Carl McIntire and the Anticommunist Origins of the Religious Right

Friday, January 7, 2011: 9:30 AM
Tremont Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Markku Ruotsila , University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Recent scholarship has argued that Cold War anticommunism was key among the tools with which conservative evangelicals in the United States negotiated their return to the mainstream of American public conversation. While useful, such renderings of the anticommunist leaven in the repoliticization of religious conservatives remain misleading as long as they remain pivoted, as they currently are, on the small cadre of reputedly moderate neo-evangelical intellectuals. Entirely obscured in such portrayals is the agency of the militant separatist fundamentalists whose engagement with anticommunism was at once broader in scope, much more systematic, organized and pervasive, and of significantly earlier lineage than that of their neo-evangelical rivals.

This paper will argue that the roots of the Religious Right do indeed lie in Cold War Christian anticommunism but that the lines of influence stretch as much, if not more, from the fundamentalists gathered around the controversial pastor Carl McIntire and his American (and International) Council of Christian Churches as they do from the neo-evangelicals. A pivotal transitional figure who nurtured, renovated and passed on to a new generation the anticollectivist public doctrines of the original fundamentalist movement, in his anticommunist work McIntire pioneered, as well, the faith-based mass demonstration and petition, the political use of Christian radio and the lobbying of government officials that the later Religious Right perfected. A reasonably direct line can even be drawn from the organizations that he led to those that he inspired into being to those that the Religious Right itself created. Rethinking the emergence of the Religious Right in terms that privilege its founders’ actual original affiliations, both theological and organizational, in the fundamentalist anticommunism of the Cold War contributes to a more contextual and inclusive, thus a historically more accurate representation of the Religious Right’s origins.

Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>