had tried to stay out of politics, at least publicly endorsing candidates. But right before the letter is published, the article is published, he calls Henry Luce who's the owner and publisher of Life, and he gets it pulled at the last second. So he never comes out and publicly endorses Nixon, and he regrets that because he thinks if he had publicly endorsed him maybe Nixon would have won. Because the margin was razor thin.
Patrick Miller: Let's fast forward to 1968 and Nixon is up for election. Once again, on the night that Richard Nixon had won Billy Graham was there. In fact Richard Nixon invites Billy Graham in, he asks him to lead a prayer, and Nixon tells Graham that he wants to rededicate our lives. They want to rededicate their lives to Jesus, to God. And again, Graham describes leading this amazing prayer, Nixon goes off to talk to the press. And you have to imagine from his perspective, from what he personally knew of Nixon, he thinks this is it, we've got a Christian president who's going to bring good things to America and I've seen it first hand.
Keith Simon: Yeah and Graham continues to publicly identify with Nixon, in a political way and a spiritual way. He blends those together. We're going to play a clip from a documentary in which Jerry Falwell is explaining a key moment in Billy Graham's ministry. So what you're going to hear is Jerry Falwell, who is the leader of the Moral Majority and we're going to talk more about here in a few moments. He's explaining what Billy Graham did. The next voice you're going to hear is Billy Graham introducing to a packed stadium in Knoxville Tennessee the president, Richard Nixon. So just listen and then at the very end you'll hear Falwell give his take on that moment. I think it's really interesting when you think about this relationship between religion and politics, the preacher and the president.
Jerry Falwell: I saw him on television at the Knoxville Tennessee campaign. This was no big deal today, but it was a big deal then. And when I saw him there it was obvious to me he's not attending Billy's crusade to hear Billy preach, he's there because Billy invited him there and anybody with any amount of moxie was aware this is tacit endorsement.
Billy Graham: Ladies and gentleman, the president of the United States.
Jerry Falwell: And when I saw him I was amazed that he would do that.
Richard Nixon: Billy Graham when he invited me to come here said that this was to be youth night. He told me that there would be youth from the university, from other parts of the state, representing different points of view. I'm just glad that there seems to be a rather solid majority on one side rather than the other side. Good night.
Jerry Falwell: I think Bill if he was sitting here be the first to tell you that was a major mistake.
Patrick Miller: So that's a pretty profound clip. I mean on the one hand it's a little bit wild to hear Richard Nixon talking to a packed stadium full of Christians who claim to be I suppose bipartisan and then they all start screaming and yelling when he says, " We're all on one side, wink wink." But the other half is Jerry Falwell's assessment, which is that Billy Graham later would really come to regret this.
Keith Simon: Well and it highlights the fact that Jerry Falwell has flipped back and forth on whether Christians should make a concerted effort to be involved in politics or not, but clearly Billy Graham had. He'd identified with Nixon, he was on Nixon's team. He wanted Nixon to win elections because he thought he had a place at the table, that he was able to influence the direction of the administration. He was involved not just in spiritual conversations praying with the president, but he was involved as an advisor.
Patrick Miller: And what Billy Graham maybe didn't understand at the time but Nixon understood and his advisors understood was that they were using Billy Graham to help them win elections. Charles Colson who was kind of in charge of their outreach to people like Billy Graham, there's a lot of interesting quotes. This is what he said. He said, " Sure, we used the prayer breakfast and church services and all of that for political ends. One of my jobs in the White House was to romance religious leaders. We would bring them into the White House and they would be dazzled by the aura of the Oval Office. And I found them to be about the most pliable of any of the special interest groups that we worked with."
Keith Simon: Yeah it's a problem when The Church of Jesus Christ has lost its prothetic voice, it's lost its ability to speak truth to power, to say hard things because they've just become another political interest group.
Patrick Miller: Well and it's fascinating to hear him say that they were the most pliable.
Dan: What exactly does that mean? I mean like pliable manipulated, or-
Patrick Miller: Yes. Easily manipulated, exactly. And it makes sense, because what it seems to imply is that Christians were just so excited to be in the room where it happened that you could bend them to your will. Whereas even lobbying groups had interest. The Christians seemed to walk in without interest, they just want to be there.
Keith Simon: Yeah to go to Daniel's point of being manipulated, here's Colson talking about how they used to have church services in one of the White House rooms, the East Room to be specific. He says, " We turned those events into wonderful quasi- social, quasi- spiritual, quasi- political events, and bought in a whole host of religious leaders to hold worship service for the president and his family, and 300 guests carefully selected by me for political purposes.
Patrick Miller: It just makes you itch.
Keith Simon: Yeah so they're using the church and spiritual language in order to get votes. And they're really upfront about it. But I don't think Graham understood that at the time. He stood by Nixon all the way to the end. Eventually Nixon has to resign in disgrace. White House tapes come out. Graham realizes that there's a part of Nixon he didn't know-
Patrick Miller: Yeah I mean Nixon comes across terribly, he's cursing, making anti- Semitic remarks. He does not come out looking at all good.
Keith Simon: No, and Graham has to admit publicly that he blew it. And he apologizes to the country, apologizes to his followers. He really blew it getting in bed with politicians, because he got used.
Patrick Miller: And to his credit he took that lesson forward. I mean while he did have relationships with presidents, he stepped back from this kind of I'm going to endorse, be in the room where it happens kind of attitude. It's a lesson that he learned, and ironically the person we just heard talking Jerry Falwell and others did not learn.
Keith Simon: That's exactly right. He became more of a pastor to the presidents instead of an advisor.
Patrick Miller: So right now when you talk about the history of what's happening in the church in America you kind of have to do two stories at once. On the one hand you have to do what we're doing right now, which is talk about presidential politics. They shape our nation in tremendous ways. And yet simultaneously there are cultural shifts that are happening.
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Patrick Miller: So when we enter the'60s and the'70s there are major cultural shifts happening. The way that we think about race, the way we think about gender, men and women. All of these things are suddenly up for grabs in a way that they hadn't been previously. Now here's the deal, we really have to gloss over a lot of history to do this well. There are entire books on every subject that we're talking about, and we'll link to those books in the Show Notes. And there's more than we could link to. But I want to start this conversation by talking about race. So in the 1950s up through the 1960s, that's when the civil rights movement is really at it's zenith. And to understand the civil rights movement you have to understand what came before it.
Keith Simon: Yeah and I have to confess that I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but for a long time in my life I missed the Jim Crow years. I went from 1865 and we have the end of slavery and the establishment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment.
Patrick Miller: And then beep, bop, boop.
Keith Simon: All of a sudden we're in 1965 and we got the Civil Rights Act and Voting. And I knew of course there were a hundred years in there, but until several years ago when I started digging in I didn't really realize what was happening. And it's really important to understand the hundred years between 1865 and 1964.
Patrick Miller: Oh absolutely.
Keith Simon: Because first of all that wasn't that long ago, and it shapes how a minority people are treated in our country.
Patrick Miller: And I just want to say the same for me. My education... While we did talk about segregation, that was about it. Like that was the history between the civil war and the inaudible It was, " Oh, there was segregation and that was bad." And of course that was bad but really on the list of wrongs, segregation could go lower on the list because there were some far more horrible things. Let's go back... Again I know this is challenging, we're talking about the'60s, '70s, and '80s and I'm a say let's go back to 1865. But-
Keith Simon: Once upon a time.
Patrick Miller: But we have to. So after the civil war the reconstruction era starts. And the federal government, it confiscates 400, 000 acres of southern land and promises former slaves 40 acres and a mule.
Keith Simon: Did they ever get that?
Patrick Miller: Well no they never really get it, and it's no surprise. Southerners are not going to give up their land. The only reason that the black community is able to vote to own property is because the union army, which is currently occupying the south, is doing it by force.
Keith Simon: Yeah okay so just to make sure we're tracking, reconstruction is a really positive time in American history.
Patrick Miller: It is.
