McIntire and the Christian Right

In the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, Carl McIntire was a prominent figure in radio culture, Christianity, and right-wing politics. McIntire was a through and through religious fundamentalist and because of this ideology, he became an instrumental figure to the formation of the Christian Right, specifically the old Christian Right. As Hendershot explains, McIntire “felt that any true fundamentalist had to be involved in politics. To be Christian was to be politically engaged. Whereas most fundamentalists were separatist by definition, McIntire…advocated engagement in worldly affairs (384). Through the use of his sermons and radio-projected voice, McIntire integrated conservative politics into Christian identity. Specifically, McIntire used topics of communism and civil rights to define what was religiously righteous and what was not.

            Another part of McIntire’s fusion of Christianity and politics comes from his public struggle against the Federal Communications Commission and their implementation of the Fairness Doctrine that was created to “prevent abuse of the airwaves” and to ensure that if a controversial issue was being presented, both sides of the argument would be shared (376). As this doctrine stopped McIntire from running his mouth and sharing his “extremist” views, he obviously took issue with it. Hendershot writes that “McIntire saw the NCC arrangement as communistic. The NCC and the networks, with the blessing of the FCC, were controlling what Americans could access on the radio; this was no free market, from his point of view” (378). McIntire saw the doctrine as attacking his political views and therefore, his religion. As McIntire rallied support against the Fairness Doctrine, he strengthened the formation of the Christian Right.

            As Hendershot states, McIntire was “a symbol of the Old Christian Right in conflict with the New Christian Right” (374). With the thought that McIntire’s fundamentalism was too rigid against modern society, neo-evangelicalism was born. Hendershot argues that what separated neo-evangelicalists from McIntire “was not so much the content of their beliefs about the Bible or evangelism or eschatology as the style of their relationship to the culture” (386). The way that neo-evangelicalism was able to interact within “the wider world” and become engaged with culture and politics helped give way to the conservative consensus. For a figure of this new movement, Hendershot points to Billy Graham. She writes that Graham “was a major figure in Youth for Christ, which became a symbol of the new approach: fervent, committed, and also “normal,” middle-class, modern, and far from the old fire-and-brimstone stereotype” (386). This approach that was seen as “normal” and that targeted the middle-class helped gain support for the New Christian Right and therefore, the conservative consensus. Where McIntire’s approach to politics was a failure, neo-evangelicalism succeeded greatly in politics. Hendershot writes that neo-evangelicalism received “a huge boost from Jimmy Carter’s election” and that “opposition to abortion and gay rights would solidify evangelical involvement in politics throughout the 1980s and into the twenty-first century” (386). From my understanding, it was neo-evangelicalism’s relationship with culture and its success in politics that would make it so important to the conservative consensus.

2 thoughts on “McIntire and the Christian Right

  1. Great post. I thought you made a lot of good points about how McIntire gained momentum behind his own beliefs, but ultimately led to the rise of “new conservativism”. He was a prominent example of “old conservatism” by attaching conservative politics to Christianity, and then getting extremely upset when he was not able to broadcast his views on the radio. His extreme views were able to be “brought down” a level, creating “new conservatism” which had similar views but was not as extreme. It was much easier for the working, middle class to get behind this conservatism than McIntire’s.


  2. Great post! You made a lot of good points and had some interesting thoughts! I think it is so crazy that McIntire started as a radio host and became someone who had a lot of “power” and persuaded so many people to believe the same way he did. I also think its odd that religion is being brought into politics, it is a constant argument from both sides (Liberals vs. Conservatives) I think that it is separate, but obviously many people would disagree with me.


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