Saturday, January 12, 2019

WCG During the Rise of the Religious Right (1981)

Back in 1981 two Presbyterian ministers, Dr. William R. Goodman, Jr. and Dr. James J. H. Price, wrote a book entitled Jerry Falwell: An Unauthorized Profile, discussing Jerry Falwell and the rise to political prominence of the Moral Majority. Both men were then based in Lynchburg, Virginia, the same city Falwell was based in.

On pages 72-3 the authors mentioned an article by WCG's Jeff Calkins ("The Plain Truth About the So-Called Christian Right," The Plain Truth, February 1981, pp. 26-9), criticizing the Moral Majority for not agreeing with certain WCG doctrines. Reading this passage I will say that I wish the authors were a bit more critical about WCG.

Below is the quote.


One interesting reaction to Falwell and the Moral Majority has come from Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. While claiming that The Plain Truth and the Worldwide Church of God share the Moral Majority goal of restoring a proper family life in America, Armstrong says they do not want to be considered a part of Falwell's organization. In the February issue of The Plain Truth Jeff Calkins, writing for Armstrong and the church, says:
. . . We are not part of the Moral Majority or of any like or unlike groups. We take no part in this world's politics! God's true Church must remain "unspotted" by political involvement.
While attacking left-leaning critics of Falwell and the Moral Majority, Calkins goes on to point out the real danger of the Christian Right:
If the Christian Right may pose a possible danger, it is in an area largely overlooked by the left-leaning critics. While there is a smattering of Jews, the Christian Right is made up almost completely of Sunday-keeping churches. It would be a tragedy if the Moral Majority--which has fought against secular atheistic humanistic propaganda being forced on believers in the public school system--were to try to enforce Sunday keeping under the guise of blue laws, which forbid work or shopping on Sunday. Thus far, Sunday keeping is not one of the causes of the Christian Right. We hope it will stay that way.
Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God need not worry right now about the laws regarding the keeping of Sunday becoming a concern of the Moral Majority and Falwell. Championing free enterprise as a God-given right seems to be more important to Falwell and Moral Majority judging from the emphasis of their spoken and written words.

Herbert Armstrong and his followers find that Falwell's shortcoming lies in his failure to follow the Bible. Calkins states for Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God:
Jerry Falwell and other leaders of the Christian Right profess, of course, to follow the Bible. It is a shame, then, that, outside matters of basic morality, many of their doctrines are nowhere to be found in Scripture. Mr. Falwell should know, for example, that reverend is a title appropriate to the Eternal God (Psalm 111:9), and therefore not something that he should attach to his own name. Likewise, nowhere to be found are beliefs that you go to heaven when you die, that you should worship on the first day of the week, that you should observe Christmas and Easter instead of God's revealed Holy Days, that God is a Trinity--or that it is a sin not to vote, as Mr. Falwell claims.

End of quote.

Little did anyone foresee that Armstrongism would splinter into hundreds of competing organizations leaving Armstrongites as being less able to command attention from the surrounding, mainstream society.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn’t part of the “Moral Majority” during the 1980s. In fact, I viewed them derisively and had great contempt for Jerry Falwell.

    However, from the perspective of decades’ more experience in life, It seems obvious that any group which attempts to make a positive impact on the prevailing culture around us isn’t necessarily an altogether bad thing.

    Herbert Armstrong taught his followers to be horribly judgmental, imposing his eclectic collection of doctrines as if to make them the only criteria by which the entire world should be judged. In the minds of his followers, other Christians, particularly the Sunday-keeping kind, became sinners or deceived ones, just as bad as the criminals, the fornicators, the overimbibers of various things that make one high, the unethical, and the terminally greedy. Yet, the fruits of Armstrongism were devastatingly more destructive in nearly every way. However, to the Armstrong-infected mind, the teachings of the Christian right became just as much the reason for the coming national punishment at the hand of the Germans as abortion and homosexuality.

    Many people have commented on the wane of Christianity. The wane curve of Armstrongism is greatly accelerated as compared to that of Christianity in general. Part of the reason for that is that people have become more sophisticated than they were in the 1950s. There is much more knowledge about cults and scams, and before radicalizing their entire lives and world views, people do due diligence and obtain second opinions. Traditional Christianity seems to stand up better to this increased scrutiny than does a toxic cult like Armstrongism, which has been compared to the Moonies, the followers of Jim Jones, the Fundamentalist LDS, or the Branch Davidians.

    From the current standpoint of a religious empire which has fallen apart and is now held in disrepute, it almost seems humorous to retrospectively watch Jeff Calkins use the tenets of Armstrongism to evaluate the religious right. Armstrongism never delivered on its prophecies, threats, or promises. It dissipated, divided, atrophied, and became impotent on its way to the dominance anticipated by its followers. And, thank God for that!