Is the Religious Right Finished? Yawn. Not Hardly
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 11, 2007 at 01:09:39 AM EST
Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas -- one time flack for Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority -- ought to know better.  And my guess is that he probably does. He dangles the provocative question in his headline, but never really answers it in his column.

The occasion for Thomas's eyebrow raiser, was the recent closing of televangelist D. James Kennedy's political operation, the Center for Reclaiming America, and the related Center for Christian Statesmanship. Apparently they were closed for budgetary reasons, while Kennedy's main broadcasting operations are not in doubt. But for how long, is a good question. D. James Kennedy, 76, has been in and out of the hospital in recent months. I do not think that the closing of this particular small, Washington lobby and resource agency indicates that the religious right is finished -- but it is certainly one indication that the religious right is in for a period of reorganization and retrenchment as the founding generation of religious right leaders begin to pass from the scene.

Considering the ages of some other leaders of the religious right, some of whom as one might expect, have had some serious health issues, the period of transition in the leadership of the relgious right is well underway.  Some of these, will no doubt continue to be politically active and effective for a long time; others probably not.

Paul Weyrich, 65   Free Congress Foundation

Don Wildmon, 69   American Family Association, Arlington Group

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, 70   Institute on Religion and Public Life; Institute on Religion and Democracy

James Dobson, 71   Focus on the Family

Lou Sheldon, 72   Traditional Values Coalition

Jerry Falwell, 73   Liberty University, Moral Majority

Richard Viguerie, 74   direct mail entrepreneur

Pat Robertson, 76   Christian Broadcasting Network, Regent University, Christian Coalition

D. James Kennedy, 76   Coral Ridge Ministries, Center for Reclaiming America

Beverly LaHaye, 78   Concerned Women for America

Robert L. Simonds, 81   Citizens for Excellence in Education

Tim LaHaye, 81   Left Behind series of novels (one of the founders of the Moral Majority and Council for National Policy)

Phyllis Schlafly, 82   Eagle Forum

Sun Myung Moon, 87   Unification Church, Washington Times

R.J. Rushdoony, deceased   Chalcedon Foundation

Bill Bright, deceased   Campus Crusade for Christ

Kennedy, although always part of the religious right, did not get operationally involved in politics until his first Reclaiming America for Christ in 1994. The huge political conference was a first for Kennedy, and replaced his annual fundraising cruise to the Caribbean that he called "The Bible Boat." Kennedy brought his constituency on a slower path to political mobilization, than had Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, although Kennedy was part of the Moral Majority and other early organization and other movements of the religious right. I think that a better way to look at it is that the conferences (which may continue) and the activities of the center are likely to be felt for a long time, and politically activated individuals will find no shortage of outlets for their activism; and no shortage of opportunities to exercise the skills they have acquired through years of political involvements and training.

Cal Thomas quotes a professor who makes a good point however,

Corwin Smidt, executive director of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., told the Herald that evangelical groups that are built around a single charismatic leader often struggle when the leader is gone. "These televangelists are able to generate a fair amount of money," he said, "but in terms of their institutional longevity, it's really at risk."

Of course, any organization that loses its founder, may very well go through a difficult transition period. Some organizations, and not just those founded by televangelists, or even of the religious right, that are built entirely around the personality and work of the founder, often struggle when the founder dies or retires. Some do not survive.

While there are many dynamic up-and-coming younger religious right leaders, it is clear that the political landscape will be shifting as the founding generation gradually departs from public life. Whether the religious right gets stronger or weaker; more divided or more unified during the transition, entirely remains to be seen.




Display:
on the part of a lot of people in my experience, to see politics as less dynamic than it really is. Things change.  This poses both challenges and opportunities.

That is one of the reason Talk to Action exists -- to learn enough about the religious right, so that both challenges and opportunities are properly understood. No serious tactical or strategic thinking is possible with out an understanding of the opposition.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri May 11, 2007 at 01:15:50 AM EST


The Religious Right will only come to an end when it finally decides to obey what the Bible says about the relationship of the Church to the World. When they do this they will see that the kingdom of God is not of this world; that the language of militancy in the Bible is metaphorical, speaking of a zeal for preaching a love they have never believed in, not a justification of political or "moral" force; and above all they will remember that they, if they are christians not merely nominals, are sojourners in the world, that they were never ment to be comfortable in the system that is the world for it is opposed to God and will never ever be brought to repentance by legal action. but they are discomforted by a world that has rejected its lipservice to christian morality (it was never genuine); and they desperately want the comfort of seeing themselves in the majority, but christ said his people would never be in such a position. they hanker for a past that never was The religious Right has sinned as Satan sinned. He wanted to rule like God does. So do these people. So they seek power and are corrupted by it both the search and suchas they have attained. they refuse to serve as christ served, they would rule as Satan seeks to. but this requires repentance of sin, and that requires honesty before God. yet when i was a fundamemtalist i was so obsessed with the commandments of God and what i thought they meant that the idea of being honest to God was totally lost to me. but as i discovered that the only cure to my agony was to be honest to GOd in prayer so my belief mismaned "fundamentalism" started to fall away. when they discover the real gospel proclaimed in the literal and infallible scripture which is the word of God they will cease to be "fundmanentalists" unfortunately the humilty this requires means the religious right may well be with us for many many years

by strefanash on Wed May 16, 2007 at 01:41:44 AM EST


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