The Religious Right and White Supremacists: A “Match Made in Valhalla”
In the draft manuscript of Volume 6 of my book series, The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror, I wrote at some length about what was arguably the most powerful and influential Christian political activism and “cultural warrior” organization of the early Twentieth Century, whose central tenets are still being actively championed by most American conservative Christians today.
In their heyday millions of American men were members of it – 15% of the entire eligible American male populace (predominantly in the West and Midwest), all organized under a central banner. Its widely respected leader wrote that his organization “embodies the group mind of America. It is representative of complete nationalism”, with his organization claiming, “I am the soul of America”.
A large proportion of their founding and subsequent members were Protestant pastors, who were concerned about the rise of new immigrants and rival religions controlled by theocracies overseas. At their meetings they sang hymns, while their members distributed Bibles at schools, and joined (and eventually took over) school boards to ease out un-American teachers of other faiths, with its members eventually becoming governors and Supreme Court justices. Most of the membership was firmly of the middle class and had access to education, including Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and United Brethren, with a large portion of bankers, lawyers, dentists, doctor, ministers, businessmen and teachers. A historian of their group said that “They were critical of liberal Protestant theologians who used historical criticism and science in biblical interpretation”, but were “more evangelical than fundamentalist”. One of its members at the time wrote that it got many ministers involved in the group by “donating to the preacher”, as its organization “bound Christianity with Americanism”, and whose members formally dedicated themselves to the Constitution, “American ideals and institutions” and “the tenets of the Christian religion”, and wrote of themselves as the “successors of the Reformation” who would “cleanse” the church with Protestantism as “a foundation for both democracy and religious freedom”; in others word, “make America great again“. They also claimed to model themselves after the early Church.
They not only donated food and started charities (to garner community support), as an organization intended to unite across denominational lines with the Bible as their “keystone”, and were expected to be regular church attenders with their families and supporters of their Sunday Schools (certainly being many teachers there). Their logo included the blood of Christ, “shed for all humanity”. Their stated model was the Christian Crusaders who rescued the Holy Land from the “heathen Turks”, and now sought to conquer the “enemies of Americanism”.
Its members had to profess loyalty to the American flag, it having been “purchased by blood and suffering of American heroes”, as the “price paid for American liberties”. Their publications further confessed that “we must admit that the bases of America’s laws are the great moral laws of God”, as their goals were the “maintaining a Christian civilization in America”, as “Their nation was in danger, and the only way to save it was to reconnect with the nation’s religious foundations”. Their leader stated that “real, true Americanism unadulterated, [included] a dogged devotedness to our country, its government, its ideals and its institutions”.
He warned that “We must look first at the crisis in our civilization, now near its height. Americans find today that aliens…instead of joining, challenged and attacked us. They seek to destroy Americanism”; however, he took solace that his group “embodies the group mind of America. It is representative of complete nationalism”, and “That understanding of nationalism uplifted patriotism, uniformity, common language, common religion, respect for the government, and common tradition as well as history”, because “True nationhood is essentially oneness of mind, and it recognizes certain beliefs held in common by its citizens…no person who lacks them can be in harmony with the nation”, whereas the original Puritans had a “divinely-appointed…mission” which was now required to “realign with their destiny”.
The group’s periodicals stated that “America’s idealism, institutions, destiny and affluence are written in the Bible, and upon this Book, the Work of God, America is founded”, noting that all of the “great” documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Monroe Doctrine) originated in the Bible, and “therefore these documents are the basis of the logic and demonstration of every American problem”, with the nation being exceptional in origin, doctrine, and even physical space. It adds that “the lives of the early fathers and their writings reveal that America was established by Christ…to put an end to ‘their System’”, while America was not for “refuse populations of other lands” who had not civilized the nation, but only wanted to exploit the toil of the forefathers and pioneers. Most importantly, the organization wanted the Bible taught in public schools, and called Americans to a “culture war” to “arouse themselves” and “don’t be cowards, for God hates nothing more than cowardice”, appealing to a masculine Christ and aggressive American Christian male.
