Where Is the Empty Tomb?

Where is the empty tomb?

The scholars, scientists and historians say

That they have taken Him away and we may not

Know where they have laid Him.

Where is the place apart,

The world’s empty heart,

Free of souvenirs, pilgrims’ tears

And next year’s tourism?

There, around His grave,

Two orphans stray whom,

The Second Adam abandoned.

They pretend their play never ends

Dressing up as angels or as two men

In dazzling light as if too bright to behold them.

Poor defenseless sin and defeated death,

Are there none left strong enough to protect them?

Who will take pity on these starving waifs?

Will no one feed them?

Let us who find the empty tomb within give

Them the flesh they want to eat.

Set free of its decrees,

Let us lay aside the things we no longer need:

Immorality, impure passions and the idolatry of greed.

Let us lay aside our fears and ambitions

And all anxiety,

Any mask of pretense,

The works of darkness,

The hidden things of disgrace and falsehood.

Let us lay aside all folly, theory, speculations and envy,

All filthiness,

Every remnant of wickedness, deceit, hypocrisies,

All malice and abusive speech,

All bitterness and wrath,

All anger and clamor and slander,

As well as every encumbrance and the sin,

Unbelief, that so easily entangles us in it.

Let them devour the old self.

We are His who has risen,

For we have died, and our life is hidden

With Him in God.

Jesus Christ our Lord, the Holy One,

Declared with power the Son of God

By the resurrection from the dead,

He is the First and the Last,

He is the Living One once dead,

And behold!

He is alive forevermore!

He has the keys of death and to the gates of hell.

He is the One who has said,

“Behold, I am coming quickly,

And My reward is with Me,

To render to every living soul

According to the way of life lived

In living the life given.”

He is the Root and Descendant of David,

The Bright Morning Star, who says,

“Yes, I am coming quickly.”

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.


To Him who loves us and released us

From our sins by His blood — and

He has made us a kingdom, priests to

His God and Father — to Him

The glory and the dominion forever and ever.


Published in: Uncategorized on April 4, 2021 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Longing to Sing the Lord’s New Song, Together

And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:3

The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, the first black college founded after the Civil War in Nashville, Tennessee, were the first performing group to make popular the sorrowful spirituals of slave life for black and white audiences alike.[1]  While on tour of Great Britain during 1873-1875, they participated in several of D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey’s evangelistic meetings. 

The Jubilee Singers first met up with Moody and Sankey at Newcastle-on-Tyne. “Their songs were found to be especially adapted to promote the revival,”[2] writes J. B. T. Marsh near the end of the nineteenth century. Marsh tells us Moody often spoke of his experience of hearing their singing at a noonday prayer meeting in Newcastle.  Marsh reported the observations of a minister present at those meetings:

“A moment’s pause, and there went up in sweet, low notes a chorus as of angels. None could tell where the Singers were, — on the floor, in the gallery, or in the air. The crowd was close, and the Singers – wherever they were – were sitting. Everyone was thrilled, for this was the song they sang, — ‘There are angels hovering around, to carry the tidings home.’ The notes are before us as we write, simple enough, — the words, too; but one should hear the Jubilees sing them. It was like a snatch of angelic song heard from the upper air as a band of celestials passed swiftly on an errand of mercy.[3]

Another observer conveyed the emotionally charged closing of the revival meetings in Newcastle:

“Never shall we forget Mr. Moody’s farewell address. He would not say ‘Good-by!’ No! ‘Goodnight’ rather, and meet them all in the morning, in the dawn of eternal day. Then strong men bowed and wept out their manly sorrow like children, blessed children as they were of the same great Father; and one of our brothers lifted our American friends up in the arms of love in prayer to our heavenly Father, the Jubilee Singers singing thereupon, ‘Shall we meet beyond the River?’ Then came the benediction. The business was over, and the grand occasion past, the memory thereof to die no more.”[4]

Reverend Augustus Warner Williams (1844-1920), a biographer of Moody shortly after his death, was the rare writer that included the Jubilee Singers as playing an early integral part in the events of the evangelistic meetings of the Great Britain campaign. He reported that “under Mr. Moody’s preaching it was AT NEWCASTLE that the light was to be kindled which was to shine forth in all its glory overall Great Britain, and reveal the power of God in the labors of these humble evangelists.” There, he told his readers, “God set up His tabernacle that was to accompany them in all their journeys. By the pillar of fire and under mercy clouds these men were henceforth to move as led by the very presence of the Holy Spirit.” He attempted expressing his appraisal of the lasting effects of this special event God bestowed through Moody, Sankey, and the Jubilee Singers in Newcastle:

