The Moral Majority Playbook

The Keys to Mobilizing Christian Voters

A wise man once said, “History never repeats itself… but it certainly does rhyme.”  Many of the specific challenges, political issues, and problems of the 1980s differ significantly from those of today, but many similarities still exist. Issues like abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and education have persisted from the 20th to the 21st century. While the progression into cultural degeneracy has been slowed, it has not fully stopped. Today we reap the consequences. Despite this, there are still many lessons we can pull from this decade, especially with concern to the rise of the Religious Right. Almost none of his would have been possible without Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority. 

Historical Background

Jerry Falwell wasn’t always the political firebrand that many see him as today. According to his autobiography, Falwell originally did not see politics as an appropriate place for a preacher, writing “I sincerely believed that the Christian’s best contribution to social change was his or her faithfulness to our primary goals: studying the Word, preaching the gospel, winning souls, building churches and Christian schools, and praying for the eventual healing of our nation.” 

Falwell’s outlook wasn’t rare among the Evangelicals of his time. He was raised during the rise of Fundamentalism in the United States, a movement marked with a mixed history. While the Fundamentalists were noble in their pursuit of biblicism in the face of modernism, there was a notable split in how they interacted with the world. Many notable Fundamentalists believed in complete separation from the world and all worldly pursuits, including politics. Falwell and his contemporaries were brought up in this way of thinking. But then came Roe v. Wade.

Roe changed the game for many Evangelicals. The legalization of the slaughter of human life forced many to reckon with the reality that the only way to make change is to get involved politically.  Falwell himself was inspired to act when his youngest son Jonathan asked him what he was going to do about abortion.  In 1976, Falwell began embarking on a series of “I Love America” rallies to spread awareness about social issues. A few years later in 1979, he joined other evangelical leaders to start the Moral Majority. The Moral Majority helped cement the Christian Right as a force in American politics and arguably caused the election of Ronald Reagan. The organization was one of, if not the largest conservative organization of the 1980s, boasting four million members at its peak. This was the premier Christian political organization of its time. 

The Moral Majority was not a perfect organization and had many flaws, including its overreliance on dispensational theology and its premature end, but it was certainly effective for its day and can provide four key lessons that I lived we can learn from.

Importance of Vision

The most important part of building an organization is casting a vision that people can follow. A lack of vision signals a lack of leadership. Luckily for the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell was a visionary. 

I have the immense privilege of attending Liberty University, the academic institution started by Jerry Falwell in 1971. Everyone you talk to who knew Dr. Falwell talked at length about his ability to cast a vision. Where others saw just a field and some mud, Falwell saw academic buildings and sports facilities. He spoke about having a football team that could rival Notre Dame and Brigham Young, a dream partially realized with Liberty’s 41-14 victory over BYU in 2022. His wife Macel even remarked how he seemed to know just about when he would go home to be with the Lord. 

Falwell was all about vision, and that not only applied to Liberty University but to the Moral Majority as well. The Moral Majority had a clear vision for the future of the United States, outlined in part in Falwell’s 1980 book Listen, America! The group was committed to restoring “traditional family values,” including a national ban on pornography, a national ban on abortion, and opposition to state recognition or acceptance of homosexuality. The group also focused heavily on education issues, including allowing Christian prayer in public schools and support for school choice. Additionally, the group supported the idea of tax incentives for married couples as a way to protect the traditional family structure, a policy point that has made a modern resurgence. 

While the problems and policies of the 1980s are largely different, there are still spots of overlap and a foundation to build on. The Moral Majority presented the vision of a uniquely, unequivocally Christian nation in the United States of America. It presented a vision of hope and optimism for the country rooted in Christian ideas and morals. We can and should learn from this and build off of the foundation that has been set. 

