Religion and Government – Program 4

By: Dr. D. James Kennedy, Mr. John Buchanan; ©1984
How involved should Christian leaders be in educating voters about the candidates stand on certain issues? What is appropriate for them to say, and what is inappropriate?

Should Christian Leaders Attempt to Sway Voters?


Tonight, what is the relationship of religion to government?

[*** Excerpts of commercials from People For The American Way ***]

James Robison: I am sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals, and the perverts, and the liberals, and the leftists, and the communists coming out of the closets. It’s time for God’s people to come out of the closets, out of the churches and change America. We must do it.
Jerry Falwell: We have got to raise up an army of men and women in America to call this nation back to moral sanity and sensibility. I call that the Moral Majority.
D. James Kennedy: ….Christian freedom in particular which is, I believe, today under serious attack.

[end excerpt]

However there are those who disagree. T.V. producer Norman Lear founded an organization called People For The American Way, whose opinion of such Christians is:

[*** Excerpt People For The American Way commercial ***]

Martin Sheen: If you are alarmed by these voices of intolerance, please call this number. I’m Martin Sheen, a member of People For The American Way. Washington and Jefferson knew the dangers of mixing church and state. Today, extremists are using religion to manipulate political debate. Their aim is to impose their beliefs on you. And if you remain silent they will succeed. Call this number and make your pledge of $15 or more, to help carry this warning to other Americans. Don’t take your freedom for granted.

[end excerpt]

Tonight, representing People For The American Way is their chairman, John H. Buchanan. From 1965 until 1981 Mr. Buchanan was a Congressman representing the 6th District of Alabama in the US House of Representatives. My second guest is Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is president of the Coalition for Religious Liberty and a board member of Concerned Christians for More Responsible Citizenship. Please stay tuned for this important discussion.

Ankerberg: Welcome. Thank you. We are talking about politics and religion and what is the Christian’s responsibility in politics today. And my guests are former Congressman John Buchanan, and Dr. D. James Kennedy from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. To start this program off, gentlemen, I would like to go to a commercial that People For The American Way, under Norman Lear’s guidance, has created concerning Christians and politics, and then I would like to come back for your comments on that.

[*** Excerpts from commercials ***]

Woman: When I was a girl, church was the source of everything good in our lives. I remember revival meetings, all day singing, Vacation Bible school. But I been ailin’, don’t get around so well, and I’ve taken to watching religious programs on television. But one thing has bothered me. I sent a small offering to keep one of those religious programs on the air. And what I got back in the mail was all political. That’d be alright, but I was told the Christian position on issues. Who is a Christian candidate and who isn’t. It disappoints me when a TV minister I like judges people’s Christianity by the position they take on political issues. In our town the ministers would never have done that.
Narrator: If you oppose religious tests for political office, call 1-800-543-7500. Help protect separation of church and state. Call this number now. Don’t take your freedom for granted.

[end excerpt]

