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Opinion: A new documentary exposes the truth about the religious right

It’s a political movement willing to align with anyone to win.

Matthew Avery Sutton.

Perspective by Matthew Avery Sutton, author of multiple books on religion and politics. He is the chair of the history department and the Berry Distinguished professor of liberal arts at Washington State University. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of WSU.

White evangelicals have developed the dubious reputation of championing morally compromised political candidates — ones who seem to run afoul of their professed values. They overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, and on Election Day this year almost nine out of 10 White evangelicals in Georgia voted for the supposedly antiabortion rights Herschel Walker — who allegedly paid for two abortions and once put a gun to the head of his ex-wife while threatening to kill her — over Baptist minister Raphael G. Warnock.

A new documentary on Hulu focusing on former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., the first major evangelical leader to endorse Trump in 2016, also reveals that some of the religious right’s most influential leaders are as morally questionable as the politicians they support. But for many evangelicals, the ends always justify the means.

“God Forbid” chronicles how Falwell, at the same time he was playing presidential kingmaker, engaged in business ventures with Giancarlo Granda, a former pool attendant who allegedly had a seven-year sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki — one Granda charges Falwell encouraged.

While on the surface this looks like the same old tired story of religious hypocrisy, it is much more than that.

When one digs beneath the tawdry bedroom shenanigans, the story exposes how leadership sometimes functions in the religious right, and how Christian activists’ obsession over political power has transformed American culture.

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Washington Post