It’s as official as it needs to be, and about as official as it’s likely to get. The so-called moral majority, the group that backed the congressional coup effort to “get” Clinton, is by its own admission no longer a majority. One of the group’s leading ayatollahs, Paul Weyrich, recently said so in a well-publicized statement. He suggested, in effect, a reversion to guerrilla tactics, since the frontal assault had been a costly failure.
In the old days, people used to say, “The King is dead, long live the King!” If the Christian coalition’s moral majority isn’t a majority any more, what can we say about the new moral majority?
It’s hard to describe the new moral majority, for it’s a lot more varied than the old one. One of the interesting things about a democracy is that it tolerates moral diversity. The Christian right does not. That’s one of the principal reasons this nation of ours has rejected it. We value our freedom to choose our own ideas and ideals over their doctrine.
Now that we’ve put the Christian coalition in its place, the rest of us can get on with the business of fashioning a consensus that gives us moral guidance on the most burning contemporary issues. Balancing environmental concerns against economic growth, new options in biogenetics, America’s role in a post-Cold-War era, cleaning up pockets of corruption in our political and economic institutions: these and other broad categories of issues come to mind. On most of these issues, there is no clear majority, there are only a group of concerned constituencies seeking to have their own views reflected in the emerging consensus. This as it should be, for this is for the most part new territory and it will take time to thrash out a genuine consensus that works.
But meantime, we have to cope with that guerrilla warfare that is even now being fought by the newly demoted Christian right. They are infiltrating school boards all over the country and will intensify their efforts, aimed at instilling their “morality” in our children. To the extent that doesn’t work, they will try to get the state to subsidize their own schools, so that at least they can try to ward off the modernizing of their own younger cadres. The rest of us must resist these efforts. The bottom line is that there must be a new moral majority that strongly supports and constantly reaffirms the principle of separation of church and state.
The abortion issue will continue to dominate the larger controversy. Everybody who opposes future hegemony by the Christian right needs to recognize this battle for what it is, one that transcends the immediate issue of the status of a human embryo, and goes to the heart of whether a determined minority can be allowed to dictate moral choices to the rest of us.
The Christian Right is also launching a detailed, long-term effort to provide a respectable theistic alternative to modern theories of evolution. The new goal is to introduce the basic concept of “intelligent design”, which is a back-door device to reintroduce creationism as the dominant underpinning of our nation’s thoughts and beliefs. See the Secular Web, http://firstname.lastname@example.org (feature article by James Still). The effort would be laughable except that it will be well financed and, as we have seen, with a lot of money a lot of crazy ideas can be foisted on a lot of people.
So there is indeed a new moral majority on some issues, or there had better be. On the rest of the issues, let’s ignore the static from the right as best we can and work things out. Actually, aren’t we seeking to achieve a society where there really is no moral majority any more, and where every new issue that comes up is decided on its own merits by a pragmatic, informed, non-doctrinaire public?