Ankerberg: Alright, Dr. Kennedy you are in Christian television. This lady and the People For The American Way are saying that people like yourself, other Christians on television, are saying that you are telling them who is a Christian candidate and who isn’t. Are you doing that?
Kennedy: No, I certainly know that I am not, and I don’t know of anybody else that is. As I said last week, Monsignor Higgins resigned from the People For The American Way claiming that they used emotional scare tactics, such as we just witnessed here, to confuse and scare the American people. Of course, I think what’s happened, John, is that for probably the last 50 years or so, Evangelical Christians have withdrawn from the matter of government and politics and things like this, while at the same time the liberal wing of the Christian church was up to their ear lobes enmeshed in politics of every conceivable sort. I mean, everyone knows the activities of the National Council of Churches and so many other liberal clerics in this country. Well, in the last five or ten years Evangelical Christians have belatedly begun to wake up to the fact that they have responsibilities that extend beyond merely the church and the prayer closet into every sphere of government and life and culture and the arts and the media and everything else. And they have begun to express their views. Well, the reaction to this has been absolutely astonishing. And perhaps one of the most astonishing things about it is that someone like Norman Lear, who is notorious for his anti-family, anti-moral programs that have unfortunately besieged our nation’s eyes and ears for a decade or more, that he would start a group to protect the morals and freedoms of this country. And I find that indeed quite incongruous. But Christians I don’t think are telling people who to vote for. I know John Lofton, a columnist, asked Norman Lear to say who is it that is saying you people are not Christians or you are ungodly. Who are saying this? And Lear refused to answer and he finally said, “Well, I have to admit I can’t remember a name of any particular person.” So they make these accusations but I have yet to hear anybody that has done that.
Ankerberg: Who is making the accusations, John?
Buchanan: First let me talk about the lady on the spot. This is her background. This is how she feels. And she is one of many people who had this experience, I expect. I am on Jerry Falwell’s mailing list. He does send out a lot of political literature. I have seen him on sound film call into question both the patriotism and the Christian faith of people who disagree with certain positions. The last time I was with Tim LaHaye, who is head of the whole American Coalition for Traditional Values, the new Religious Right Coalition that’s very active in this election, Tim LaHaye called into question my Christianity because of my disagreement with him. So, as to what the lady said about who the Christian candidates were and what the Christian issues were, I personally have had a good deal of experience with knowing where that is and that that is true. Indeed every year Christian Voice puts out a report card on the members of the Congress. They started off calling it the Moral Christian Report Card and now they call it the Moral Family Report Card.
Ankerberg: Alright, I am holding one in my hand here, John. Are you familiar with this one?
Buchanan: No, no that’s not the same thing, but I have one of those. That’s what they put out on the presidential candidates. That also is geared, John, except that was not for Christian Voice, that was for the American Coalition for Traditional Values of which he is field director.
Ankerberg: Okay, do you see anything wrong with this one?
Buchanan: Yes, what I see wrong with this one is that while in all other cases they listed simply the religious affiliation of the candidate, when it came to one candidate, Walter Mondale, instead of saying he is a Presbyterian, they called him a Humanist/ Presbyterian.
Kennedy: John, let me comment on this thing that you are showing here from the Christian Voice. What did you say this precisely does? The question was, people are calling people immoral or ungodly or unchristian, is that what this does?
Buchanan: I know down in Birmingham, Alabama, when the Moral Majority and company beat my brains out in Christian love, they use this very effectively and the folks back home considered it a moral and Christian rating.
Kennedy: But notice what it says explicitly right in the second paragraph. It says, “This rating is not intended nor implied to be a statistical judgment of a congressman’s personal moral behavior or relationship with God.” Or relationship with God!
Buchanan: They added that in the later years. That wasn’t in the 1980 version, but if you read that whole section.
Kennedy: Well it says, “Only God can judge what is truly in the heart of a man.”
Buchanan: But if you read the whole section.
Kennedy: I have read the whole section.
Buchanan: ….they go back and repeat in several instances that these are the moral issues and they are taking a particular position that they deem the moral issues.
Kennedy: Do they not have a right to take a particular position on moral issues?
