Tuesday, October 23, 2007

R.I.P., D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy, Senior Pastor at the 10,000- member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founder of the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, passed away at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on September 5. He never recovered from a massive heart attack suffered in late December. I missed the news until this past weekend because I was in the hospital on September 5 recovering from my own heart attack.

Not as well-known as Robertson, Falwell and Dobson, Kennedy was nevertheless one of the most powerful leaders of the Christian Right. He devoted the majority of his sermons, televised weekly on the Trinity Broadcast Network, to attacking abortion, homosexuality, the separation of church and state, and evolution among other threats to a Christianized America. He was more openly influenced by the Reconstructionist vision than most prominent Christian Right leaders.

I often watched Kennedy on TBN and was most struck by his dishonesty. He was clearly a very smart guy, but, for example, he would distort American history and basic science in ways that were infuriating.

The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ closed down in April, but its remnants have now joined forces with the Family Research Council. It will be interesting to see what happens to Coral Ridge Ministries, including its weekly TV show (which is still on the air running old Kennedy sermons). Its fate may tell us something about how much Christian Right groups have real organizational viability and to what extent they are personality cults. Given the fascist tone to so much of the fundagelical movement and the centrality of cults of leadership in the fascist mind set, the answer is important.

Despite all that, my hope and prayer for the late Rev. Kennedy is that he now understands how little of God's grace his narrow brand of Calvinism ever allowed him to see.


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