FOR A "CHRISTIAN AMERICA": A History of the Religious Right

Ruth Murray Brown, Author . Prometheus $28 (250p) ISBN 978-1-57392-973-8

The Christian Right is a movement largely dominated by men: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, et al. But this was not always the case. As Brown shows in this even-handed but ultimately disappointing study, the social upswell that led to the rise of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition was originally a woman's movement formed to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Its leaders were predominantly Protestant women, mothers and homemakers like Ann Paterson of Oklahoma, who led the charge in the first state to vote down the ERA, and Beverly Findley, head of Women Who Want to be Women. Their faith-based activism and innovative tactics (e.g., baking homemade bread for legislators on the first day of each legislative session) brought them unprecedented success; by the end of the '70s, the ERA was dead and their cause had evolved into a more comprehensive pro-family movement focused on social values. Then the men took over. And it's at this point that Brown's analysis begins to falter. She offers nothing more than thumbnail sketches of the two most powerful Christian Right organizations of the last two decades—the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition—and only terse mini-biographies of their founders, Falwell and Robertson. Nor does Brown provide any real insight into the influence the movement has exerted in the media and in politics (the "Republication Revolution" of 1994 is mentioned only in passing). What readers are left with, then, is an interesting monograph about women in the anti-ERA movement of the 1970s—but it is not a comprehensive history of the Religious Right in America. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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