“It were as difficult to reckon up the results of that month of revival in Newcastle as of the spring rains which prepare the way for the flowers of May, and the harvests of autumn. The whole of the north of England was reached and aroused. Scores of Christian workers, quickened and instructed, went out into the neighboring districts, to tell the story of the cross. Hundreds of converts were received into the churches, and the tidings of the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Newcastle and vicinity were sent by letters and telegrams all over Great Britain.” [5] 

Williams also described Moody’s work in Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve, 1873, noting, “The presence of the Jubilee Singers also added greatly to the interest of the meeting, during which anyone was allowed to sing, or pray, or speak as he might be moved by the Holy Ghost.” He recorded the invitation Moody cried out, “‘If there is a man here with any sin to-night, he may come to Christ and be cleansed, and enter 1874 with a new creation…. Jesus Christ loves you, pities you, will cleanse you if you come to Him. Kings call round them great men, but Jesus calls the vilest round Him.’” After which in parentheses he added, “The Jubilee Singers here burst into ‘Come, Come to Jesus.’” Williams told his readers Moody continued to speak to the Christians present, urging them to live for Christ, exhorting, “We are either winning souls to Christ, or others are stumbling over us.” Then, writes Williams, “There was now a period of silent prayer, that all might win souls to Christ in 1874. The Jubilee Singers broke the silence with that beautifully plaintive melody, ‘Steal Away to Jesus.’” Williams as if he too were caught up in the spiritually intense moment he was describing, continued, “then a sacred stillness, the felt presence of the Master, and the brooding of the Spirit of grace, came upon the hearts of the whole assembly. The emotions could not be longer suppressed. The gates seemed to stand ajar; heaven never seemed to be so near. It was as if their hearts were pressed close to the heart of God.”

Williams concluded with a description of the closing events of the Edinburgh meeting just before midnight:

“Five minutes before the hour struck, all were engaged in silent prayer – the deep, suppressed breathing, the half-stifled sob of penitence and devotion – then the bells pealed forth joyously to usher in another New Year of blessed opportunity. With two verses of ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul,’ ‘Thou, O Christ, Art all I want,’ and the benediction by Mr. Moody, that great meeting closed. Then suddenly Mr. Sankey and the Jubilee Singers, with surcharged hearts, burst forth into joyous and triumphant praise, the like of which had never before been heard in any service in Scotland.”[6]

How blessed was the “utmost irregularity” the Spirit bestowed upon sinners saved, the seeking and convicted during those strange days and evenings in the north of England and in Scotland. Those attending that special night in Edinburgh must have been amazed. Gathered together that Hogmanay Eve, the Holy Spirit gave the gift of fellowship to people of different classes, men and women from free churches and from the established church, and to both clergy and laypeople. Together they took part in something powerfully healing and overwhelmingly inviting. 

They saw black and white men and women together in prayer and exhortation, preaching together the gospel of Jesus Christ, together calling them to receive forgiveness of their sins in the name of Jesus and rejoice over Christ “first-footing” into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. We cannot count the tears of joy and tears of godly sorrow that flowed for God to collect in His bottle of remembrance. O how the angels must have rejoiced in heaven.

We may however, register the loss by the notation that the only measure of its existence is that it was never given to anyone in America. The greatest evangelist of the second half of the nineteenth century squandered God’s seed of interracial ministry for the healing of American souls, never planting it where its blessing was needed most, on American soil. Moody let it drop from his heart. He returned and never sowed it. D. L. Moody never prepared his old guard and the business circle supporting his ministry for the great harvest that could have come from reaching the lost by organizing multiracial campaigns for proclaiming the gospel. The fruit was never gathered that could have come of a stronger, more vibrant church increased by the service of black and white pastors and teachers, missionaries and evangelists praying and working together.   

