A New (Moral) Moral Majority?

My first discussions about sex with my sons as they were entering their teenage years were complicated by my effort to balance arguments for delay and responsibility with an admonition that sexual activity is an aspect of an individual’s general moral behavior.

I wanted them to understand that moral people don’t “use” others for sexual or other gratification. Moral people don’t lie about their feelings or intentions to get something they want. Treating other people the way you want others to treat you is an imperative that includes but is not limited to your behaviors below the waist.

I thought about those conversations when I read an article from the Guardian about “pro-life” voters for Biden, because single-issue voters have always mystified me, in much the same way I’m mystified by people who define morality solely in terms of sexual purity.

Candidate A may be a rotten human being who vilifies his opponents, is intent upon using public office to line his pockets, and espouses numerous policies with which they disagree–but they’ll put all of those concerns aside if Candidate A is “with them” on just one issue. Maybe that issue is abortion, maybe it’s taxes–whatever it is, I’ve never understood narrowing the definition of morality to exclude all but that favored issue.

I was thus pleased to see that at least some “pro life” voters have also concluded that moral behavior–and thus the casting of a moral vote–encompasses more than a single issue. Christianity Today recently reported that Ohio’s Right to Life executive director resigned rather than support Trump in 2020, and the linked article was written by a clearly pious graduate of Liberty University.

What’s so pro-life about forced hysterectomies?” It’s an obvious follow-up question after the revelation that the Department of Homeland Security under Donald Trumpforced unwanted reproductive medical procedures on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detainees. And with some rank-and-file anti-abortion workers resigning rather than stomach supporting Trump, it lays open the question of whether the movement, even with its judicial success and the possibility of one more appointment to the supreme court, can survive the damage Trump has inflicted.

During the last election, the desire to overturn Roe v Wade had some holding their noses and voting for Trump. Four years later, the problems of standing with such a deeply immoral president, a string of horrific policy actions and a small but significant change in the voting patterns of religious conservatives all may be combining to hasten the diminishment of the movement even as it reaches a coveted milestone.

In 2008, the author of the article spent some 200 hours interviewing young evangelicals who were leaving the church. He found that the primary reason was the disconnect they saw between the teaching of scripture and the politics of the religious right–politics that bear little resemblance, in their view, to the issues Jesus cared about. What happened to those parts of scripture that demand justice for workers, people of all races and migrant  children at the border?

The essay makes it clear that these young evangelicals are still anti-abortion. But they have enlarged their definition of morality. As the author concludes:

We need to foster ways for faithful evangelicals to act faithfully, to reclaim the moral narrative and provide space to advocate for the election of leaders who reflect a full set of Christian values that will help our nation heal. This is why I am lending my voice to the New Moral Majority and participating in actions to reclaim our sacred story. In the past few weeks, frustrated by the reality that children are still being separated from their families and placed into detention, over 450 faith leaders called upon Trump to change course. To learn now that mothers of the separated children have been forced to have hysterectomies is news that sends shockwaves through communities of faith. It’s the type of government intervention in the family planning process that is not only fundamentally immoral, but against every freedom we claim to protect for all those made in the image of God.

I once asked a younger evangelical who grew up in a Republican and anti-abortion household why he has chosen a life of service among the urban poor. He said: “They blew it, man. Our parents and their generation. They cared more about power than people. We needed to do something new.” Indeed.

Those of us who believe that government should not have the power to compel a woman’s  reproductive choices can work with–and find common ground on other issues of life and death with– a genuinely moral “moral majority” that refuses to limit its definition of “morality” to a single issue.


  1. A woman’s reproductive choices, including the small percentage opting for abortion for whatever reason, is a HEALTH ISSUE AND HEALTH DECISION. The self-proclaimed “moral right” use their religious beliefs as the standard of everyone else’s morality. In doing so they have closed medical clinics providing health care and testing throughout this country for those who cannot afford expensive medical care; it is only the abortion issue they have based their closures on. Their tax dollars are NOT used to pay for the 3% of the clinic’s medical care, testing and treatment. Pence’s “moral right” laws in the state of Indiana closed all Planned Parenthood clinics in southern Indiana causing epidemics of HIV and opioid overdoses and death, for men and women, due to the loss of testing and medical care. Health care insurance, including Medicare, approves of and provides erectile dysfunction supplies for men. Provisions and laws for years made primarily by a bunch of old white men prevails over all women’s rights to quality health care.

