Religion in Public Life

Essay by terridaxUniversity, Master'sA+, July 2006

download word file, 6 pages 0.0

The question of the proper role of religion and of religiously based moral convictions within American public life has been hotly debated during the past fifteen years. The rise of the Moral Majority immediately prior to the first Reagan presidential campaign and the presidential candidacies of ordained ministers Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson directed the media spotlight to the issue of religion and politics. These years have been a time of aggressive Christian politics, as evangelicals entered the political fray seeking to mold public policies that would conform to their own religious convictions. On issues ranging from abortion to prayer in the public schools, evangelicals sought to use the instruments of the American political system to forward their interests and values. Since their agenda fit snugly with that of conservative politicians, advocates for "public religion" were generally associated with conservative political causes. During the 1980s the Moral Majority targeted "liberal politicians" for defeat in congressional elections.

Alliances of evangelical Christians and conservative politicians introduced bills into state legislatures mandating silent prayer or moments of silence at the beginning of the school day in the hope of reversing a trend they viewed as increasingly hostile to religion. Abortion became the litmus test for evangelical Christian politics, and the pro-life movement gathered an increasingly diverse group of religious folk under its banner.

During the decade of the 1990s overt evangelical politics became less prominent in our national political life. The scandals in the evangelical community involving such important figures as Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, and Jerry Falwell drove Christian politics somewhat into the background, and the decisive defeat suffered by Pat Robertson in the 1988 Republican primaries indicated the limits of support for such candidates within the American electorate. 1 The national gathering of evangelicals in Houston, Texas, following the...