Keith Simon: It comes right after the Civil War, and the union establishes protections in the south for black people to be a part of politics, businesses, economic normal life. And they take advantage of it.
Patrick Miller: Oh yeah.
Keith Simon: There are black people elected to United States House and the Senate. And there's a kind of a rise of a black middle class starting to form, and then it all goes kaput, it all goes bye- bye in about 1877.
Patrick Miller: Yeah so in 1877 Rutherford B. Hayes, he pulls out federal troops from the south. And it should be noted that northerners were also tired of this, they didn't want to be occupying the south. And so there was complicity, I would say, on both sides. But the minute these troops are pulled out, white supremacy in the south, it was swift, it was brutal. White southerners bar black people from voting. So for that ten year period you see a lot of black legislators. And then for a very long time they virtually disappear. They create exploitative economic systems, like share cropping and tender farming. One that I never heard about growing up but I think is one of the most awful is convict leasing. So what happened was that the south made it illegal for black men to change jobs or to move states without state permission. You don't get to choose whether you can change your job. And so if a black man did this they would arrest him, and then once they arrested him they wouldn't keep him in jail, they would lease him out as a convict to go work for people. So it was defacto slavery. Now it wasn't for a lifetime, there were always terms on it. But it's remarkable, I mean slavery really continued in the south for decades afterwards.
Keith Simon: Add onto that the lynching that took place in the south. During the Jim Crow era there were over 5, 000 black people lynched. And they weren't just lynched, they were tortured.
Patrick Miller: Tortured, brutalized, demeaned.
Keith Simon: Just horrible things that honestly you don't want me to go into, but for example I'm going to do one for you. I remember reading a story about one person who was lynched, that they took a cork screw and would screw it into their flesh and then rip it out. And so the goal wasn't just to kill someone, the goal was to send a message. And the message is that we're in charge and you're not, and you need to stay in your place. So it was brutal intimidation.
Patrick Miller: It was awful, people were dismembered, disemboweled, eyes plucked out. Pregnant mothers who had their infant children pulled out of their womb and then stomped in front of them. And it's worth noting that these were very public events. They were often announced in newspapers, people would take pictures at them and send them as postcards to each other. And no one was arrested.
Dan: Which why do we not learn about these things? I don't feel like I ever heard about these things, convict leasing... Is it too brutal for kids to hear? Is it just... I'm confused.
Patrick Miller: I mean I do think there's a age appropriateness, but I would see any high schooler or even middle schooler could hear these things and learn. inaudible part of the reason, and we'll get to this later, actually has a little bit to with school textbooks and the kinds of history that we do or don't want to be in the schools. So it's a really interesting question. But again it's just worth pointing out, I'm going to keep going down just so we can get the picture, red lining was another practice that happened. So essentially during the new deal era, the government wants to help people get into houses. And so they're helping banks to offer mortgages to people. Now the banks have to decide which neighborhoods they will offer mortgages in. And this is a normal practice, you have to decide is this neighborhood a neighborhood where I can expect to get my money back, where it's safe, where the property values are going to rise? But that's not how the banks did it. They typically drew red lines around the black neighborhoods and said we won't give mortgages to people in these neighborhoods. And then the neighborhoods which weren't black created home owners associations which did not allow black people to move into those neighborhoods. So if you were black it was virtually impossible for you to get a home loan. And we all know that home loans and owning a home is one of the keys to becoming wealthy over the longterm.
Keith Simon: One of the ways that many people bought their houses after the war was they were able to come back from the war, and because of the GI Bill, they were able to get money to go to school, get an education, and then use that to get a good job, buy a home and develop wealth. But here's the thing that a lot of people don't realize, and again for a long time I didn't realize it either, is that the GI Bill was only available to white soldiers returning home. So when the black soldiers returned from fighting for their country they didn't get the college stipend, the college scholarship, the ability to go to school and get a good job and buy a home. Instead what they got was more segregation.
Patrick Miller: I think maybe trying to summarize this, white identity, especially in the south, was understood in a racial hierarchy. It was how any white person would have understood things. You've got people on the top and people on the bottom, and white people were always above black people. And so part of the social order you might say, the 1950s, this time that we talked about in our last podcast when it's this God and country, Christianity, part of the social order included a vision of white men at the top of the pile, and schools and neighborhoods which are segregated from each other.
Keith Simon: We want to be clear, we're not saying that Jim Crow was something the church enforced. We're saying this was a cultural wide event and that the church was shaped by it, just like every other institution was.
Patrick Miller: And plenty of churches actively participated in it. Just to give an example, First Baptist Church in Birmingham wasn't integrated until 1980. So I mean there are churches that even well after the civil right... because if you're not a federal organization and you're a religious organization, there weren't requirements about integration. And so the church was very much so a part of this, part and parcel of the culture that they were in.
Keith Simon: So in the 1950s when the pledge of allegiance is adding, " Under God," when you start the national prayer breakfast, " When in God we trust," is going on the coin, you still have this segregation occurring in the country. 1954, key date. Brown v. Board of Education. And this is something that happened in Kansas, in Topeka, Kansas. There the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of schools, the separate but equal policy, was unconstitutional. That they had to integrate schools. But they didn't put a timeline on it. What they said is something like, " With all due speed," or, " As soon as you can." " Work on this."
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: And so for a long time a lot of states, a lot of school districts, just resisted. They refused to do it.
Patrick Miller: Yeah I was listening to a different podcast with a Christian historian and this line stuck with me. He said, " In the south there was no integration without the bayonet. That on the whole southern schools were not integrated by the time the Civil Rights Act happened, and where they were integrated it happened by force." And I think it's just really important to understand... Again, this is within living memory. And so I think it's something that as a white person often goes over my own head, which is that if in my living memory I had ancestors, people I know who were on the receiving end of segregation and the only way that got fixed was by federal force, that's going to shape who you are today and how you think about how justice should be done in the present. Between 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, and 1964 which was the Civil Rights Act, there's a lot of things that happen. And again we don't have time to walk through it. There was the Children's March, which was a huge event where children were marching and police released attack dogs on them and this was captured on camera on film and it started changing the nation's perception of the south and segregation. Bloody Sunday, Selma, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four little girls died. And again it's just important to note, everybody in the city knew it happened that morning and then when evening services convened there were no white inaudible not a white church which prayed for 16th Street Baptist, which prayed for those little girls or their families. There wasn't a church which even mentioned it on that evening. And this is why Martin Luther King writes from Birmingham jail that he understands there are pastors who are against segregation but they are complicit because they won't lend their voice.
Keith Simon: Yeah those churches in the north, or maybe even in the south that oppose segregation, those white churches, said we shouldn't do this but we should go slow. We shouldn't march, we shouldn't demonstrate, we shouldn't cause civil unrest at the lunch counters. Let's take it slow. And King's like, " Yeah easy to say take it slow when it's not your kid, or it's not your family, or it's not your life. But we can't take this slow, we have to do something." And they did. They got involved in the civil rights marches, they demonstrated peacefully. And eventually the country had to deal with the fact that they were segregating, oppressing, and being cruel to a large portion of the population only because of their skin color. So enter the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of '64 and'65, which gave basic civil rights and voting rights to people. It said could not be discriminated against because of their race.
Patrick Miller: So now we're finally back to the'60s, the period that we're talking about. And as the'60s go on and it becomes the'70s there begin to be debates about how we are going to integrate schools. Because now it's not enough just to say, " Hey when you have time." The federal government is saying, " No, we actively have to do this." And so this is where busing comes from, where students of both races would be bused to schools in a different community. And a lot of parents didn't like this, on both sides, because the idea of having your child being shipped off 30, 45, 60 minutes away isn't thrilling for most parents. But the reason for, again many white parents is, " I don't want my child either in a black school, or I don't want black children in my white child's school."
Keith Simon: This is where it gets hard because you want your kid to go to the local school, but when housing has been segregated, the local school tends to be all white or all black.
Patrick Miller: De facto segregation.
