Magazine article The Christian Century

Limits of Politics

Magazine article The Christian Century

Limits of Politics

Article excerpt

WHEN THE MAN who coined the term Moral Majority decides that the majority is gone and that the culture war is lost, people pay attention. Paul Weyrich, who launched Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed as religiopolitical operatives, recently declared that Americans' moral decline is so advanced and the culture so corrupt that it's futile to attempt to restore traditional values through politics. "Politics has failed. And politics has failed because of the collapse of the culture"--a culture Weyrich termed "an ever-wider sewer"

His statement naturally caused consternation among religious and political conservatives, especially people like presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who is counting on attracting voters with his message of restoring family values. Bauer and supporters can't be happy with Weyrich's conclusion: "We need to drop out of this culture."

It's tempting to argue with such dramatic claims. Is the culture that much more corrupt than it was 20 years ago, or 60 years ago? It seems more accurate to say: It's more corrupt in some ways, and less in others. But perhaps the significant point is that a major figure on the Religious Right is rethinking its mission. And Weyrich is not alone. Due out next month is a book by Ed Dobson and Cal Thomas, former associates of Falwell, who contend that when religious conservatives started organizing politically they lost their souls in a blind and arrogant quest for power.

Weyrich's remarks expose a tension that has long been present in the rhetoric of the Religious Right. …

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