top of page
  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Moral Majority

The social upheaval of the 1960s, the creation of American civil religion, and Cold War tensions set the scene for the rise of the Christian right. Southern conservatives feared growing social concerns would lead their denominations away from the Gospel alongside rejections of inerrancy at the seminaries [1]. Conservatives committed themselves to reclaiming the Southern Baptist denomination [2]. Jerry Falwell was an important conservative Southern Baptist during this time, but he did not merely set his sights on reclaiming the denomination: he set about reclaiming American society [3]. To do so, he created the Moral Majority in 1979 “to register conservative Christians and mobilize them into a political force against what he called ‘secular humanism’ and the moral decay of the country” [4]. The organization brought together separatist Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals [5]. They united against gay rights, feminism, denuclearization, pornography, and abortion [6]. He argued America was weak economically and militarily because it was morally compromised. Returning to biblical morality would strengthen America and would bring God’s blessing on the country in its struggle against Communism [7].

A key element of the Conservative Right’s self-understanding as Americans was the claim that America was a Christian nation. Thinkers such as R. J. Rushdoony posited that “the early American Republic…was an orthodox Christian nation with an economic and social Protestant feudal system” [8]. However, the North was influenced by Unitarians and free-thinkers. In the Civil War, these northerners destroyed the Southern Christian system [9]. With the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, evangelicals saw the Republican Party as the party of religious conservatives battling the secular liberals of the Democratic party, battle lines that remain to the present day [10].

The Christian Right was unable to maintain the tension present in Augustinian political theology. They did recognize the role government has in ordering society, a theme present in Augustine [11]. Yet the assertion that America is a “Christian nation” ignores Augustine’s own assertion that the city of man is not the same thing as the City of God [12].

[1] Fitzgerald, Frances. The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2017. p. 262.

[2] Ibid. p. 263.

[3] Ibid. p. 284.

[4] Ibid. p. 291.

[5] Ibid. p. 293.

[6] Ibid. p. 291.

[7] Ibid. p. 308.

[8] Ibid. p. 380.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid. p. 328.

[11] St. Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, 19.17.

[12] Ibid. 14.28.

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page