    My young friend’s life was saved by Planned Parenthood’s early diagnosis of breast cancer; they quickly found medical care for her which provided treatments which saved her life and her breast, only requiring lumpectomy and lymphectomy. She is now 6 years cancer-free. Which of the “moral majority” moral rules did her breast cancer break?

    If anyone on this blog or anywhere else can find one moral decision on any issue made by the current government, please inform us of that miracle. We have watched, helpless, as the Trump Republicans have ended all sense of morality within our government; another bunch of old white men whose morals on more than abortion are without precedence.

  2. Dear Prof,
    Thank you for confirming for me that my behavior has been that of a moral person who is patiently waiting for our return to sanity next year.
    Make America Happy Again (MAHA)

  3. This was meant for Boomers or most of us: “They blew it, man. Our parents and their generation. They cared more about power than people.”


    The teachings of Jesus should be removed from the religion called Christianity. There was nothing conservative or traditional about him or his teachings. Bring in all the books written and try again before you lose the masses.

    My preference is Christian religions do lose the masses. Bring on a hippy movement where just the spiritual principles taught by Jesus are shared and practiced. Incorporate the philosophy of the East and move forward. Emmet Fox had some great teachings, and so did Alan Watts.

    We need more people like Alan Watts and fewer preachers/pastors/reverends. Teach about love, self-awareness, service to others, ego deflation, spirituality, higher self, etc.

    Get rid of the Sunday worship services in wooden pews. Have people bring in their yoga mats, drums, gongs, etc.

    Teach about UNITY and shared spirituality versus division. How can we serve others while condemning them at the same time?

    Once again, if we are to follow science, we know that all emotions come from love or fear. I see fear everywhere in just about everything we do as a society. Imagine if we taught people how to love instead.

    We are long overdue for a hippy movement in the United States.


  4. I think one thing we’ve learned in the reign of the short-fingered vulgarian is that if you’re a single-issue voter, your soul can be bought for pennies on the dollar.

  5. I live in the area of LaGrange & Elkhart Counties and make the short hop into Goshen quite often. As a result of various activities I’ve undertaken I’ve come to know a number of people of Mennonite faith, which includes but is not exclusive to, the Old Order Amish. While I’m certainly no convert, I have developed a far deeper appreciation of their faith for its consistency and sincerity. Yes they oppose abortion, but also capital punishment and almost all forms of war and have opposed the taking of human life for hundreds of years as a result being one of the most oppressed religious groups in human history. In addition, they share much in common with the liberal center and center-left when it comes to social issues and general well-being. For example universal health care is a no-brainer. But the US Mennonite population numbers barely 150,000 and one or more of the mainstream Christian sects are going to have to widely rediscover and embrace the real Jesus before I get encouraged. Until then I regard most of them as fake-Christians or followers of Republican Jesus.

    Also, I recently listened to the following podcast from NPR on The Evangelical Vote. I found it revelatory. Actually, I was gobsmacked to learn that anti-abortion was only adopted as a platform by the right as a means to achieve power. Once that power was achieved they used it to advance their original agenda: white supremacy. Give it a listen!


  6. In how many other countries is the women’s uterus a primary issue in electing their leaders?

  7. The Pope has said that the harm of wealth and income inequalities have reached or exceeded that of abortion. Giving his flock permission to vote for a pro choice individual.
    If you removed everything in the New Testament where Jesus speaks of social justice (socialism) – there wouldn’t be anything left to read.

