One of the early leaders in the political Christian Right was Robert Grant, who founded American Christian Cause in 1974 to advocate Christian moral teachings in Southern California. Concerned that Christians overwhelmingly voted in favor of President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Grant later founded Christian Voice to mobilize Christian voters in favor of candidates with conservative values. While it seems that American Christian Cause is no longer active, Christian Voice is still quite viable. Their history is given on their website thus: “Christian Voice was established in 1978 as a national political lobby and educational organization that represents traditional American values in Congress and across the country. It was the first of the "Christian Right" groups, predating the Christian Coalition, Coalition for Traditional Values, Concerned Women for America, and many other groups. CV has always welcomed the opportunity to share its knowledge and expertise with groups that were formed after it. Today, Christian Voice is pleased to see so many pro-family organizations emulating it and following in its path.
“Christian Voice is best known as the originator and developer of the "Congressional Report Card" and the "Candidates Scorecard". Christian Voice pioneered grassroots action through use of the "Church Networking Guide". Our successful role in many legislative battles has made us the subject of more than 7,000 feature articles in publications such as Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News and World Report and on TV programs such as 60 Minutes, ABC News Special Report, 20/20, and Good Morning America.”
Almost immediately, there was a falling-out between Grant and other Christian Voice leaders because of inflammatory comments made by Grant against the others. This led to the formation of the Moral Majority as a separate Christian Right organization in 1979. The founder of Moral Majority was Jerry Falwell, who died in 2007. In the early 1970’s he began to meet with conservative politicians such as Senator Jesse Helms to devise strategies for political action. Other founding members of Moral Majority included Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Charles Stanley and D. James Kennedy. The organization has supported such things as the continuance of apartheid in South Africa, the outlawing of abortion, opposition to state recognition and acceptance of homosexuality, censorship of media outlets that promote an anti-family agenda, and opposition to arms limitation talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. Regarding apartheid, Falwell himself also strongly supported racial segregation in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, though his rhetoric became much softer in later years.
The original Moral Majority no longer exists, having been disbanded by Falwell in 1989. However, in 2004, Mr. Falwell formed a new organization, The Moral Majority Coalition, to continue his vision for political action. Its stated aims for 2008 are stated in four “platforms” as follows:
- The Moral Majority Coalition will conduct an intensive "Voter Registration Campaign" through America's conservative churches, para-church ministries, pro-life and pro-family organizations.
- The Moral Majority Coalition will conduct well organized "Get-Out-The-Vote Campaigns" in 2008.
- The Moral Majority Coalition 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.
- The Moral Majority Coalition will encourage the promotion of continuous private and corporate prayer for America's moral renaissance based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. (Source: “What We Are All About: The Four Pronged TMMC Platform,” http://www.moralmajority.us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=27)
In 1983, the Family Research Council was created, largely due to the efforts of Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Its founding board included Dobson and two noted psychiatrists, Armand Nicholoi Jr. of Harvard University and George Rekers of the University of South Carolina. Its present leader is Tony Perkins, who, according to one magazine article, once paid Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 to obtain a Klan mailing list. It concerns itself with policy matters having to do with the government’s role in preserving the traditional family. But it also has interests in other policy areas, such as immigration, affirmative action, national defense, environmental issues and foreign policy. These positions often reflect the positions of the most politically and economically conservative wing of the Republican Party. For instance, this group has actively opposed any discussion of global warming as a genuine problem, and has actively supported the war in Iraq. (Source: “Prayer Targets: Our Troops, Homosexuals in the Military; International Threats, Life and Sexuality, Global Warming, Christian Youth, http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=PW07C01; “We Shall Overcome…Liberals,” Salon Magazine, January 2006, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/01/09/justice_sunday/index.html)
The Christian Coalition was officially launched in 1988 by Rev. Pat Robertson in the aftermath of his unsuccessful White House bid. However, the incorporation records of the State of Virginia reveal that the Christian Coalition, Inc. was actually incorporated on April 30, 1987, with the paperwork filed earlier, and with planning having begun before that. Robertson served as the organization's president from its founding until February 2001, although Ralph Reed controlled day-to-day operations from 1989 to 1997. The current president is Roberta Combs. Incidentally, Ralph Reed was also involved with another group, the U.S. Family Network, which claimed to be a “grassroots organization promoting conservative advocacy.” The U.S. Family Network is now under investigation by the Justice Department for accepting money from a Russian bank tied to the scandals involving former Representative Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (Sources: Wikipedia; “The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail,” Washington Post, 31 December 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/30/AR2005123001480_pf.html)
The Christian Coalition website states: “Christian Coalition of America is a political organization, made up of pro-family Americans who care deeply about becoming active citizens for the purpose of guaranteeing that government acts in ways that strengthen, rather than threaten, families. As such, we work together with Christians of all denominations, as well as with other Americans who agree with our mission and with our ideals.”
