The Electric Church Shocks American Politics
THE speaker was impassioned and dynamic. Waving his Bible at a group of 1,000 ministers’ wives, he declared: “We’ve got the answer to the political chaos in the country, to the economic ruin, to the moral shame and to the weakness of the family.”
What was the answer? “We’ve got to unite our hearts and hands together to put this nation back together . . . We’ve got to demand a turnaround,” said Texas preacher James Robison.
In language that would appeal to many sincere Christians, he scathingly denounced abortion. “If the mutilated massacre of the unborn in the wombs of their mothers is not wicked, then man can be found guilty of no sin ever.”
Meanwhile, across the country another speaker, equally eloquent, was giving advice to a roomful of his colleagues. “What can you do from the pulpit?” he asked. “You can register people to vote. You can explain the issues to them. And you can endorse candidates, right there in church on Sunday morning.” Like Robison, Jerry Falwell—superstar of the Electric Church—was campaigning energetically for political issues.
A lot of people listen to what these preachers say. James Robison’s weekly TV program is carried by 100 stations. Falwell’s show is even more popular. Every week he reaches between 6 million and 18 million people on nearly 400 TV channels and another 400 radio stations.
Such politically conservative preachers of the Electric Church were eager to influence voters in the American elections last fall. Not long before the elections some of them spoke at a National Affairs Briefing in Dallas, Texas, which was attended by some 15,000 religious fundamentalists, mostly ministers. Republican candidate for president, Ronald Reagan, also addressed the group and praised it, saying: “Religious America is awakening. Perhaps just in time for our country’s sake.” He was warmly applauded.
Of course, Reagan went on to win the election in what has been called a “conservative landslide.” The religio-political action group, the Moral Majority, claimed a share in that victory, saying it had registered some 4 million voters during the campaign, most of whom voted for Reagan. Significantly, many of the senators opposed by the Moral Majority and similar groups lost their seats to relatively unknown politicians.
Surveying the Senate races, the New York Times commented that “the Moral Majority, Christian Voice, and other conservative, church-oriented groups played an active role with ‘morality ratings’ that were weighted against liberals. No matter how many members of Congress they helped to elect, their effect is expected to continue to be felt because of the number of incumbents whom they badly frightened.”
One preacher was jubilant, calling the results “the greatest day for the cause of conservatism and American morality in my adult life.” Others were less pleased. The Episcopal Bishops of America issued a pastoral letter condemning the endorsement of political candidates by preachers. The bishops claimed that such endorsement “in the name of God distorts Christian truth and threatens American religious freedom.”
Other preachers are also concerned about the politics of the Electric Church. A Fort Worth minister objected that while gatherings like the National Affairs Briefing are billed as nonpartisan, they “always seem to turn into a Republican rally.” Even conservative politicians have expressed concern, one Reagan aide saying that “this marriage of religion and politics is the most dangerous thing, the creepiest thing, I’ve ever seen.”
None of these critics faze activists such as the one who admits that “fifteen years ago I opposed what I’m doing today, but now I’m convinced this country is morally sick and will not correct itself unless we get involved.”
These preachers are quick to point out the apparent hypocrisy of liberal clergymen who were politically active against the Vietnam war or nuclear energy, but who denounce similar activism from conservatives. “Nobody’s ever accused the National Council of Churches of mixing religion and politics,” complains one of them, adding that when he gets involved, “that’s violating separation of church and state.”
By the end of the election campaign, it was clear that American religious leaders were sharply divided. Liberal religious leaders claimed that conservative preachers wrongly implied that people who did not agree with them were not Christians. The National Council of Churches, an object of the ire of these conservatives, issued a statement that “there can be discerned no exclusively ‘Christian vote.”’
The conservatives, on the other hand, were convinced that they were on a mission from God to turn the country around morally, and that their liberal fellow clergymen were part of the problem. Indeed, when the Moral Majority decided that a Baptist minister who had served in Congress for 16 years was too liberal, they helped to organize some 2,000 volunteers to go from door to door in favor of the minister’s opponent. “It was the Moral Majority movement that very quietly, but very effectively, covered my district like a tent,” admitted the preacher, who was defeated in the primary election.
There is no doubt that many of the politically active preachers of the Electric Church are deeply concerned about the rising tide of immorality in America and the world. Most of them feel strongly that a nation that tolerates abortion cannot have God’s approval, and any sincere Christian would have to agree. They believe that a national lack of interest in the Bible has contributed to the moral breakdown we see today. In a TV sermon one of their leaders said: “We must all study the Bible and learn to believe in God. It is vital that we follow His teachings so that we will have the strength to fight back against the immoral and blasphemous forces that are taking over politics and the media.”
