Monday, August 01, 2005

The Resurrection of the Moral Majority

Jimmy Carter was President. The Soviets were fighting Islamic guerillas in Afghanistan. Three Mile Island was melting. The U.S. Embassy in Tehran occupied by a band of young Muslim radicals. In Virgina, an independent, fundamentalist Baptist preacher named Jerry Falwell founded an organization that would claim credit for changing the face American politics by electing Ronald Reagan. The Moral Majority was a powerful force in the conservative church for the next decade or so until Falwell quit to turn his attention to the rapidly deteriorating financial situation at his church based school, Liberty University. Of course, Falwell was never really out of the political scene. He couldn’t stand being away from attention that he got from the media and the politicians he helped elect. Then, like Lazarus rising from his grave, the Moral Majority was resurrected as “The Moral Majority Coalition.” According to its website, “the group’s central premise is to utilize the momentum of the November 2 elections to maintain an evangelical revolution of voters who will continue to go to the polls to ‘vote Christian.’”

Since The Reverend Falwell is making the claim, and since the Bible says “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world,” (I John 4:1) I’d like to apply some simple tests to the claim that the Moral Majority Coalition is Christian.

Test #1: Is the Platform Christian?

The MMC’s four-fold platform is:

1)TMMC will conduct an intensive four-year "Voter Registration Campaign" through America's conservative churches, para-church ministries, pro-life and pro-family organizations.

2)TMMC will conduct well organized "Get-Out-The-Vote Campaigns" in 2006 and 2008.

3)TMMC will engage in the massive recruitment and mobilization of social conservatives through television, radio, direct mail (U.S.P.S. and Internet) and public rallies.

4)TMMC will encourage the promotion of continuous private and corporate prayer for America's moral renaissance based on 2 Chronicles 7:14.


What is either explicitly or implicitly Christian here? No mention of Jesus. No mention of the Creeds, no reference to the Christian Scriptures. There is a clearly defined marketing strategy here, but basing an American moral renaissance on Israel’s King Solomon would appear to be pretty dubious. If I recall, Solomon was a religious syncretist, and following his death, the country was rent by civil war and eventual destruction, due to his failed policies.

Test #1: Failed.

Test #2: Does the MMJ stand up for God’s Kingdom or is it an apologist for one political party?

Falwell writes: “On election night, I actually shed tears of joy as I saw the fruit of a quarter century of hard work. Nearly 116 million Americans voted. More than 30 million were evangelical Christians who, according to the pollsters, voted their moral convictions. I proudly say... they voted Christian!!”

The problem with Falwell’s assertion is its equation of voting for Republicans with “voting Christian.” But you decide: Which party’s platform took the mushy position: “Faith can often be a crucial element in the struggle to overcome personal challenges – and now Americans have the option of receiving treatment that meets their physical as well as spiritual needs.”

And which said: “We honor the central place of faith in the lives of our people. Like our Founders, we believe that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires.”

The first quote is from the Republican party. The second, from the Democratic platform. Neither is explicitly Christian, but you have admit that the Democrats were much bolder in their praise of faith-based initiatives.

Test #2: Failed.

Test #3: Does salvation come from grace by faith or works?

“The Bible tells us salvation is a free gift and it cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8, 9; II Timothy 1:9; Romans 4:16). The entire book of Galatians was written to warn us that you cannot mix faith and works as the grounds for justification. Galatians 2:16 tells us: Man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ . . . The last portion of this verse also tells us: . . . for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:21 tells us: I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Forgiveness of sins and justification come from Jesus to all who believe (Acts 13:37-39).” That’s from Liberty University’s theological questions site.

But Falwell writes: “Everyone now knows that the stage is set for the church of Jesus Christ to turn this nation back to the faith of our fathers and the Judeo-Christian ethic. New Supreme Court justices can overturn Roe vs. Wade. The Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution can forever define the family as one man married to one woman. Any senator who opposes this FMA could face the same fate Sen. Tom Daschle experienced. I truly believe we can bring 40 million “faith and values” voters to the polls in 2008 to assure that Sen. Hillary Clinton, or someone of her ilk, will never be president of this nation.” In other words, grace has nothing to do with it. Overturning Roe vs. Wade, banning gay marriage and keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House will save America. No Jesus. No cross. No grace. Just Republicans working very hard to stay in power.

Salvation by works? Yep.

Test #3: Failed.

The Moral Majority is not a Christian movement. It is a cynical, partisan attempt to dress the Republican Party up in Christian vestments. While it claims to be promoting “faith and moral values,” all it is promoting is a right-wing vision of an America created in Jerry Falwell’s scowling image. It denies the basic moral values of Jesus like caring for the poor, loving your enemies, and seeking peace. In other words, it’s a lie.

