Amid the controversy surrounding President Trump and his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, I could not help but wonder what Carl McIntire would have thought of it all.
When the Cold War was raging in the 1950s, when children were taught how to “duck and cover” in case of a Soviet nuclear attack, when Boy Scouts were taught how to recognize Russian planes by their silhouettes, and when courses with titles like “Americanism vs. Communism” were taught in high schools, I frequently found myself driving around at night and listening to whatever I could pick up on the few radio stations whose signals were strong enough to penetrate darkest south Alabama.
On those evenings, I would occasionally tune in to “The Twentieth Century Reformation Hour” and the Rev. Carl McIntire.
Students of the controversy between “modernist” and “fundamentalists” that occupied many denominations during that era will know McIntire for his outspoken opposition to what he and his supporters saw as the theological liberalism that was creeping into churches around the country.
Still in my teens, Methodist me did not know much, and cared less, about theological liberalism, but when the reverend drifted away from Bible-based homilies and into how trends of the day were clear evidence that our American way of life was being threatened by the forces of international, Godless communism, I took note.
International communism proposed to remove borders so that workers of the world would be freed from the nationalism that had sent so many of them to die for causes that were not theirs.
Just as bad as nationalism, according to the Reds, was religion.
Communists argued that religion, like nationalism, was used to keep the minds of the masses off their worldly problems and get them into wars with folks who did not pray as they did.
Do away with all that nation-stuff, God-stuff, the communists said, and the world would be a better place.
What McIntire was preaching, and what was generally believed by his many followers, was that a host of bad things were happening and that the source of our problems could be traced to the ideology being slipped into our schools, churches and political institutions by those whose loyalty was neither to God nor to the United States.
In an effort to expose the many nefarious schemes and schemers, he laid out a list of enemies and the plots they were hatching.
For example, McIntire opposed efforts by the World Council of Churches to find common ground among people of faith, regardless of their country. He felt this was part of a plot to force compromise and consensus on various denominations and water down conservative beliefs. Such internationalism would weaken “Christian” nations like the United States and lead us to an accommodation with ungodly nations like the Soviet Union.
He even claimed that the Russian Orthodox priests who attended WCC meetings were KGB agents in disguise.
Among the other insidious incursions into American life McIntire found dangerous was the Federal Communication Commission’s fairness doctrine, which required federally licensed radio stations to give equal time to diverse opinions. To protest the FCC ruling, he set up “Radio Free America” that broadcast from a ship outside the three-mile limit. The effort was cut short when heat from the transmitter set his station afire.
At the core of McIntire’s beliefs was the conviction that communism was an instrument of Satan and that the policy of coexistence was a pact with the devil.
That brings me to today.
Of course, it would be misleading to characterize modern Russia as a communist state, though I suspect McIntire would consider that a distinction without a difference. Replace Stalin and Lenin with Peter the Great and Putin and the goals become similar enough to generate concern even in Congress — with Speaker Paul Ryan declaring that “Russia is a global menace led by a man who is menacing.”
The Rev. McIntire could not have said it better.
Or maybe he could have.
I don’t have the ability to say what a man who has been dead more than a decade would have said or thought or done were he walking the earth in 2017.
Most of the causes he championed have either been lost or rendered irrelevant by events.
However, considering what he espoused, when the president-elect talked about better relations with Russia being a good thing, I suspect the Rev. Carl would have winced just a bit.
Then, when after being sworn in, the 45th president turned to the crowd and raised the clinched-fist salute that commies raise when they sing the “Internationale,” well, I sure would like to hear what Carl McIntire had to say about that.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and occasional feature/op-ed writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org