Their creed professed devotion to included the following tenets: a) “I believe in God and in the tenets of Christian religion and that a Godless nation cannot long prosper”, b) “I believe in the eternal separation of Church and State”, c) “I hold my allegiance to the Stars and Stripes next to my allegiance of God alone”, d) “I believe in the protection of pure womanhood”, e) “I believe in the limitation of foreign immigration”, and f) “I am a native born American citizen and I believe my rights in this country are superior to those of foreigners”.
They supported the 1924 Johnson-Hartley Act, which favored northern Europeans for American immigration versus southern European “Mediterraneans”. They were active in opposing the immigration to America of a rival faith that was taking American jobs, and the threat of their mass mobilization under a foreign religious leader, with their faith viewed as a political organization in religious clothing. They eventually took part in violent conflicts in their marches on college campuses.
So – who is this organization, comprising 15% of American males and a large proportion of Protestant ministers nationwide at the time, who virtually invented the platform and agenda of today’s Religious Right?
The 1920’s Ku Klux Klan.
At the time they were invited nationwide (not just in the South, as the biggest collection of Klansmen was in Indiana, where their governor and supreme court justices donned the hood) in our sacred churches, to do recruiting drives during church services on Sundays, just like a Gideon speaker might today, but speaking of American-Christian values and the need to “stand up” and get active. The following are a few pictures of such “sacred Sundays”:
Well – at least such associations by our dear Christian leaders are a thing of our ignorant past – right?
As per my recollection, in the early 1980s my older brother was licensed as a minister and served as an assistant pastor at a small rural Baptist church in Shepherdsville, KY, just outside of the city of Louisville. They experienced a tremendous revival and growth, and according to a recent conversation I had with him to spur his recollection, a choir came to sing at the church that featured several African-American members. The following Wednesday night during the prayer meeting service that my brother led, one of the “prominent” church members of several generations stated that his family had played a key role in the establishment of the church, and that the presence of Negroes would be unacceptable. My brother responded that they would always be welcome in the church, leading the man, known to be a Klan leader in the community (even having had his son expelled from the Klan for excessive behavior) to give a not-so-veiled threat as to the church. The following Saturday in 1983, the brand-new church, just finished by the congregation members, was burned to the ground, and later determined by authorities to be due to arson.
In fact, I uncovered a 1924 edition of their local community newspaper, the Pioneer News, which advertises a Klan meeting in town, explaining, “KU KLUX KLAN – And what it stands for, explained by a prominent minister. Shepherdsville, Sunday, May 24 on the Public Square. Big Klan Parade. Klan Naturalization [induction ceremony]. Full ceremony open to the public. Follow the parade. Every man, woman and child interested in America and our civic problems is invited to hear this great American organization explained” [citation]. Elsewhere in the newsletter it noted that “The Ku Klux Klan made its first public demonstration here Saturday night, about 60 were in the parade which marched through town and returned to the field of Mr. O. H. Masden of Fair Haven. A large crowd heard the speaker on the public square in front of Troutman’s Store, but at the field at 11 P.M., the cross was burned and new members initiated, the crowd was much larger. Many members from Jefferson, Spencer, Hardin and Barren Counties, from Indiana and Tennessee were here to take part in the meeting. The best of order prevailed with no disturbance of any kind”.
Well, its one thing to point out examples from backwoods locations like rural Kentucky (yet minutes from Louisville), but this does not have relevance to our urbane, sophisticated Christian leadership and community today – does it?
Bob Jones was one of the most prominent fundamentalist evangelists of the early Twentieth Century (possibly second only to Billy Sunday), and is the founder of the National Religious Broadcasters organization. However, he is best known for founding (although he himself was not a college graduate) of the most iconic center of fundamentalist training in America, Bob Jones University, in the 1920s (to counter secular schools’ teaching of evolution in the aftermath of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial) as the eventual “ground zero” of fundamentalist culture, while graduating generations of prominent evangelical pastors and religious leaders. One of them, Billy Graham, who had looked to Jones as a father figure (and was a board member of the school), split with him over the questionable allies Graham was associating with in his crusades, which led to the broader fundamentalist-evangelical split in the 1950s. Numerous sources document that, like other fundamentalist religious figures such as Billy Sunday, Bob Jones accepted Ku Klux Klan donations at his services and endorsed known Klansmen for public office, such as his friend Alabama Governor Bibb Graves [citation].
