Crusade for a Christian Nation




A

lthough
not nearly as well- known or flamboyant as the Rev. Jerry Falwell
or Pat Robertson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, who was recently inducted
into the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Hall of Fame, has
created a media and ministerial empire that is packing a powerful
political punch. 


The
senior minister of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian
Church and the president of Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM), Dr. Kennedy’s
media outreach began in 1974 with radio. These days, his media empire
reaches millions of people around the world—with programs such
as “Truths That Transform,” which was named the NRB’s
Best Radio Teaching Program for 2004, the “Kennedy Commentary,” a
daily 90-second radio feature, and the “Coral Ridge Hour,”
NRB’s 2003 Television Program of the Year. 


The
NRB is the world’s largest association of Christian communicators,
with over 1,700 member organizations. According to Dr. Frank Wright,
the current president of the NRB, Kennedy was being honored in recognition
of his “invaluable contributions to the field of Christian
communications, all the while exhibiting the highest standards of
conduct and evidence of faithfulness in Christ.” Wright was
formerly the executive director of Kennedy’s Washington, DC-
based Center for Christian Statesmanship and had worked with CRM
for more than 20 years.  


In
early February, Coral Ridge Ministries held its 10th annual political
training event, the Reclaiming America For Christ conference, sponsored
by the Ministries’ Center for Reclaiming America. “America
can be returned to moral and spiritual sanity,” Dr. Kennedy
said in a pre-conference press release. “But that will only
happen as Christians return to the public square—something
already happening in the last 25 years to great effect. This conference
will enlist new recruits and recharge those already engaged in the
great task of reclaiming this nation for Christ.” 


“As
culturally concerned Christians, we were energized by last year’s
battles to defend marriage and vote like-minded public servants
into local and national office,” said Dr. Gary Cass, Center
for Reclaiming America executive director. 


Speakers
at the two-day conference included some of the major movers and
shakers on the Christian right: 


  • Christian historian
    David Barton, the head of WallBuilders 

  • Columnist David
    Limbaugh, author of the bestselling book

    Persecution: How Liberals
    Are Waging War Against Christianity

     

  • Dr. Richard
    Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics
    & Religious Liberty Commission 

  • Dr. Wanda Franz,
    president of the National Right to Life Committee 

  • Tim Wildmon,
    president of the American Family Association 

  • Alan Sears,
    president of the Alliance Defense Fund 

  • Wendell Bird,
    constitutional attorney and author of

    The Origin of Species
    Revisited

     

  • Recording artist
    and “former homosexual” Stephen Bennett 

  • Dr. Daniel Dreisbach,
    author of

    Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between
    Church and State

     

  • Dr. Rick Scarborough,
    president of Vision America  



In
1995, Kennedy established the Washington, DC-based D. James Kennedy
Center for Christian Statesmanship (www.statesman.org), in order
to offer spiritual counsel to members of Congress and their staffs.
Among the Center’s projects is The Statesmanship Institute,
a weekly program “for Christians in government” to give
them “the tools to integrate biblical principles with your
calling to public service” which offers: 


  • A Capitol Hill
    Bible Studies for staff on Capitol Hill 

  • A monthly series
    of lunches called Politics & Principle which “features
    a modern-day Christian Statesman who shares from a personal perspective,
    the challenges of living out Christian faith in today’s political
    environment”  

  • The Distinguished
    Christian Statesman Award, which “recognizes one outstanding
    public leader” each year—last year’s recipient
    was Representative John Hostettler (R-IN). (Previous winners include
    Kay Cole James, a longtime Christian right activist and currently
    the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Majority
    Whip Tom DeLay [R-TX], and Judge Roy Moore.) 


Recently,
a Center press release pointed out that Bill O’Reilly, the
host of the Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,”
had been surprised to discover that the ten- year-old operation
existed. O’Reilly then mentioned it on his program, claiming
that he was interested in finding out “which political leaders
had been influenced by the Gospel message the Center proclaims.”
 


“Dr.
D. James Kennedy’s multidimensional empire is a direct challenge
to mainstream Christianity,” said Frederick Clarkson, a veteran
journalist that has been following and writing about right-wing
movements for more than 20 years. “Kennedy was one of the leaders
of a schism that created the conservative Presbyterian Church in
America 30 years ago,” Clarkson told

Media Transparency

in an email interview. 