Keith Simon: And so that's where the busing came in. And I get it, I wouldn't want my kid bused either. It was easy for some, not all, maybe not even most. But it was easy for some people to hide their racism behind the idea that, " I want my kid to go to the school down the street instead of being bused across town."
Patrick Miller: So this finally takes us to... again we're talking about the rise of the religious right, and we need to talk about how Christians responded to these racial issues. And I think the best place to start is probably Jerry Falwell. So before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Jerry Falwell was incredibly critical of Martin Luther King. I'm just going to read a quote from him. He said, " I must personally say that I do question the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, Mr. James Farmer, and others who are known to have left wing associations." By the way this is one of the common critiques of Martin Luther King, which is unfair, which was that he was a communist or a socialist. But he goes on. He says, " It's very obvious that the communist, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed. Preachers are not called to be politicians but soul winners."
Keith Simon: And this is what I was taught growing up, this is what I feel like is most shocking to me because I was always taught keep it separate, keep it safe. Keep it away from the public spectrum.
Patrick Miller: And that's exactly what Falwell said. Now he's going to do an about face on that particular perspective. But his critique of them okay, is you're too involved in politics.
Keith Simon: Jerry Falwell is a name you have heard us reference, because he's really important in this story as well. He was the founding pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. He then became, or that church became, that ones who started Liberty University, which is a huge university today.
Patrick Miller: And before that Liberty High school. And he also is incredibly important in the founding of the Moral Majority, which is where we're headed in the late'70s. But what you have to understand is that Falwell, he sees at least before the Civil Rights Act, integration as a dissolution of God's good order. Again I just want to read you a quote from Falwell, this is what he said. He's talking about Brown v. Board of Education, which said that schools had to be integrated. And he's critiquing Brown v. Board of Education. Catch this. " If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desire to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction we should not attempt to cross that line. The true black person does not want integration. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race. Integration," catch this. " Integration will destroy our race eventually. In one northern city a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race lives next door to his church as a man and wife."
Keith Simon: Holy cow, we can't have that!
Patrick Miller: Well but I mean...
Keith Simon: The Bible teaches this, is what he's saying.
Patrick Miller: This is one of the founders of the Moral Majority. This is a leading figure in this movement, and he's not pulling his punches at this point. Now I mean it's worth saying later on he did back step off of these things, but he lived it out.
Keith Simon: So a couple of things to notice here. One is that he is attaching the civil rights movement to communism, and we've already said that that was a huge deal in this era. People were afraid, genuinely, legitimately afraid of the Soviet Union taking over our freedoms.
Patrick Miller: God and country Americans were anti- Soviet.
Keith Simon: And so remember this is the rise of McCarthyism. And McCarthy is finding people in the government he's accusing of being communist and their careers end. So to attach the civil rights movement to communism, it's a really big deal. It's like being called a racist today.
Patrick Miller: And it's a farce.
Keith Simon: Well yes, I agree that it is a farce but there were people in the civil rights movement who were socialist and had ties with the American Community Party.
Patrick Miller: Yes. Sure. So are there Christians who were socialists, it doesn't make us all socialist. And Martin Luther King was certainly not a socialist.
Keith Simon: But I think there was enough of a connection between American Communist Party and some of the civil rights movement that made it believable, if you wanted to believe.
Patrick Miller: Yes. If you wanted to believe, that's true.
Keith Simon: And then the second interesting thing, not just that he's attaching it to communism but he's calling for Christians to stay out of politics. To instead, to focus on what he would call soul winning. Telling people about Jesus. What we would call the attending your worship service, reading your bible, those kind of things. But stay out of politics.
Patrick Miller: So just two years after the Civil Rights Act Jerry Falwell, who said we should stay out of politics, he suggested that we should not integrate schools, that it when he founds Liberty Christian Academy. A high school which was advertised, and this is a quote, as a private high school for white students.
Keith Simon: Yeah so this is the response to the Brown v. Board of Education. " Okay you're going to make us integrate and you're going to come force integration in public schools, well guess what we'll do? We will start our own private schools."
Patrick Miller: Our own private Christian school for white people.
Keith Simon: For white people.
Patrick Miller: Now one thing that's important to know is that these Christian schools, because they were educational institutions, they were tax exempt. But in 1972 there's a court case, Green v. Connally, which removes tax exempt status from private schools which discriminate based on race. And that makes a lot of sense. If the government's going to give you the benefit of being tax exempt you also have to abide by the Civil Rights Act. If you don't want to abide by the Civil Rights Act fine, but you don't get this little bonus, this little benefit from the government. There's another university called Bob Jones University, and like Liberty University they practiced discriminatory admission practices up until 1971. And they thought they found a loophole. What they decided to do was, " You can come to our school if you're black, but you have to be married." But this is still discrimination legally, because if you allow white unmarried people to come to your school but not black unmarried people to come to your school you are discriminating on the basis of race.
Dan: And this is a college right? This is a college?
Patrick Miller: Yes, this is a college.
Dan: crosstalk You have to be married in college to get the tax exemption?
Keith Simon: Well no, you have to be married in college to come as a black person.
Patrick Miller: To be admitted into the school you had to be a married black person.
Keith Simon: And you had to be married to another black person.
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: Because they forbade interracial dating. So what they're trying to do is you're asking the question how many college students are married, right?
Keith Simon: Well that's the point of the loophole, the loophole is we're going to show that we're integrated by accepting students, this very small number of people, maybe zero people, who are two black people married to each other and in college.
Patrick Miller: It's just so obviously...
Keith Simon: It's a scam.
Patrick Miller: Yeah it's a scam, that's exactly what it is. And the IRS catches on, thankfully. What happens in 1975 is that the IRS, thankfully, they retroactively revoke Bob Jones University's tax exempt status. And so what that means is that all of a sudden Bob Jones University, they owe years of back taxes. Millions of dollars in back taxes to the IRS. They respond by suing the IRS, and that case ends up in the Supreme Court seven years later where Bob Jones University loses eight to one.
Keith Simon: Yeah I think that was inaudible 1983 if I remember right. And the dissenting vote was William Rehnquist, who later goes on to be appointed Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan.
Patrick Miller: Now what happens during that seven years while this case is getting debated is that conservatives, they give it a face lift. It goes from a case which is clearly about whether or not a university should get a tax exemption which is discriminating against black students. They try to reframe it as, " You know what this case is about? Whether or not the government should be involved in Christian education, and the government is trying to take away Christian education by removing their tax exempt status." Now that's not what the case is about, but this is how it gets reframed by Christians.
Keith Simon: And it's really important, we've spent time on this school issue-
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: Because it's really important in the forming of the Moral Majority. So trust us, just stay with it. It's going to come back and be a crucial issue in the rise of the religious right.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely crucial. So let me try to summarize where we're at. There's a long history of racism in America, we tried to unpack just tiny little bits of that. However, when the Civil Rights Act and before that, Brown v. Board of Education happened, many Christians are on the wrong side of this. They're attacking Martin Luther King. And when schools are being desegregated the Christian response in many places was to create segregated academies. And this eventually, as Keith just said, becomes maybe the motivating thing in the religious right. This becomes maybe the most important reason for why the religious right forms. Now we have to prove that later on, but again big picture, cultural tides, our view os race is changing. And this is how many Christians respond. The other major cultural change revolves around the issue of gender. So if we looked at race and we said that there was a racial hierarchy, especially in the south with white people on top and black people on the bottom, there was also a gender hierarchy, which was inaudible the United States in the 1950s. This idea of the housewife who stays at home and dutifully cares for the children while the husband goes off and is the breadwinner for the family. And in the 1960s this idea really begins to come under fire. Lots of things are happening. Second wave feminism, parenting is being challenged, how we do parenting. The pill becomes widely available. The ERA, abortion. All of these things are happening.
Dan: ERA, what is that? inaudible
Patrick Miller: Yeah that's great and we'll get more into it, but the ERA was the Equal Rights Amendments. And it was an amendment which was... nothing here I'm about to say is going to sound controversial to people, but it was controversial at the time. It was an amendment which was designed to guarantee equal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex by ending legal distinctions between men and women in key areas like divorce, property rights, and employment.