However, Bob Jones University is best known, beyond it being the breeding ground for generations of Christian fundamentalist leaders, for its racist policies, racial segregation and other inter-race restrictions, even until recent years. This “Christian” school refused to accept blacks to go to the school until 1971, and then only married blacks until 1975, even though the IRS had ruled that such schools with discriminatory admission policies were not entitled to tax exemption, eventually losing it in 1976 due to its refusal to change its policies. They continued to prohibit interracial marriage and dating, losing a court case in 1982 in the U.S. Supreme Court, and still maintained the policy by paying a million dollars in back taxes. It was not until the year 2000 that the school dropped their interracial dating ban. In 2000 the Baltimore Sun quoted Jonathan Pait, the university’s community relations coordinator, whose statement in 1998 declared that “God has separated people for his own purpose. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural and language barriers. Bob Jones University is opposed to the intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established. It mixes that which God separated and intends to keep separated” [citation]. They also note that while Republican candidates routinely flock to the University to seek endorsements or hold speaking events (such as George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and Dan Quayle), while Reps. Lindsey Graham and Asa Hutchinson (a graduate), and Senator John Ashcroft were conferred honorary degrees.
The other major fundamentalist and “Religious Right” leader of this era which had the most profound impact in my circles and household was the Rev. Jerry Falwell – radio and television preacher, founder and pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church mega-church, founder of Liberty University (arguably the most influential trainer of conservative Christian leaders, and frequent stop of political candidates), the Moral Majority and many other organizations, and the movement’s most iconic and famous “face”. For the purposes of our discussion, we will briefly cite what many of his followers over the decades are not aware of – his long-standing support of segregation and resistance to racial progress. This record was documented by Max Blumenthal in his article [citation] for The Nation magazine. He notes that Falwell preached a sermon four years after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawing racially segregated public schools entitled, “Segregation of Integration: Which?”, from which he is quoted as saying that “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line…The true Negro does not want integration…He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.” He went on to add that integration “will destroy our race eventually. In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife”. As per my own research, it appears to me that the curious title to this sermon came from the 1956 pro-segregation book, Segregation or integration which? With the Negro in our midst, by fellow Fundamentalist Baptist pastor Gerald O. Fleming, a long-time pastor of the fundamentalist Dayton Baptist Temple (near my personal residence for many years); Falwell’s own Liberty University cites Fleming’s church-planting efforts as a role model in their own church=planting manual for students [citation].
Blumenthal continues by noting that Falwell distributed FBI-manufactured propaganda against Martin Luther King in support of J. Edgar Hoover, and referred to the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “civil wrongs”. He added that in his 1964 sermon “Ministers and Marchers”, Falwell identified King as a Communist subversive and having “left wing associations” as the Communists wanted to bring “violence and bloodshed” to America, further reproving King by saying that “Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners” (I’m sure the reader can detect the irony in that statement). He was then noted as having found Lynchburg Christian Academy, described by the Lynchburg News in 1966 as a “private school for white students” – reflecting a trend to start private Christian schools to avoid the racial integration requirements in public schools. Blumenthal quotes Religious Right co-architect Paul Weyrich that he could not stimulate Falwell and his ilk to become politically active originally in support of the unborn, but rather when President Carter started efforts to remove tax exempt status from Christian schools that were still segregated, leading Falwell to then start the Moral Majority in 1979. This and other data I have found provided me a revelation that groups like the Moral Majority and others that my folks and our peers supported that formed the genesis of the Religious Right was not based on protecting the unborn, but rather to protect tax breaks for their race-segregated “Christian’ schools.
Since his death, his legacy and agenda has been continued by the current Chancellor of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr. (while his other son Jonathan inherited his father’s other position as senior Pastor at his Thomas Road Baptist Church mega-church). Jerry Falwell, Jr. had just publicly endorsed Donald Trump after inviting him to speak at Liberty University during the 2016 presidential campaign, Falwell announcing afterwards that “I am proud to offer my endorsement of Donald J. Trump for president of the United States…In my opinion, Mr. Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment” [citation]. During Trump’s visit, Falwell Jr. said that “I see a lot of parallels between my father and Mr. Trump”, also comparing Trump to Martin Luther King on the day commemorating him, and to Jesus Christ Himself [citation]. In turn, at an earlier Liberty convocation in September 2012 Trump told the Christian students to “get even” to get ahead, rather than turning the other cheek, later backed up by Liberty’s media spokesperson Vice President Johnnie Moore who concurred that Jesus also “would and he did” get even with others, saying that “the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees” [citation].