Although
he may not be as well known as other Christian right leaders, Kennedy
has been involved in multiple projects with his radical right colleagues.
He was a member of the first board of directors of the Moral Majority.
He also served on the initial executive board of the Coalition for
Religious Freedom (CRF), an organization established by Sun Myung
Moon’s Unification Church while Rev. Moon was in prison in
1984. According to Sara Diamond, “the organization was financed
primarily by the Unification Church, which gave an initial donation
of $500,000.” The CRF’s executive board included Jerry
Falwell, James Robison, Rex Humbard, Jimmy Swaggart, Kennedy, and
Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the wildly popular

Left Behind

series of books” (

Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the
Christian Right

, South End Press, 1989). 


Kennedy,
along with more than 30 Christian groups, was involved in the founding
and funding of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an organization
formed to pursue “religious liberty” and family preservation”
lawsuits. In her 1996 book,

Facing the Wrath: Confronting the
Right in Dangerous Times

(Common Courage Press), Diamond wrote,
“The ADF represents a serious escalation in the Christian Right’s
legal action project.” 


According
to a People For The American Way’s Right Wing Watch report
on the organization, the ADF’s major activities include: 


  • Defend[ing]
    family values and working against the ACLU (American Civil Liberties
    Union) 

  • Strategiz[ing]
    and coordinate[ing] with [likeminded] lawyers all over the United
    States 

  • Working with
    over 400 lawyers, more than 125 right-wing organizations, and
    many ministries 

  • Arguing high
    profile cases before the Supreme Court, including

    Boy Scouts
    of America v. Dale

    and

    Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network

     

  • Vigorous nationwide
    advocacy against same-sex marriage 

  • Training and
    recruiting conservative legal teams 

  • Defending the
    right of Christians to share the gospel in workplaces and public
    schools, claiming that any efforts to curb such proselytizing
    are anti-Christian 


What
distinguishes Kennedy from the more colorful, media-genic, and ubiquitous
religious right figures is that, “Kennedy has shepherded his
flock in a more orderly, and Presbyterian style into the Christian
Right,” Clarkson pointed out. “For many years, Kennedy
did a fundraising cruise called The Bible Boat to the Caribbean
in the winter. 


“In
1994 this was replaced with the annual Reclaiming America for Christ
conference. This was his first foray into forming his own political
network. Extending his operations to Washington, DC, through The
Center for Christian Statesmanship appears to be a logical outgrowth
of this process.” 


Kennedy
is also founder of Evangelism Explosion, a lay witness training
program through which the ministry claims that 4.5 million people
came to Christ last year. Kennedy launched Evangelism Explosion
International in 1967. 


According
to a profile of Kennedy in the Institute for First Amendment Studies’
Freedom Writer, the program is “a sophisticated 13-week training
seminar in discipleship.” EE training “is the most intense
evangelism training in the world. It is used by hundreds of conservative
Christian churches across the country, and has made inroads into
every single country in the world.” 


In
an April 1999 article on the website of Americans United for Separation
of Church and State, Rob Boston argued that Kennedy didn’t
believe in the concept of the separation of church and state: “Kennedy’s
1994 book,

Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search of Its
Soul

, is riddled with attacks on the constitutional principle.





“Among
other things, Kennedy calls church-state separation ‘diabolical,’
a ‘false doctrine’ and ‘a lie propagated by Thomas Jefferson.’
Kennedy also lapses into red-baiting, writing, ‘This phrase
does not appear in the United States Constitution at all, but
in Article 52 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union—now
the Soviet disunion. Defunct, because they tried to get rid of
God.’ A 1996 Kennedy tome,

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail:
The Attack On Christianity And What You Need To Know To Combat It

,
coauthored with Jerry Newcombe, calls the wall of separation a ‘great
deception [that] has been used to destroy much of the religious
freedom and liberty this country has enjoyed since its inception’.” 


Addressing
the more than 900 attendees at the recently concluded Reclaiming
America for Christ conference, Kennedy pointed out that there was
a “crack in the Jericho wall of naturalistic evolution. I’m
sure some of us will be around when the walls come tumbling down.”
Kennedy went on to say that “Communistic evolution, according
to the Senate committee that examined it, is responsible for 135
million deaths in peacetime. There’s no religion that has a
tiny fraction of that many deaths on its conscience.” 


Kennedy
is not going to rest on his laurels. The Center for Reclaiming America’s
Dr. Gary Cass recently unveiled four new ambitious initiatives intended
to expand the impact of its work. The initiatives include: the establishment
of Liberty’s Voice, a lobbying office in Washington; developing
the Strategic Institute, a think tank that will “add intellectual
muscle” to the Center’s pro-family efforts; launching
the National Grassroots Alliance, an initiative to boost the Center’s
grassroots network of 400,000 evangelicals up to one million; and
Reclaiming America’s Media, to better communicate the Center’s
message.





Bill Berkowitz
is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.