Keith Simon: It was passed by the United States congress, went to the states to be adopted.
Patrick Miller: And it looked like it was going to be adopted.
Keith Simon: And then it dies out. It can't get two third of the states to ratify it. Eventually it just fizzles out and is not passed.
Patrick Miller: And we'll talk in a bit about why that happened. But it's maybe helpful for us to start here. We need to talk about second wave feminism. So first wave feminism really comes into its heyday when women gain the right to vote. And that was the main goal of first wave feminism.
Keith Simon: This is like women's suffrage, like you said right to vote but also that women could own personal property. Just basic rights that were given to men and denied to women, were given to women. So we're talking the 1920s here.
Patrick Miller: Yeah 1920s is when women gained the right to vote in the United States. Now the Great Depression happens and then World War II happens and during World War II many of the men go off to war and women end up in the workplace. They're working in factories, they're doing the jobs that many men were doing. Now I want to pause here and say they're also doing the jobs that many women were doing during the Great Depression, because during that period if you were a poor family everybody was out at work. There wasn't an option for men and women not to be working. But men come back, they had the GI Bill, and they begin to establish the suburbs. Those kind of little barracks outside of the city, and they establish this vision of men going out to be the ones who are the breadwinners and women staying at home.
Keith Simon: Patrick doesn't mean there were literally army barracks out in the suburbs.
Patrick Miller: No I'm describing suburbs as barracks.
Keith Simon: You're just saying that when they came back and established suburbs that there was a sense in which they reflected the disciplined military life.
Patrick Miller: And the hierarchy of military life. So over this decade, again many women are in the home primarily. And in 1963 a second wave feminist named Betty Friedan writes a book called The Feminine Mystique. And she critiques this 1950s vision of femininity. I'll read a little quote from her. She said, " Fulfillment as a woman has only had one definition for American woman after 1949: the housewife mother." Now in her book she systematically explores all the different ways that this vision of femininity which developed in the 1950s impacted her life and has impacted culture. And she deeply critiques it.
Keith Simon: There's a sense in which Betty Friedan wants women and men to be treated exactly the same before the law. She was for liberalizing the abortion laws, she was for liberalizing divorce laws.
Patrick Miller: crosstalk
Keith Simon: Which eventually leads to no fault divorce. So there's a sense in, which my guess is if you're listening to this that you would agree with her, that women should have the ability and rights, just like men do, to enter the workforce and to make choices for their life.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, although no fault divorce might be one of the worst things that's happened in American history.
Keith Simon: And then there are probably things that you look at and you think this movement, this second wave feminism, was really damaging to the country.
Patrick Miller: And it's worth pointing out that Betty Friedan, she was very thoroughly a second wave feminist. By the time third wave feminism comes about she's kind of cast aside because she didn't agree with gay and lesbian rights and eventually had major problems with trans rights. It's just interesting to talk about the history behind these things. Simultaneously to this is women are saying we want to get out into the workforce, that's the way that I'm going to be satisfied in my work. The pill becomes widely available to Americans, so now it's not just men who can have birth control, it's women who can have birth control.
Dan: Which what did people do before this? Just out of curiosity. I'm just...
Patrick Miller: I think there were condoms before this.
Keith Simon: Go read and the book of...
Patrick Miller: Genesis 38, Judah and Tamar crosstalk
Dan: They just had a lot of kids.
Keith Simon: Yes.
Patrick Miller: Onan.
Keith Simon: Onan.
Patrick Miller: We've gone there, that's an Easter egg for the audience.
Keith Simon: I don't think...
Patrick Miller: But what ends up happening is that the pill becomes widely available.
Keith Simon: And this is huge because what this does is allow women to enter into sexual relationships without the fear that they're going to get pregnant, because the-
Patrick Miller: Which is how men have done it before that.
Keith Simon: Right that's the idea, is that men and women have to be completely equal. And the pill equalizes that sexual relationship. Because men could have sex and not feel the repercussions, the consequences of it. But women are the ones who are getting pregnant. But now if we have the pill no longer do we have that issue.
Patrick Miller: There's a guy named Alfred Kinsey who in the decades leading up to this essentially saw humans as animals with sexual, animalistic desires that needed to be embraced and encouraged. And in fact, much like Freud he thought that if you repressed those sexual desires it was psychologically destructive. That if you wanted to know why there's criminality in our country, why we have problems, it's because we repress our sexual desires. And so he and second wave feminists strongly affirmed this unleashing of do whatever you want, do whatever you like. And I think-
Keith Simon: It's kind of Glennon Doyle, right?
Patrick Miller: Yeah it is, it's Glennon Doyle. It's you're a cheetah, don't get put inside the cage, you're untamed, get out there and do it.
Keith Simon: Self actualization, be who you want to be, but don't take your role from the society and contributing to society. Instead think of yourself as an individual.
Patrick Miller: And so as you can imagine this is creating massive ripples in culture. And I just can't help but add here, this is the kind of thinking that I think ultimately leads to the Me Too movement in the sense that if you take a no holds bar approach to sex, men will take advantage of that and take advantage of women. Now let's keep going forward the story. 1971 Gloria Steinem launches Miss Magazine, and she's trying to argue for a lot of these same things. Women in the workplace, more open attitudes towards sex, and the legalization of abortion. And eventually this, she becomes the main person who is pushing forward the ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment.
Keith Simon: But she has a counterpart, and that is a woman named Phyllis Schlafly.
Patrick Miller: There's actually a Who inaudible TV show that tells their story.
Keith Simon: Does it really?
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: Cool.
Patrick Miller: You can guess who's the hero and who's the villain.
Keith Simon: Phyllis Schlafly was a catholic woman who decided that she was going to do everything she could to prevent the ERA.
Patrick Miller: Equal Rights Amendment.
Keith Simon: She starts something called the Eagle Forum. And then another woman, Beverley LaHaye, now she is the wife is Tim LaHaye who-
Patrick Miller: Who co- wrote the Left Behind series.
Keith Simon: Left Behind series, right. Just to give you a little perspective. She starts an organization called Concerned Women for America. Now the Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America are huge organizations.
Patrick Miller: Huge.
Keith Simon: And what they do is they form resistance against the ERA movement. So what's interesting here is both of these women have left their families, left their homes as their primary area of domain-
Patrick Miller: Yeah Phyllis Schlafly goes during this period to get a law degree from Washington University, no slouch.
Keith Simon: To go out and work in the world against an amendment allowing women to get out in the workforce on equal basis. It's kind of ironic.
Patrick Miller: And that's of course... It is an irony, which by the way the TV show does a good job of drawing out.
Keith Simon: crosstalk
Patrick Miller: And it's true, their main concern was that they believed that removing the distinction between men and women legally, it would undermine traditional gender roles in the family, Phyllis Schlafly believed it would mean that women would be conscripted into the military, which was a real fear after Vietnam.
Keith Simon: Well it's happening.
Patrick Miller: Yeah and it is.
Keith Simon: And it is happening, women are now going to be called to register for the draft. So it's not as if they were fear mongers and making things up.
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: The things that they said would become true, some of those things are actually happening. But when you say in the second wave feminism is trying to allow women to have all the rights as men, can you for a second distinguish that from third wave feminism which is completely blurring the line between man and woman?
Patrick Miller: That's the great irony of third wave feminism, which is now saying that there really is no such thing as male and female. Male and female are social constructs created by society, which in of itself becomes incomprehensible when we start talking about trans issues. Because to say that I am innately a woman or I feel as though I'm innately a woman and yet there's no such thing as a woman because a woman is socially constructed, welcome to the fun house mirror carnival world of third wave feminism.
Keith Simon: So what I don't want you to do is read this third wave feminism where we are today, that there is no difference between men and women, that they are absolutely the same. I don't want you to read that back into the 1970s. That's not the argument they were making.
Patrick Miller: No.
Keith Simon: They were just trying to give women the basic employment rights.
Patrick Miller: They'd be called TERFs today.
