The Transformation of the Christian Right

The Transformation of the Christian Right

The Transformation of the Christian Right

The Transformation of the Christian Right

Synopsis

The Transformation of the Christian Right chronicles and analyzes the remarkable changes that have occurred in the Christian Right from its emergence in the late 1970s to the present. Specifically, it documents the rapid turnover of Christian-Right organizations and explains the forces driving that kaleidoscopic change. Moen also traces the strategic shift of the movement's leaders, away from lobbying the Congress and toward mobilizing conservative activists in the grass roots; he demonstrates the substitution of liberal language (with its emphasis on "equality, rights, and freedom") for moralistic language (with its focus on "right and wrong"). Much has been written about the Christian Right's impact on politics but little about how years of political activism have shaped and influenced the Christian Right. Moen addresses that neglected side of the issue. Moen challenges the popular wisdom that the Christian Right was weakened in the late 1980s by the scandals involving television evangelists, the failed presidential quest of Pat Robertson, and the dismantling of the Moral Majority by Reverend Jerry Falwell. He shows that the Christian Right remains vibrant and influential but in ways different today from in the early 1980s.

Excerpt

This study is part of a continuing interest in conservative religious "pressure groups" that began while I was an undergraduate student at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, observing the Christian Right's 1980 campaign to unseat liberal Senator George McGovern. the vitriolic nature of that campaign on both sides sparked an interest that was fed by subsequent journalistic and scholarly assessments of the Christian Right's prospects.

In 1984 I had an opportunity to spend time on Capitol Hill, and I interviewed people who were either advancing or combatting the Christian Right's agenda there. the culmination of that research was The Christian Right and Congress (1989), which examined the tactics and successes of conservative religious interest groups on Capitol Hill. This study draws from that book but is not simply a continuation; its principal objective is to chronicle and assess the panoply of changes that occurred in the Christian Right during the 1980s. Until recently, the movement's infancy precluded meaningful discussion of changes over time.

This book provides a political scientist's best assessment of the transformation of the Christian Right in the 1980s; it is not intended as a statement about either the relative merits of conservative Christianity or the desirability of religious conservatives' influence in American politics. Its principal audience is the scholar who is interested in the Christian Right's persistence and evolution; however, its normative, historical nature puts its contents within the reach of a wide readership.

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