If the upright members of the Moral Majority -- or the "so-called Moral Majority," as the Right Rev. Paul Moore Jr., author of "Take a Bishop Like Me," is wont to say-- ask for my advice, I shall advise caution. Their campaign for national salvation and a return to good-ole-shout-and-get-sweaty Christianity has made a lot of the goody-goodies very irate -- for instance, the aforementioned bishop and Brother Noram Lear, the Hollywood humanitarian. Every day their outrage and alarm gurgle and swell. Ond day things could get out of hand. We could experience religious strife right here in America.
Now, it remains somewhat mysterious why the Moral Majority so vexes Bishop Moore and his goody-goody friends. Bumpkin clerics have been hollering and passing the hat on TV and radio for years, even as the goody-goodies have been cluck-clucking and shaking down fat cats and neurotic heiresses to fund urban youth gangs, international terrorist squads and other staging areas of Christian Endeavor. Throughout the century bumpkins have been harrassing bartenders, and goody-goodies have been harrassing capitalists. One group holds to one list of moral imperatives and the other group holds to another.
Bothe scheme mightily for their objectives. True, the members of the Moral Majority are less devious and less adroit at imposing their will on us through bureaucratic and judicial machinations, and it is arguable that it is this forthright approach that has gotten them into such hot water with the competition. Still, there must be more to it than mere artlessness.
Is it their ambivalence toward personal liberty? Well, both sides are impatient with freedom and insensitive to the views of civilized, debonair mankind. Yet the goody-goodies make more demands. Beginning with sonorous calls for the Equal Rights Amendment, the abolition of nuclear energy and so forth, the goody-goodies rapidly move on to a whole series of petty complaints against bourgeois America. Wonder bread, grapes, conspiracies spawned in Santiago, Chile, the Sunday extravaganzas of the National Football League -- on all these infamies and more they become inflamed. No, the Moral Majority's insensitivity to liberty is not is undoing.
Supposedly the Moral Majority is "controversial" because it has injected religion into politics, yet this does not explain the goody-goodies' fumings. After all, were not the Rev. Moores, the Rev. Coffins, et al., prominent in the politics of the 1960s and 1970s? Did they not have much to say about establishing the agenda? Certainly today they are not about to pack up their moral blah and exit politics. Why do they demand that the Moral Majority depart?
They warn that the Moral Majority threatens the democratic process, but the goody-goodies have been bullying the democratic process for years. When it came to legalizing abortion, they never scrupled over legalizing it in a way that shut millions of anti-abortionists out of the democratic process. The thing was accomplished not through the state legislatures -- where slow headway was being made -- but through the Supreme Court, and once the oracles of the bench had spoken, the goody-goodies promptly moved to have lifelong opponents of abortion pay for the abortions of others. Where is the sensitivity to democratic pluralism here?
What irks the bishop now is that he has to share TV news time with the competition. In the past, the fundamentalists have had a very difficult time claiming a role on the evening news. A drowning during a full immersion baptism or a mortal snakebite during a high religious pageant was about the only way the fundamentalist would catch the breath of Dr. Cronkite. Conversely, all the good bishop had to do was open his church to a Sufi workshop or ordain a radical lesbian and he would become a theologian of vast moment. His celebrity is not so easy and uncontested today, and so the goody-goodies intend to fight. They are establishing ad hoc committees, flooding the op-ed pages, and following Brother Lear back onto the talk shows. This is madness.
I urge bothe sides to meditate well on last week's news from Turkey. There the men of the cloth went too far. Their ventures into politics have proven disastrous. Religious; leaders have been arrested. Restrictions have been placed on beards and turbans. The esteemed Imam Abdullah Buyuk was jugged for 42 days. His hair was sheared and his beard shaved completely off -- not even a mustache remains! Now there is talk of amending the Constitution to bar the holy men from politics. Could it all happen here? Could pork chops sideburns, groovy crucifixes, blow dryers and polyester suits be prohibited? Bishop Moore and the Rev. Falwell might end up sharing a cell in Lompoc, Calif. The secular power of the state could be pushed too far. I counsel restraint.