Keith Simon: TERFs?
Patrick Miller: Trans Exclusionary Feminists. You think about people like J. K. Rowling who said, " I'm not for this trans movement because being a woman, that is a meaningful statement." And Gloria Steinem, all of these thinkers, would have agreed with that. They believed that being a woman was a real thing that needed to be truly and really protected.
Keith Simon: They were simply trying to give basic rights to women to enter the workforce, basic rights before the law.
Patrick Miller: But the consequences of that, again, is that America's attitudes towards sex, America's attitudes towards divorce begin to radically change. And the consequences of that have been tremendous for society. I would say largely in the negative. Again let's go back to the big picture. Our views of race and racial hierarchy are changing in the country. Our views of gender and gender hierarchy are even changing in the country. And Christians are trying to figure out how to respond to this. Now the way Christians responded to the feminist movement, we talked about the ER, we talked about the Eagle Forum and Beverley LaHaye's group, but there was another response which came in the form of how we parent our children. So let's discuss that.
Keith Simon: Christian family believe there was a hierarchy, a God ordained hierarchy in the family.
Patrick Miller: So Dad's at the top.
Keith Simon: And kids are at the bottom. And it shaped the way that families raised their children. Dr. Spock comes along-
Patrick Miller: I'm sorry, Dr. Spock?
Keith Simon: Dr. Spock crosstalk
Patrick Miller: That is the coolest name ever.
Keith Simon: Is it-
Patrick Miller: inaudible Star Trek, so I'm sure that was a bad day for him when the other Spock happened.
Keith Simon: He comes along, and at least in the Christians mind was advocating for permissive parenting.
Patrick Miller: Well he writes a book that really becomes the pediatric standard for how we think about parenting. And he advocates against corporal punishment, he advocates for again what conservative Christians would have called the more permissive parenting style, allowing children to discover more. He advocates against this strong hierarchy in the family.
Keith Simon: Yeah and so it undermines the order within the family. And there was a lot of people, a lot of Christians who thought that Dr. Spock's parenting philosophy is what leads to a lot of the unrest. In other words these kids are not raised any more to respect authority, that's why we're having all these protests in the streets.
Patrick Miller: In particular the Vietnam War, that was the main case. Why do we have all these kids protesting the war? Well it's because of Dr. Spock. Where things get really interesting for me, and it's a thing that I just find almost no Christians know about it and yet it was incredibly important, are the school textbook wars. Now I think we're seeing by the way, a new version of this coming up and I'm going to draw some interesting parallels.
Keith Simon: Like the 1619 Project crosstalk
Patrick Miller: Well yeah, so now all of a sudden we have progressive parents who are coming in and saying that we need to teach the 1619 Project in schools. Which is even by the creators account, revisionist history which is propaganda. They have a vision of history which they want to give to children and they don't want any history which in any way questions that history. The interesting part is that little play, that playbook, was created by evangelicals. If you go back to the'70s you will find that there are evangelicals who are advocating for particular textbooks teaching a particular version of history.
Keith Simon: In West Virginia there was a school district in which all the parents and students went on strike in protest against the textbooks that the school was using. They thought they were too liberal, that they gave a bad view of America. But the place that was probably most influential was Texas. Texas is such a huge state and they have so many school districts-
Patrick Miller: You got to buy lots of textbooks.
Keith Simon: That they have to buy a lot of textbooks. So if you can't get your textbook sold in Texas to their school systems, your textbook's probably isn't going to make it. And vice- versa if you can get Texas school districts buying your textbook, you're in business.
Patrick Miller: So here's what interesting about Texas, this isn't the case in most states. The legislature has to approve the textbooks. And there's actually an open hearing that happens where they will discuss should these be passed? Now in the past this was just a rubber stamp thing, " Yep let's do the textbooks, let's move on." But then there was a family, Mel and Norma Gabler. And Mel and Norma Gabler took it upon themselves to read every textbook that was coming before the Texas legislature, in particular history and science textbooks, and to determine if they found anything in those textbooks which they saw as being either anti- God or anti- American.
Keith Simon: Can you imagine anything more boring? I didn't read the textbooks when I was a student, but for 20 years they read through textbooks and then argue about them before this Texas State legislature because they have a vision of America that they think is important for kids to learn.
Patrick Miller: And it's a golden vision of America, we should say.
Keith Simon: Idealized.
Patrick Miller: It's an idealized vision. So Dan was asking earlier, why is it that we weren't taught these things? In some ways we're still living with the repercussions of Mel and Norma Gabler because they had such an influence. What ends up happening is they get the Texas legislature to agree and to send the textbooks back to the textbook companies and have them rewrite it in favor of their version of history. And so this means that textbook companies end up creating two different versions, and this is actually still true to this day. You have the Texas version of the textbook and the normal version. And so Christians all over the country, whether or not they're in Texas, start calling for their schools to get the Texas edition.
Keith Simon: So Mel and Norma Gabler are people you've never heard of, I know you've never heard of them, but they were really influential. Not just because of the textbook though, but also because in the process of arguing for a certain kind of textbook they form associations and relationships with a network you might think of, of Christians all across the country. And that network of Christians eventually is what is mobilized into the religious right.
Patrick Miller: So big picture, the main political battleground for evangelicals in the late'60s throughout the'70s, actually ends up becoming schools. Whether it's school textbooks or these segregation academies. In some level that makes sense, we're far more willing to protect our children than we are maybe to protect ourselves. And yet what we see is that what they're being protected from in some cases is racial integration, that's not great, and then in the Mel and Normal Gabler story it's a golden vision of America, which one could question whether that's really a Christian textbook to begin with. Now all of this sets us up to finally go back to the presidential story, because it's in the presidential story, who's getting elected, that we finally hear how the religious right came into be.
Keith Simon: So I know when we left off, Nixon had been scandalized. He'd resigned from office. Graham had been chastened, he had to publicly apologize for crossing some lines with Nixon. And Gerald Ford succeeds Richard Nixon. And then in the 1976 election he's going to take on Jimmy Carter. At this point the evangelical church, the white evangelical church, is a mixed bag. It might vote a little more Republic or Democrat in any one election, but it is bipartisan.
Patrick Miller: And yet these cultural issues are beginning to enter into the foreground and they do want a president who's going to support these things. But what Jimmy Carter has which Gerald Ford lacks is real evangelical bona fides.
Keith Simon: Yeah after the scandal of Nixon evangelicals were thinking, " We need a man of God, we need a Christian man in the White House."
Patrick Miller: So I want you to imagine for a second today the southern Baptist Convention coming out and making a statement in support of a democratic candidate. What would that be like?
Keith Simon: Yeah you can't imagine it, right. I mean it would never happen today.
Patrick Miller: And so that sets us up for what we're about to hear and what Keith just said, we want a man of character. Well if you go to the SBC Convention during the year of the election and we listen to their keynote speaker guess what he is about to do.
Speaker 13: His allusions to his personal relationship with Jesus Christ are considered bad form. But if there's anything we need, whether it's bad form or good politics, is a man who is more proud of his faith in Christ than any political aspirations he might have. And it would certainly be improper for me to call that man's name, but his initials are the same as our Lord's.
Patrick Miller: So there you have it.
Keith Simon: Yeah you caught it, JC. Jimmy Carter and Jesus Christ. So that is a full throated endorsement by the keynote speaker of the Southern Baptist Convention. And like you said it is hard to imagine, but Jimmy Carter was very upfront and vocal about his faith in Christ.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, he was a southern baptist himself. He was a Sunday school teacher. And he was by all accounts a man of character, which is what the keynote speaker just said qualifies him for office.
Keith Simon: He said, " Jesus is the most important person in my life." Now he wasn't expected to win, but evangelicals showed up in big numbers to vote for him. Pat Robertson, you know of the Christian Coalition and CBN, he endorsed Jimmy Carter.
Patrick Miller: Probably the last Democrat he endorsed if I had to take a wild gander.
Keith Simon: Probably so. So Carter ends up winning 49% of the evangelical vote.
