Several fundamental changes took place at the core of the American society in the second half of the 20th century, especially in terms of the relation between religion and politics. Whilst the notion of 'Fourth Great Awakening' is controversial, the fact remains that America has been subject to parallel and somewhat paradoxical trends. On one hand, the Nation became more and more secularized but, on the other hand, religious groups and, in particular, fundamentalist cults gained increasing political influence. Faced with new socio-economic conditions and with the emergence of new social issues, traditional religious groups were totally caught unprepared, and their confusion favored the reinforcement of reformist, or even fundamentalist, religious movements. Left-leaning and Civil Rights-related movements of the 1960s and the New Christian Right which emerged in the 1970s are two major examples of these new religious movements seeking to reform the American society. Even though they were politically opposed as they didn't fight for the same social causes, their overall goal was similar: they both were dedicated to implement radical changes in the American society in order to redeem it.
[...] This is the reason for the creation of the “Moral Majority organization” (Falwell, p.507). An example of an effective massive mobilization of the religious community in order to defend its convictions on the political scene is the Mormons successful fight against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970's (cf. Young). Despite obvious differences regarding their socioeconomic and political positions and the strategies they used, the left-leaning reform movements of the sixties and the New Christian Right all were driven by the same overarching motives, that is to say the defense of transcendental principles against the growing moral relativism of the American society. [...]
[...] Religion and politics in the American society in the second half of the 20th century Compare the left-leaning reform movements of the 1960's with the conservative New Christian Right of the 1970's and 1980's. What roles did religion play in each? Were those two phenomena completely different, or did they draw on some common ideas, styles, and strategies? Several fundamental changes took place at the core of the American society in the second half of the 20th century, especially in terms of the relation between religion and politics. [...]
[...] Both the New Christian Right and the left-wing religious movement of the 1960's emphasize the importance of civil religion: Falwell, for example, claims that “Bible-believing Christians and moral Americans are determined to do something about the problems we are facing as a Nation” (Falwell, p.504). This clearly means that the need for social reform isn't simply religious: it is a moral duty for all American citizens, whatever their religious beliefs are, because all of them share the same moral spirit. Reform isn't only about religion: it is about the Nation. However, the fact that both religious movements base their action on the existence of a transcendental moral order doesn't mean that they reject minority groups and force people to follow them. [...]
[...] Being driven by universal principles and common moral order, both movements could therefore lead to the mobilization of a cosmopolitan group of people, all believing in different religions but united in same moral, civil beliefs. The common goal of both movements was, consequently, to push these cosmopolitan but united groups to involve in politics in order to defend their social values. As Neil Young puts it, “religiously devout citizens understand their political action as an outgrowth of their deepest spiritual convictions” (Young, p.626). [...]
[...] The New Christian Right emphasized the fact that America was being “under God's judgment” (Marsden which basically was the underlying Premillenial theory and that it needed to return “back to God, back to the Bible, back to morality” if it was to “survive the 20th century” (Falwell, p.510). Whilst not as pessimistic, the left-leaning reform movements of the sixties, with its leading figures like King for example, also acknowledged the relevance of the Scriptures (notably the Exodus) to understand the American society (Class, November 2008) and the need for an imminent reform in order to avoid God's punishment. [...]
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