Beliefs Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

Christian Clout

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Reports of the demise of the religious right have issued periodically since the 1980s, usually linked to the declining fortunes of marquee national organizations like the Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family. What has sustained the movement, however, are the state and local groups that have done the grunt work of grass roots communication and mobilization. So any serious effort to guage the health of the movement needs to look at that world.

Good, then, for my old colleague Jim Galloway, who in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution outlines the disarray that has overtaken the once mighty religious right in Georgia. Five years ago, the queen of the kingdom was Sadie Fields, who as head of the state Christian Coalition worked hand in glove with Ralph Reed (then chair of the Georgia Republican Party) to engineer the GOP takeover of state government. (Here’s how it worked, and here’s how Fields described it.)

Sadie’s still around today, and still counts, but she no longer presides over a unified movement. Her own pragmatism is questioned by true believers disgusted with Republican legislators’ lack of (as they see it) true belief. The election of Barack Obama, and the consequent postponement (if not denial) of the dream of a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, has been a bitter disappointment. The millennial moment of George W. has passed.

Recovery is always possible. But if what’s happened in Georgia is being replicated across the country, it could well be the case that the religious right as we have come to know it really is on the way out.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

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