|About the Book|
Although the New Religious Right has attracted considerable media attention in recent years, little has been written about its historical roots. In this groundbreaking book, L. Edward Hicks examines the career of George S. Benson, whose work as aMoreAlthough the New Religious Right has attracted considerable media attention in recent years, little has been written about its historical roots. In this groundbreaking book, L. Edward Hicks examines the career of George S. Benson, whose work as a fundamentalist Christian educator foreshadowed the political activism now associated with such figures as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Born in rural Oklahoma, Benson became an evangelist and missionary to China during the 1920s. In 1936, he was appointed president of Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, a small school operated by the Churches of Christ. From his base there, Benson soon embarked on a far-reaching crusade that joined conservative Christian values with free-enterprise economics and its political underpinnings. In 1941, he founded the National Education Program (NEP), which would proclaim as its goal the preservation and advancement of the spiritual, moral, economic, and political values on which this nation was founded. After World War II, as anticommunism became a dominant motif of the various forums and publications sponsored by the NEP, Benson was a much-sought-after speaker at conservative gatherings. Even in the face of apparent setbacks - such as Barry Goldwaters defeat in the 1964 presidential election - Benson never wavered in actively promoting his brand of Americanism. Hicks argues that Bensons NEP programs and pamphleteering did much to shape the conservative populism that helped to elect Ronald Reagan in 1980. Bensons lifelong aim, Hicks notes, was not to convert liberals but to convince already conservative Christians of the need to become involved in political issues. He was, in the words of one editorial writer, a member of the Moral Majority before there was one.