In 1992, the national Christian Coalition, Inc., headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began producing voter guides which it distributed to conservative Christian churches. Voter guides had been issued by other Christian Right groups prior to this, but the Christian Coalition guides may well have enjoyed a much wider circulation. These voter guides claimed to be non-partisan, but typically they supported Republican candidates and pro-business, pro-military policies. The Republican bias of the voter guides led to legal and tax troubles for the Christian Coalition. In the aftermath of the departure of Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition declined in influence, membership and finances. The Christian Coalition has spun off several state-based groups, such as the Iowa Christian Alliance and the Christian Coalition of Florida.
A sampling of policy and issue positions taken by these groups reveals the following:
- All these groups support traditional marriage and traditional Biblically-prescribed sexuality.
- All of these groups support school prayer and the teaching of Biblical morality in public schools.
- All of these groups support the sanctity of human life, opposing abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, genetic alteration of humans, and cloning research.
- All of these groups favor the promotion of legislation and legal enforcement to implement the aforementioned values in American society.
Most Biblically orthodox Christians would have to agree with points 1 and 3, though there might be some grounds for disagreement on points 2 and 4 (But more on that in my next post.) However, the following is also true of these groups and groups like these:
- These groups unquestioningly support the Iraq War started by President George W. Bush.
- These groups either have no stated position on global warming, or they publicly refuse to believe that it is an issue or that it is caused by human activity. For instance, in February of 2007, Jerry Falwell claimed that the debate over global warming is a tool of Satan being used to distract churches from their primary focus of preaching the Gospel. And James Dobson, with several other prominent evangelical pastors, called on the National Evangelical Association Board to remove its president because of his attention to the issue of global warming. According to Dobson, the issue is not an appropriate focus for evangelicals, who should focus on “…the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children. In their place has come a preoccupation with climate concerns that extend beyond the NAE’s mandate and its own statement of purpose.” (Sources: “Dobson, Others Seek Ouster of NAE Vice President,” Christianity Today, March 2007, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/marchweb-only/109-53.0.html; Letter to National Association of Evangelicals, http://www.citizenlink.org/pdfs/NAELetterFinal.pdf)
- Many leaders in these groups still have ties to racist/segregationist ideas, organizations and people, as was true of Jerry Falwell.
- In addition to their core issues, most of these groups also adopt and promote economic and political positions that have nothing to do with preserving Biblical marriage and family, or Biblically mandated sexuality. For instance, most of these groups support harsh responses to the problem of illegal immigration, responses such as building a border fence.
- Most of these groups support laissez-faire free-market economic policies, and are opposed to environmental regulations which would restrict such economic policies. Most of these groups oppose any government system of universal health care, as well as any increase of taxes, taking a more libertarian view toward the running of the systems of society.
- Many leaders in these groups support and actively lobby for an American military strike against Iran. They also support the branding of Iran as a terrorist state.
- Most of these groups oppose any ban on assault weapons.
Most of these groups support the approach of Bush, Cheney and most Republicans toward the energy situation in the United States. That approach can best be summarized as striving to secure as much oil and other fossil fuels as possible in order to maintain our present expansive (and expensive) way of life for as long as possible.
The positions noted above are taken from the websites of these organizations, along with a sampling of voter guides available at the following locations: http://www.electionforum.org/, http://www.oregonfamilycouncil.org/, http://www.familyvoterinfo.org/, http://www.cfc-alert.org/.
These groups all uniformly state that they exist to promote the restoration of Christian values in America, and to promote the restoration of the United States as a Christian nation. It is appropriate, therefore, to examine whether they have been effective in achieving that goal, or whether they have, in fact, achieved something rather different. That will be taken up in my next post. But today we are out of time, as this post has gone on for much longer than I would have liked.