God blessed the people of England and Scotland, giving them a sight to see and new sounds to hear that Americans sorely needed to see and hear.  By letting this gift slip through his fingers as a gift ungiven, Moody robbed white Americans attending his meetings of the chance to hear how deeply their sins of racism — and tolerating those sins — grieved God and of how needful they were of His grace. Moody’s city evangelistic campaigns could have facilitated fellowship among all followers of Christ. He could have organized the bringing together black men and women who forgave their white brothers and sisters with white men and women who rejoiced in worshipping their Savior together with their black brothers and sisters. 

Abandoned an orphan on a foreign shore; the possibility was lost for others to be touched by what Moody himself experienced. His organizing interracial meetings could have galvanized Christians and citizens to imitate in their own lives what they took away from such meetings. “To whom much is given, much will be required,” said our Lord. No other public speaker could have done this during the crucial years between 1875 and 1896, the crucial period between when Congress passed the last civil rights act and when it was struck down as unconstitutional in the Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson.  Moody’s ministry both mirrored and made acceptable the unjust legal system of “separate but equal” racial segregation not overruled until 1954.     

We cannot count the blessings forfeited, nor ever enjoy the fruit from them never born. The account given by writer and poet “Little Pastor” Elizabeth Johnson Harris (1867-1933) gives us but a glimpse of the social reality of what historian Paul Harvey identifies as a “biracial evangelical event.”[7] Vitally born of the Spirit, it suffocated beneath the weight of a false notion of social respectability sought by both white southerners and white northerners at the expense of their black brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow citizens of the American republic. The postbellum reconciling of white citizens North and South lifted their racism from the weight of slavery, allowing unburdened whiteness to take possession of the American imagination to make it both normative and nationalized. The “racial interchange” Harris experienced as a child when Moody visited Augusta, Georgia in 1876 would never become normalized or memorialized on a national scale. Instead, her 1923 hand-written notebook – never published – would be tucked away in the special collection of Duke University, only receiving reputable status through the research lenses of African-American studies intersecting with feminist studies. Looking back at D. L. Moody’s 1876 Augusta visit she wrote:

“Many years ago, when the Evangelist Rev. Moody (white-) had visited our city he was there for several weeks, or more, holding great meetings in the various churches assisted by Sauce [sic, read Sankey] the Organist and Bliss the wonderful songster…. Rev. Moody was a fine gospel preacher and large crowds of white and colored were out each night to hear the splendid sermons and the beautiful singing by his choir of only two members. Rev. Moody was perfectly free and friendly as a man of God, with both white and colored. He extended a free invitation to one and all, to these services. The audience was sometimes mixed, the crowds were great, and the Holy Spirit seemed to be in such control over the house that the color of skin was almost forgotten for the time being. I was a little girl, but I will always remember this wonderful man and his great meetings and how the people of the Hill would get together, some walking and some riding, to hear this great man of God. The beautiful songs in book form that he and his choir brought around and introduced will never be forgotten. They are still being used in the churches here and elsewhere, and many of these will never grow old. Many were converted and added to the churches during these great Moody-Meetings.”[8]

The “great Moody-Meetings” held in the South made up of “large crowds of white and colored” ended with those that Harris described.   Harris attests to what could have been. She bears witness to the possibility of integrated revival meetings and ministry God gave the evangelist that Moody chose to abandon. Moody could have led white America out of the Egypt of post-slavery racism into a civic nationalism more perfectly founded on the gospel. He could have been instrumental in weakening white supremacist restrictions to interracial religious experiences. He could have offered cultural buttress for full equality for all before the laws of the land. Instead, Moody chose not to take the risk. We must add his name to the list of those who instead chose to defer to racists, white supremacists, and segregationists. His moral surrender abetted the advancement of racial separation and inequality, which institutionalized the sin of partiality in most evangelical churches and throughout the Union. 

The best-known evangelist of the era, D. L. Moody, personified postbellum evangelical revivalism. It is of profound social consequence that Moody while bearing this cultural mantle the American public bestowed upon him, abandoned black Americans to the savagery of white racism to secure reconciliation between white citizens North and South. We begin to grasp the effects of this abandonment if we consider that as late as 1910, ninety percent of America’s black citizens still lived in the South.[9]  Moody’s public image and reputation, his public persona, took part in fixating social norms recognizing Protestant white Americans as the only really fully authentic Americans. 

