How the Moral Majority made us the Moral Minority
How the Moral Majority made us the Moral Minority
From a similarly titled article in the Atlantic by Laura Turner in which she describes the inclination of some Christians to withdraw from the "culture wars" or as Rod Dreher, whom she cites writes, take "The Benedict Option" - Think: Benedictine Monasticism - (Saint Benedict 480 AD) You can find the article here:
While I cannot ascribe to Mr. Dreher’s "Benedict Option" (though it does have a certain appeal) without finding myself acting in contradiction to numerous New Testament exhortations, not the least of which is the Great Commission itself, I was intrigued by the questions the article raised for me regarding the immediate future of Christianity in America and perhaps globally as well.
My question bypasses temporarily the obvious question of the article which could be condensed to read, "should we withdraw from the culture wars or should we remain engaged." My question asks:
"How did we move from being the "Moral Majority" to become what is seemingly now the "Moral minority?"
"How did this happen in a mere 30 years?"
"How did we become the "Moral Majority" in the first place?"
The "Moral Majority" is the title given to a movement, formalized in 1979 by Jerry Falwell and Robert Grant, which arguably had its roots in the earlier resurgence of theological conservatism within the Southern Baptist Convention, specifically within its Seminaries. Falwell might be credited (some might say blamed) for taking the next step in that resurgence which was to press for a similar resurgence of Biblical principle in the political arena. Some might also say that Falwell’s greatest contribution with the "Moral Majority" was in giving voice to the moral convictions of the "Silent Majority" and perhaps this is true. My guess would be that Falwell, observing the success of the Resurgence within the SBC, was encouraged and sought to repeat it in the larger arena of politics and thus to influence American society as a whole, producing as it were a nationwide resurgence of Biblical Morality. Whatever one might conclude about Falwell’s success, he certainly deserves credit for bringing the discussion and consideration of Biblical morality outside of the church walls and into the public arena. However, one of the characteristics of this growing and influential "Moral Majority" was its alignment with the political "right" and the Republican Party which significantly benefitted at the polls from its energized activists. It’s here, I believe that the seeds that produced the fruit of the "Moral Minority" were sown, for while not every politician can be included, many have shown an astute capacity to exploit their constituencies. Many are very adept at using Biblical language; at saying the right things; at touching all the bases that invigorate the "Christian right" while in practice, their actions bore little resemblance to their words. The "Moral Majority" grew into a super-pac; a huge voting bloc without which no Republican could gain office. It might be added that the present fracturing of the Republican Party is a direct result of the "Moral Majority’s awakening to its own exploitation.
Though this was a contributing factor in the "Moral Majority" becoming the "Moral Minority" it was not the decisive factor. The decisive factor was the redefinition or alteration of the Church’s mission by the church itself. It was the church’s belief that it could influence the nation from "the top down." It was the Church’s presumption that if we could elect politicians who shared our moral convictions, they would legislate accordingly and through that legislation construct a society that would reinforce that morality from its classrooms to its courthouses. The key for the church then became winning majorities in the House and Senate and to secure it all, the Presidency as well. The "Disciple-making" mandate of the Great Commission was exchanged for political campaigning for the "right candidates" even from the pulpits of America, albeit carefully and subtly in most cases lest our 501C3 status be revoked. In many cases, the resources of the church were directed toward para-church ministries that were "taking the battle to capitol hill" while very little if any, was directed toward ministering to the needs and sharing the Gospel within our own communities. We failed to recognize that our influence upon society was at its strongest "from the bottom up." We lost sight of the influence upon the nation of a single child, given a meal, embraced, wept with, laughed with, and told about Jesus. We forgot about the influence of a neighbor, despairing in a crisis, told of the hope of Jesus Christ; of the peace available in Christ. We forgot about that family, overwhelmed, desperate, soon to be homeless; who needed a friend; who needed the hope of the Gospel. We became like the Pharisee and the Levite, rushing to get somewhere, who passed by the stranger left for dead, and forgot that we were to be a neighbor to him like the Samaritan. We became obsessed by the "Uttermost ends of the world" and overlooked our Jerusalem, and our Judea, and our Samaria. We thought if we could reach the "world" it would filter down to our hometown, and how better to reach "our American world" than to fill the ranks of its Government with men and women of like morality. It hasn’t worked! We became the "Minority" because we thought being the "Majority" was the source of our influence rather than the Spirit’s power demonstrated through the vessel of our humble obedience to Christ’s Commission to make disciples. We became the "Minority" because in our disobedience, the "constituency" changed and is increasingly opposed to the candidates for office who are overtly Christian in their vision for America. As a result, only the candidates who accommodate that drifting morality can garner the necessary support to win the office. I noted in last Sunday evening’s message that with all the moral outrage over the recent encroachments upon our religious liberties, and particularly within Iredell County, our home county which almost always casts its ballots for the Republican candidates to the tune of 70 percent, I find it striking that so few are present when the Scriptures, the supposed foundation of their moral convictions is declared. If indeed that 70 percent were present, active, and engaged in the ministry of their local churches; in being discipled and in discipling others, the argument might be made that we might have not become the "Minority."
As I’ve said, I cannot in good conscious choose the "Benedict Option" for that would be to disobey the Biblical command that we should "be in the world," but I can’t help believing that the church desperately needs to return to the one and only true source of it power which is Christ and obedience to His word. We need not disengage from the public arena nor surrender to or compromise with a decaying morality, but more importantly we cannot neglect the command to disciple one another, and that takes place day by day among those within our reach....our children, our spouses, our friends and acquaintances, our neighbors...who knows whether one of these might someday ascend to a place of influence over an entire nation...even of the world. We cannot as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, "forsake the assembling of ourselves" and continue to expect that leaders will arise out of nothing to lead us to a restoration of Biblical morality in America.
Again, we must not withdraw from the public arena, but we must pause to look inwardly long enough and intently enough to begin to shape our future leaders in the public arena not merely with a Biblical morality but with a personal knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ from whom true morality and truth flow!
"...All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
"...But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth."
Acts 1: 8