Buchanan: Well, you may say that you have to vote for an instant balanced budget to be moral, I think it’s not possible. Ronald Reagan, my fellow Republican and President, has been trying for four years to balance the budget and couldn’t. And once in a while some member of Congress will come up and make a proposal to do something that isn’t possible to do and that’s one of the issues.
Kennedy: Haven’t people been rating Congressmen, the Americans for Democratic Action and numerous groups have been rating Congressmen for years on what they feel are important issues before the Congress?
Buchanan: You have to be against the nuclear freeze to be moral or Christian. Many of us might be against….
Kennedy: Now, John, that’s not true.
Buchanan: Well, that’s what is here on the chart.
Kennedy: It does not say that you have to do that to be moral or Christian. That is a distortion on your part.
Buchanan: We folks who aren’t very sophisticated, and there are many of us in this country…
Kennedy: Like Norman Lear.
Buchanan: ….when some outfit gives us a report card and says …. Well, that’s right he isn’t very, he wouldn’t even understand what you folks are talking about on this program. He doesn’t look at himself the way you look at him and I don’t either. But….
Ankerberg: John, would you say that when you were in the Congress and you received the Congressional action which had the voting scores of Ralph Nader’s Public Citizens Group, the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO marked your score card and other people’s with the designation of right and wrong. Others all came in for evaluating members according to their bias, to their views and it has page after page and all of your rankings are listed right here. Now, everybody else before the Christians ever started doing this were already doing this.
Buchanan: There you go again! You say the Christians! Listen, I am an Evangelical Christian and have been since I was nine years of age! And then again you were talking about when the Evangelical Christians gather, you were, James. Listen there aren’t any more powerful Evangelical preachers than the black ministers in Baptist churches in states like my church and….
Ankerberg: That’s wonderful.
Buchanan: Well! But you said when the Evangelical Christians got into politics. Listen, the Civil Rights movement in the United States, thank God and I thank God for it, made this nation become itself fulfilled and begin to live up to its basic promises on paper, it began in the black churches of the deep South, Baptist churches many of them. Very Evangelical churches. We Evangelical Christians have been in politics for years. Just some of us disagree with this particular agenda.
Ankerberg: Is that a violation, John, of churches and state?
Buchanan: No, no….
Kennedy: But if it’s the conservative Evangelical Christians then they have no right to do it. The liberal Evangelical Christians have a right to do it.
Buchanan: I am a very conservative Evangelical Christian because I am an old fashioned Baptist who believes in the absolute separation of church and state. And that makes me very conservative. I am very conservative because I want to protect the Constitutional rights of every American citizen. Whether it is Norman Lear, or Jew, or John Buchanan, a Baptist Christian or somebody else, a Catholic Christian or somebody else who isn’t anything yet.
Ankerberg: Would you define the word conservative for me?
Buchanan: Yes, I would like to conserve the traditional values of this society, like….
Ankerberg: What do you think the traditional values are of this society?
Buchanan: …. like the Constitution and its guarantees of our rights and of our liberties.
Ankerberg: What do you think are the traditional values?
Buchanan: Well, I think one traditional value of this society is freedom of conscience; that is our most basic liberty. And that religious liberty is the cornerstone of all our liberties. And that’s what my organization is about, fighting for and defending religious liberty.
Kennedy: And yet when you have someone like Mel and Norma Gabler, who are trying to defend their religious liberties and their Christian values, as they point out to the American people what is happening in our textbooks. We have a letter going out from the People For The American Way that Max Freedman, writing in the New York Tribune, says contains 47 falsehoods and uses terms such as “book burning,” and “holy war,” and “fanaticism,” and “mind control,” and “intolerant,” and “right wing extremists.” Now it seems to me that the kind of…. you talked earlier about demagogic statements, it seems to me that is demagogery of the worst sort. Here you have two lovely people, a housewife and an ex-clerk who are simply pointing out to the State Board of Education in Texas, as the Constitution of Texas requires that people do, what is going on in the textbooks and they are exposed to this kind of scurrilous attack in your letters, the kind of scare tactics that Monsignor Higgins pointed to.
Buchanan: Well, so far as the letter was concerned, and I didn’t like that letter either, but I will tell you about that letter….
Kennedy: John, you don’t seem to like much that PAW does.
Buchanan: No, no. Oh, no. I love what we stand for, which you are here misrepresenting, my friend. I love what we stand for. Let me tell you about the letter. You raised it. Let me tell you about it.