Helping make white America feel comfortable with itself after slavery, Moody served as a mid-wife to what D. W. Griffith[10] portrayed as the “Birth of a Nation,” and what historian Edward Blum calls the reforging of America as a white republic.[11]  The publicly promoted social phenomenon of D. L. Moody collaborated in suspending the civic nationalism “radical reconstruction” sought to secure. His crusade machinery lacked any passion for the sense of social equality that insisted all Americans should rightfully enjoy. He did so on the one hand by organizing segregated meetings in the South, while on the other hand publicly endorsing the ministry of evangelist and white southerner Sam Jones. Endorsing Jones meant approving his style of preaching the gospel. This included his down-home southern humor, “racial anecdotes and minstrel illustrations,” described by one listener, as his ‘fund of good negro stories.’”[12]  Upon first hearing Sam Jones preach, Moody sent to the white southerner a note of encouragement writing, “Dear Brother Jones: God has given you a sledgehammer with which to shatter the formalism of the church, and to batter down the strongholds of Satan. The good Spirit is helping you mightily to use it.”[13]  In Moody’s eyes, “formalism” was a greater ailment of the church than its deformities caused by structural racism.  

James Cone wrote that white supremacy was “America’s great sin,” and that the entire infrastructure of white Christianity in America “separated Christian identity from the horrendous violence committed against black people.” What he says about white Americans in general, except for slavery, fully applies to D. L. Moody: “Whites could claim a Christian identity without feeling the need to oppose slavery, segregation, and lynching as a contradiction of the gospel for America.”[14] 

Moody invited Sam Jones to speak at an 1896 revival meeting he led in New York. Moody again included Jones among the team of evangelists he recruited for working with him in his revival meetings held in Boston in 1897.[15]  Scholar Luke E. Harlow attributes to Sam Jones a “theology of racial violence,” pointing out the evangelist “subscribed to a commonplace sacralized white supremacy.” Jones insisted, according to Harlow that “the racist hierarchy of white over black had been ‘so far preserved’ by ‘Nature, God, and the best interests of mankind.’”[16]  Moody never publicly rebuked Jones for making God complicit with his racist reading of the Bible. Viewing Moody and Jones together reveals the full scope of whiteness. Moody’s silence tacitly endorsed Jones’s distorted reading of the Scriptures. Together, northern and southern white evangelicals simultaneously either advocated or overlooked racial injustice and violence, thus, together, serving the national order of whiteness.  Together they freed the evangelical white imagination from the guilt and hatred stemming from regional division over the institution of slavery. Together they decoupled racism from slavery while at the same time contributing to the reinforcement of whiteness as an essential part of America’s social imaginary. 

Moody’s decision to customize his ministry to promote white regional reconciliation between North and South came at the expense of black citizens and Christians.  It robbed southern evangelicals, both black and white. Moody denied white evangelicals the example of looking up to a public personage around whom they could have rallied to resist the white supremacist agenda. He did this when civic nationalism still had a chance to take root and prosper. Doing so, Moody dashed the hopes of black evangelicals that their white brethren might overcome the sin of racism and its transgenerational aftereffects. 

How might white Americans have confronted whiteness’s cultural power had they the opportunity to sit under an interracial ministry? How might white citizens and white Christians have been encouraged to resist racist bigotry? How many among the great and small would have spoken out against it and maybe have broken the evil spell it cast upon the American nation? We will never know what kind of fruit may have been born of such a “Christian Reconstruction.”[17]  The briefness of its season of possibility passed before it could take cultural root. 

Whatever might have been, white Americans in general and D. L. Moody in particular never mustered the civil courage needed to nourish the Christian beauty it offered. We have yet to achieve a civic nationalism based not only upon equality before the law but built upon a structural foundation free of the effects of our racist past. The most famous interracial ministry of the second half of the nineteenth century never publicly indicted whiteness’s sinful dominance. To this day, it remains a permanent fixture in American society. To this day, it distorts relationships and troubles the church.  The conjured contrivance of cowardice and covetousness continues to this day to hold white America hostage to a false sense of justice based upon an unfair standard of equality.  

