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Jerry Falwell Sr. had a controversial stance on apartheid segregation in South Africa.

Jerry Falwell Sr. had a controversial stance on apartheid segregation in South Africa. He was one of the most outspoken evangelical Christians in the 1980s. He founded Liberty University and the Moral Majority political movement. In 1985 he went on a trip to visit South Africa, which was then engaged in its apartheid practices. That meant keeping 80% of the land for white use only and moving black people to reservations. It was a black majority country controlled by the white minority.

Upon his return, Falwell made some controversial statements. Including one that American Christians should not protest South Africa or demand sanctions. Seems crazy, right? But South African guerillas were being funded (in part) by the Soviet Union. The worry that communism would take over South Africa was real. Which of the two evils would Christians choose? Backing an apartheid government, or potentially supporting the Soviet-sponsored rebels?

Our guest today is Melani McAlister, author of the excellent book “The Kingdom of God Has No Borders“. She is also professor of American Studies and International Affairs at George Washington University.

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think of Falwell’s position on apartheid?
  • Do you think the US concern about communism was appropriate?
  • What were Americans afraid of when it came to communism?
  • When in history have you or the Church had to choose between the lesser of two evils?
  • How could that have been handled differently?

Helpful Links:

  • C-SPAN video of Jerry Falwell (edited for the show)
  • George Washington University video featuring Melani
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