Kennedy: Good.
Buchanan: There have been a number of book and record burnings in the United States. The letter didn’t say the Gablers led in book burning. They don’t participate in book burning, but there has been a good bit of that kind of activity. What the Gablers are is that they are leading censorship people in Texas. And we have resisted Mel and Norma Gabler but we have also praised them, in terms of the effectiveness of a couple who decided to do something about what they believed. And what we have tried to do is to get a lot of other people into that same act. What we in fact have done…
Ankerberg: Why do you call them censors then?
Buchanan: Well, because….
Ankerberg: You would be doing the same thing they are doing. You are trying to get other people to do what they are doing and you call them censors?
Buchanan: No, no. Well, the reason I call them censors is because for years they had great impact on the textbook committee and the school board in Texas and they really were very instrumental in getting guidelines passed in Texas which influenced the content of science and history and other textbooks. And because Texas comprises 16% of the total market in the United States, the textbook publishers were using the Texas guideline directed textbooks in the whole 50 states.
Ankerberg: Alright let’s….
Buchanan: Other citizens in and out of Texas disagreed with that content but hadn’t gotten into the act.
Ankerberg: I understand that.
Buchanan: We organized the coalition that got them into the act, mainline church people….
Kennedy: Are you all censors? John, are you censors? Are you censors?
Buchanan: No, we were trying to….
Kennedy: You weren’t censors?
Buchanan: We were speaking on the positive side of why some….
Kennedy: You are not censors, but they are censors? Now, I have a statement here from your….
Buchanan: We are not censors.
Kennedy: You are not censors but they are?
Buchanan: No, that’s right.
Kennedy: You are doing the same thing, but they are censors and you are not.
Buchanan: No, we are trying to get lots of other people into the act.
Ankerberg: In what act? Just a minute.
Buchanan: In Texas. What we were doing in Texas….
Kennedy: The state chairman, John, for Texas of the PAW is, in an article that he has right here, is engaged in an all-out effort to remove scientific creationism from the textbooks in Texas. Now if the Gablers are involved in trying to remove smut or pornography or filth or anything like that from the textbooks, they are censors. But on the other hand he is not a censor. He is fighting for liberty. Now this is a kind of a double standard that I think is not justified.
Ankerberg: Alright, turn your attention to two statements found in public school textbooks. First, in health class this statement was found in Life and Health: “Adolescent petting is an important opportunity to learn about sexual responses and to gratify sexual and emotional desires without a more serious commitment.” For Civil Goverment class, eighth grade, you will find in Civics, Government and Citizenship, “Some people feel that the government should pay every family in the United States a minimum amount every year if they do not earn that amount by working.” Let’s start with those two. Would you find anything objectionable to that coming from your Baptist background, as a Congressman, former Congressman of the United States. Do you think those things we should object to as parents?
Buchanan: The first thing I certainly would find no objection to. I would support their objection to that. And I want to make plain, it’s not that I or even my organization disagrees. Certainly we support the Gablers right to do their thing before the Texas School Board and State Textbook Committee. We just want other people to also get into the act who may have a different point of view. I would agree with them on the first point. The things that we object to most of all are things like not covering anything in American history. They have objected to things like discussing the Civil Rights movement or slavery or the Vietnam War because it is controversial. We think those are things that ought to be discussed in textbooks and in schools for the sake of understanding history in our country. The second quote you used is a little different thing. There are many people, many devout Christian people, who feel the government should take a strong role in caring for those who cannot care for themselves. And so I would have to think about that. I would have to see it in context to know whether I would agree with them on that one or not. But the thing with which I disagree with them, I mean the areas of disagreement, pertain to not taking a realistic view of history as it is and not encouraging children to think about it so maybe in their time they can do even better than their forbearers did.
Ankerberg: Jim?
