Remember when the Religious Right (a.k.a., Moral Majority, Christian fundamentalists) jumped into politics a few decades ago to tout their commitment to “family values?” Well, that was a big, fat lie.
It turns out, as many of us knew at the time, that pro-family means anti-gay and pro-life means anti-abortion (or, really, opposition to equal access to medical abortion if you follow the logical legal course sought).
Preachers pounded their pulpits and propped up politicians who parroted their proclamations. The sheep followed. But it all turned out to be a sham.
Pornography was one of dangers raised by the original Jerry Falwell, who stormed out of Lynchburg in the ’70s calling Christians to rise up politically to save American families from the evils of the Equal Rights Movement and other moves toward equality. However, he apparently didn’t convey to his followers, or his offspring, that dallies with porn stars and hush money payments might reflect a little on character as well.
Speaking of character, that’s precisely what these religious/political right leaders (now well-branded as evangelicals) claimed to be of upmost importance. Some even wrote books on the topic, including Bill Bennett’s The Book of Virtues and Mike Huckabee’s Character Makes A Difference.
More recently, however, the former cast those who still apply such standards of character politically to be “suffer(ing) from a terrible case of moral superiority.” And, the latter, we must note, now assists his offspring in defending what has become a continual unveiling of the lowest levels of personal character.
The truth is that character never mattered to religious conservatives if it interfered with their larger political agenda. The movement was not — and is not — about character or family values or godliness. They lied to us.
The result of the Religious Right’s assault on the nation, the church and the Christian witness in America was not the start of a spiritual revival as they claimed. It’s their pants, not their souls that are on fire.
The charge of moral superiority that Bennett misapplied is clearly what the Religious Right has revealed about itself over the years.
Remember the Southern Baptist Convention’s boycott of Disney in 1997 for offering health benefits to its employees in same-sex relationships? When the boycott officially ended in 2005, an SBC resolution stated that the “boycott has communicated effectively our displeasure concerning products and policies that violate moral righteousness and traditional family values.”
Yet these same pious religious leaders have no problem overlooking, excusing and even defending excessive lying, demeaning and racially insensitive rhetoric — and sexual behaviors that once brought their strongest condemnation — in preferred political leadership, as long as their larger political agenda of religious discrimination masked as religious liberty gets advanced.
One great tragedy of this movement is the gullibility of the many who followed these self-righteous operatives up the mismarked hill of moral righteousness. And, sadly, many continue to fall for such lies rather than confess to being misled.
However, their application of so-called “family values” is quite selective and self-serving. For example, immigrant families can be destroyed in the name of law and order while unsought forgiveness and mercy are quickly extended to the very powerbrokers causing such destruction.
Indeed actions speak louder than words — as well as silence and inaction when moral outrage is limited toward those whose political orientation doesn’t align with fear-based, fundamentalist ideals.
If character truly matters, then it matters in every situation — not just in those that serve one’s self-interests. And the true “family values” of love, mutual respect and shared lives should apply to everyone’s family.
Clearly, American evangelical leaders prefer particular personalities and political power over principles of character, justice, equality and truth.
So if you fell for these charlatan lies before, forgive yourself. But now you know better. The evidence is right before your eyes.
In reality, there is just one value that truly matters to Christian fundamentalists: the preservation of the cultural dominance they see slipping away. (Period.)
Everything else can be excused, ignored or justified if a faint hope is offered that might somehow slow the pace of diversity and the resulting loss of the preferential cultural treatment so long enjoyed by conservative, white American church people.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.