The modern conservative movement has largely failed to cast a vision rooted in traditional biblical morality to the American people. It has failed to cast any vision at all. The only individuals who have succeeded in casting a vision have done so from the perspective of populist policies working for the common man, such as Senator J.D. Vance and former President Donald Trump, or from the perspective of pure American nationalism with little to no reference to faith, such as with Vivek Ramaswamy. To be clear, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these perspectives. They can be very helpful and act as building blocks to casting a vision for a Christian movement within the United States, but any vision that is not firmly rooted in the Holy Bible, the Word of God, is a movement destined to fall into the same secularist trap as those that have come before and is subject to fall into moral decay. Casting a uniquely Christian vision for the United States and its future is vital to the survival of the nation. 

While the main focus of this article is on organization, there are a few policies that we as the Church can pursue to improve the condition of the country today. We must advocate for legislation that will strengthen the American family. The family is the basic unit of society, the bedrock that holds our republic together. That is why it is constantly attacked by those who want to destroy the nation. We have to put in place policies that will protect families and promote marriage and family building. Tax credits for getting married, assistance in first-time home buying, and government loan forgiveness for having children are all policies that have been instituted in places like Hungary and should at least be considered and debated here in the United States. Additionally, banning abortion, reworking the adoption and foster care system, decreasing immigration, working to build an economy where families can survive and thrive on a single income, banning pornography, allowing greater freedom to homeschool or private school, removing LGBT ideology from public schools and public life, and other things are all policy points we must promote and pursue to cast our vision. At the center of all of it, most importantly, the promotion of the Christian religion in the public square, showing people the hope and joy that can be found in Jesus Christ. 

Importance of Media

One thing Jerry Falwell understood very well was using the media of his day, namely radio and television, to reach a broad audience. Starting in 1956, Falwell would broadcast the “Old Time Gospel Hour” from Thomas Road Baptist Church into the home of millions of people across the nation. Throughout the history of the program, it would raise an average of $30 million a year while costing only $9 million a year to operate. During the height of Falwell’s influence, the “Old Time Gospel Hour” raised nearly $94 million from 1986-87. Falwell was able to buy airtime on multiple stations and use his connections and reputation to gain distribution across the country. Falwell knew how to use the media of his day. 

Similarly, we must learn how to become proficient in the media of our day.  The explosive popularity of TikTok, for better or worse, has led to the dominance of short-form content. Short clips, ranging from thirty seconds to two minutes long, are the most popular form of content found on the internet today. Another popular form of media today is podcasts, a much longer form of content that is often well over an hour in length. Podcasts also provide an excellent source of shorter clips that can be used to make shorts, reels, and TikToks. 

We need to learn how to produce quality content and how to manipulate social media algorithms to get greater reach. More and more people are turning to social media. Outlets like X, TikTok, and Instagram as sources of news and current events. Social media is the battlefield where we will be able to set and advance narratives that will ultimately advance our cause. It is crucial to know how to use new media, but we must also be able to use old media effectively as well. 

Importance of Organization

One of the largest strengths of the Moral Majority was its effective organizational structure. It was made up of four organizations focused on four different aspects of operation. Moral Majority Inc. focused on lobbying at the local, state, and federal levels. The Moral Majority Foundation was the educational front, focused on educating pastors, ministers, and laymen on political issues and voter registration. The Moral Majority Legal Defense Fund represented the group’s interests in court, being mainly used to challenge the ACLU and other liberal organizations. Finally, the Moral Majority Political Action Committee endorsed and promoted candidates whose platforms reflected the values and mission of the Moral Majority. 

The organization’s foundation rested upon state chapters that worked locally to achieve the organization’s goals. This, combined with the use of media, journal publications, and direct mail campaigns led to the organization’s rapid growth, with it reaching 18 states in just one year. The national organization, headquartered in Lynchburg, Virginia, maintained frequent communication with its state organizations and constituents. The group would often take strong stances on social issues, notably supporting North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms in his attempted efforts to pass a bill on prayer in schools. They also suggested Senator Helms as their pick for Ronald Reagan’s Vice President. While this attempt was unsuccessful, they were able to get on of their own in the administration, with Reverend Robert Billings being appointed first as a religious advisor, and later to a position in the Department of Education. 