Toni P. Anderson is one of only a few recent scholars that has written about the two groups working together, writing that the Jubilee Singers “participated extensively with D. L. Moody’s revival work throughout England and Scotland.”[18]  Anderson suggests that the two public performances prepared the greater reception of the other. It was likely, according to Anderson “that the earnest, emotional delivery that characterized the Jubilee Singers’ performances prepared audiences for the deep feeling Sankey brought to his solos.” She also adds, “For their part, the Jubilee Singers benefited from the revival fire simmering in England and Scotland that Moody’s preaching helped flame.”[19]  It was this symbiotic cross-pollination of styles of musical evangelizing that marked “the onset of the globalization of American gospel, which would continue throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.”[20]  Anderson quotes a contemporary observer of both the white ministry team of Moody and Sankey and the black Jubilee Singers as together leaving “a lasting impression” on Scotland’s “Christian community in two important ways.” According to this observer, “the movement for improved congregational singing [had] derived a mighty impetus from the contemporaneous visits of the Jubilee Singers and Mr. Sankey.” Also encouraged by their revival work together was the importance of heartfelt, “specific prayer.” “These two reforms in the important matters of praise and prayer would suffice to show that the visit of the American Evangelists to Scotland is destined to make an abiding and most salutary effect on that country.”[21] 

Underscoring the significance of the Jubilees taking part in Moody’s revival meetings held in Scotland is a contemporary report published by the British Evangelist for March 30th, 1874, titled, “Mr. Sankey’s Music and Singing.” Tucked into this analysis about music is the historical fact that the Jubilee Singers and NOT Ira D. Sankey were the first to convey to Scottish listeners the innovative sounds of praise that so powerfully moved so many to hear the words of the gospel:  

“Music is not praise, but only the means by which praise is expressed. To the great shame of our churches, this, the chief end of praise, has been almost entirely overlooked. Let us hope it has been through inadvertence; and let all interested in the praise of the sanctuary learn the lessons which have been taught to us by our transatlantic brethren – first by the Jubilee Singers, and now by Mr. Sankey – that music is but the handmaid of praise; that it is the duty of our congregations to do their very utmost to perfect themselves in the art of singing, so that they may be able to adorn with new beauty the words they sing, and to bring out their truth with proper expression and full effectiveness and power.”[22] 

God cannot dispense to us His blessings through stories our elders taught us to forget. White evangelicals have forgotten how two mighty rivers of song flowed as one. The river of white gospel hymns and the river of black plantation spirituals flowed as one when Moody & Sankey, together with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, issued the gospel and invited its reception in the form of a multi-sensual feast of God’s love through message and song. White evangelicals were never taught to admire the Jubilee Singers’ courage and perseverance in the face of the persecution white America liberally meted out. Specifically, in this regard, the white evangelical infrastructure built upon Moody’s public ministry manifested a systemic, transgenerational failure to trespass the color line in order to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). “Because the Jubilees insisted on their civil rights and refused to ride in segregated trains, to stay in segregated hotels, or to sing before segregated audiences, they provided an early example of the use of culture in the civil rights struggle. They introduced the Negro spiritual as one of the great, indigenous American art forms, which had incalculable effect on all subsequent music.”[23] Moody’s institutionalized legacy of “training given in methods of practical Christian work” and in teaching students “vocal and instrumental music fitting them for Gospel service” followed in his footsteps by accepting as normative the abuses of white dominance while declining to cultivate God’s beautiful gift of multiracial public ministry.[24] A hundred years later, when the Moody Chorale of the Moody Bible Institute “retraced the steps of Moody through his British Isles crusades of 1873-1874,”[25] the young people who participated were oblivious to how the protective insulation of systemic ignorance deprived them of displaying God’s vision for His church which He hath purchased with His own blood.

Neither shameful suppression nor indifferent neglect can take away what the Holy Spirit gave in the space of the two years, 1873-1875, when the Lord and Giver of Life lit a special spark in those meetings overseas. Moody, Sankey, and the Fisk Singers, as an integrated team of evangelists, preached and sang the gospel to men, women, and children of all ranks of life. That spark ignited a revolution in how to this day, black Protestant Christians and white evangelical Christians sing the new song the Lord has put in our hearts. We do not however, sing as He wants in giving this new song to His church. The power of whiteness still keeps us from singing together. Whiteness among too many white evangelicals begets the crippling effects of fear, bitterness, defensiveness, pride, anger, and drives for self-vindication. It builds hardened walls of rationalization, excuse, banal explanations and resentment.  

