Crusaders against Communism, Witnesses for Peace--Religion in the West and the Cold War--by Mark Stoll
All fundamentalists were anti-Communists, but the leading crusaders against godless Communism operated in the West, close
to a Tulsa-Dallas-Los Angeles axis. The senior crusader, J. Frank Norris, was pastor of Fort Worth's largest Baptist church
from 1909 to 1952, founded Fort Worth's Baptist Bible Seminary, founded and edited The Fundamentalist periodical, and
owned a powerful radio station. Norris had been an outspoken anti-Communist since 1930. He and like-minded
fundamentalists linked Communism with modernism (including evolution and integration), social programs, and the ecumenical
Federal Council of Churches (FCC, later the National Council of Churches, or NCC), which conservatives frequently labeled
"soft on Communism." Norris and other fundamentalists took it very hard when China "fell" to the Communists in 1949, since
many Americans had long supported missionaries there and believed Nationalist ruler Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife to be
devoted Christians. Norris defended nuclear weapons and an American first-strike policy; he felt that although nuclear war
might destroy the world, it would be part of God's plan to bring "a new earth and a new heaven" as predicted in Scripture.
When Southern Baptist Convention president Louis Newton made some favorable comments about the Soviet Union after a
1946 visit, Norris played on fundamentalist fears of Communist infiltration by accusing him of Communist sympathies and began
an extended, unsuccessful campaign to oust him. Norris actively worked to form a united anti-Communist front with the
Catholic Church, for which many of his religious allies roundly criticized him. Much to their dismay, Norris had an audience with
Pope Pius XII in Rome and supported the Truman administration's controversial plan to send an ambassador to the Vatican.
The most prominent among Norris's anti-Communist fundamentalist allies were Carl McIntire and Gerald L. K. Smith. A close
associate of McCarthy, Calvinist McIntire was founder of the Bible Presbyterian Church, a religious publication and radio
empire, and Highland College in Pasadena, California, as well as a seminary and another college in the East.
Norris broke bitterly and publicly with Smith in 1947 when Norris, a supporter of a new state of Israel because of its putative
eschatological role, denounced Smith's outspoken anti-Semitism. Smith saw Communism as a Jewish conspiracy.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Smith was one of the main sources of the white-suprematist "Christian Identity" movement.
Christian Identity combined anti-Semitism, racism, survivalism, and millennialism into a violent "church" that has been preparing
for an Armageddon of whites against the browns, blacks, and Jews. The Christian Identity movement claims that the whites of
Western Europe are the true descendants of the Biblical patriarchs, while Jews are demonic impostors. Christian Identity
gradually became the theological center for a number of Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis, skinhead racists, and "Aryan"
An ordained Disciples of Christ minister, Smith had been an assistant in the '30s to the anti-Semitic "radio priest," Father
Coughlin, an associate of Henry Ford and Huey Long, and a member of the American Nazi group, the Silver Shirts. Following
World War II, Smith founded the Christian Defense League, a survivalist group, and spread Christian Identity theology in his
periodical, The Cross and the Flag. One of the newspaper's editors, Dr. Wesley Swift, a Methodist minister from Alabama and
former KKK Kleagle, founded the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, which operates today from Hayden Lake, Idaho. Since
Swift's death in 1970 "Rev." Richard G. Butler (a mail-order minister) has led the church. Swift was also associated with such
racist paramilitary groups as the California Rangers and the Minutemen. Groups associated with the Christian Identity
movement have perpetrated numerous violent and deadly "hate-crimes" across the West from North Dakota to California, with
the avowed purpose of stopping a Zionist-Communist conspiracy from subverting the United States.
As Norris's health declined after 1950, his star was eclipsed by Billy James Hargis, the most vocal evangelical Cold Warrior
during the next two decades. Hargis was the anti-Communist protégé of A. B. McReynolds. Influential in the Independent
Christian Churches, McReynolds ran an operation throughout the Cold War from his Kiamichi Mountain Mission in Talihina,
Oklahoma. He conducted an annual men's clinic in the 1960s which trained thousands of church leaders. During the '60s and
early '70s, he appeared with Dr. Gerald F. Winrod, who mixed anti-Communism with anti-Semitism, on Dallas oilman H. L.
Hunt's "Defender Hour" on border radio.
Rising on the strength of his anti-Communist "crusade" to join the leadership of evangelical fundamentalists, Hargis operated the
Christian Crusade from Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the '50s and '60s, his organization's literature reached millions of readers.
