Cal Thomas feels the Religious Right is off target, that Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority failed in many of its major goals, and that many conservative church leaders should tone down their political rhetoric. Strong words coming from a popular conservative columnist and former Moral Majority vice president.
Thomas and fellow Moral Majority alumnus Ed Dobson express their sentiments in a controversial book, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? The book, to be reissued in paperback in August, created a storm among the faithful. Some readers swear by Thomas and Dobson; others swear at them.
The authors lament America's continuing moral and social decay. Many of the problems the Moral Majority sought in the 1980s to fix - broken families, crime, drugs, pornography - are still around and worse. Racism and hunger - stated, but not always active conservative concerns, notes Dobson - abound. He feels there were "blind spots in the Moral Majority's vision."
The authors commend the movement for forcing public discussion of morality and religion in politics and for stimulating millions to civic responsibility. They are kind to Falwell and note his personal warmth and sense of humor. They still support conservative causes. But they think many religious leaders have been seduced by power, an aphrodisiac they feel deludes some into compromising convictions to gain access to leaders.
Thomas feels both Jesse Jackson and Billy Graham let access concerns make them too soft on President Clinton's sexual escapades. He says that in the rush of excitement over Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential election victory, church leaders' pride often trumped humility: "Who wanted to ride into the capital on the back of an ass when one could go first class in a private jet and be picked up and driven around in a chauffeured limousine?"
Former Senator Alan Simpson noted that those in Washington seeking "the high road of humility" would "not encounter heavy traffic." Now chastened, Thomas and Dobson admit they do not have all the answers, though they say they once thought they had most of them.
Thomas offers a revealing analysis of the psychology of the Religious Right. Victory and success were seen as proof of God's blessing. He feels too many believers have deep significance needs and questions their quest for "validation in visibility," wondering if inferiority and fragile faith are to blame.
Thomas stresses befriending rather than condemning opponents, citing Falwell's friendship with Ted Kennedy and his own with Norman Lear. He no longer believes politics will transform the nation but looks for more powerful and enduring solutions. Social ills are not the source of decadence, he maintains, but a reflection of it. Former US Senator Sam Nunn (D, Georgia) said, "Our problems in America today are primarily problems of the heart. . .unless we change our hearts, we will still have a deficit of the soul."
Government can't reach the soul, the authors maintain. That's God's territory. They offer Jesus as soulchanger and exemplar. People who place their faith in Christ, ". . .become new persons," wrote Paul, a first century believer. "They are not the same anymore for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" Thomas notes that Jesus focused on "the forgotten, the outcast, and the despised."
The authors encourage engagement in the political system. Thomas, of course, still speaks and writes. Dobson, now a Michigan pastor, has befriended a state senator and serves on a state child abuse board. Be engaged in politics, they counsel, but recognize its limits. Write letters to local newspapers (try praising officials for commendable actions). Consider redirecting donations from national organizations to local communities (a suggestion sure to engender some ire).
"Religious conservatives. . . can't save America," they conclude. "Only God can." Timely advice?
Rusty Wright is an author and university lecturer who has spoken on six continents. "Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;
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