Carl McIntire played a very active role in right-wing religious media and through this role, he ended up being instrumental in the move towards the New Christian Right and away from fundamentalism. McIntire used his religious broadcast to discuss very right-wing views on politics in addition to religion. This contradicted the Fairness Doctrine created in 1949 by the FCC, which stated that broadcasters operating in the public interest were “expected to provide commentary on controversial issues of public importance” (Hendershot). If one perspective was given on such issues, the opposing point of view also had to be given time to speak. McIntire believed this doctrine to be unconstitutional, on the basis that it was practically censorship and it limited freedom of speech. However, McIntire ultimately lost the fight against the FCC, and as a result, many stations lessened their support of other more radical right-wing programs.
For the most part, McIntire has been considered a symbol of the Old Christian Right, left behind by the new evangelicals for not having their same worldliness, which is why he faded from relevance. However, this view does not consider how modern McIntire’s approach was when trying to disseminate his ideas. His use of the broadcasts and rallies actually attracted a lot of attention to his viewpoints, albeit not in the way he intended. His disdain for neo-evangelicalism made him the image of what this new cause was not, which really only helped to push more people towards it. In this way, he inadvertently, but actively contributed to the triumph and solidification of the New Christian Right.
The common perception that the New Christian political engagement began with the Moral Majority is inaccurate, proved by McIntire’s following and political engagement. Still, McIntire’s influence on leading more people towards neo-evangelicalism was just one of a number of factors that contributed to the formation of this group. John F. Kennedy’s election, which signified a Catholic president in power, was not well-received by the evangelicals. Their negative reactions to the civil rights movement, the introduction of sex education into the curriculums of public schools, and the Supreme Court decisions against religious practices, such as Bible readings in schools, gave evangelicals major motivation to enter into politics. I think this involvement of religion directly into the political sphere was the beginning of the conservative consensus in the U.S.
I found it interesting how this article and McIntire’s story showed something that a lot of time people learning about history overlook, which is that many times history is told by the victors, which skews people’s perspectives on it. In this case, the narrative has been told mostly from the point of view of the neo-evangelical victors. That is why it is important to look a little deeper to get more perspectives like Herndershot did with McIntire’s legacy. Biases are unavoidable with history, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is necessary to acknowledge this to avoid only seeing a fantasy version of the past.
2 thoughts on “No more Carl McIntire erasure”
I find it interesting that the government was so fast to instill the FCC and the Fairness Doctrine. I would have thought that having laws about the radio would have come much later. I suppose though, that many Americans did not like what they were hearing on the radio and felt they had to go to the government and complain (as they should). Censoring all of this right winged, Christian fundamentalist broadcasting marks a left leaning backlash to the rise of the conservatives. It makes me wonder how the FCC went on to censor other forms of media such as television, music, and the internet.
You did a great job at explaining both the consequences of the Fairness Doctrine and how McIntire’s staunch opinions helped clearly define the future of neo-evangelicalism. It is indeed true that history is often told by the victors and with this essay, Hendershot gives readers a good insight to lesser-known characters of this time period. She shares the small successes and large failures of McIntire but with his story, she demonstrates the larger picture of the New Christian Right. This reveals how a large part of the neo-evangelicalism identity is formed through contrast with the Old Christian Right.