Whiteness has robbed the American church of the blessings God wanted to dispense through multiracial ministry in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Moody could have institutionalized that ministry. The idol of whiteness caused him to stumble. What he received with great joy never took root in his heart as a gift to give to others. He never led an interracial revival team of men and women in America. Following his lead, the network of white evangelicalism after him sold its birthright of full fellowship in Christ for Jim Crow gruel. White evangelicalism exchanged the rich fullness of fellowship in Jesus Christ for a divinely displeasing reputation of social respectability. It took the pragmatic approach of least resistance. This best assured the greatest success in garnering followers and securing financial sponsorship. Yet its effects leave us waiting for the day when we will sing the new song the Lord gave for us to sing, together, with the unfathomable joy and all-inclusive magnanimity that He desires.

  [1] For an extensive bibliography for the Fisk Jubilee Singers with descriptive notes of works listed see, Kathleen A. Abromeit, Spirituals: A Multidisciplinary Bibliography for Research and Performance (Middleton, Wisconsin: Music Library Association and A-R Editions, Inc., 2015), pp. 103-109.

[2] J. B. T. Marsh, The Jubilee Singers and Their Songs, Supplement by F. J. Loudin (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003) p. 67. Unabridged republication of The Story of the Jubilee Singers by J. B. T. Marsh/With supplement containing an account of their six years’ tour around the world, and many new songs/by F. J. Loudin/New Edition, completing one hundred and thirtieth thousand (Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Printing and Publishing Co., 1892).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Robert Boyd, Of Moody and Sankey, in Great Britain and America. Together with The Trials and Triumphs of Faith, as Illustrated in the Lives of Patriarchs, Prophets, Kings and Apostles (New York: Henry S. Goodspeed & Company; Mt. Union, Ohio: L. U. Snead & Co.; St. Louis and Chicago: N. D. Thompson & Co.; Concord, N. H.: D. L. Guernsey; San Francisco, Cal.: F. Dewing & Co., 1875), p. 412.  

[5] Augustus Warner Williams, Life and Work of Dwight L. Moody: The Great Evangelist of the 19th Century (New York, NY: Cosimo Classics, 2007; originally published Philadelphia and Chicago: P. W. Ziegler & Co., 1900), pp. 153-154.  

[6] Ibid., pp.182-183.

[7] Paul Harvey, “`The Color of Skin Was Almost Forgotten’ Biracialism in the Twentieth Century Southern Experience,” in Warm Ashes: Issues in Southern History at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century, ed. by Winfred B. Moore Jr., Kyle S. Sinis, and David H. White, Jr. (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2003), p. 160.

[8] Elizabeth Johnson Harris – transcription of her Memoir, Duke University Libraries, Digital Repository in David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, accessed at https://repository.duke.edu/dc/harriselizabethjohnson/duke:490468

[9] “African-American Population,” Infoplease available at http://www.infoplease.com/us/race-population/african-american-population.  Accessed 3/28/2019.  Black Demographics pegs the percentage at 89% in 1910, with 80 % of black citizens residing in the rural areas of the South. Following the two Great Migration periods (1916-1930 and 1940-1970), fifty-three percent of Black Americans still resided in the South. To trumpet Moody’s holding integrated meetings in the North is blowing a piccolo horn. See “Regional Distribution of the Black Population,” Black Demographics read at https://blackdemographics.com/population/black-regions/. Accessed 3/28/2019. In seeking to grasp how important Moody’s “hinge moment” decision was see Glenn L. Starks, African Americans by the Numbers, Statistics on African American Life (Santa Barbara/California, Denver, Colorado: Greenwood, an imprint of ABC-Clio, LLC, 2017). 

[10] “Birth of a Nation,” D. W. Griffith, film director, screenplay by D. W. Griffith and Frank E. Wood, production of the D. W. Griffith Corp. (1915).

[11] Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic, Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005).  

[12] Josh McMullen, Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925 (Oxford, New York, 2015), p. 167.  Historian Edward J. Blum writes about Jones, he was “a Methodist preacher whose popularity in the South brought him the title of ‘the Moody of the South… Far more overtly racist than Moody, Jones openly appealed to white supremacists and had taken part in vigilante violence in the late 1860s. He sometimes even boosted [sic, boasted] that he had ‘stuffed a few ballot boxes’ during Reconstruction.” Reforging the White Republic, Race, Religion, and American Nationalism 1865-1898 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005), p. 144.