Kennedy: Well, some of the other things that the Gablers objected to were, for example, a fifth grade history book that spent seven pages discussing Marilyn Monroe and one paragraph discussing George Washington. Now, is that what we would consider an objective coverage of American history? Or a high school sociology book which a Vermont newspaper later described as equivalent to a two dollar under-the-cover pornography book. And John says that they support the Gablers in this and yet they use such terms about these people as “censors” and “book burners” and “fanatics” and “extremists” and “right wing extremists” and things of that sort, which I think don’t demonstrate to me that they support an open, free presentation of all of the facts.
Ankerberg: John?
Kennedy: Let me add one other thing. The Gablers, too, pointed out that the books already have been censored in a certain way. There is a tremendous censorship that has been going on in our textbooks for years long before the Gablers ever got involved. And they point out that what is censored out of our textbooks already before they even see them: missing are such things as the importance of the family, the work ethic, free enterprise, the basic social unit of the family, parental rights, absolute values, morality, that it is wrong to lie, cheat, and steal, that students should be taught integrity, empathy, courtesy, compassion, etc. All of these values have for the most part been censored out of our textbooks already. And so there is a massive hidden censorship of godly and traditional values that already has gone on in our textbooks. If you want a good example of that….
Ankerberg: Let’s let John come back here.
Buchanan: Yes, what we tried to do is get other citizens of Texas into the act and succeeded in doing so. Mainstream religious leaders, science teachers, scientists and they also began to participate in the process which was what we were trying to do, and that balanced the situation.
Ankerberg: Okay, John….
Buchanan: We have not tried to cut off the Gablers. Nor do I disagree. You pick out something that I never heard of and say, Now this is what they censor and therefore, you are saying they shouldn’t censor that. I would agree with them on a lot of things probably.
Ankerberg: Alright, why does….
Buchanan: I disagree with them on some of the things I told you about and some other things I would be glad to tell you about.
Ankerberg: Why is it then that you yourself, I assume that you believe Scripture, you went down to Texas before that commission down there and you testified that you didn’t want anything to be said about creation/science along side, fairly with, evolution taught. You didn’t want both, you just wanted one.
Buchanan: Yes, I did say that, because we were talking about science classes, and because 96% of the world of science accepts one theory that they accept as a theory the way gravity is a theory, i.e., the scientific point of view at this point is that evolution is the process of creation. But it is not what I said as a Baptist Christian. I wish you would let me repeat my entire testimony was I agree with the Psalmist, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” [Psalm. 19:1]
Ankerberg: I find it interesting that way back when the American Civil Liberties Union went and at the Scopes trial they argued against the position that there ought to be just one theory of origin taught. They said then, their argument was there should be two because that would be only fair. And I wonder if it was fair then why it’s not fair today to present both and let the kids choose?
Buchanan: Well, I as a Christian parent and I and my church teach children, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” [Gen. 1:1] which is my strong religious faith, and which I believe is part of reality. Whether God wanted to use some process that took a long time or some process that took a short time, as my seminary professor pointed out to me long time ago, I don’t think that matters as long as you believe God did it. You don’t have to take a choice. You don’t have to make kids choose between modern science, which has also brought us a lot of miracles in our time, of chemistry and electronics, just like the one we are using right now. God used, somehow, scientists and people in technology to produce the miracle that let you be on television and a lot of other people. God is not confined to one method nor is He confined to one process and how He created the world. He did it, that’s all that matters.
Ankerberg: Okay, just a final comment, Jim.
Kennedy: John, it’s not a matter of, as they would say, that we want to teach Genesis in the classrooms. What we have is a complete censorship of a whole body of scientific evidence. There is massive scientific evidence which refutes evolution. I have probably over 100 books written by scientists in my library alone which are filled with scientific data which conflicts with the theory of evolution. That entire mass of evidence is thoroughly suppressed and repressed in our public schools today. And they use the idea that we want to simply teach Genesis in the classrooms. That’s false. We want to teach the scientific evidence on both sides of the issue so that people can make an intelligent decision. But when you have all of the evidence on one side repressed and all the other evidence presented you don’t have education, you have brainwashing and that’s what is going on in our classrooms.
Ankerberg: Okay, we are out of time and I hope that you will join us next week as we continue this conversation.

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