Thirty years ago, conservative Christianity’s political message was to reclaim “Christian America” via the "Moral Majority." Many conservative Christians saw themselves as the last vestige of the communitarian defense against liberalism, sparking the “culture wars” in American politics. In the decades since, these culture wars have been refashioned, with the religious Right now championing individual rights—the typical weapons of the Left—to protect their interests and increasing minority status. The prototypical culture war issue – abortion – motivated the conservative turn toward rights, with pro-life politics serving as a springboard for learning about the value of rights and increased conservative advocacy in other rights domains, including free speech and religious freedom advocacy. This conservative shift toward rights has important implications for the future of cultural politics and the American polity. A host of data suggests that as conservative Christians have come to learn about their own rights, their trajectory is toward pluralism and tolerance for others (even for non-allies).
Andrew R. Lewis is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati. Professor Lewis conducts research at the intersection of politics, law, and religion in America. He is the author of The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars (Cambridge, 2017). He has published more than ten peer-reviewed articles in academic journals, and he has written widely in popular outlets including FiveThirtyEight and The Washington Post. He was formerly a Thomas W. Smith Postdoctoral Research Associate in the James Madison Program. Professor Lewis holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from American University and an M.A. in Ethics from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.