[13] Kathleen Minnix, Laughter in the Amen Corner, the Life of Evangelist Sam Jones (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1993, paperback edition, 2010), p. 99.  

[14] James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree location 4557 of 4753.

[15] “Sam Jones Helps Moody, Arrival of the Southern Revivalist in New York,” New York Times (11/28/1896), p. 9.  “Revival Work in Boston, Moody, Murphy, and Jones Speak from the Same Platform,” New York Times (1/6/1897), p. 16. See too “Revivals and Revivalists,” under “The Religious World,” The Literary Digest vol. xiv, no. 13 (Jan. 30, 1897), p. 402. About Sam Jones as a racist evangelist see Darren E. Grem, “Sam Jones, Sam Hose, and the Theology of Racial Violence,” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 90, No. 1 (Spring 2006), pp. 35-61. As far as I know, there is no record of Moody inviting a black preacher to share a public venue with him.   

[16] Luke E. Harlow, “The Civil War and the Making of Conservative American Evangelicalism,” in Turning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism, ed. by Heath W. Carter and Laura Rominger Porter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017), p. 129.     

[17] Toni P. Anderson, “Tell Them We Are Singing for Jesus:” The Original Fisk Jubilee Singers and Christian Reconstruction, 1871-1878 (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2010).

[18] Toni P. Anderson, Tell Them We Are Singing for Jesus: The Original Fisk Jubilee Sings and Christian Reconstruction, (1871-1899) (Macon, Georgia: Georgia University Press, 2010), p. 78.

[19] Ibid., pp. 87-88.

[20] Melvin L. Butler, “Globalization of the Gospel, Spirituals and Traditional Gospel Music Spreads Around the World,” in Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music ed. by W. K. McNeil (New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2005), p. 139. See too Horace Clarence Boyer, How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel (Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995) and Don Cusic, The Sound of Light: A History of Gospel Music (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1990).

[21] Toni P. Anderson, Tell Them We Are Singing for Jesus, p. 89.

[22] Rufus W. Clark, D.D., The Work of God in Great Britain: Under Messrs. Moody and Sankey, 1873 to 1875, with Biographical Sketches (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1875), pp. 139-142. Emphasis added.  

[23] David Herbert Donald, “Band of Angels, the Story Fisk’s Jubilee Singers, who popularized spirituals,” New York Times (7/23/2000), a review of Andrew Ward’s Dark Midnight When I Arise, The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to Black Music (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), available at http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/07/23/reviews/000723.23donaldt.html

[24] Advertisement for The Bible Institute quoting D. L. Moody, President, in Record of Christian Work with Daily Scripture Readings, vol. xv, no. 9 (September 1896), p. 268.

[25] Robert G. Flood and Jerry B. Jenkins, The Men Behind Moody (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1984), p. 81.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 25, 2021 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment  


no one sees him

everywhere in us

dragging his body bag

filled with empty bottles and crushed cans

busy drawing lines in the sand

waiting on one command

looking for a last stand

he mutters a curse against the curse

it could have been so much worse

if He hadn’t stopped

if the good Lord had made a second universe

uncertain if belief or bluff he admits

the stars and the sea would have been enough

the unfinished myth dismissed

no sky

no land

no place

no loss

no lust

no ambition to blame


before the end

without beginning

the same




the same

the same

the same

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3


Published in: Uncategorized on March 12, 2021 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  




The Word


Digital pieces


Coded sequences

Arranged forms

Dial-toned sounds

I turn it off

Its flatness

Its elsewhere care




Its artificial arrival

A sterile rectangle

A medium

Making me

As much as

The beautiful


Fellow self-immolators

As dead as


Conjured up

By one cut off from the land.


Window open

I watch the morning

Open her arms

Committing herself to the sunrise

Waiting like the prodigal son’s father

Bearing, believing, hoping, enduring

Offering her antiphonal praise to the Lord

Delivered by the ever loyal Amsels

In the darkness singing duty-free

Their doxology

To the Undertaker of the night

Teaching in Him is wisdom and might

To Him belong counsel and understanding

He reveals mysteries from the darkness

And buries the darkness in light.

I lean my ear East to greet them

To thank them

For they remind me there

Before Jerusalem on the East

His feet shall stand in that Day

Upon the Mount of Olives.

