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Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (Book Summary)


As I read books, I provide myself with a short book summary and relevant book notes for future reference. Others have asked about me sharing those notes in the past. So....here you go.


Here's my book summary of Bad Faith by Richard Ballmar.


Book Summary of Bad Faith

Book in a Sentence

In this quick work (91 pages), Richard Ballmer clears up some misconceptions about the religious right and its goals in its early stages.


Key Insights

1. Evangelicals have not always been staunch opponents of abortion. It was a "Catholic issue" decades ago.


2. Race was the central issue in the religious right's "social" efforts, including Bob Jones University wanting to fight against integrating its schools.


My Rating

8/10

 

Book Notes

 

Graham quote on religion and politics:

I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it. —Billy Graham, Parade Magazine, 1981


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 9). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Different kind of evangelical:

The program of social reform unleashed by Finney and other evangelicals early in the nineteenth century stands in marked contrast to the agenda of the Religious Right.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 22). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Posmillenialism impact on social reform:

Postmillennialism is the doctrine that Jesus will return to earth after the millennium, the thousand-year period of peace and righteousness predicted in the book of Revelation. The corollary was that it was incumbent on the faithful to reform society and pave the way for the “second coming” of Jesus.

Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 24). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

The impact of premillenialism:

The consequence of Darby’s premillennialism (Jesus would return before the millennium) was to absolve evangelicals of responsibility for addressing social ills. If Jesus was going to return at any moment, why bother with making this transitory world a better place?


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 25). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.


 

Early 20th century practices:

Many evangelicals during this time, drawing on their premillennial beliefs and their convictions about the corruptions of American society, refused to register to vote.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 30). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

The Chicago Declaration:

The Chicago Declaration was a remarkable document in that it reaffirmed evangelicalism’s historical commitment to those Jesus called “the least of these.”


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 33). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Evangelicals not always on the abortion train:

Evangelicals considered abortion a “Catholic issue” until the late 1970s...Evangelicals in the late 1960s and throughout most of the 1970s by and large refused to see abortion as a defining issue, much less a matter that would summon them to the front lines of political activism.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (pp. 38-39). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Criswell supported Roe:

When the Roe decision was handed down on January 22, 1973, W. A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expressed his satisfaction with the ruling.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 40). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Falwell didn't preach on abortion until five years after Roe:

Falwell issued no public statement on abortion until 1975 and, by his own admission, did not preach against abortion until February 26, 1978, more than five years after the Roe v. Wade decision.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 42). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Issue wasn't Roe, but race:

The real catalyst for the Religious Right was a court decision, but it was not Roe v. Wade. It was a lower court ruling in the District Court for the District of Columbia in a case called Green v. Connally. On June 30, 1971, the court ruled that any organization that engaged in racial segregation or racial discrimination was not by definition a charitable institution, and therefore it had no claims on tax-exempt status. The Supreme Court’s Coit v. Green decision upheld the district court, and the Internal Revenue Service then began making inquiries about the racial policies of so-called segregation academies as well as the fundamentalist school Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina, which boasted a long history of racial exclusion.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 43). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Openly defiant:

The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 45). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

The assault on segregationist schools:

Evangelical leaders, prodded by Weyrich, chose to interpret the IRS ruling against segregationist schools as an assault on the integrity and the sanctity of the evangelical subculture, ignoring the fact that exemption from taxes is itself a form of public subsidy.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 50). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

When abortion became viable:

The midterm elections in 1978, when pro-life Republicans defeated favored Democratic candidates in New Hampshire, Iowa, and Minnesota, persuaded Weyrich that opposition to abortion could work as a populist issue. In those races, antiabortion activists (principally Roman Catholics) leafleted church parking lots on the final weekend of the campaign; two days later, in a plebiscite with a very low turnout, the favored Democratic candidates lost.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (pp. 52-53). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Carter's opponent more liberal on abortion:

Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 55). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Reagan sound bite:

When James Robison, a televangelist from Dallas, Texas, asked Reagan about his faith, Reagan told the preacher that Jesus was more real to him than his own mother.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 57). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Reagan mentions Bob Jones issue:

Reflecting the fury of evangelical leaders with the attempts to rescind the tax exemption of racially segregated institutions, Reagan excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the Internal Revenue Service “against independent schools.”


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 58). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Abortion myth and magnolia myth:

I believe the abortion myth matters because unacknowledged and unaddressed racism has a tendency to fester. Black codes and Jim Crow laws emerged out of the “magnolia myth,” the enduring fiction that blacks were inferior.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 61). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Reagan's racism:

Reagan, an FBI informer during the McCarthy era, plunged into California politics in 1964 to support the repeal of the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which sought to eliminate racial discrimination in the rental and sale of residential properties. On the federal level, Reagan opposed both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, positions that prefigured his opposition to affirmative action, which he characterized as “reverse discrimination.”


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 62). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Coded language of Reagan:

Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial campaign (and others thereafter) made liberal use of the slogan “law and order,” a phrase with racist undertones that, like “states’ rights,” is generally construed as code language for keeping blacks in their place.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 62). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Reagan and monkeys from African countries:

In a 1971 conversation taped by Richard Nixon, Reagan remarked about “those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 62). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

Falwell and Civil Rights Act:

Falwell referred to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as “civil wrongs,”


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 64). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

LaHaye's letter to Wheaton:

Tim LaHaye, for example, a graduate of Bob Jones University and, later, one of the charter board members for Moral Majority, wrote a letter upbraiding the president of Wheaton College for allowing an event on campus honoring the memory of King shortly after his assassination. LaHaye characterized the civil rights leader as “an out-right theological liberal heretic.”


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 65). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

What single-issue voting does:

Single-issue voting on abortion makes white evangelicals complicit on a whole range of policies that would be anathema to nineteenth-century evangelical reformers, not to mention the Bible itself.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 72). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

From dissenter to chief justice:

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Bob Jones University v. United States case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against the university in an 8–1 decision. Three years later, Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.


Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (p. 75). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.




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