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Friday, October 28, 2016

Regarding Morals, It's Still A Small World After All For The Religious Right

There is no doubt that this election year has shaken all of conservatism to the core. This is as true for the Religious Right as it is for the Republican Party. And the reason for all of this is the anti-establishment protest nomination of Donald Trump for President of the United States. Both the decision to oppose him as well as the decision to support him has carved what seems to be some permanent scars in the Republican Party. And the fear of some from the Religious Right is that such might do the same to them to if they do not regroup. Thus, we have had members or advocates for the Religious Right try to provide damage control. The latest example of that is found in a speech Russell Moore gave for First Things magazine (click here for a link to the speech).  We should note Russell Moore is a deservedly appreciated and important figure in conservative Christianity (click here for a bio).

To hear Moore's speech is to note that the Religious Right is concerned not just with surviving; it is interested in returning to the place of prominence and influence in society and culture which it feels it has lost. But unfortunately, it plans to become a player again without first asking the all important question: How should Christians share society with others? This question was never addressed and thus not answered. At least however, there is an acknowledgement that there should be no intention to establish some kind of theocracy. Unfortunately, there seems to be no awareness of the fact that Christian dominance over society can take other forms besides a theocracy.


What has caused the crisis to come to a head is the dissonance caused by having to decide on whether to support a person with the character flaws of Donald Trump to be President. As Trump's character deficits have become better known, more and more religiously conservative Christians have felt an inordinate amount of tension when considering for whom they will vote. For some, the nomination of Trump was the final straw in causing some religiously conservative Christians to flee from voting for the Republican candidate. In fact, for some, they have even decided that their best course of action is to hold their nose as they vote for the pro-choice, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

For other religiously conservative Christians, the battle is even more intense. Some will hold their nose and vote for Donald Trump in an effort to vote against Hillary Clinton. Though Moore disagrees with them, he understands their decision. What has Moore rightfully concerned is that some from the Religious Right have decided to minimize Trump's flagrant flaws and sins in order to feel comfortable with voting for him. This minimization of sin to justify voting for Trump is significant indicator to Moore that some are making significant moral compromises. Beyond that, Moore feels that some conservatives are making the Scriptures into a servant of a particular political ideology rather than use the Scriptures as a judge of one's political ideologies. These are valid concerns despite the fact that Moore, in error, refers to the former as liberalism.

But throughout the speech, it is evident that Moore is bound to political and economic conservatism and that it is tied to his faith. For when Moore talks about the Religious Right here, he is not just talking about conservative Protestants, he is talking about traditional Catholics and Mormons all of who are political conservatives. And it is this joining of conservatisms, religious and political, that Moore and other members of the Religious Right want to see revived. 


There is much in Moore's speech to comment on. But what this blog wants to focus on is the following subjects that were discussed sometime around the 30 minute mark of the video. In considering how conservatives can endure Trump as President, he stated that conservatives can endure a single Republican President who does not pursue traditional conservatism in economic or foreign policies. But religious conservatism is about 'moral formation and family values.' And this is the most troubling part of his whole speech. For how else can we take Moore's statement as being one that says that there are no moral issues with our economic system and foreign policies? Those who are not conservative beg to differ. But how they differ here is not the issue. What is the issue is how small does one's public moral sphere become when one believes that our nation's economic system as well as our foreign policies carry no moral implications.

This is how small the Religious Right's moral world is when adopting Moore's viewpoint. Obviously Trump's sexual practices and views automatically become moral issues. No person from the Religious Right would be worth their salt if they did not believe that to be true. In addition, Moore adds that the Religious Right has been slow in recognizing the immorality of racism. They recognize it now, but it took time for that to happen. But to separate our economic system from the formation of morals is to deny that either our economic system relies on exploitation or that such exploitation is a moral issue. In fact here, Moore seems to be utilitarian when it comes to our economic system.

Likewise, Moore acknowledges some compromises that have been made in our foreign policies. But again, there is no recognition that our foreign polices carry moral implications. Rather, the only implications Moore acknowledges in his speech are those that are involved with sex, family issues, and racism. This conveniently places the Church in the position of supporting, rather than challenging, the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power. At this point, a quote from the report for the liberal Trilateral Commission called The Crisis Of Democracy comes to mind.

In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army.

 Though with Moore's antagonism toward liberalism, it might be difficult to do but Moore would do well to try to learn from Liberals and Leftists about the moral values involved in our economic system and our foreign policies. But such seems to be a nonstarter for him. And thus, while Moore wants a resurrection of a influential and revised Religious Right in society, those efforts might be sabotaged by at least Moore's, if not that of the Religious Right's as well, lack of awareness of the moral issues involved with our economic system and our foreign policies. Such lack of awareness creates a kind of Religious Right that, until Trump caused problems, lost credibility with many in society because of its fixation individual sins while ignoring state and societal sins that hurt a broader range of people.

What should be added here is that Moore rightly emphasizes the need for the Religious Right to hold to the Scriptures and to the preaching of the Gospel. But, IMO, the Religious Right will repeat its past errors if it seeks to regain a similar degree of influence over society as it had in the past while ignoring most of the sins it ignored before. There are other issues that could be mentioned, but they are outside the focus of this article.



 

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