Patrick Miller: And that is, by the way, again the last time a Democrat won any significant number of evangelical votes in an election. Now I just have to say something, this is my personal history. Jimmy Carter was one of the first authors I ever read as a Christian on the topic of being a Christian. And if you read him today he doesn't even really sound like a Democrat either, he sounds like something that's completely in between the two. But I only say it to say I remember reading his book, which is very much a inaudible autobiography, and thinking this is a man who's very sincere about his faith. And I think that's what people saw and why they voted for him.
Keith Simon: I've heard interviews with Jimmy Carter and he's obviously an older gentlemen, but I would say that his faith has liberalized over the years.
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: He's not the same kind of Christian that you and I would call ourselves. I'm not trying to make a statement about his heart or about his relationship with God, I'm just saying that he's a very progressive Christian at this point in time. But I don't think in 1976 when he was running that was necessarily true, at least that's not how he talked.
Patrick Miller: And to that point by the way, I mean he's actually changed a lot even in the last ten years. The book I was referencing, some of the chapters in there, he talks about science and faith, warfare and nuclear power, and these shaped by views. But then catch this, he has a chapter on divorce critiquing people who get divorces, he has a chapter on homosexuality critiquing homosexuality. Now again he's done some about faces on these things, but at that time and even when I read him he seemed to be a sincere follower of Jesus.
Keith Simon: But what happened is that the evangelicals lost their enthusiasm for Carter when they found out that he held more liberal policy positions. For example, Jimmy Carter was okay with the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment that we referred to earlier. He supported the courts decision to remove the tax exempt status from Bob Jones University. So what they felt like is, " We have a person who calls himself an evangelical and says Jesus is a big deal in his life, and is a person of character, but they don't like his policy." And it's interesting that all of a sudden policy trumps faith and character.
Patrick Miller: Yeah this is where that really begins to happen for the first time. One other thing worth mentioning is that Jimmy Carter was widely considered unmasculine. He wasn't strong enough on foreign policy, he wasn't strong enough in the military, the-
Keith Simon: Were you alive in the Iran hostage crisis?
Patrick Miller: No, I was not alive for it.
Keith Simon: I mean every single night Ted Koppel would come on Nightline and report what happened in Iran hostage crisis-
Patrick Miller: What's happening?
Keith Simon: And it totally destroyed Jimmy Carter's presidency.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely. And he came across as not being tough on communists, which we already know that's a big no, no. And he was interested in slowing nuclear proliferation, which interestingly Graham actually supported, but most of the evangelical right eventually really presses against. They want a strong, masculine, anti- communist leader. And you get why, we've talked a lot about this sense of hierarchy that was present in evangelicalism. And the military was not just a place of hierarchy, it was a vision of hierarchy that was widely embraced.
Keith Simon: So the evangelical Christians are looking around and they're saying, " What are we going to do now? Because we elected a Christian, we were all excited about that. But it turns out he has a different set of policy prescriptions than we want to advocate for. We've got to figure out what's out next move?" And it turns out their next move is to form the Moral Majority. There are a few key names to keep in mind when we're talking about how the Moral Majority started. But the main name is Jerry Falwell, who we've already discussed. He is the founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Patrick Miller: He's also the founder of one of those segregation academies.
Keith Simon: Segregated academies. Founder of Liberty University, and a person who is very against Christians and churches and pastors being involved in politics. Well guess what? All that changed. Now to show you how radical this change is I want to take you back to March 21, 1965, which is the same day as the march on Selma. Same day. That evening Jerry Falwell goes into his church and says this, " I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ and begin doing anything else including fighting communism and participating in civil rights reforms." So he goes before his church and says, " Look I have got to be about the pure gospel, I'm not going to even fight communism. I'm not going to argue for civil rights." Well guess what, he must have had a come to Jesus or come to Uncle Sam moment. I don't know what you want to call it.
Patrick Miller: Come to Reagan moment?
Keith Simon: It ends up what it's about.
Patrick Miller: So there's another name you need to know, it's Paul Weyrich. That's a name I didn't know until I started reading this stuff, but his story's interesting. In 1970 at the age of 16, the ripe old age of 16, he visits Philadelphia where he has catholic family and he begins to realize that catholics and protestants actually have a lot in common politically. And so he starts advocating to unify Christian all together under one big public political banner. He's trying to build bridges based on those common values.
Keith Simon: What he sees is there's an opportunity here for the church to have a big political influence, but only if baptists and catholics will unite behind something. Behind a common agenda.
Patrick Miller: Catch this quote from him. He said, " To get these people, who really have the same morals, who have the same ideals, but who come at it from different traditions to work together," this is what he says he has to do. He says, " I thought to myself, why are these people going in different directions politically? This doesn't make any sense. This country is falling apart and they're going in opposite directions. They ought to be working together because they agree on essential things."
Keith Simon: Yeah so Paul Weyrich is seeing this opportunity, he's trying to unite protestants and catholics. Pastors are resisting it, but he's got to figure out a way to find some issue that they'll unite behind.
Patrick Miller: And it's worth noting that the various things that he tried to use to unite people together. He tried to unite people over school prayer, over pro- life, over the Equal Rights Amendments. But again this is a quote from Paul Weyrich, one of the co founders of the Moral Majority. He says, " What galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA. I am living witness to that because I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed. What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter's intervention against Christian schools."
Keith Simon: Remember this, the Bob Jones controversy and whether the IRS could revoke their tax exempt status.
Patrick Miller: He said, " Jimmy Carter's intervention against Christian schools, trying to deny them tax exempt status on the basis," catch what he says here, " Of so- called defacto segregation." What he's trying to say here is that eventually those schools do start to integrate, in fact by the time these cases are...
Keith Simon: Adjudicated before the Supreme Court.
Patrick Miller: They have inter-
Keith Simon: They have integrated to a large extent.
Patrick Miller: But that's not what the supreme court case was ever about, it's about back, unpaid taxes when they were discriminating well after the Civil Rights Act.
Keith Simon: Well and Paul Weyrich wasn't the only one who said that abortion wasn't the real driving force. Ed Dobson, who was one of the leaders right under Falwell and the Moral Majority, he confirmed that abortion wasn't a big topic back then. It wasn't something they talked about. It wasn't really going to galvanize a movement.
Patrick Miller: So let's talk for a second about how this group of pastors became called the Moral Majority. So we're going to listen to another clip from the documentary we heard earlier about the rise of the religious right.
Keith Simon: It starts with Jerry Falwell's voice.
Jerry Falwell: I convened a meeting here in Lynchburg back in those days. I'm going to guess it was... Oh 1979.
Keith Simon: This is another activist.
Jerry Falwell: Probably early'79.
Speaker 14: Which I invited many of my friends in Washington with whom I had been talking about this thing.
Keith Simon: Here's Paul Weyrich.
Paul Weyrich: It was in the course of that conversation in Lynchburg where Paul Weyrich made the famous statement to Dr. Falwell, " I believe there is a moral majority out there ready to be organized so that they see that what they're battling is the same thing and they need to be unified." Falwell stopped me and he said, " Go back to what you said earlier." Well I misinterpreted him and I started to say something. And, " No," he said. " You started out by saying out there, there is something. What did you call that?" And I had to think of what I said. And finally I said, " Oh I said there was a moral majority." And he said, " That's it." He turned to his guy and he said-
Jerry Falwell: "That's what I'm going to call the organization. Moral Majority."
Keith Simon: So this is the beginning of the Moral Majority that leads to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It is a group of Christians, catholic and protestant-
Patrick Miller: Evangelicals.
Keith Simon: Working together to get their president elected. And their president remember, the one they want is no longer the Christian man who has good character, it's a person who advocates for their policies.