Having a strong connection to the grassroots is quintessential to running an effective political organization. For an example of what not to do, look no further than the Republican National Convention. The RNC’s level of communication with the grassroots has been sloppy at best. Many local and state organizations have felt ignored by the national organization that is supposed to represent them. Combine this with the RNC’s record of loss in 2020 and a pitiful showing in the 2022 midterms and you have an organization that is deposed by the grassroots constituency. For a better idea of the issues facing the RNC, I would recommend checking out the Arizona RNC Committeeman Tyler Bower’s X account

While the RNC serves as a gold standard of what not to do, the Moral Majority stands as a gold standard of what to do, at least at a base level. Establish a central national organization with semi-autonomous state chapters. Use existing church networks and media apparatuses to build a coalition. Fundraise and recruit aggressively. Make sure that you have all your bases covered, from the lobbying arm, the political activism, the legal side, and the educational front. Having these things in order will help lay the foundation for a highly successful political organization. You also need to ensure that this organization is staffed by the best people you can find who are loyal to the cause and skilled in what they do. Once you have people to lead, then you can start leading people.  

Importance of Mobilization

As mentioned earlier, the Moral Majority at one point boasted a membership of up to four million people. Many of these were everyday laymen, inspired by a vision of a better America. Once they were educated on the issues and equipped to act, they were mobilized. The Moral Majority, through its network of churches across the country, registered millions of Americans to vote in their elections and made sure that once they were registered, they went out and voted. 

We on the Christian Right need to employ and build upon a similar operation today. We need to build a network of churches across the country that will commit to educating their congregations on the issues of the day and registering their congregants to vote. This is not all, however. We must also equip and empower local churches to take greater initiatives politically in their communities. Where it is legal, have churches induct massive ballot harvesting initiatives in their local communities. They must have volunteers who are willing to participate in voter registration drives, poll watching, and other election activities. If we create an organization that endorses candidates, have church members who are willing to host events and volunteer for the campaigns. These grassroots activities are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Moral Majority serves as an incredible example of Christian political organization and activism. Through the use of media, organization, and mobilization, the group was able to cast a vision that inspired millions to act in their day. The issues of our day are different, but the lessons we can learn are the same. If we are going to reform the American Church and bring the nation back to its Christian roots, we must build an organization from the foundation set by those who came before that can affect change and address the issues of our day.  We must unite conservative Christians across denominations under the banner of this organization and work together. Unity is the way forward, and that is best achieved in an effective organization. 

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Jesse Hughes

Jesse Hughes is a student at Liberty University and the President of the Liberty University College Republicans. You can find him on twitter/X @JesseHughesNC

6 thoughts on “The Moral Majority Playbook

  1. This is so well-written and contains some well-thought-out ideas. And I love that the author is a young person who wants to use his gifts for God’s glory. Just one area of concern among the suggestions is in regard to the second to last paragraph, around getting churches involved in such areas as candidate endorsement and voter registrations, etc. This seems like a disaster in the making.

    I’m in a strong, Bible-believing body, but I know for a fact the membership consists of R’s and D’s. The mixed reactions to G. Floyd and to Covid within our body of believers was highly disruptive, and stepping into politics as directly as suggested here would probably be the end of our congregation. (I am in a suburban PCA church, fwiw)

  2. Think about what inspired Jerry Falwell to become involved in political causes. Was it the subjugation of women in society? Was it Jim Crow? Was it the harsh discrimination that blacks faced in the North? Was it the illegal and immoral Vietnam War? It was none of those issues. It was abortion. And then as time went on, other issues came into play. Issues that, for the most part revolved around sex. Also note the current issues that you want Christians to use politics to fight against today? Is it systemic racism? Is it the total disregard for the environment or climate change? Is it the new nuclear arms race, started by Trump when he was President, that can only be immediately mitigated by capitulation to our opponent? And note here that according to Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Trump would cut funding to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia. In addition, Trump is now calling those who participated the attempted overthrow of the results from the 2020 election patriots and he promises to release them from prison. He is also claiming that the President should have complete immunity from breaking the laws of the land.

