Who Are America's Moral Leaders? Do We Even Have Any?

by Ken Lambert , Christian Examiner Contributor |

(PHOTO: FLICKR/STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA)Evangelist Billy Graham speaking at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida, February 11, 1961.

An article a few months ago in USA Today had a very similar title to this one, and I read it seeking an answer... a name perhaps. However, after reading it, there were zero candidates mentioned for who might be a moral leader or "the" moral leader of the United States here in 2018.

The two key points it did note, which I agree with, are that the current President (regardless of what political affiliation you are part of) is certainly NOT the moral leader of the country. The other aspect of the piece which was stated quite clearly is that we as a society are certainly less moral and have less prudent guidance than our nation did 50 or 60 years ago.

Seeing that there were no candidates for who might be our de facto moral leader, I'd like to make an attempt at answering this question. As Christianity is (still) by far the prevailing religion (and philosophy) within the country, it would stand to reason that the actual moral leader should be in the realm of this religion. The following are people we might assume as candidates for USA's #1 moral leader—with a few notes of each (in no particular order):

Cardinals Daniel DiNardo and Timothy Dolan: DiNardo is the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Dolan is a Catholic Cardinal who serves as the Archbishop of New York—the largest city in the country. Both seem to only be visible within Roman Catholic circles; I've almost never heard of either of them taking a stand in a public way on a semi-regular basis. Once in a great while, their names are in the secular news. As for name recognition, I'd venture to say that 95% of non-Catholics do not know who they are. I'd also venture that 65% of Roman Catholics do not know of them either.

Pastor Rick Warren: Senior pastor of Saddleback (mega) Church, Warren is of course the author of the hugely successful, "A Purpose-Driven Life" book, and has a popular national, daily radio program.

Vice President Mike Pence: While most would argue that President Trump is far from moral or righteous or religious, it is fairly clear that Pence is quite religious and takes a stand for nearly all Christian values. The "evangelical Catholic" seems to appeal to both Catholics and the evangelical community. Pence was formerly a governor and a U.S. Congressman.

Pastor Joel Osteen: Osteen is senior pastor of Lakewood Church, which has one of the largest weekly attendances in the country. His is regarded as a "televangelist," with his TV broadcast seen by roughly 7 million viewers per week. Osteen has also written 7 successful religious/spiritual books.

Rev. Billy Graham: How could a man make this list when he is deceased? That is the point; Pastor Graham was legitimately the last "moral leader" in America—many would argue. His passing in early 2018 followed several years of declining health and influential engagements throughout the U.S. This article tries to locate the "next" version of the well-respected Graham.

Rev. Al Sharpton/Rev. Jesse Jackson: I group both of these well-recognized ministers in the same category, as they share many commonalities. Though I do not follow them closely, I would say I have not heard them talk about Jesus much in the past decade or so. It is my opinion that their focus is on racism and race relations, and also politics.

Are there other relevant persons to list here?

While arriving at this draft list, I realized it is difficult to even come up with a list of possibilities. We truly do not have folks that are all of the following: strong Christian, compassionate, respectful, well-known, well-respected, intelligent, kind.

Perhaps it is not important for the United States to have a moral leader; it is not "necessary." That may be the case, as we are not a theocracy. However, if there was someone vocal who were advocating regularly for doing the "right" and holy thing, maybe our overall society would be in a better standing compared to where we have come to over the past couple of decades. There is a constant mantra that America is losing its moral compass. How do we all fix it, and who might spearhead the effort?

–Ken Lambert has been writing for both secular and religious publications for several years. He co-authored the book "Top 10 Most Influential Christians Since the Apostles" and holds a Doctorate in Ministry. He resides in southern New Hampshire.