Patrick Miller: That's exactly right. So Jimmy Carter is running up against Ronald Reagan. And they say, " We will vote for the person who's going to have their view on schools," as we've already said that's a major issue. " Who was pro- life, and who believes that biblical morals should shape American polity How we think about life together." Now again I just want to say, some people are going to think that we're saying abortion didn't matter to these people. What we've said again and again is that abortion was late to the game. There's a guy named Francis Schaeffer who very authentically was pro- life and he did a lot of work to help pastors become pro- life. He's the person who actually got Jerry Falwell to become pro- life. And so by this time the abortion issue has become a big issue on their platform-
Keith Simon: I think in 1978 that's the year that Falwell preaches his first sermon ever on abortion. So it is, I will say that it was authentic. It just was late to the game in 1978.
Patrick Miller: It was late to the game.
Keith Simon: That's a good way of saying it.
Patrick Miller: That's what inaudible but this makes the choice of Ronald Reagan a interesting decision, because Ronald Reagan had rather famously passed the most liberalizing abortion bill in the country when he was governor of California.
Keith Simon: Same for the no- fault divorce.
Patrick Miller: And then add to that when you talk about his just personal credentials, he was divorced and he was not a church goer and he didn't give to charitable or religious causes.
Keith Simon: So Ronald Reagan is running against two evangelicals, Jimmy Carter and an independent candidate named John Anderson. Now let me just say, I'm very pro Ronald Reagan. I look up to him and think he was one of our better presidents, if not the best president in my lifetime. So this isn't a Reagan bashing thing, it's just trying to contrast the candidates and what the evangelical political movement wanted from their presidential candidate.
Patrick Miller: You know it's funny for me, I think it was Mark Twain who said, " History doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme." When we look at the character and past attitudes of Reagan-
Keith Simon: Don't you dare-
Patrick Miller: Oh I'm going there.
Keith Simon: Don't you dare compare Ronald Reagan with Donald Trump.
Patrick Miller: Do you know anyone else who used to have liberal abortion views, who was once divorced, who really wasn't a churchgoer, maybe not much of a giver to charitable causes? Is that a rhyme?
Keith Simon: I'm moving on.
Patrick Miller: What rhymes with inaudible
Keith Simon: I'm angry.
Patrick Miller: What rhymes with rhyme? Okay.
Keith Simon: I'm angry.
Patrick Miller: I know. I'm not making moral equivalencies here, is that someone's going to hear me saying that. That's not what I'm trying to do. I'm simply saying, we've hit this question of character versus policy, faith versus the action we want, pastor versus president.
Keith Simon: I think that is fair, that evangelicals have now told us what they really think is important and they found that in Ronald Reagan.
Patrick Miller: Oh you know what else they have in common? Neither of them ever fought in a war, which was a misconception about Ronald Reagan because he was an actor who played many military heroes. And that's another thing that Ronald Reagan really offered the religious right, he shared their hierarchal vision of America and was very much so a very strong masculine, male character. He changes position to being pro- life. He was tough on communism, he was militaristic, he wanted more nuclear proliferation.
Keith Simon: He also came out and made a direct appeal to evangelicals on terms that they understood and they liked. Here it is, Ronald Reagan speaking to a group of evangelicals.
Ronald Reagan: I was asked once what book I would choose if I were shipwrecked on an island and could have only one book for the rest of my life. I replied that I knew of only one book that could be read and re- read and continue to be a challenge. The Bible. All the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in that single book.
Keith Simon: You can imagine the evangelicals loved that.
Patrick Miller: Just that statement, amen.
Keith Simon: Yeah absolutely.
Patrick Miller: I'm going to get right behind that and say yes, absolutely. And of course what we're drawing at here was that he was not a man who had previously been known for being much of a Bible reader, lover, et cetera.
Keith Simon: So also in 1980 during the election he's speaking at a huge leadership conference. It's in Dallas. A lot of evangelicals are in the room, and he is going to speak to them but he's not super comfortable talking in front of this group speaking their language. So there was a guy who would probably call himself an evangelist, his name was James Roberson. And he's kind of coaching Reagan through what to say. So here's a clip from a documentary, you hear James Robison and Ronald Reagan's voices.
James Robison: To Mr. Reagan that because it was a bipartisan, that it would be in his best interests, since we could not and would not endorse him as a body, that it would probably be wise if his opening comment would be I know this is non-bipartisan so you can't endorse me. But I want you to know I endorse you.
Ronald Reagan: I know this is nonpartisan gathering, and so I know that you can't endorse me. But I only bought that up because I want you to know that I endorse you and what you're doing.
Patrick Miller: This is a very famous speech and moment where we see evangelicals not explicitly endorsing Ronald Reagan but the marriage has now happened. And-
Keith Simon: He's talking their language, he's saying things they want to hear. They're getting excited. They go all out, they register more people than ever.
Patrick Miller: crosstalk said there's three steps, save, get baptized, and register to vote.
Keith Simon: I mean that's a crazy statement, can you imagine us saying that in a church? We'd be fired and quite rightly so.
Patrick Miller: People think that we're salty.
Keith Simon: Yeah I mean these people were controversial, at least according to the way we think about it.
Patrick Miller: Paul Weyrich works incredibly hard to get Christians registered to vote, both now and later on. They end up registering 8. 5 million voters in five years.
Keith Simon: So Reagan gets elected and the question is what will he do now with his evangelical supporters?
Patrick Miller: He's going to end abortion, right?
Keith Simon: And what happens is that he, according to Mick Deaver his Chief of Staff, focused on the economy. He proposed a prayer amendment to the schools, which is one thing he had promised. But as soon as that amendment died he let it die, he didn't do anything to resurrect it. He doesn't help Bob Jones University before the Supreme Court. He does really nothing on the abortion front. So then he appoints Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court. She's the first woman nominated for the Supreme Court. And a lot of people were questioning her as an appointment because she didn't seem to have great pro- life credentials.
Patrick Miller: She was incredibly circumspect about it, she wouldn't really answer questions on the topic of abortion. And as it turns out when a case came before the Supreme Court that had the potential of overturning Roe v. Wade she ended up going the opposite direction and she did not defend the pro- life cause.
Keith Simon: At least not to the extent that the Evangelical Church had hoped she would. But here's one thing I think is really important moment that happens in the Sandra Day O'Connor nomination process is that President Reagan called Jerry Falwell and says, " You're going to hear things about her, she's not going to sound as pro- life as you want her to be. But I'm asking you to just stay quiet and listen." And Falwell agrees. And at that moment he stops, the Moral Majority stops speaking truth to power, speaking about their convictions, and instead is willing to play a different role. An advisor role, a role that has to get on with the party program in order to keep their place at the table.
Patrick Miller: So one of the leaders of the Moral Majority, Ed Dobson, he talked about this later on in that same documentary we've been listening to. So let's listen to what Ed Dobson says about that.
Ed Dobson: One of the realities of politics is you can choose, and I'll used a biblical paradigm, you can choose either to be an advisor or a prophet. If you choose to be a prophet then you don't have a lot of influence on the political reality but you are always free to speak what you perceive to be the truth for the current historical moment. Or you can be an advisor with a sense of truth, a sense of value, but your objective's simply to influence the process. And I think the Moral Majority move from a prophetic role into more an advisor role, and lost some of its ability to speak against even the administration it was for.
Keith Simon: Now that's an amazing statement by one of the top leaders of the Moral Majority. Ed Dobson said this, after the Sandra Day O'Connor nomination where she's appointed he says this, " Once they invite you up to the big house then you have to go by the rules of the big house." And that's what they were willing to do, in order to keep a seat at the table they were willing to go by the rules of the political leaders that they had championed.