    It’s not that there are no issues that I agree with you on Jesse, but here is the problem. There is no biblical support for a Christian nation anywhere, let alone here in America. Christianity is confined to the Church alone, not the Church and a given nation though it is dispersed through all the nations. The vision which you admire and espouse is an authoritarian ethnocracy that enables Christians to ‘lord it over’ others as Jesus warned us against doing. In the past, that Christian nation marginalized people of color and subjugated women. And now, you want your Christian nation to send those in the LGBT community back to the margins of society because of their lack of conformity. Alternative lifestyles do not threaten families. The lack of conformity does not threaten families. And who else will become targets in that nation?

    You should note that Christendom, which is basically what you want our nation to return to, gave birth to two reactionary children: Critical Theory and Post Modernism. Also, Christendom was built on demographics that overwhelmingly supported it. Those demographics no longer exist even in what is regarded as the Christian community. And so what will come with the fruition of that vision? Will it be oppression, further division in, and even the destruction of our nation? But even worse than that, will we not be neglecting God’s word with that vision because God’s word does not support a Christian nation in New Testament times?

    Jesse, like you I went to a Christian university started by an evangelist with a vision; I went to Oral Roberts University. Now I don’t think that you met Jerry Falwell, but I often observed and even met Oral Roberts while the university was young. Oral had a vision and he could communicate it. But with his vision, regardless of how noble it appeared, was an intolerant authoritarianism. And with part of his vision was a combination of hallucination and delusion. And though the vision you favor seems noble and certainly appeals to many of our fellow believers, how will that vision determine how we share society with unbelievers? Will that vision cause all of us religiously conservative Christians to share society with unbelievers in ways that Jesus and the Apostles warned us against? Will we be lording it over unbelievers and thus creating stumbling blocks that will prohibit them from wanting to listen to the Gospel? Will we have to oppress unbelievers and deny them their equal rights in order for that vision to become reality? Remember that today’s demographics are not what yesteryear’s demographics used to be.

    1. A true Christianity, or creed and conviction in religious truth, transcends the Left’s ceaseless attempts to get us all obsessed with race and to view America as a fundamentally racist nation. A true Christian nationality, or an identification ethnically and culturally that prioritizes your faith over everything else, transcends all demographic demarcations that you believe define life in America. From common sense, we know that pornography is bad, that homosexual carnal intercourse is wrong and solely licentiously oriented, that things as simple as cars do not favor large families and instead favor very small families or even childless adults (Try to fit 3 children into a regular small car that is not a minivan or car with 7-9 seats and you will see what I mean). All these laws can be changed so that pornography should lose its free speech and interstate commerce justifications (since it violates every test of the three pronged Lemon or Miller Test whichever it was). All these laws can be changed so that all abused adult victims or all abused children or all those who feel unsafe and vulnerable due to threats of sexual violence or even heterosexual prostitutes SHOULD HAVE NO-FAULT REPORTING OF THEIR PAIN AND SUFFERING, mental health therapy, rehabilitation into non sex work employment, and placement in emergency rooms and psych hospitals instead of the classic jails and prisons when the police find them (especially when we consider heterosexual female prostitutes). Concerning domestic violence, I am strongly suspecting that domestic violence among homosexual and LGBTQ individuals (whether physical, emotional, sexual, financial, etc) is underreported. So there should be NO FAULT NON CONTACT ORDERS OR RESTRAINING ORDERS THAT ARE MUCH EASIER TO GET for individuals who are in LGBTQ relationships and few vulnerable and unsafe , in addition to NO FAULT NON CONTACT ORDERS OR RESTRAINING ORDERS THAT ARE MUCH EASIER TO GET initiated by the family members of those individuals in unsafe sexual situations / romantic relationships. We need more laws that liberate the adult victims of financial, sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse, victims that also happen to be LGBTQ, to feel comfortable enough reporting said abuse and knowing that their abuser will receive justice. We also need to equip the parents and family members of said LGBTQ victims who may be putting themselves in unsafe situations due to their carnal preferences for sexual experimentation to have a no-fault way to get their loved ones help, therapy, and support. The goal is not to end homosexual marriage per say, but the goal is instead to end the silence or fear of victims of LGBTQ violence and abuse. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that staunchly LGBTQ individuals are very much emotionally unstable from the perspective of the DSM-5. They need help. Instead of the Left flaunting LGBTQ experimentation a d identity as something cool and hip, the Christian right should examine the quality of our heterosexual relationships, ensure that our relationships are healthy and balanced, and sound the alarm on the prevalence of abuse and violence among LGBTQ adherents in their experimental lifestyles to find themselves.

