Many historians say the modern religious right was birthed in June of 1979. That was the month when the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, an organization tasked with saving the American public from the threat of moral decline. Not coincidentally, Concerned Women for America was formed the same month.
Previously, Evangelical Christians had been reticent to engage in partisan politics. But the cultural revolution of the 1960s brought on a blitzkrieg of social changes that left many religious conservatives feeling as if their way of life was being threatened. In response, the faithful flooded the public square -- millions of them under the Moral Majority's banner -- to influence national elections and legislation. Standing tall at the helm of the movement was the silver-haired Falwell, a man whose presence could silence a room and whose rhetoric would often rouse it to raucousness.
I first met Jerry Falwell in 1999 when I was a senior in high school. My father, a pastor who was about to be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, drove me to Lynchburg, Va., at Dr. Falwell's request. The preacher planned to convince me to attend Liberty University, a task which he executed masterfully. I would arrive at the Evangelical super-school as a freshman in a matter of months.
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