Opportunity in Adversity


November 16, 1992|By CAL THOMAS

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell says he has been ''inundated'' since the election with requests from some religious conservatives to ''please, please, please crank up the Moral Majority again.''

As one who labored in the organization as its vice president from 1980-85, I would advise please, please, please don't.

The effort might provide some needed short-term cash for the struggling Falwell organization and for other groups like Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. But if the objective is to change government policy and thereby to return America to its spiritual and moral roots, the approach is backward.

If the Religious Right couldn't achieve this goal when it had Ronald Reagan in the White House and a Republican Senate for six years, the likelihood it will enjoy success under a Democratic President and Democratic Congress is even less promising.

Such an effort cannot work because we now live in what some theologians call a ''post-Christian culture.'' This means that the old norms are no longer accepted by the majority. Self-evident truth? What's that? What, in fact, is truth? The majority no longer accepts principles from the Old and New Testaments that once undergirded law, government, human relationships and social policy. To appeal to this majority with the language and values of the past is to invite rejection, even ridicule.

If religious conservatives are looking for ways and places to expend their energies during a Clinton administration, there are many available. They are not likely to generate much money, but they are certain to create a center of influence with the potential to bring the positive changes that political power alone has failed to achieve.

First, religious conservatives must separate their children from the failed public school system. The crisis in education is summed up by the late Allan Bloom: ''Students now arrive at the university ignorant and cynical about our political heritage, lacking the wherewithal to be either inspired by it or seriously critical of it.''

Public schools have been invaded and captured by an alien philosophy. With their emphasis on ''multiculturalism,'' rewriting history and ''alternative lifestyles,'' they are hothouses in which young seedlings are converted into towering liberal oaks.

These schools cannot be revived. They must be shunned by those with traditional values if those values and ideas are to be preserved. Conservatives must educate their children with their own world view and aim for an intellectually and morally superior school system. Public schools would then be forced to change or close.

If Congress and Bill Clinton continue to oppose freedom of choice in education, conservatives should make scholarships available to parents unable to afford non-public schools.

Second, preachers need to get back to their primary mission, which is to build up their members spiritually and morally and to attract new members to a life, a cause and a kingdom not of this world. It is the layperson, properly committed and properly taught, who has the real power to bring real change.

Some people don't like ''trickle-down economics.'' I don't like trickle-down morality. If a nation is not ready to be moral and accept a universal standard of righteousness, no president or Congress can impose it. The people must be prepared. The preachers can lead the way, but they cannot be the way. Call it ''bubble-up morality.''

Finally, religious conservatives need to reposition themselves and be primarily known by what they are for, not what they oppose. They have a positive message about life, about human relationships, about compassion, but it is too often wrapped in a negative image.

Pro-lifers, for example, ought to expand the network of crisis pregnancy centers that offer financial, medical, spiritual and adoptive services to women with unplanned pregnancies. The agenda would be the same -- to save babies and help women -- but the public face would be more Mother Teresa and less Operation Rescue; more compassion and less confrontation.

Taken together, a new standard of education and a new approach (which is really an old approach) to evangelism, discipleship and social commitment can affect a radical change, even a reformation in America. Ministers who think that government alone, or government mostly, can accomplish their legitimate objectives, might wish to reconsider this great biblical truth: ''Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord.''

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

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