Patrick Miller: So the simple reality is the causes that the Moral Majority critiqued Jimmy Carter for not carrying forward, Ronald Reagan by and large actually fails to carry forward himself. The one thing they did get out of him though, that they didn't get with Jimmy Carter, was a seat at the table. They got power, they got prestige, they were taken from the cultural back water right into the White House. Again a quote from Ed Dobson. He says, " Now all of a sudden the gatekeepers of culture had invited us in. It meant we were somebody, that we mattered, that we cared, that we were making a difference. That all of the years in the backwoods of the culture were over. We had come home and the home was the White House." It just shows how tempting power and prestige can be and what we will often give up to get that thing. Reagan offered at least one other thing to the Moral Majority which was a strong masculine, anti- communist attitude, and that was one thing that they strongly affirmed along with his economic policies. But as the years went on the Moral Majority ends up losing steam. Now this is in part because Reagan was a widely popular president, and so he didn't need the Moral Majority to get him elected the second time. During this exact same period, evangelicals are losing their feet. You have all of these teller evangelists in huge widely known pastors who were going through sex scandals. And now all of a sudden the ones who were critiquing culture saying you've bought sex into the mainstream. Well it turns out that's actually happening in their own house. Towards the end of the'80s, or throughout the'80s, we begin to see that in the Southern Baptist Convention, what's called the conservative resurgence. Which is the point at which the Southern Baptist Convention goes from being a largely moderate group to a very conservative group. And this was a very intentional and some would say hostile takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Keith Simon: And in 1988 George H. W. Bush, so this is the first Bush, Reagan's vice president, wins the election against Michael Dukakis. Now he's not an evangelical. He never really pretended to be, but he eventually tries to talk a little bit like it. George H. W. Bush might have been the president with the best resume ever to enter the White House. He was ambassador to China, he was the CIA director, he had fought in the military. I mean...
Patrick Miller: Vice president.
Keith Simon: A guy who was courageous, a guy who was... Whatever a man's man means, I mean I think they would have a picture of George H. W. Bush next to it. And yet he was considered unmasculine, he was considered milk toast. He was considered weak.
Patrick Miller: Milk toast?
Keith Simon: You don't like the word milk toast?
Patrick Miller: I just, I don't know what that... I think I know what it means.
Keith Simon: Milk toast is kind of the verbal equivalent of womp womp.
Patrick Miller: Like bland? Milk and toast, bland.
Keith Simon: No milk toast was a inaudible But I used to think it was milk plus toast. Anyways it was a very milk toast, a womp womp reception.
Patrick Miller: And I think what makes him interesting is that the Soviet Union falls during his presidency.
Keith Simon: And he does a masterful job orchestrating that whole thing.
Patrick Miller: Yes!
Keith Simon: I mean he ends the Society Union without bloodshed.
Patrick Miller: He does.
Keith Simon: It's remarkable.
Patrick Miller: It's remarkable. And yet something happens to evangelicals. Evangelicals have, going all the way back to the God and country Christianity of the 1950s, we've had an enemy. It was the Godless communists. They'd finally lost. And as it turns out, evangelicalism has always been rooted in this sense of cultural enmity and adding into that a sense of cultural fear. Well what do you do when your enemy's gone? Who do you turn the cannons towards when all of a sudden the bad guy in the world is no longer in existence? These are some of the questions that really begin to shape and form what happens over the next few decades of the religious right, which is where we're going to go in our next podcast. Now you might be thinking right now, gosh you haven't said a lot of names or people that I've heard of. I think it's in the next podcast where we're going to begin moving towards some of the names that are a little more common in today's parlance.
Keith Simon: So when the Moral Majority crumbles it gives way to a new generation, a new set of leaders, a new way of thinking about engagement with the world. So these are names like Albert Mohler or the Gospel Coalition or the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller.
Patrick Miller: John Piper.
Keith Simon: But there's also a different set of evangelical leaders. These are the name it, claim it. The prosperity gospel people that begin to play a bigger and bigger role in the cultural engagement.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. Kind of the heirs of the inaudible evangelists crosstalk
Keith Simon: These are people who are-
Patrick Miller: Joyce Meyers, Paula White, Ken Copeland, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar.
Keith Simon: Did you just read down Trump's advisory counsel?
Patrick Miller: Oh!
Keith Simon: Joking. But it does. I mean some of those people are on-
Patrick Miller: Oh they are,
Keith Simon: Trump's religious advisory council.
Patrick Miller: But I think it highlights a point that the next iteration of evangelicalism is a evangelicalism that at the beginning you see these fractures which are certainly there that seem to divide and separate people. And as time goes on those fractures begin to get wider and wider. And they finally crumble, they break apart in 2016 and 2020.
Keith Simon: So as we wrap up this conversation and look forward to the next one, my guess is you're starting to ask some questions. And maybe one of the questions you're asking is when Jesus calls us to change the world, did he intend for us to use political means to do that? Or is he thinking of a political revolution? When it says that the disciples in the Book of Acts says the disciples turned the world upside down, was that because they got people elected to the right positions? They got the right policies approved? Because somewhere along the way evangelical Christians in America, conservative Bible believing, Jesus loving evangelicals decided that they were going to enact God's policies through laws. And I'm wondering if that was a wise decision?
Patrick Miller: And along the same lines, the episodes, the stories we've shared here show me at least two things, which is that my version, every version of Christianity is shaped by its cultural moment. People will look back on me and what I said and what I have done and they will be able to critique me because I had blind spots.
Keith Simon: I critique you right now.
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: In present time inaudible
Patrick Miller: It's really-
Keith Simon: I don't even have to wait.
Patrick Miller: And of course the best position for me to be is in a self- reflective, self- critical mode where I can, at least best as I can, try to see what some of those things are. But let me add to that, and just say that it makes the point to me that a lot of times we want to get into government in power to change government in power. But the reality is that often government in power change us instead.
Keith Simon: Yeah. Everybody says they're going to go to Washington D. C. to change it but it turns out that Washington D. C. changes them. So another question you might be asking, is it right for Christians, is it wise for Christians to expect America to be pro- Christian? Has that ever happened before? What are the effects of that on our faith-
Patrick Miller: What does that even mean?
Keith Simon: When there is a marrying of Christianity and government. Christianity and politics. Especially partisan politics. Is that ever been good for Christianity and for our faith?
Patrick Miller: Well and you're making me think about your interview with Justin Giboney when he talked about choosing your witness over the win, and I do think that's what often happens when we try to take over the government is we end up emphasizing winning more than we end up emphasizing our witness to Jesus.
Keith Simon: If we expect America to be a Christian nation then we're going to be very discouraged when it goes away from that vision. And we're going to feel like we have to get involved in politics to make it more Christian.
Patrick Miller: Taking back America.
Keith Simon: Make America Christian again. And that's going to lead down a certain path. I'm just asking, is that the path that we want to be on?
Patrick Miller: So our next episode, part three, is coming up. Again we'll get into the names and a lot of the events that are probably more historically recognizable to you. And I hope you find this history interesting. I think it's important to understand the genealogy, the genetics of not just who you are and your family but of the movement that you are a part of. I don't get to un- evangelical myself, this is how I became a Christian and I need to accept my history and think through it reflectively so that-
Keith Simon: Learn from it, right?
Patrick Miller: Yeah, so we can move forward in a better way. And this is the biblical model. This is why Israel always retold the story of the Exodus, which wasn't just, " Hey we got out of Pharaoh's back yard." It was also, " And then we worshiped a golden calf."
Keith Simon: You got to tell the history honestly if you're going to learn from it and if you're going to carry on and be a faithful Christian. So this is our 23andMe moment. We're going back, we're checking on our lineage, we're seeing who we came from so that we can learn. Not so we can condemn, so we can learn. I probably would have done the same thing these people did, I'm not saying I'm any better than they are. I just want to learn from what they did right and what they did wrong, just like future generations will learn from what we did right and wrong. Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful make sure to subscribe and leave the review.
Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.
Keith Simon: Stop, no. Just be honest, reviews help other people find us.
Patrick Miller: Okay. At the very least you can share today's episode. Maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.
Keith Simon: And if you didn't like this episode awesome, tell us why you disagree on twitter @ truthovertribe_ We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.
This week is the second of a three-part series about the religious right. In the first part of this series, we focused on 1945-1960, when America began to think of itself as a Christian nation. In today's episode, we focus on the '60s, '70s, and '80s, when the religious right forms and the Moral Majority begins. We discuss the role that Billy Graham played in politics, second-wave feminism, the Civil Rights Movement, and other impactful events from this period that caused the religious right to not only form, but begin to collapse.