Hundreds of radio stations carried his broadcasts. In the early 1960s Hargis established the Anti-Communist Youth University
in Manitou Springs, Colorado, at the foot of Pike's Peak, which offered two-week classes with a curriculum consisting, in
Hargis's words, of "the Bible, the free enterprise system, Constitutional government, how to fight communism, and how to
organize anti-communist youth chapters." Hargis identified the United States (along with Jesus Christ and the Bible) as God's
gift humanity, and the Soviet Union as the Antichrist and the Devil. His most famous anti-Communist stunt was the 1953 Bible
Balloon project, in which he and Carl McIntire launched tens of thousands of balloons from Germany, laden with Bibles and
religious tracts, to float across the Iron Curtain. Semi-retired since 1974, Hargis moved his Christian Crusade to Neosho,
Missouri in 1976, where it has fallen into increasing obscurity.
At the invitation of Carl McIntire, Frederick Schwarz, another Western anti-Communist crusader, immigrated from Australia in
1953 and established the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade in Waterloo, Iowa. He eventually downplayed association with
McIntire and moved his headquarters to Long Beach, California. While neither a true fundamentalist nor a millennialist, Schwarz
regarded conservative Christianity as Communism's only alternative. He spread his message through radio programs and
presentations given throughout the nation. An appearance before HUAC in 1957 increased his prominence. Schwarz took his
anti-Communist message abroad in the 1970s to countries like El Salvador and the Philippines. He and his Christian
Anti-Communism Crusade are still active.
A more secular ally of the fundamentalists, the John Birch Society, founded by North Carolinian Robert Welch in Indianapolis
in 1958, found fertile soil in the West. Welch named the society after John Birch, a young Baptist missionary and graduate of
Norris's Baptist Bible Seminary whom Chinese Communists allegedly killed during World War II ("the first casualty of World
War III"). The society's strongholds were Texas and southern California, most heavily in Los Angeles and Houston. In the early
1960s the mayor of Amarillo, Texas, the school board of Midlothian, Texas, and several Congressmen from southern
California were "Birchers." Convinced that Communists were already well on the road to controlling the nation--Welch at times
called Eisenhower a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy" and Reagan its "lackey"--Welch also accused
the majority of the nation's clergy of Communist sympathies. Although raised a fundamentalist Baptist, Welch was theologically
liberal. His closest clerical friend and supporter was James W. Fifield, Jr., minister of the First Congregational Church of Los
Angeles, a theological liberal who always welcomed Welch to his church. Fundamentalists attracted to Welch's politics
overlooked his theological peccadilloes. Mormon Apostle and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson and his
son Reed aided Birch recruitment efforts among Mormons. McIntire and Hargis had close ties to the "Birchers." Welch's
influence declined after the 1960s and he stepped down as John Birch Society president in 1983.
Gerald L. K. Smith's activity in the Los Angeles area, home of one of the nation's largest Jewish communities, worried Jews,
who feared a popular association of Judaism with Communism. Their fears grew with the rise of McCarthyism. A high
proportion of West Coast Jews had been convinced radicals in the 1930s, and had had influence in a number of mainstream
Jewish organizations. At the same time, many of the Communist spy trials in the early 1950s involved Jews, such as Julius and
Ethel Rosenberg, Judith Coplon, Robert Soblen, Jack Soble, Morton Sobell, and even Klaus Fuchs, who many falsely
assumed was Jewish.
In such an atmosphere, and with the Nazi Holocaust a fresh memory, HUAC's investigations of the Jewish-dominated
Hollywood film industry especially alarmed Los Angeles Jews--more especially since John Rankin, who publicly linked Jews
and Communism, was a committee member. Six of the Hollywood Ten were Jewish. Fearful that anti-Communism could easily
transform into anti-Semitism, Los Angeles Jewish organizations like the Western Division of the American Jewish Committee
conducted purges of leftists and affiliated leftist Jewish organizations such as the Jewish People's Fraternal Order, and waved
the flag as prominently as they could.
The first major challenge to the relatively unanimous anti-Communism of American churches was the Korean War. The
churches did not waver in their opposition to Communism, but they did disagree whether Truman's policy of containment was
the best policy. However, most religious groups patriotically closed ranks in support of American troops at war overseas. In
1950, liberal Protestant clergy called for condemnation of the hydrogen bomb, but the NCC was so divided on the issue that it
could resolve on no action but prayer. Significant religious divisions over the Cold War would await the Vietnam War.
c. 1998 by Jew Watch
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