The moral corruption apparent in the largest segment of American Protestantism began in the ’80s when Jerry Falwell Sr.’s Moral Majority and Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition started to cozy up to politicians with a conservative social and economic agenda. It’s precisely at that moment when pollsters began to record a retreat from religion by an important segment of the population. Religion disguised as partisan politics may energize evangelical voters, but with respect to faith it has backfired. Yet it goes on. President Trump’s effort to remove restrictions on church political activism has encouraged evangelical leaders to organize their troops to vote Republican in the 2018 midterm elections.
The strategy ends by delivering the coup de grace to a belief long held by Americans that places of worship are the most reliable sources of moral instruction. Since the generation of the founders, even American Protestants of less than fervent conviction took their children to church to learn the difference between right and wrong. The disaffected young aren’t likely to expose their children to preachers who tell them that women count for less than men, that their gay friends are going to hell, and that white men with locker room language should rule.