(TRENDS in CHRISTIANITY – continued)
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. He began slipping into political involvement, saying,
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 as well as Falwell into the political arena.
From 1965 there was the Vietnam war which stirred passions and anti-war activism, and among teenagers there was the somewhat apolitical counter-culture of flower children, drugs, dropping out and what became known as the hippy movement.
The PBS documentary "God in America" has Pat Robertson explaining it. We believed, said Robertson, in "rendering to Caesar what was Caesar's and to God what was God's." Robertson described his allegiance to Jesus Christ and concerned with "eternal things" rather than "temporal things."
It was the Jehovah's Witnesses who were removed from the world of politics and Caesar: no flag saluting (a Roman salute until 1942), no voting, no serving in the military). Both Falwell and Robertson were not about to remove themselves to the extent that Jehovah's Witnesses did. Jehovah's Witnesses viewed the world as heading toward Armageddon and were willing to wait for it. Falwell and Robertson saw wanted to defend what they saw as their territory from the forces of wickedness. They saw their forces as weak to the point of vulnerability. "Secular forces," Robertson 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.
In the mid-1960s, the Reverend Falwell continued his support of segregation – a political, temporal matter whether he realized it or not. 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. (link)
Then in 1973 came another Supreme Court Decision: Roe v. Wade. Like most things social, it was a political issue, and it intertwined with the faiths of Falwell and Robertson and inspired them to more political involvement.
Copyright © 2002-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.