History, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: History, Under the Supervision of Professor Benjamin G. Rader. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Joseph D. Harder


In the 1970s, a movement arose among white American evangelicals and fundamentalists that has been labeled variously as the “Christian Right,” or more broadly, “the Religious Right.” While they had not been entirely apolitical in the middle decades of the twentieth century, in the 1970s many theologically conservative Protestants began to organize specifically around their religious concerns, forming a number of groups—of which the Moral Majority was the best-known—in an effort to “bring the nation back to God.” They also moved to the political right, joining forces with “New Right” activists who were seeking to push the Republican Party in a more conservative direction. This dissertation examines the deep roots, long development and vigorous deployment of the ideology of the leaders of this movement. This ideology can be described as a “political theology,” since these evangelicals and fundamentalists thought and wrote in theological categories. Leaders like Jerry Falwell believed that the nation had been founded in a special relationship with God; that it was now being corrupted by an anti-God philosophy; that things as varied as abortion, the push for gay and lesbian rights, the lack of prayer in public schools, the Equal Rights Amendment, and attempts to reduce the nation’s nuclear weapons were evidence of this corruption; and that the time might be short before God judged America. In the words of II Chronicles 7:14, these leaders sought to “heal their land.”

Adviser: Benjamin G. Rader