What Christian would deny that we must study the Bible and believe in God? The question is, Does God teach us in the Bible to “fight back” for control of politics and the media? Is that the message God’s Word contains for our generation?
You may recall that Jesus Christ had more than one opportunity to exercise political power, but never chose to do so. When people saw that he could feed them miraculously they sought to make him king, doubtless thinking that their economic problems would be solved. The account relates that “when the men saw the signs he performed [feeding about 5,000 men with only five loaves and two fishes], they began to say: ‘This is for a certainty the prophet that was to come into the world.’ Therefore Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him a king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.”—John 6:14, 15.
Jesus did not seek political power; he ran from it! Why should he wish to become embroiled in the dirty politics of Judea and Galilee? As Jesus later pointed out to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) If Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world when he was on earth, is it now of this world just because Jesus is in heaven? That would not be logical, would it?
Jesus knew that he could not reform the corrupt politics of his day, and he did not try. He knew that if he had become a political messiah promising freedom from Roman oppression, he would only have been used by various interest groups, such as the Jewish nationalist Zealot party, and then he would have been discarded. None of this would have brought any glory to his Father, Jehovah God.
Is it likely that Jesus is interested in reforming the equally corrupt politics of our day? Or is it more likely that preachers who enter politics are themselves liable to be used and corrupted by the experience? It is significant that the Moral Majority was not any preacher’s idea. The idea, and even the name Moral Majority, came from a group of conservative political lobbyists who persuaded Mr. Falwell to back the organization because of his nationwide popularity, his vast computerized mailing list, and his proved ability to raise money. Even well-known Electric Church star Pat Robertson, host of The 700 Club, admits that “the evangelists stand in danger of being used and manipulated.”
Was it not this very manipulation that Jesus sought to avoid when he refused Satan’s offer of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”? There was a string attached to that original offer that remains attached today. Satan asked Jesus to “fall down and do an act of worship to me.” (Matt. 4:8, 9) Political power is available to the ministers of the Electric Church. All they have to do for it is to continue to go along as a part of this world’s political system under Satan.—John 14:30; 15:19; 2 Cor. 4:4.
No doubt fourth-century apostate Christians rejoiced when, after so much persecution, political power came their way under Emperor Constantine. But what did that power do to them? “Almost immediately after the Christians of the Empire received legal status the leading churchmen began to give the magistrates advice on how to conduct themselves in office,” notes theologian Robert Culver. Soon the Church was fully drawn into Roman politics, fighting wars and torturing its enemies. Was political power worth the price? Or had Satan simply used it to entice the Church to abandon the precepts of Christ?
Suppose that the preachers of the Electric Church, however good their intentions, were to attain the same degree of political power as those early churchmen. Would they be able to resist the corrupting influences of Satan’s political system? History does not indicate that they would. Indeed, in his limited political activity to date, one of them has publicly admitted resorting to an age-old tactic of the Devil—deception. He was forced to acknowledge that he had fabricated a conversation with the president of the United States about alleged homosexuals on the president’s staff. “I shouldn’t have said it,” he admitted. “Obviously it was a reckless statement.”
Those who are trusting in politics are ultimately trusting in politicians, imperfect men, to solve their problems. The Bible simply does not indicate that men have that capacity. As Jeremiah, no stranger to the corrupt politics of preexilic Jerusalem, observed: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jer. 10:23.
The irony of trusting in politicians—of hoping that some are more moral than others because of their positions on political issues—was underlined by the scores on the “morality report” of The Christian Voice. Impressive scores of 94 out of 100 points were obtained by one congressman who had been indicted on bribery charges, and by another who admitted to alcohol problems and homosexual compulsions!
The Bible gives solid, realistic advice when it says, “That which is made crooked cannot be made straight.” (Eccl. 1:15) The political systems of this world are inherently crooked. Their chief power broker, Satan, is “a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) Neither history nor the Scriptures indicate that mankind will ever solve its problems through politics, despite all the good intentions in the world.
Does that mean that there is no hope for mankind? Do we have to resign ourselves to spiritual death in a flood tide of filth and immorality? Is there nothing that can be done about abortions, homosexuality, teenage sexual promiscuity, children being used for pornography, and rising divorce?
Something can, and will, be done about all these problems—and soon! Read about it in the next article.
[Blurb on page 10]
Many of the senators opposed by the Moral Majority lost their seats to relatively unknown politicians
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“This marriage of religion and politics is the most dangerous thing, the creepiest thing, I’ve ever seen”