D. James Kennedy has been one of the key leaders in the development of the Christian Right. He has also been a pioneering televangelist, who has methodically build a massive religious, media, and political empire. He recently held his tenth annual conference on “Reclaiming America,” one of the premier Christian Right political conferences. But most people have never heard of him. This needs to change.
Fortunately, two fine reporters have recently written important stories from different perspectives about the Kennedy empire.
Jane Lampman of The Christian Science Monitor was at the conference and wrote a feature story about it and the Kennedy’s role in public life. One of the conference highlights was a display of the controversial monument to the Ten Commandments, which Alabama Chief Judge Roy Moore had once installed in the state courthouse. A federal judge ordered it removed. When Moore refused, Moore was removed from the bench, and “Roy’s Rock” was removed from the courthouse.
“For more than 900 other Christians from across the US,” Lampman reported, “the draw at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church last month was a national conference aimed at ‘reclaiming America for Christ.’ The monument stood as a potent symbol of their hopes for changing the course of the nation…. Their mission is not simply to save souls” Lampman continues. “The goal is to mobilize evangelical Christians for political action to return society to what they call ‘the biblical worldview of the Founding Fathers.’ Some speak of ‘restoring a Christian nation.’ Others shy from that phrase, but agree that the Bible calls them not only to evangelize, but also to transform the culture.”
“In material given to conference attendees, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge pastor wrote: ‘As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government … our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors – in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.'”
Kennedy has a Washington-based political operation called the Center for Reclaiming America, which is growing in political significance.
“The Center,” Lampman reports, “aims to increase its 500,000-strong ‘e-mail army’ to 1 million, and to encourage Christians to run for office. It has plans for 12 regional offices and activists in all 435 US House districts. And a new lobbying arm in Washington will target judicial nominations and the battle over marriage.
“‘If they don’t vote our way, we’ll change their view one way or another,’ executive director Gary Cass tells the group. As a California pastor, Dr. Cass spearheaded efforts to close abortion clinics and recruit Christians to seek positions on local school boards. ‘We’re going to take back what we lost in the last half of the 20th century,’ he adds.”
Kennedy is a Christian nationalist who believes that the framers of the Constitution did not intend that church be separated from the state, and that the Christian Nation must be restored.
The several varieties of Christian nationalism is a core, animating part of the ideology of the Christian Right. I have long argued that it is essential for those who seek to preserve religious pluralism in the U.S., to understand what Christian nationalism is about, and be able to counter the bogus history and false premises on which it is based.
I sought to do this (among other things) in my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Last December, adapting material from the book, I zeroed in on Christian nationalism in an essay on my blog.
Kennedy is far less flamboyant than Falwell or Robertson, and is less likely than Dobson to get silly and attack SpongeBob and cartoon characters. His operation is not to be underestimated, and like the others, must not be ignored.
[Crossposted from FrederickClarkson.com]