Commentary Magazine


Apostles of Discord, by Ralph Lord Roy

The Wreckers
Apostles of Discord.
by Ralph Lord Roy.
Beacon. 374 pp. $3.75.

 

About a year ago, after the Slansky trial and the arrest in Moscow of the Jewish doctors, James H. Madole, director of the National Renaissance party, proposed that the United States should purge itself of Jews too. “Then,” said Madole, “Russia and America could come to terms and a world war would be averted.”

Other “rightist” hate-mongers, reports Mr. Roy in Apostles of Discord, were equally if somewhat variously responsive to Moscow’s initiative. Gerald Winrod’s Defender Magazine declared that the whole affair was part of a Jewish scheme to get the United States into another world war. Conde McGinley’s Common Sense predicted that “Eisenhower, with this guidance, will lead us into war against Russia to save the Jews behind the Iron Curtain. . . . If the Russian people wish to throw off their Jewish yoke, what right have we to criticize?”

On the whole, our ministers of hate could scarcely have behaved differently if they had been Communist agents. And, indeed, that is what some of them may turn out to be, like so many of their prototypes in other countries: West Germany’s neo-Nazis, Argentina’s Communo-Perónistas, Iran’s Tudeh thugs and corrupt mullahs masquerading as nationalists.

In any case, Mr. Roy is certainly right in believing that these “apostles of discord” are among our worst national liabilities, in peace or in war. His book, the first comprehensive, careful, and genuinely enlightening survey of this half-mad, half-venal-and fortunately very small-underworld of American Protestantism, is the more creditable because it is the work of a young theological student, begun as a doctor’s thesis.

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Mr. Roy classifies his specimens into two groups: the Ministry of Hate and the Ministry of Disruption. The first group is made up chiefly of racists who live by baiting Jews and Negroes, and of bigots who make a business of slandering Catholics. Among the more important figures in this group are Gerald L. K. Smith, Gerald Winrod, Joseph P. Kamp, E. N. Sanctuary, Elizabeth Dilling, Allen A. Zoll, Robert H. Williams, and C. Leon De Aryan, editor of The Broom; also Dr. John Beaty, professor of English at Southern Methodist University, whose students voted his The Iron Curtain over America “the worst book of 1952,” and Howard B. Rand, editor of Destiny and chief promoter in this country of the strictly crackpot Kingdom Message of Anglo-Israelism.

A central figure in the second group is Carl Maclntire, president of the International Council of Christian Churches, editor of the weekly Christian Beacon, and pastor of the 1,600-member Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, New Jersey, just across the Delaware from Philadelphia. In 1936 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church expelled Maclntire for “causing dissension and strife, engendering suspicion and ill will, and seriously injuring the peace of the church.” Since then this unfrocked fundamentalist has dedicated himself unsparingly to the destruction of the ecumenical movement as represented by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in America and the World Council of Churches.

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Among Maclntire’s most active followers are the “Cowboy Evangelist,” Harvey Springer of Englewood, Colorado, and J. Harold Smith, Tennessee’s gift to American radio culture. I saw Springer perform in Knoxville, and had a long interview with Smith, then in trouble with the FCC, which subsequently kicked him off the air for cause. Both evangelists are greedy and cynical pitchmen as well as accomplished pulpit and radio buffoons. Mark Twain, during his years as a pilot, watched similar types working the Mississippi river towns a century ago, and immortalized them as the King and the Duke in Huckleberry Finn.

Here is a sample of J. Harold Smith in action against the ecumenical movement:

“The Federal Council is a Goliath of power, a wild Absalom of rebellion, a loathsome Judas of treachery, a deceiving Saphira of falsehood, a cruel Ahab of covetousness, a bold Belshazzar of pride, and a painted Jezebel of murder. . . . I ask you again, will we tolerate such? I say a thousand times, no, and again I say BY THE GRACE OF GOD, THEY SHALL BE EXTERMINATED!”

Reputable fundamentalists like John W. Bradbury, editor of the Watchman-Examiner, have not failed to point out that genuine fundamentalism has nothing in common with these “intolerant religionists of the vigilante spirit” who “have brought no intellectual, moral, or spiritual contribution to the exposition of eternal truth.” On the other hand, Maclntire and other laborers in the vineyard of Protestant disruption have found a ready welcome in the camp of Merwin K. Hart, president of the National Economic Council, whom Mr. Roy characterizes-and not unfairly-as “a favorite of all the antidemocratic forces in the United States.”

In practice, the Ministry of Hate and the Ministry of Disruption interpenetrate and cooperate in both religious controversy and politics. When General MacArthur’s name was placed in nomination at the Chicago convention it was Allen A. Zoll who led his marching, stamping “Christian Nationalists” into the auditorium, and Don Lohbeck, righthand man of Gerald L. K. Smith, who organized Christian Nationalist activities in Chicago during convention week. At the other end of the fascist-Communist spectrum it was Kenneth Leslie, editor of the pro-Communist magazine The Protestant, who was in the forefront of support for Henry Wallace when the latter announced his availability for the Presidency in January of 1948.

On the basis of Mr. Roy’s evidence, however, one must conclude that it is not Leslie, but rather the astute Claude Williams, director of the People’s Institute of Applied Religion, who should be considered Moscow’s most effective mouthpiece in the Ministry of Disruption. During the war, Williams actually got himself appointed by the War Emergency Committee of the Presbyterian Board of National Missions as their industrial chaplain in Detroit where Gerald L. K. Smith was cultivating a fertile vineyard among the fundamentalist Kentuckians and Tennesseeans who had found work in the munitions plants. Apparently the Board’s idea was to fight fire with fire. But when Williams’ theology proved to be not only Marxist and pro-Communist, but also vigorously anti-Protestant, anti-Catholic, and in fact anti-religious, the Board fired him. Since then he has been roundly denounced both by anti-Communist labor leaders and by such liberal pacifists as John Haynes Holmes.

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What one uneasily looks for in this strange jungle of the Protestant underworld is some sign of an emerging leadership and program by which the totalitarian forces of the right and the left might unite, shouting the blasphemous shibboleths of a perverted and debased Christian gospel. One wonders, for example, what weird mixture of isolationism, chauvinism, racism, and economic anarchism will constitute the program of the Christian Nationalists in the Presidential election of 1956. Gerald L. K. Smith and other hate-mongers speak most highly of Senator McCarthy even though he is a Catholic; to date, however, the Senator has shown himself unresponsive to these endorsements.

Perhaps wisely, Mr. Roy does not indulge in predictions. But he does suggest that the “apostles of discord” whom he most fearseven more than Moscow’s duped or perverted clerical instruments-are “the well-financed groups dedicated to the promotion of libertarianism [who] in place of the social ideals of Christianity would substitute the narrow dogma of extreme laissez-faireism.”

But chances of success for such an approach among the mass of American Protestants are slight indeed. The fact is-and Mr. Roy is careful to remind his readers of it-that at least 95 per cent of American Protestantism consists of solid, mostly middle-class citizens, who, if they don’t always love their Jewish, Negro, and Catholic neighbors as themselves, are at least decently tolerant, as well as too intelligent to allow themselves to be victimized by the apostles of discord.

Not only American Protestantism, but all of us are in Mr. Roy’s debt for this careful and balanced studv.

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