My tweet didn’t break the Internet, but it may have left a scratch. Like any tweet, there’s more to be said than what fits in 280 characters. There’s a history behind it, and it goes back to the late 1970s when I was the same age as today’s Stoneman Douglas students. This was when the so-called Moral Majority got its start. And back then, I knew there was something wrong with it.
“Hypocrites and Pharisees”
Anita Bryant and Reverend Jerry Falwell didn’t make a good first impression on me. Their Moral Majority looked like bigotry wrapped up in sanctimoniousness. In response, I drew this parody of a Moral Majority ad that appeared in magazines around 1978. And when Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith declared in 1980, “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew,” I decided that this Jew didn’t want to hear anything the Moral Majority had to say.
Christians weren’t impressed by them either. Barry Goldwater, the father of modern conservatism, voiced his disapproval by saying, “I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” We saw them as the “hypocrites and Pharisees” that Jesus warned about.
(Side note, the Pharisees are credited for saving Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple in 79 CE. I interpret Jesus’s statement is an attack against those he felt were focused on regulations and had no compassion for people. In that regard, there are plenty of Pharisees in Christianity and other institutions today.)
The hypocrisy of the Moral Majority was clear. They opposed abortion in the name of “right to life.” But they supported the death penalty, brutal military dictatorships around the world, and the nuclear arms race. They opposed AIDS research by considering the disease a punishment from God. They ignored everything Jesus preached about helping the poor and backed Reaganomics as they enriched their ministries. I remember seeing a TV preacher at an Irvine steakhouse where we had a company lunch in the late 1980s. He wore designer dress shirts with French cuffs that allowed him to show off his new gold Rolex watch.
It was during the Moral Majority’s heyday in the seventies and eighties that I first thought up the phrase, “The Moral Majority believes the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth.” They value children when they are in the womb. When they’re out of it, they couldn’t give one whit about them.
We all took pleasure in the televangelist scandals that followed. They proved what we suspected about them. Well, isn’t that special?
“By their fruits, you will know them”
The religious right was wounded by the scandals of the late 1980s, but it didn’t go away. It clamped onto the Republican Party, helped drive it further to the right, and made their most extreme positions the core of the party. They may now use social media instead of magazine ads, but they are the same hypocrites and bigots I remembered from the late 1970s.
For them, morality is for other people. Abortion is murder until a mistress gets pregnant. They denounce LGBTQ people in public while having same-sex encounters in private. They invoke Holy Week when they lose sponsors after a cheap shot on a teenager. So when people ask “How can evangelicals support Trump?,” I already know the answer. After Jessica Hahn, how can they be upset about Stormy Daniels and anyone else the President allegedly slept with? If they could turn a blind eye to the amorality of their ministers, they will accept the amorality of a president.
The issues facing this country are complex, but people of goodwill can discuss them thoughtfully and come up with reasonable solutions. But I have no use for those with smug piety, barely disguised hatred, public condemnation of things they do in secret, and false declarations of morality. Scripture says, “By their fruits, you will know them.” And I’ve known the fruits of the religious right for 40 years.