Book Write-Up: The Facts about Communism and Our Churches, by Billy James Hargis

Billy James Hargis. The Facts about Communism and Our Churches. Christian Crusade, 1962. See here to purchase the book.

Billy James Hargis was a conservative anti-Communist preacher, in the vein of such organizations as the John Birch Society. This book is about the Communist infiltration, manipulation, and use of churches. Julian Williams provided Hargis with the research and documentation.

Here are some thoughts and observations:

A. The Communist stance towards religion is examined in this book. Hargis provides quotes from the Communist pillars, such as Lenin, as well as from American Communist leaders. Essentially, the Communist stance, as Hargis portrays it, is that the Communists are disdainful towards religion, but they are willing to tolerate it if it serves their aims. They realize that the proletariat will not relinquish its religious beliefs easily, so the Communists will work with religion provided that it promotes and advances their economic and political worldview. This is evident in Communist countries, where some churches act as propagandists for the state.

B. Hargis documents that Communists have infiltrated American churches, but he backs away from saying that most of the pastors and Christians who adhere to left-wing political views are Communists. He even backs off from claiming that the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches are Communist, even though, of course, he acknowledges that there are overtly Communist pastors in the World Council of Churches. What Hargis argues is that a number of pastors have been influenced by Communists and unknowingly duped into advancing their agenda. This agenda includes support for Fidel Castro, the admission of Red China into the UN, disarmament, allowing Communist foreigners into the United States through lax immigration laws, a one-world government, opposition to HUAC, and opposition to free enterprise. According to Hargis, mainline Protestant churches and publications have endorsed such positions, which have been promulgated in explicitly Communist publications. Hargis also criticizes mainline Protestantism for denying supernaturalism, such as the virgin birth, and he seems to maintain that this overlaps with Communist anti-supernaturalism.

C. Hargis also responds to critics of his position. When the Air Force suppressed an educational manual within its ranks that exposed Communist influence in churches, that does not mean that the Air Force was denying the manual’s message; the Secretary denied this was the case. The same goes for J. Edgar Hoover and William Sullivan of the FBI, when they criticize dividing people against each other, for they themselves express concern about the Communist usage of churches to advance the Communist agenda.

D. Hargis contends that the National Council of Churches threatens freedom of speech. Radio stations are increasingly deciding to limit their Protestant airtime to churches that are part of the NCC. The NCC also seeks to influence what churches are constructed and where, which could prioritize NCC-affiliated churches and marginalize conservative ones. This analysis is likely dated, due to the decline of mainline Protestantism and the current abundance of evangelical churches. Plus, Christian radio is predominantly right-wing.

E. Hargis touches on the question of whether churches should even be involved in politics. On the one hand, he seems to be sympathetic towards a “no” answer. Numerous Christians and pastors have disliked the NCC because it has taken political stances. Hargis refers to a Presbyterian leader who quotes the Westminster Confession’s discouragement of synods and councils from “intermeddl[ing] with civil affairs which concern the Commonwealth[.]” Norman Vincent Peale laments that mainline churches give people the stone of social action rather than the bread of spirituality. On the other hand, Hargis maintains that churches should stand against Communism, which has persecuted Christians throughout the world. All this is noteworthy because Hargis has sometimes labeled himself one of the earliest voices of the religious right. My impression (which is subject to correction) is that his political agenda was not as comprehensive as that of the religious right of the 1980’s, perhaps because society during the 1960’s was still largely conservative in culture.

F. The tone of this book is (A.) the Communists believe A, (B.) American Christian leaders also believe A, so (C.) the American Christian leaders are wrong because they agree with the Communists. But Hargis sometimes offers a rationale for his political positions. Communism is brutal and authoritarian. Disarmament is wrong because military strength on the part of the U.S. is what guarantees the peace, plus the Communists break disarmament agreements. The Bible supports private property because it has “Thou shalt not steal.” The early Christians’ sharing of their possessions in Acts 4 was temporary and was eventually abandoned as unfeasible, plus it was voluntary rather than coerced. The Bible supports private charity rather than state welfare. I differ from that last point because I think that the Pentateuch promotes a just society which keeps the poor from falling through the cracks, not just individuals helping others whenever they feel like it.

G. Hargis sometimes provides details about the liberal Christians’ rationale for their positions: social reform can undermine Communism by redressing the poverty that Communists exploit, Romans 13 would require Christians to submit to a world government (that is a new one for me—-a conservative rationale for a liberal position!). The book may have been stronger had it done so more.

 

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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