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(TRENDS in CHRISTIANITY – continued)

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Falwell and Robertson turn Political

In the late 1950s, the Reverend Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) was pastor at the Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, Virginia. He spoke of doing God's work and not engaging in politics – except that he criticized his fellow Christian, the Reverend Martin Luther King, for his political activism. Falwell increased his involvement in politics, connecting the segregation issue with faith and the Supreme Court. He said:

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 had been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line. (link)

In 1960, another young Christian, Pat Robertson, three years older than Falwell, established the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach Virginia. He was ordained as a minister of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1961. And he too saw himself as apart from temporal affairs, including politics. But events in the 1960s attracted him into the political arena. The PBS documentary "God in America" has Pat Robertson saying he is concerned with "eternal things" rather than "temporal things," and it shows Robertson complaining about people of faith being pushed around. "Secular forces," he said, "had invaded the province of the church." Robertson described evangelicals as saying essentially,

We don't want you imposing your values on us. We don't want you taking our children away from us and imposing on them a secular worldly view that is contrary to what we believe as Christians.

Social change was impacting Falwell's and Robertson's worlds and they were not going to take it lying down. In the mid-1960s the Reverend Falwell continued his support of segregation. He regularly featured segregationist politicians like Lester Maddox and George Wallace at his church. And about the Reverend King he said:

I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left wing associations.

In 1971, Falwell founded Liberty University, is described by the Washington Post on 2 June 2010 as "the world's largest evangelical university." The university is located in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was chancellor until his death in 2007 and was succeeded by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr. Falwell Sr.'s purpose was to promote the intellectual and spiritual development of Christian students, to create an academic community apart from mainstream universities that he denounced as breeding grounds for atheism, secularism, and humanism.

Pat Robertson founded Christian Broadcasting University in 1977, to be renamed Regent University in 1990. It offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. John Ashcroft, attorney general for President Bush the younger, was a member of the faculty. He is chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of The 700 Club on the ABC Family Channel.

Copyright © 2002-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.

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