Jerry Falwell

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Jerry Falwell died in May this year and he was an American fundamentalist Christian pastor and televangelist. He was a founder of the Moral Majority. We have discussed in class the events and influences in the 1980s that influenced Margaret Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale and Falwell was certainly one of them.

The Moral Majority was an organisation made up of conservative Christian political action committees, which campaigned on issues its members believed were important to maintaining its Christian conception of moral law, a conception they believed represented the opinions of the majority of Americans (hence the movement’s name). With a membership of millions, the Moral Majority was one of the largest conservative lobby groups in the United States. Some issues for which it campaigned:

  • outlawing abortion
  • opposition to state recognition and acceptance of homosexuality
  • enforcement of a traditionalist vision of family life
  • censorship of media outlets that promote what it labelled as an ‘anti-family’ agenda

The Moral Majority had adherents in the two major United States political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, though it exercised far more influence on the former.

Falwell strongly advocated beliefs and practices he felt were taught by the Bible. He believed in the quintessential patriarchal family. Ideally the father is the primary bread-winner. The wife takes care of the home and raising the young children until they’re old enough to attend a Christian school. The entire family was expected to play an active role in their local church. Falwell’s company “The Moral Majority” was founded on four basic tenets, 1) pro-family, 2) pro-life, 3) pro-defense and 4) pro-Israel.

The church, Falwell asserted, was the cornerstone of a successful family. Not only was it a place for spiritual learning and guidance, but also a gathering place for fellowship and socialising with like-minded individuals. The dialogues started one-on-one after service among parishioners would often build into more focused speeches or organised goals. Dr. Falwell could then present to a larger audience via his various media outlets.

Falwell was the organisation’s best known spokesperson throughout the 1980s. By 1982, Moral Majority surpassed Christian Voice in size and influence. The organisation dissolved officially in 1989 but lives on in the Christian Coalition network initiated by Pat Robertson.

Falwell is often quoted and I have included some of his words below that you may find useful in understanding the context of the novel.

“The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country”

“If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being”

“It appears that America’s anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centred men’s movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening”

And finally, this last quote links to my post on english@kkc about the misuse of literally-

“Someone must not be afraid to say moral perversion is wrong. If we do not act now, homosexuals will own America! If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way… and our nation will pay a terrible price!”

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