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Nowadays the government is far less likely to acknowledge the Christian consensus in the United States, if indeed one still exists. The change occurred with such breathtaking speed that anyone born in the last 30 years may wonder what Christian consensus I am talking about. The Supreme Court has banned prayer in schools, some teachers try to prohibit their students from writing about any religious themes, television rarely mentions Christians except in derogation, and courts routinely strip manger scenes and other religious symbols from public places.

It seems incredible that the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance only in 1954, and the phrase "In God we trust" became the nation's official motto in 1956. Much of the outrage of the Religious Right traces back to the swiftness of this cultural shift. Harold O. J. Brown, one of the early evangelical activists against abortion, says that he and others experienced the Roe v. Wade ruling as a wake-up call in the middle of the night. Christians had viewed the Supreme Court as a mostly trustworthy group of sages who drew their conclusions from the moral consensus of the rest of the country. Suddenly the bombshell dropped, a decision that divided the country along fault lines: either the moral consensus had changed dramatically, or the Supreme Court was badly out of touch.

Since that time, other court decisions—establishing a "right to die," redefining marriage, protecting pornography—have sent conservative Christians reeling. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, hyperbolically called the 1963 ruling against prayer in public schools "the darkest hour in the history of the nation." The moral landscape has ...

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