With such fellow believers as President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft in office, religious conservatives have never had more friends in high places.

But a growing sense of frustration is enveloping the leadership of the political movement that began nearly 25 years ago when the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority burst onto the national scene. A generation later, most Americans don't stand with what is commonly referred to as the Christian Right. Its big agenda items have fizzled.

And as the impact of last month's sweeping Supreme Court ruling on gay rights sinks in, the movement is at a soul-searching crossroads.

"Obviously, in some ways Christians are losing the culture war, certainly on this issue (gay rights)," said the Rev. D. James Kennedy, head of Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a religious broadcaster with a national following. "The time has come for us to re-examine the situation we're in."

Some see opportunity in a new battle arising from the June ruling—gay marriage. Handled correctly, strategists say, it could re-energize religious conservatives, putting them in a posture of defending heterosexual marriage instead of attacking the rights of gays.

There appears to be a growing consensus that the movement must find a way out of its current predicament: being dissatisfied with the status quo, but reluctant to criticize it because allies control the White House and Congress.

"They're at a moment where they have to reinvigorate themselves or reinvent themselves or they'll just slowly fade away," said John Green, a professor at the University of Akron and co-editor of a new book, The Christian Right in American Politics.

Most social movements do better rallying against enemies than helping allies ...

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