After teaching for a number of years, John Killinger, eager to be a pastor, was offered a church in Lynchburg, Virginia. It was in the 1980s when Jerry Falwell had a congregation there. Falwell had just started the Moral Majority movement and had helped to get Ronald Reagan elected president. In 1983, a Good Housekeeping national poll rated Jerry Falwell the second most respected man in America after Reagan.
John Killinger’s new book is in part a picture of Falwell and an exploration of his influence from the unique standpoint of a “rival” minister who says that his experience of his Lynchburg years is what soon turned him into one of Fundamentalism’s most trenchant and outspoken critics.
This is a fascinating story told with great grace and style about two very different men of faith, both struggling to capture hearts, minds, and souls.
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I had grown up in the Southern Baptist tradition and always intended to be a pastor, not a teacher. Things being what they were in the South, though, my training at Harvard Divinity School was suspect—as was my having earned a Ph.D. in English literature before going to Harvard—and I wasn't called to a church. So I had come back South as a professor of English in Georgetown College, a small Baptist school in Kentucky. After two years at Georgetown, I had gone to Princeton Theological Seminary to work with Paul Scherer, a famous Lutheran
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John Killinger has been senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, distinguished professor of religion and culture at Samford University in Birmingham, and executive minister and theologian at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. He is the author of more than sixty books, one of which, The Changing Shape of Our Salvation, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He lives with his wife in Virginia.