The Falwells and their followers are not the only Religious Right leaders with a curious position of history on the issues of race and slavery. In February 2016, David Barton, director of Ted Cruz’s super-PAC and known as Christian historian extraordinaire, told one his his primary supporters, Glenn Beck on his show during Black History Month that in reality white slaveholders treated their slaves like family, and then praised the white peoples of that era for passing amendments to the Constitution that allowed them to be finally recognized as full persons. He quoted a slave diary that said that “so much of the credit that blacks owed was for whites having gone to bat and doing things for them”, because “blacks were not able to free themselves, whites did” [citation]. Richard Land, formerly the primary spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke on the radio in the summer of 2014, commenting on Dinesh D’Souza’s research and noting that his point about the “lie about America being a colonial power”, and assenting to his point that “we ended slavery, we didn’t bring slavery to North America. Slavery was there, the Native Americans were enslaving each other before we got here. Eventually, we ended slavery. We have been a civilizing influence in the world” [citation].
One of the central figures of today’s Religious Right and its political activism, Tony Perkins, President of the influential Family Research Council (having picked Gen. Jerry Boykin to be his second in command, and a person I explore in depth in one of my book volumes) and, according to their website [citation], serves as President of the Council for National Policy (an invitation-only group of “whos who” in the Religious Right religious and conservative leader community who meet in secret, founded in 1981 by Tim Lahaye, Woody Jenkins (its first director and Perkins’ mentor) and others, and often cited as “the conservative version of the Council on foreign relations” [citation], has a few skeletons in his closet regarding this issue. His organization’s website also notes that he received a Bachelor in Science degree from Liberty University, as well as an honorary doctorate of divinity from the school as well, and is a licensed minister that fills many pulpits nationwide. A Marine and former police officer, he began working for a television station owned by Rep. Woody Jenkins. In 2005 Max Blumenthal reported in The Nation that
“Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America’s premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing candidate for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.” [citation]
Blumenthal added that though Perkins denied having anything to do with Duke, “Perkin’s signature was on the document authorizing the purchase of Duke’s list”. The fine levied by the Federal Elections Committee was for “knowingly and willfully fil[ing] false disclosure reports showing Courtney Communications as the vendor”; a July 24, 2002 article in the Times-Picayune (Rep. Perkin’s local newspaper) added that when Perkins found out about Duke’s connection to the phone list, “he and Jenkins decided to route the payments through Courtney Communications, the campaign’s media firm, because ‘politically, we didn’t want to be connected with Duke’” [citation]. In a July 30, 2005 Vancouver Sun article, Perkins said regarding his May 17, 2001 Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) speaking engagement that “he wasn’t aware of its history” and its segregationist ideology, although it had been reported in his local town and state newspapers since 1998, calling it a “racist group” [Ibid.]. In fact, a January 18, 1999 article in the New York Times reported Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s association with the “white separatist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens” for “giving speeches to a racist organization”, and was an “honorary member” of the group, also frequented by Senator Jess Helms [citation]. At the top of this post you can see an online newspaper-published photo of State Rep. Perkins at the CCC podium on that day, standing in front of a big Confederate flag [citation].