  8. Puritans, they left england to see about spreading their heritage. between burning witches,and being a watchdog over the people, they blew it too. America was the new land to be free of king and pope,then let’s make it that way.basically the signers of the bill of rights,constitution were tired of the words of power,and so called morality. i can’t see where the so called moral majority has a bitch. they practice what they preach,have a loyal following,and universities that further their theologies to the next gens,who want to follow that genre,they seem to forgot,how they got that far,it’s democracy.its people of all faiths and none,,who died and got trampled on,that gives them the right to preach,freely. but when it’s combined with politics,the laws now are being changed,to shove that morality up our butt. i’d have to argue,my morality,is at least,for all..a hand out,and a hand up. say what ya want, i’ll never be rich, but at least i’m not blind to listen to morality make its case today. i have that pic of those televangicals all with their paws on trumps shoulder,looking so damn reverent.
    every time i see it,this foul stench comes to my senses. greed,from those who preach so pure,and so vile,while flying at 30000 feet,in a private jet,at the same time…the souls who accept this form of religion,have no imagination,only a wish to be controlled by a deity that,in my words, doesn’t exist..my opinion,but, it’s the foul odor that arises every time they step foot into the supreme court to whine about their religion being trampled on… well. if ya want trampled on, then keep that court busy, many of us are tired of the whining majority,and maybe a run into countries like russia,and iran,with that sort of preaching,would make the light shine again,how America,gave them the right to practice as they see fit..not to make the laws their personal life’s work to change,anyone…

  9. What I find interesting is that, when Roe v Wade was decided, the only religious group that was opposed was the Catholic Church. I clearly remember Cardinal Cushing of Boston being asked about the decision and he replied that he was opposed to abortion, but he didn’t feel it was appropriate to force his beliefs on all other American. How times have changed!

  10. OMG.
    we are hoping,that America wakes up.. if ya go to a big truckstop, there’s usually a bumper sticker rack… i bought a new one,,’
    ” DUMP TRUMP,make America great again” how fitting….along with my trump/putin 2020 sticker//

  11. My reaction to the one issue anti-abortion people is – “Don’t Get One”, it is your choice.

    If we had a Single Payer heath care system from birth to death, family planning could be a part of it. Here in Indiana we can only teach abstinence in schools – None of that birth control or prevention of STD’s can be taught.

    The Reactionary Right Wing the Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics could care less about the child after it is born. The Catholic Church Women can make Coffee and Babies – They cannot have a formal leadership position. No Women Priests Allowed.

  12. Putin might have carried Trump over the EC finish line but the fact that he was close enough was the result of a pure and simple power grab that was organized and trained by oligarchs and united by a coalition of power hungry minorities. Oligarchs, evangelicals, white supremacists, misogynists, the Tea Party, the NRA, all single issue Republican voters feeling that they were entitled to find a way to impose their single issue beliefs on all of us.

    Fortunately for the country the only person that would even consider giving them what they felt entitled to was a reality TV producer in need of a handout who had no qualifications for the job of President. They didn’t care much for the country to start with so they took the only chance they had. I say fortunately because his failure was amplified by a virus that required a qualified President and he wasn’t so his incompetence became so prominent that everyone could see it.

    Now we have to begin again building the liberal democracy of the Constitution again and the only way that we can is for Republicans as a party to be held accountable for what they alone caused. Nobody is afraid of a clean sweep now because the alternative is so evident to everyone at this critical moment. Preparation met opportunity, always a winner.

  13. Sr. Joan Chichister says ” They are not pro-life, they are pro-birth.”

    I agree with her. We need to cultivate a deep reverence for life. To be true to that value, we need to ensure that all women have full access to birth control and prenatal care. When women have access to reproductive health care, abortions decrease markedly.

    I applaud the young evangelicals who have taken the teachings of Jesus to heart, who are focusing more on helping those in need and who object to the drive for political power by their elders in the religious “right”. I prefer to call them the religous wrong.

    And yes, each of us needs to avoid being “single issue” voters. There are many reasons that I vote blue, not just one.

  14. My daughter is active in Democratic politics and we have discussed single issue voting at some length. This pro life and pro choice issue (if it is an “issue” and not a kitchen table problem in which government should be uninvolved) works both ways. Thus my daughter is pro choice but voted for Joe Donnelly twice for the Senate, knowing that Joe was pro life who followed the teachings of his Catholic Church. She will be voting for a pro choice Catholic shortly, and I, a one time Unitarian, have already voted via mail for this other Joe in Florida. I don’t care where or if any candidate goes to church, temple or mosque so long as he or she adheres to the democratic idealism set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That’s my test.

