Thursday, September 6, 2007

James Kennedy, American fascist

From the New York Times:

"The Rev. D. James Kennedy, a Christian broadcaster and the pastor of a Florida
megachurch who played a critical role in the rise of conservative Christianity,
died yesterday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 76. From the founding
of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale 48 years ago, Mr. Kennedy
became an indefatigable and persuasive voice urging Christians to take on a
broader culture that, in his view, had begun to decay. He argued that the
decline was due to society’s increasing secularization and hostility to
Christianity, said Frank Wright, a friend and the chief executive of the
National Religious Broadcasters Association. Mr. Kennedy stayed largely in the
background as men like Mr. Falwell, Mr. Robertson and James C. Dobson of Focus
on the Family spoke to Americans about the need to curtail abortion rights, gay
rights and the teaching of evolution. But over the last decade, he, too, grew
more openly active, creating the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, which
held conferences that taught people to how to get involved in the political
process. The center closed in April. Mr. Kennedy opened the Center for Christian
Statesmanship in Washington to equip evangelicals on Capitol Hill to be more
effective in government. He was also instrumental in establishing the Alliance
Defense Fund, an increasingly active Christian counterweight to secular civil
liberties groups. In 1967, he started an “evangelism clinic” called Evangelism
Explosion, which taught Christians how to spread the Gospel. He opened a radio
station in 1974 to expand his preaching. Mr. Kennedy spoke sharply against gay
rights and abortion rights. But he thought the greatest threat to society was
the fact that public education had left prayer out of the classroom and
continued to teach evolution."

Another leader of America's growing fascist movement has died, silencing one of the most narrow-minded, anti-intellectual, racist, and homophobic voices in the country. Kennedy was particularly dangerous because of his efforts to spread his brand of right wing hate-mongering through the "Evangelism Explosion" programs - clinics no less threatening than the terrorist camps run by Islamic extremists. One might hope that Kennedy's organization would die with him, a common fate for organizations based on the charismatic spirit of a single character. Still, no doubt the way has been prepared for a successor to continue the life of Kennedy's Coral Ridge empire. It will be interesting to see how that institution evolves in the absence of its founder.

Equally troubling for me, as a former teacher, was Kennedy's rejection of evolution. Indeed, his efforts to replace the teaching of evolution in schools with the humbuggery of "creation science" and "intelligent design" made him as much an anti-modernist and anti-intellectual as his conservative Islamic counterparts in the Taliban or the present government of Iran. Moreover, given his efforts to shape political affairs by directly influencing members of Congress, he had joined Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as a leader in the development of a distinctively American version of fascism, a version carrying a cross and wrapped in the flag, but no less dangerous than the totalitarian state imposed on Germany by the Nazis.

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