      1. Anna,
        Let’s go back in history to see America’s roots in racism. One root went against Native Americans and their land, the other went against blacks both in terms of slavery and in terms of believing in white supremacy. The latter can be seen in historically iconic Christian figures like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and J. Gresham Machen. The Constitution recognized neither Native Americans nor blacks as being a part of this nation. The Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795 prohibited citizenship to non-whites. Women were not full citizens. Blacks could not become citizens until the 14th Amendment. Women could not vote until 1920 and Native Americans could not become citizens until 1924. After slavery came a brief respite with reconstruction but then came Jim Crow. Jim Crow extended through the 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr. still saw the need to address racism after that as he described his earlier work, which included the Civil Rights and Voting Acts of the mid 1960s as a struggle for decency. In a 1967 interview with Xander Vanocur (available on YouTube) as his then current work as a struggle for true equality. And he expressed it in terms that had much in common with CRT. We still have systemic racism as seen in employment, economics, the environment, voting rights, law enforcement, and the justice system.

        One of the goals of Christian nationalism is to return LGBT community back to the margins of society. Read the above article. It is just one of many articles promoting Christian nationalism which hopes to sweep homosexuality and transgenderism from the view of the public. Read some of the other articles on this website that express hope in criminalizing blasphemy and other religious violations. The articles here base their hopes on the practice of the Puritans. The history of the Puritans shows their use of violence in the public punishment of sins. And that history of violence includes the martyring of 4 Quakers and some who were accused of practicing witchcraft.

        Your description of a true Christian nationalism is a projection of your own personal ideals as well as some of your descriptions of the LBGT community show ignorance of that community. Your vision of Christian nationalism is neither a description of what has been posted on this website nor what was historically practiced. More than one article here calls for the return to dominance of White Anglo Saxon Protestantism. More than one article on this website has called for the criminalization of religious violations such as blasphemy.

        The Bible does not support Christian nationalism. God’s covenant people in New Testament times is the Church which has members throughout the world in different nations. We are called to have greater ties with Christians from other nations than with unbelievers from our own nation. We are called to teach and preach God’s word, not to rule over unbelievers. Christian nationalism by its very nature calls on Christians to ‘lord it over’ others through the government. That is what has been presented by this website as well as has been practiced in history. And such goes against both the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles as well as the examples of the Apostles.

        BTW, the “instability” of some from the LGBT movement comes from centuries of legal and physical oppression practiced during Christendom. I know of many balanced people from that community and unbalanced people from the heterosexual community. And the centuries of legal and physical oppression of the LGBT community calls into question which group has been more unstable by DSM-5 criteria. All the Left has been saying is that people should be free to make alternative choices. But many Christian nationalists regard that lack of conformity as hostility toward Christianity and a threat to the traditional family.

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