    If we really believe in separation of church and state, then we should vote for representatives of the state without any consideration of religion OR its teachings. Our societal norms are based on other protocols borne out of experience other than those borne out of the so-called Judeo-Christian civilizing set of rules. We are not voting for popes and preachers; we are empowering representatives of our government to act on temporal matters in our name and with our money. Let’s not confuse the two.

    The church has a checkered past in any event, from popes who led armies (thou shalt not kill?) to priests and altar boys (Hitler was once an altar boy – could that explain his later murderous tendencies?), to perverts such as Falwell and TV preachers who need private jet planes to “spread the gospel of Jesus,” which is quite a change from the day when the Wesley brothers came from Ireland to the United States to spread the Methodist gospel – on horseback – to the biblical wanderings of Jesus and his ragtag band of followers who spread the young rabbi’s revolutionary views in the hot desert sands – on foot.

    The message so far as I am concerned is to vote for stands on temporal issues, not where or if candidates follow Bronze Age philosophies whatever the brand, and if one knowingly adopts a particular spiritual view of reality, fine; just don’t tell me I must also conform. See Barry Lynn.

  15. I remember a writing assignment I gave to my political science students. I had them identify an issue to me for which they felt the most passionate about – gun rights, abortion, affirmative action, etc. Then I told them to write a paper advocating the argument on the other side of their issue.

    The purpose of the exercise was to force those students to actually LISTEN to what the other side is saying. Not to change their minds on the issue – but to make their advocacy of their position more effective. Too much advocacy these days is simply about regurgitating one liners slamming the opponents’ positions.

    That is true on the abortion issue. All I hear from the pro-choice side is that the issue is about men wanting to control women’s bodies, to stop them from “reproductive choices.” That assertion, of course, overlooks the fact that there are as many women as men (maybe more) who oppose abortion. (Several polls show the biggest supporters of abortion rights are, in fact, men 18-25.)

    So many pro-choice advocates refuse to accept for one second the possibility that pro-life people might truly be motivated by the fact they consider a fetus to be another distinct human being, albeit one who is not yet born. (The development of high quality sonograms have given that argument more credence.) That their motivation isn’t about “controlling” women, but about protecting that developing human life.

    The problem with Roe v. Wade is that the decision took the issue, mostly, out of the political arena. Both sides can now take the most extreme positions, talking by each other, tossing out slogans, without ever having to listen to the other side and reach compromises that can pass a legislative body.

    When the abortion issue comes back to the legislative arena, which is appearing to be likely, you’re going to see both sides need to start talking to each other in order to reach compromises that the public will support. Banning abortion from the point of conception is not going to happen. Allowing abortion for nine months is not going to happen either.

    Although Roe v. Wade does poll as being popular, the abortions permitted by Roe v. Wade are not. Particularly I’m talking about second and third trimester abortions. (I’m aware that Roe allows states to ban third trimester abortions that are not medically necessary.) It’s not a reach to conclude that Americans do not actually know the holding of Roe v. Wade, and think that it provides a much more limited right to abortion than it actually does.

    Once both sides start talking to each other again (hey, I can hope), a policy decision can be made that balances the very legitimate interests of the woman with the very real and very complicated fact that the issue indisputably does involve another human life, albeit one not yet born.

    90% of abortions happen during the first trimester, 10% in the second, less than 1% in the third. Those second and third trimester abortions are what are so problematic for many people, including many people who otherwise support abortion rights.

    Planned Parenthood v. Casey moved away from the Roe trimester approach to draw the line at viability (the ability of the fetus to live outside the womb) which has been moving and now is a few weeks before the second trimester. But there is no constitutional basis whatsoever thoguh to judicially to draw the line at the end of the second trimester or at viability. (It was a policy, not a legal, decision made by the Supreme Court.) It makes sense, particularly since we now know much more about fetal development than we knew in 1973 (Roe) and 1992 (Casey), that the line should be earlier.

    The abortion issue has always been about balancing the interests involved and drawing the line, which my guess will ultimately be after the first trimester.

    Let the abuse for my position begin!

