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Biographer: Jerry Falwell Worked With Catholics, Mormons; Friends With Liberals, Porn King

March 12, 2012|3:55 pm

WASHINGTON – Michael Sean Winters, a biographer of the late Jerry Falwell, said that the controversial preacher and Christian Right leader helped remove the stigma conservative Protestants had working alongside Roman Catholics and Mormons for common political goals.

Winters, author of God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right, was a guest speaker at an event Monday that carried the same title as his book. The event was sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF).

"He dispensed with this idea that you could not be yoked with nonbelievers or non-fundamentalists," said Winters to The Christian Post.

"[Falwell] was very proud of the fact that even in the early years of the Moral Majority it was 30 percent conservative Roman Catholic."

The event focused on the life and political career of Jerry Falwell, from his founding of the conservative political group Moral Majority to his influence on current politics.

Winters believes Falwell would have welcomed partnering with Mormons, as they were part of his political movement back in the 1970s and 1980s.

"They were in the Moral Majority," said Winters to CP.

"I think there is surely going to be openness to working with them on a common moral agenda."

The event was framed as a discussion between Winters and E.J. Dionne, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and opinion columnist at The Washington Post. Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at the PFAWF, gave the opening remarks.

"Reading God's Right Hand was in some ways a trip down memory lane for me," said Montgomery.

"It's that continuing influence of the movement that Falwell launched that makes [Winters'] book so relevant."

"The Religious Right continues to have a powerful influence on our politics and culture….there's no single one face replacement for Jerry Falwell because there are so many of them."

A Man of Friendship

At the discussion-based presentation, Winters talked to those gathered about how one of the amiable qualities of Falwell was his "capacity for friendship."

"He has this incredible capacity for friendship, which extended to people who were not like-minded," said Winters.

Winters noted as examples that Falwell's friendships included people like Ted Kennedy, a liberal political figure, and Larry Flynt, a pornographer who fought Falwell in the courts over issues of defamation and libel.

"Every time he was in Los Angeles, Jerry Falwell would always visit Larry Flynt," said Winters.

"When Falwell died, Flynt wrote this very moving tribute in the L.A. Times how 'we agreed on nothing but he was my friend.'"

Call to Political Activism

Winters also talked about the way Falwell as a public figure galvanized evangelicals and fundamentalists into political activism.

Dionne, who led the discussion with Winters, mentioned how initially Falwell was opposed to being involved in politics, being critical of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts in part because he felt King was mixing church and politics.

"He eventually just came right out and said, 'yeah I am wrong.' He did not pretend that there was no contradiction," said Dionne.

According to Winters, Falwell had begun his political career in the 1960s with his anticommunist sermons and other issues like abortion in the 1970s. However, Falwell initially hesitated at creating the Moral Majority and the effort to galvanize conservative Christians.

"He thought that his people in the pews were not ready for this and would react badly to his getting politically involved," said Winters.

Michael Sean Winters' God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right was released in January.

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/biographer-jerry-falwell-worked-with-catholics-mormons-friends-with-liberals-porn-king-71268/