Barbara Perry, in her book Hate Crimes, Vol. 2, asserts that the original mailing lists of the earlier Whites Citizens Council, formed to bolster white separation and supremacy in the advent of the Brown v. The Board of Education desegregation ruling, was used to begin the Council of Conservative Citizens, which by 2006 had 42 chapters in 19 states, both north and south, with as many as 15,000 members, and having described blacks as a “retrograde species of humanity”, as well as being anti-immigrant [citation]. She adds that their Confederate Flag-draped meetings featured regular speakers such as Trent Lott (several times, and also a member), who said they “stand for the right principles and the right philosophy” (p. 111). Max Blumenthal also notes in the Huffington Post that Mike Huckabee “eagerly accepted” an invitation to speak at the CCC 1993 national convention, according to its founder Gordon Lee Baum, but a governmental scheduling issue requiring him to temporarily serve as governor (he was Arkansas’ Lt. Governor at the time) necessitated his submission of a video address; the next year they used former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson, who had organized the mob that rioted to stop the integration of Little Rock High School, and served as narrator of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s film, “The Clinton Chronicles” [citation]. Popular Alabama judge (and Ten Commandments public display defender) Roy Moore also spoke at the CCC in 1995 [citation]. Conservative write Ann Coulter stated in her 2009 book Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America that the CCC had been unfairly branded as racist only “because some of the directors of the CCC had, decades earlier, been leaders of a segregationist group…There is no evidence on its Web page that the modern incarnation of the CCC supports segregation” [citation]. To let them speak for themselves, let’s see what the Council of Conservative Citizens says in their own online “Statement of Principles”, which was unanimously adopted at their 2005 Spring National Board Meeting:
“We believe the United States is a Christian country…We therefore oppose all efforts to deny or weaken the Christian heritage of the United States, including the unconstitutional prohibitions of prayers and other religious expression in schools and other public institutions. We believe the United States is a European country and that Americas are part of the European people…the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character. We therefore oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime. We believe that illegal immigration must be stopped, if necessary by military force…We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.” [citation]
The CCC entered the news again recently when it was discovered that Dylann Roof, the mass assassin against the predominantly African-American members of a Charleston church in 2015 (killing nine), was heavily influenced by CCC publications on black violence against white people in his justification for his attack. The Los Angeles Times reported [citation] that his manifesto writing “reflects the strong influence of a white nationalist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens”. On his online manifesto webpage, Roof writes, “this [the Trayvon Martin incident] prompted me to type in the words ‘black on white crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders. I was in disbelief” [citation].
The current board member and national spokseman today for the Council of Conservative Citizens is Jared Taylor, who along with Matthew Heimbach and Richard Spencer (co-organizers of the recent Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right” Nazi rally) form the key triumvirate of America’s current white supremacist movement. Concerning the deadly rally itself, Taylor, who describes himself as a “racialist” [citation] who said that Trump’s election signals the “sign of rising white consciousness” [citation], said afterwords that
“If you get your news from NBC, this is what you learned about yesterday’s Unite the Right rally:…The problem was white nationalist violence…Of course, what caused the violence was hostile counter-demonstrators…If they had not been there, there would have been no violence, and the rally would have taken place as planned. Of all people, it was Donald Trump who came the closest to getting it right, condemning “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”…(Swastikas were extremely rare in Charlottesville, but they make for better “anti-racist” graphics than Confederate flags.)…There is confrontation only when anti-whites harass and try to stop pro-white events…Jason Kessler [the demonstration organizer] is scheduled to make a statement to the press today at 2:00 p.m. He is smart man and a brave man. I’m sure we can trust him to make an excellent case for our side.”
It’s a funny thing; I noticed some young people in the news video of the event that were confronting these Nuremberg torch-carrying, card-carrying Nazis in their regalia, but I wondered: Where is the American Legion? the other veterans organizations who fought Nazis, and whose buddies died fighting them? The Holocaust survivors?
And most of all – where are the preachers, and other people of faith? There may have been some brave “liberal” pastors (gasp – possibly even women!) and some non-religious ethicists, but not a conservative evangelical pastor I can find (or heard anything about). At least the young women there were brave enough to confront evil, even if the “cowards” did stay away.