  16. “Planned Parenthood v. Casey moved away from the Roe trimester approach to draw the line at viability (the ability of the fetus to live outside the womb) which has been moving and now is a few weeks before the second trimester.”

    Correction: I meant to say before the END of the second trimester.

  17. Paul – I agree with you. There has to be more compromise. I believe Biden would sway more voters his way if Democrats took a somewhat “softer” stance on abortion.

  18. Unity Church teaches spirituality and responsibility. Much of what is missing in traditional Christianity.

  19. Paul. The abortion issue has been disguised as a morality play but the fact is that stance is problematic because moral people stand on both sides.

    I respect that those who stand on the side of only the fetus with decision rights are absolutely unimpeded in acting according to what they believe.

    The side that grants the creators of the fetus decision rights are also free now to act according to their conscience. If that is arbitrarily denied them what are the consequences to them and the fetus? It varies from situation to situation of course but they could be a lifelong for everyone.

    As generally the fetus only decision rights is based on faith the government is denied any decision rights. That’s the Constitutional imperative that must be upheld by SCOTUS.

    I lean towards the Constitution as the arbiter.

  20. Paul is so right about leadership of abortion rights and pro-life groups talking past each other. I so wish pro-life leadership was pro-contraception, but they oppose contraception as well. If we really want to eliminate abortions – legal or illegal – then we’ll prevent unwanted pregnancies. Reliable birth control is not available to so many of the women who seek abortions, and while their male partners could and should use protection, many refuse, and the protection isn’t reliable for those who do.

    Sister Joan Chichister is right that a commitment to pro-life sentiments includes not only life after birth but at least a minimum quality of life. Bringing children into a environment of abuse and neglect is reckless and irresponsible for which all of us ultimately pay in costs of special education, Medicaid, unemployment and under-employment, welfare, crime, and often a continuing cycle of multi-generational abuse and neglect. An ounce of prevention is worth the pounds of cure.

  21. Oh my – I wish I’d proof-read more closely and included an “an” before environment.

  22. Perhaps many choose to grind the sirens around one sin so peers will not notice their enthusiastic participation in other sins.

    If so, they have more in common with Trump than we thought.

  23. ““They blew it, man. Our parents and their generation. They cared more about power than people.””

    Or, they cared more about the power to get things done for the benefit of millions of people than they cared about cooing sweet nothings into the ears of whining individuals. That’s what power is for–getting things done.

    So, maybe it was not power that we should condemn them for. I condemn them, and us, for worshiping the Me-First idol. Power is neutral as to morals and ethics. Power should not be considered an automatic sin; what one does with power and why one desires power is the sin.

  24. “We are long overdue for a hippy movement in the United States.”

    Please. The flaw in hippiness is lack of ambition. I’m talking about the ambition to achieve a position from which you can do much good, rather than acceding to slovenliness and stink, from which you can carry on an incestuous relationship with your own Id.

  25. So it’s wrong to offer a woman a choice on how to deal with the most important life choice she will make but it’s o.k. to allow a criminally ignorant president to kill 150,000 people(some would have died whatever the approach taken) out of his fear of taking leadership of an issue only he could deal with? Couldn’t he have asked Gov. Cuomo for a helping hand? Couldn’t he have allowed America’s best epidemiologists to take the lead? Couldn’t he have shown just a tiny bit of sympathy for the sick and dying, or acknowledged that China’s approach was orders of magnitudes superior to his? Couldn’t he have helped America’s hospitals equip themselves for unprecedented challenges? Couldn’t he have admitted that every study had shown that wearing masks reduces the incidence of the disease? No, he couldn’t have done any of these because that would require empathy, a character trait missing from the deadly mix of neuroses he mistakes for his personality.

    But here’s a thought on how to confront a Justice Barrett world. Continue, in a focused and planned way, for however many years it takes, to point out the utter absurdity of his every act in office using scathing humor and his own words and actions and quantified evidence as targeted weapons to demonstrate how deadly and toxic he was as a human being and as a president. Cooperate proactively with his own efforts to make him look so utterly absurd that any decision any court might render that seems the least bit Trumpian is rejected by the public.

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