How Evangelicals Have Failed in Politics

I was a student at Liberty University during the last days of the Moral Majority. On Sundays, I would attend the famous Thomas Road Baptist Church to hear the founder of the Moral Majority, Rev. Jerry Falwell, give one of his sermons on live television to a nationwide audience.

It was an intoxicating and entertaining show. These services were as much political rallies as they were worship services (maybe even more so). The Thomas Road pulpit was most often used as a platform for the Moral Majority and Republican ideas. It was difficult to tell where the church ended and the Republican party began.  It was the “poster church” for the integration of Evangelicalism and the Republican party.

Moral Matrimony

This marriage of cultural Christianity and conservative politics began with one issue….abortion.

Roe V. Wade sparked a political fire among Evangelicals (primarily). In reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Moral Majority was founded with the purpose of organizing fundamentalist Christians to elect pro-life candidates. Specifically, it started with a push to persuade Evangelicals to vote for Ronald Reagan. At that time, there were some who were concerned about the morality of Ronald Regan since he was a Hollywood actor and had been divorced. But he was pro-life, and to the Moral Majority, that was the only moral issue that mattered.

Reagan’s opponent was the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school, but was a Democrat. The question very quickly became, is the moral majority really about morals or about advancing the Republican agenda? So, from the beginning, the motive of the Moral Majority was suspect.

The Moral Majority sought to unite Christians to vote for Ronald Reagan who, they hoped, would reverse the Roe v. Wade decision. The Moral Majority was successful in organizing Christians to vote for Ronald Reagan, but has never achieved the ultimate goal of overturning Roe V. Wade.

Moral Failure

Not only did Ronald Reagan not change Roe v. Wade, he took the country further down a path of racism with the drug legislation he worked to create. An extremely moral issue completely ignored by the Moral Majority.

Was abortion the only moral issue in politics? Certainly not. The Moral Majority decided that this was the one moral issue that mattered most. No other issues mattered except for how a candidate stood on abortion. All Evangelicals needed to know was which candidates were “pro-life”, and then they would know who to vote for.

When it became clear that Roe V. Wade would not be overturned, the Moral Majority focused on Supreme Court Judges. If Evangelicals could vote for a President who would nominate “pro-life” judges then there would eventually be enough conservative judges on the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe V. Wade decision. Some of the Evangelical celebrities (i.e. Franklin Graham), stated that this was the main issue for the 2016 election, and was the main reason they supported Donald Trump.

Moral Myth

Once the abortion battle was mostly lost, Evangelicals added a second main issue to the agenda….same-sex marriage. Although the Moral Majority is gone, the issue of same-sex marriage has been the primary focus of Evangelicals in the last ten years.

The Moral Majority never delivered on the promises they had made to the people who supported the movement, which, interestingly, could also be said of the politicians who received the support of the Moral Majority.

But the myth of the Moral Majority and all of its successors is that abortion and gay marriage are not the only moral issues. Poverty, racism, national debt, slave labor, human trafficking, and so many other issues are deeply moral. A true moral majority would work to influence moral policy on these (and other) moral issues.

Moral Lesson

The Moral Majority should have taught us a great lesson….that rallying Christians around a political candidate because of one or two issues, only serves to distract from the work of the church. The Republican party ended up dominating the Evangelicals and Evangelicalism today has been shaped by the message and culture of the Republican party. In fact, it is often difficult to distinguish an Evangelical Christian from a right-wing Republican. And make no mistake, that is not a compliment.

Evangelicalism has forever been tainted by getting into bed with the Republican party.

After the 2016 election, there is no doubt that we have yet to learn this crucial lesson.

Praying that a particular person (or party) will become the leader(s) of the country is akin to the Israelites asking God to give them a King when God had so much more in store for them (Read 1 Samuel). In fact, many Evangelicals would like to see America become a theocracy, where the Christians rule the country.

Nothing could be further from the message of Jesus.

Followers of Christ do not purse power and control. Followers of Christ pursue death to display the depths of God’s love.

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

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