Move To Politics
For most of this century, fundamentalists and evangelicals used to avoid being involved in politics. The most of them were convinced that their goal of Christian activism was saving souls. However, a series of events in sixties changed their views in politics. Many of liberal evangelicals became Christian social activists. On the contrary, radical conservative Christians including Jerry Falwell and Robertson turned political activists. They perceived that the traditional values of the society were increasingly being corrupted and ruined.
The political involvement of fundamentalists around the middle of the sixties and the seventies was a reaction against a series of events in sixties and seventies. The impact of the Supreme Court decisions and social movements in sixties and seventies were great. In 1961 state sponsored prayer in public school were prohibited by the Supreme Court.18 The Supreme Court decision in 1973 allowed aborting a fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy 19. Many conservative perceived that the court has secularized American society completely. Fundamentalists as well as most of evangelical groups disliked the Equal Right Amendment. They supported the meaning of it, but perceived that this amendment might potentially danger the traditional family tie and dignity of women.20 During mid sixties and seventies, homosexuality became very visible in society. Fundamentalist considered that homosexuals have no right to practice perverted sexual relations. Pornography also became very visible in print, in the movies, and on TV. In this era, many Evangelicals and some Fundamentalists themselves have begun to move toward modernism.21 Divorce rapidly increased to 67 percent in the seventies.22 Unmarried mothers rose to 356 percent.23
Robertson naturally criticizes the series of the Supreme Court decisions because of his understanding of the Constitution of the United States. Robertson argues that the Constitution of the United States is a great document for self-government by Christian people.24
Robertson criticizes the elites who control the media, the legal establishments, economic policy, and educational ethos that strongly lean to fixed moral principle, celebration of the individual, and acceptance of alternative lifestyle, and liberal modernity. He says that this small number of elites threatens the traditional moral value, and foundation of the society.
“In essence we have two unelected elites which have enormous control over our destiny. One is our court. Five members of the court can make decisions which can radically alter the way we live, do business, educate our children, take care of our children . . . five members can do that. And the Federal Reserve, four members can do that.”25
By 1975, voice of Robertson became the most considerable force among Pentecostals through his successful religious broadcasting. He was at the center of a political movement due to the profound social changes of modernism in the sixties and seventies that threatened his ideal traditional Christian theology. Toward the end of the seventies, Robertson began to recognize that he could make political impact through his religious broadcasting. He began to talk and write in his newsletter as a man who was about to make a move into politics saying, “We have enough votes to run the country.”26
In 1975-1976 a moderate Baptist Jimmy Carter applied his belief of “born-again” Christianity to the chaos of the nation’s problems.27 Anywhere he went, he was asked about his value of born again. Without much effort, he gained a lot of supporters from evangelicals, and fundamentalists even though he strongly held the position of the separation of church and state. Robertson also fully supported Carter at this point. As soon as Carter came to the office, he became unpopular for he took no action against social issues such as school prayer and abortion.28 In the next presidential campaign, conservative voters did not support Carter any more even though Carter promised the appointment of qualified Evangelical Christians as to be in the federal government.29
Jimmy Carter Ronald Regan
On the other hand, Regan expressed his conservative worldview to mobilize Evangelicals including right wing Christian activists and conservative Christian voters.
“[Evolution] is a theory, it is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years being challenged in the world of science and it is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it was once believed. But if it was going to be taught in the schools then I think that also the biblical theory of creation, which is not a theory but biblical story of creation, should also be taught.”30
Ronald Regan called Soviet Union as an evil empire. This idea is close to Robertson’s dispensational premillennialst’s view. Regan’s worldview attracted Robertson who had been a Democrat. Then Robertson switched to the Republican Party. The presidential election of 1980, Regan received a considerable support from the New Christian Right activists. In the spring, nearly a half a million of largely Pentecostals, supported by Robertson, gathered on the Mall for a “Washington for Jesus” rally.31
During the summer, Falwell’s support of Regan gained high visibility for his Moral Majority movement that had formed the previous year. During the early 1980’s, Falwell was the symbolic leader of the religious right. Falwell did not develop grass roots organizational strength he claimed, but he was a dynamic force in motivating the mobilized Christians for the battle of the Christian right. Regan did not push their social agenda in Congress, but they legitimated their causes, and thus stimulated conservative Christians to become involved in the political process. However, Robertson played a low profile in public while going quietly about the business of organization that would help his own political campaign for the presidency in 1988.
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