Snake-Handlers, False Messiahs, and a Few Great Souls: 14 Who Died in 2014
NO other end-of-year list can hope to offer such profound juxtapositions: a groundbreaking female Mennonite pastor alongside an “immortalist” the transcendent wisdom of a civil rights leader alongside one of the most hate-filled religious figures in contemporary memory. But here it is, a connect-the-dots portrait of a powerfully complicated American religious landscape, circa 2014.
Vincent Gordon Harding
Historian and theologian Vincent Gordon Harding died at 82. Harding founded Atlanta’s Mennonite House with his wife Rosemarie in 1961, a headquarters for consciences objectors and civil rights activists. He helped Martin Luther King, Jr. make the argument against Vietnam, drafting King’s “Beyond Vietnam”speech in 1967, broadening the concern of the movement and alienating some moderate civil rights supporters. Author of numerous works on American-American religious history, including There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America and Martin Luther King: An Inconvenient Hero, Harding taught at Illiff School of Theology in Denver, Colo. for more than 20 years.
Nelson Bunker Hunt
A Texas billionaire remembered mostly for his business exploits, Nelson Bunker Hunt bankrolled the religious right. He underwrote many Campus Crusade’s projects, including the 1967 “Berkley Blitz,”the $6 million Jesus film in 1979, and a $30 million campaign to evangelize the world by 1980. He gave $1 million to help start the Moral Majority and financed the founding of Tim LaHaye’s Council for National Policy in 1981. Hunt also tried to buy all the world’s silver as a hedge against the financial collapse he believed the Bible predicted. He lost $1.7 billion and went bankrupt in 1989. He died at 88.