Falwell is back. What are centrist-to-progressive people of faith going to do about his agenda of using pulpits to mobilize Christian voters?
When Jerry Falwell first emerged with the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, a lot of centrist-to-progressive faith leaders dismissed his crusade and underestimated the potential of his movement. Prideful dismissal among the religious intelligentsia has resulted in reduced influence in the public square and less moral authority in congregations.
Jerry Falwell's son Jonathan Falwell, the new pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, has now picked up his father's moral-majority mantle to elect social conservatives to office. He urged Virginia pastors this week to press their congregants to vote for candidates who "believe the Bible is the truth," according to the Washington Post.
"We must stand up and say, 'Right is right, wrong is wrong,'" Falwell said. "We must protect the unborn. We must protect marriage. We must protect our families. We must protect our young people."
Pastors were urged to use their pulpits to mobilize voters.
Before pulpits can be used to promote a political party, preachers must have the theological conviction that one party is the party of God and other parties are against God. The Christian Right has that conviction.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Christian Right leaders are seeking to energize "value voters" for the GOP.
"The presidential election is still more than a year away, but the primary campaigns are in full swing, and [Rick] Scarborough and other religious leaders are stepping up in the battle being waged for control of the White House, Congress and the GOP itself," said the article. "They want the full force of conservative Christian voters to be felt in the primaries and general election."
The piece featured Southern Baptist pastor Rick Scarborough, who has launched a 70-week campaign of one day crusades to save America, motivating the church to vote its values.
On Monday, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the American Family Association is sponsoring a "Values Voters 2008 Presidential Debate," including only Republican contenders.
A month later, James Dobson's Family Research Council will host its 2007 Washington Briefing to rally value voters.
Confirmed and invited speakers include noted moral leader Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. Exhibitors include Criswell College. Churches are encouraged to promote the event with inserts in church bulletins and posters on church walls. Churches are urged to bring congregants and youth groups on church buses to the conference.
With Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter still in the news and Congressman Mark Foley and preacher Ted Haggard still fresh memories, the Christian Right presses forward.
Will centrist-to-progressive people of faith sit, watch and grumble? Or will they take a proactive initiative to educate and activate their communities to take a better road forward than that of young Falwell and his fellow travelers?
One readily available proactive, educational resource is our new 36-minute DVD that provides a theological and moral corrective. It sketches a larger moral agenda, rooted in Scripture, with a practical framework for faith in politics. "Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics" offers an antidote to the political myth that one party is the party of providence.
The choice is clear: act now or grumble about problems later.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
"Golden Rule Politics," a new Baptist Center for Ethics DVD exploring the rightful role of faith in politics, is available for ordering online here.
An introductory price of $20 includes a license for public viewings. Each DVD comes with a pass code for downloading a free discussion guide.