At least the brave Religious Right leaders did express their outrage later, or in support over Trumps adamant and vehement equating of the world-reviled Nazis (responsible for killing millions) and those who confronted them. In an article in The New American [ciation], Franklin Graham writes, “Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA…Because the president failed to attack the “white nationalists” and the “alt-right movement” by name in his remarks, politicians and activists looking for a way to slur Trump implied that all the responsibility for the violence was on one side….Another Republican and frequent antagonist of Trump, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), had harsh words for the “Unite the Right” rally (but not for the counter-protesters, without whose presence there would have been no violence), calling it an example of “hate and bigotry”…From the statements by the various politicians, one would have almost thought that Trump had shouted “Sieg Heil!”…What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions?…they want to blame President Donald J. Trump for everything.” On his Twitter account [citation], Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. wrote, “Finally a leader in WH. Jobs returning, N Korea backing down, bold truthful stmt about
#charlottesville tragedy. So proud of @realdonaldtrump”.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (who sent his children to the same Christian school I attended) stated in a radio interview [citation] that the removal of slave-holding Confederate statues (most of whom were erected during the Jim Crow ere) were a “sanitization of history” that he “absolutely” disagrees with, and that that removing these monuments sets “a dangerous precedent” that we’re “not allowed to talk about certain elements of our history” and amounts to “revisionist history”, and alludes to the injustice of removing the statue of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice who issued the Dred Scott decision as a “slippery slope”, saying: “At what point—If somebody happened to have been a judge and something was erected in their honor but they happened to have one ruling one time that somebody’s offended by, is that worthy of them being removed from pretending they ever existed?” It is not surprising that he would not condemn those who march and threaten violent confrontation in a coming social civil war – At the 2016 Value Voter Summit in front of a Religious Right audience, he declared, “Do you think it’s possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it’s possible that we’ll be able to survive?…Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something”.
The argument that Trump and all the Religious Right leaders have made from the Charlottesville tragedy – that not just the Nazis, but both sides were equally guilty – explains why the Polish people and army are just as guilty as the Nazis for the start of World War II, and the French Resistance for the war in Western Europe – I mean, they did blow up railroad tracks and stuff, didn’t they, while the Nazis only wanted the tracks to take people away to safety in the rail cars.
I’ve noticed that since Trump’s apologetic remarks on behalf of the Nazis, the money grubbing business leaders have all resigned Trump’s business councils in disgust and shame on matters of principle, and the artists’ council as well. One group has not seen fit to have any defections as of Friday – the Religious Right leader council for Trump.
And these pastors and para-church leaders cannot figure out why young people and the rest of the public won’t come to their churches anymore, or give them the respect they think they deserve. I guess they’ll just chalk it up to “Christian persecution”.
One Bible passage that most perplexed and frightened me over the years was in Matthew 7, in which Jesus stated that “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:20-23). All I ever heard growing up was that if you confess, “Jesus is Lord”, and mean it, “you are in”. I also understood that at the Great White Throne many would acknowledge that they did not accept Christ, and thus they were guilty of Hell and damnation. Then, in this passage we see someone who appears to be doing all the right things, in a very public and conspicuous way, with all the trappings of great faith and devotion, and evidently is even self-deluded as to their own salvation. How horrible would it be to think that “you’re in” and then to your surprise to discover, “you’re out”! How could this be, that God would let this happen?
At my age, I now believe that those who are the most conspicuous with their Christian piety and verbage are often the ones we discover were playing a game, steeped in sin and secrets, and sometimes seemingly self-deluded. Probably most are not “smoked out” until the “other side”. Politicians, like many other liars, seem to put on a false persona so well that they tend to believe it themselves. And most Christians are the biggest fools, for taking these known liars and taking their very public statements of faith at face value, in defiance of their lifetime of “fruit”. An honest politician who does not exploit his faith publicly doesn’t have a chance with the Religious Right. On the other hand, all Trump had to do was to pay obesience at the Liberty University shrine, hold up his grandmother’s Bible, cite “Corinthians two” and that he “ate the little cracker”, and Falwell and his ilk were ready to literally compare him to King David and Jesus Christ, even after his recorded confessions of serial marital infidelity and forceful molestation of women – all for the mirage of insider power they thought he could give.
Many of our Christian leaders talk all about “fundamentalism”, but beyond the atonement and resurrection, it appears to me they have no idea what the real Gospel “fundamentals” are – the Golden Rule, love the poor, look out for the stranger and weak, etc.
How many more of our high-profile Christian leaders will hear those heart-stopping words from our Lord? I am afraid that I may be starting to understand what He meant by them.
PS – Much of the above was excerpted from the draft manuscript of Volume 6 of my upcoming book series, so you can get a taste of what it’s like. If any of this content is thought-provoking to you, please circulate its link online in your circles, and by word of mouth, to stimulate discussion.