Remember the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family or the 700 Club?
These organizations, along with a few others, were established by the “big guns” of the religious right – luminaries such as Jerry Falwell Sr., James Dobson, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson.
Apart from their obvious religious ties, there was one thing that bound them together. They were devoted to “saving” the American family.
This was a divine calling, or so they said, and pointed to a specific incident as their burning bush.
In 1977, then President Jimmy Carter convened what was dubbed the “White House Conference on Families.”
Carter, in his enlightened naiveté, invited the full spectrum of family life in America: Traditional families, remarried families, families with same-sex parents, families with just one parent, adoptive families and so forth.
Like it or not, this is what family life in America looks like both then and now.
It’s complex and diverse, and Carter understood this. He gathered these family groups in one room in an effort to strengthen and enrich them in all their diversity.
Unfortunately, many leaders of the Christian right wing wanted less diversity and less complexity.
In his effort to be inclusive, Carter left himself open to attacks from the fundamentalist wing of the Christian faith. When Christian conservatives saw who else was in the room, they walked out in protest.
These family-focused activists seized the moment as an opportunity to forge a mass movement and create a money-raising gold mine.
Driven by their quest for political power, these right-wing groups, wittingly or not, demonized nontraditional families.
As a brief aside, someone please explain how the designation “traditional biblical family” applies to Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, or Isaac and his two wives, or Solomon and his harem.
Or the parents of Jesus, for that matter. Think about it: The Savior entered our world through the affections of a stepfamily.
Over time, some of the punch went out of the right’s dogmatic condemnation of nontraditional families. Many nontraditional family types found their voice and asserted their legitimacy.
Divorced persons raising children as single parents fought for and gained acceptance for their families.
The same is true for remarried families, same-sex parents and adoptive parents. As families, these are entitled to life, liberty and the surety of God’s blessings.
Today, it is mostly LGBTQ persons and women who have had abortions that continue to bear condemnation from the people who are supposed to love their neighbors as they love themselves.
Which brings up an interesting development in this quest for the legitimate family.
While giving lip service to biblical ethics and morality, the religious right has slowly morphed into a full-service political action committee.
As such, they champion, “in the name of Jesus,” issues such as nuclear weapons, torture, tax breaks for the rich and rigid immigration policies.
The immigration issue is particularly troubling. Jesus said that Christians should welcome the “stranger” in their midst.
Most Bible teachers tell us the term “stranger” is the ancient way of describing immigrants. But in the lexicon of conservative political ethics, immigration is a non-starter.
For these so-called faith groups, America must close its borders and enact tough, cruel and punitive immigration policies to discourage those who might seek asylum.
Painful immigration penalties are needed, they seem to believe, to keep undesirables from crossing our blessed borders.
Ultimately, there is “old time” hypocrisy as the religious right heaps scorn on the validity of nontraditional families and does so in the name of Jesus.
For his part, Jesus taught and practiced compassion and mercy for the downtrodden, for the stranger, for the sinner. The religious right wants to stop them at the border and separate them from their children.
Promoting tough immigration policies, tax cuts for the wealthy or nuclear proliferation are all legitimate political positions.
They are not, however, in any stretch of the imagination, Christian positions. Just because the package says Christian on the outside does not mean Jesus is on the inside.
Jesus of Nazareth leads us to embrace an inclusive ethic, which promotes a community of justice and mercy.
Christians who march under the banner of Christian conservatism and who claim the moral high ground need to clarify for the rest of us just what they meant when they decided to follow Jesus.
James L. Evans is a retired Baptist preacher living in Alabama. Over 35 years, he served churches in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. In support of his pastoral work, Evans published 5 books including “First and Second Corinthians: Immersion Bible Studies” (Abingdon Press (2011).