6 comments:

Doug said...

When religion embraces politics, religion always gets corrupted. It's a rule.

And when a political party claims God is on its side, suddenly it can do no wrong. Anything is justified because it's ultimately sanctioned by God. People of faith and the party lose their moral bearings.

You can see it in the GOP when they give corporations and the ultra-rich all the tax breaks they could wish for, and then claim there's no money for programs to help poor people. And Christians are applauding this!

I often think of the parable of the rich man stepping over the beggar at his gate.

Ryan said...

So, just out of curiousity, are you saying that the Democratic party is more Christian? Honestly, I don't believe either entity is. Of course the GOP has its own agenda, don't all political parties?
Also, the evidences listed in this passage are out of context. When they are talking about Roe vs Wade, Presidential elections, etc., it has nothing to do with salvation. James said that faith without deeds was dead, he was not saying that we are saved by deeds but that if we believe in Christ by faith we will also act on faith. This includes voting in ways that reflect Christian ideals which I feel makes the quoted statement very applicable though it may not be accurate as it is an opinion. Any hoot, I certainly agree that it is foolish to vote for a party because it claims to be Christian, it would be better to vote for the candidate that best reflects your personal Christian values.

Deacon Tim said...

Ryan, when Falwell "proudly" says "they voted Christian!!" he means "Republican." That's not out of context.

Falwell's assertion that the "faith of our fathers" should be equated with overturning Roe v. Wade or the defeat of Tom Daschle, was not taken out context. And he means it soteriologically, not just politically. He has chosen a secular, utopian political vision as a sorry substitute for the Kingdom of God.

That's not out of context. Foolish and false; but not out of context.

Ryan said...

Thanks for your response, rereading the section about voting Christian, I agree that he was wrong to even hint that might mean voting just Republican.
I'm not convinced that he is proclaiming salvation by works though. His reference to political events was probably not the best way to bring up moral issues in our country but he does raise a good point, that something needs to be done about the decay of morality in the US, and our vote can help do this. That is just how I read it, but I see what you're saying as well, it would help if I had the rest of the context. Do you know where I could find this or other neutral information about Falwell (I've honestly never even heard of him before)? Thanks for the information, I hope I'm not too far off in understanding what you're trying to say.

Deacon Tim said...

I'm not sure that there is much out there that's neutral about Rev. Falwell. He is not the type of figure that tends to produce neutrality. But you can find his platform at http://www.faithandvalues.us/ .

An interesting comment by a prominent evangelical on the first incarnation of the Moral Majority appears here: http://www.philocrites.com/archives/001674.html (This is liberal site!)

Here is a site by a conservative that gives voice to some of my own misgivings about Falwell: http://www.brokenmasterpieces.com/archives/001270.html

Having said that, let me add in the interest of full disclosure: I was once a student at Liberty University and took a couple of graduate courses there. I just could not stand the constant attempts to wrap the Cross in the flag, so I left and went to a (conservative) Lutheran seminary.

Here's another interesting comment by Falwell on Ronald Reagan: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/147/story_14704_1.html . For the life of me, I cannot understand evangelical support for Reagan. He was a master of the rhetoric of the Pharisees: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Reagan did welcome evangelicals into the inner sanctum of Republicanism, but like Constantine, it was done to further his own power, not from a sincere desire to be identified as an evangelical. In fact, he defeated the first evangelical President, Jimmy Carter, who took great hits in the secular media for his unashamed declaration that he was "born again."

Most Americans, both liberal and conservative, believe that their country has a big moral problem. We are all concerned about the sexualization, violence and greed in our culture. But, to ascribe the virtue of Judeo-Christian values to a political party is to deny the power of the Gospel.

In an earlier post you asked if I thought the Democrats were more Christian than the GOP. The answer is, No. But I think the evangelical church is being taken over by a right-wing political agenda that has more in common with the godless secular humanism of Ayn Rand than with the values of Jesus, like caring for the poor and making peace. And as long as Christians go on making their deal with the devil to gain political power, the usurpation of the Kingship of God will continue.

Ontario Emperor said...

Actually, "Judeo Christian values" are the whole problem. People like Falwell equate "Judeo Christian values" and the "Judeo Christian tradition" to Christianity. However, the Judeo Christian whatever you want to call it is the works-based antithesis of Christianity.

How can you equate those who believe that Jesus Christ is one person in the Truine God, those who believe that Jesus is not God at all, and those who believe that Donny Osmond will become a god someday? Only by promoting a works-based religion.

More of my thoughts here.