It was November, 1976, and I was very excited by the election results. Our new president was a “born-again Christian”! Having become “born-again” myself at the age of 16 late in 1971, this was the first election where the religious beliefs of a candidate really caught my attention, and Jimmy Carter’s open Christian faith helped put the “born-again” term on the national map. Four years later, he was (quite literally) swept out of office by Ronald Reagan, the darling of the religious right.
Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority, which was founded in 1979, had famously declared, “We have a threefold primary responsibility. Number one, get people saved. Number two, get them baptized. Number three, get them registered to vote.” And although Reagan was not known as a deeply religious man, he was a strong conservative and a consistent opponent of abortion. As one report observed, “For the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan was a modern-day prophet whose rhetoric on family values, school choice, muscular patriotism and personal morality echoed their own view. Both Reagan and the Moral Majority saw American culture as a cesspool filled with sludge by '60s-era hippies, immoral Hollywood directors, civil-rights radicals, abortion-loving feminists, the media and liberals.”
Eight years later, despite the many good intentions of the Moral Majority, despite the clear voice Reagan provided on a number of important moral issues (including abortion), and despite some of the very positive things Reagan accomplished (nationally and internationally), America was still stuck in a deep moral quagmire and the abortion industry continued almost unabated. In fact, according to the Alan Gutmacher Institute, there were at least 1.5 million abortions every year from 1980-1988, the years of the Reagan presidency, showing increase rather than decrease.
Of course, religious conservatives are not the only ones who have looked for a political savior. Need I mention our current president, he of the Greek pillars at the Democratic National Convention, treated like a rock star and hailed as “the one,” as if a quasi-Messianic figure? And need I mention the extreme hostility expressed towards President George W. Bush in the last years of his second term by those looking for “hope and change”? Now the Tea Party has risen up, angered over what they perceive is happening to America, grieved over what they claim is a systematic seizing of our liberties, and determined to see radical change come to our nation.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.