O Lord let me so sing and take heed

Until the Day dawns and the Day Star arises in our hearts.

Help us Lord stand fast in the faith this day

To guard this day as if the one of Your coming

To conduct ourselves as Yours

And wait for You being strong and letting our hearts take courage

Keeping the commandment without stain or reproach until Your appearing.


Published in: Uncategorized on March 1, 2021 at 12:21 pm  Comments (1)  

The Great Divider: the Western Imaginary of Whiteness

Justice and History, Thomas Crawford (1863), Senate Wing, East Front, U.S. Capitol Building. https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/justice-and-history-sculpture. “By the mid-20th century, the head of History and the face of Justice were nearly gone…” https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Sculpture_25_00002.htm.

Without sword or blindfold, the white western woman, Justia, personifying, representing, embodying: possessing Justice, holds the Book of Justice|Law|Order in her left hand. It is bound, complete, and finished. Posed at leisure, she comfortably leans upon the globe. Her right hand rests upon the Scales of Justice — its chains slack and its cups empty — their weighing work is done. The stars carved into the globe are under her. Whether the deistic god of destiny or the Father of Lights, the Father of our spirits, this one from above is now beneath her and belongs to her. The struggle (sword) for justice is over. All ignorance and abuse (blindfold) is banished. The triadic process Justice, Law, Order is filled up to all its fullness upon all humankind.

The Son of Man comes not in His glory, nor do the angels accompany Him when He sits on His glorious throne to judge the nations.

The white woman, America, has replaced Him. She unfolds a scroll. It reads History|July|1776. The scroll announces the beginning of history for all. America with her right hand pins the scroll to a perfunctory and simple structure with no purpose other than to display it. The scroll is yet to be completely unfurled. America’s left hand and arm are still at work. Her elbow does not yet touch the globe.. She has yet to finish her work of bringing Justice|Law|Order to the world. The end-lock of her long hair gracefully alit upon the earth however anticipates the successful achievement of her task.

“All men are created equal…


By their Creator

With certain unalienable Rights…

Among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Hermeneutical Priests rightly Read

America’s Gnostic Universal Creed.

These Teach the Overseers what it Means,

Who then Impose what they’ve Received.

Might the “mystic chords of memory…

Swell the chorus of the Union, when



As surely they will be,

By the better angels of our nature.”[i] 

[A penumbral paraphrase for today]


How do you remember “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

When do you celebrate Jubilee Day?

Where are we? Who are we?

Annuit Coeptis — Novus Ordo Seculorum!

Who is the rebel? The hunter? The tyrant? The warrior?

Bearing without error?

The Elect yes, who Elected?

Who favors, asks America’s Jeremiah,

“The palace of mirrors

Where dog soldiers are reflected

The endless road and the wailing chimes

The empty rooms where her memory is protected

Where the [fallen] angels whisper to the souls of previous times”[?]

Responsibility for Justice

“Affirming the existence of white privilege does not amount to claiming that white people either as a group or as individuals owe some kind of payment to black people [or indigenous people or people of color] as a group or as individuals.  Those who are beneficiaries of racialized structures with unjust outcomes, however, can properly be called to a special moral and political responsibility to recognize our privilege, to acknowledge its continuities with historical injustice, and to act on an obligation to work on transforming the institutions that offer this privilege, even if this means worsening one’s own conditions and opportunities compared to what they have been.”[ii]

White Supremacy

“The systemic evil that denies and distorts the image of God inherent in all human beings based upon the heretical belief that white aesthetics, values, and cultural norms bear the fullest representation of the imago Dei.  White supremacy thus maintains that white people are superior to all other peoples, and it orders creation, identities, and social structures in ways that support this distortion and denial.”[iii]

Doctrine of Discovery: Theological Vision of Whiteness

“The Doctrine of Discovery is a set of legal principles that governed the European colonizing powers, particularly regarding the administration of indigenous land… From a theological perspective, the legal and political role of the Doctrine of Discovery is rooted in a dysfunctional theological imagination that shaped the European colonial settler worldview [inherited by British colonists in America and perpetuated by white America.]

“For the church, the social imagination can be influenced by the theological imagination, which can generate an even deeper embodied experience or feeling.  The theological imagination can have a logical component, but it can also shape and be shaped by emotional experiences.  This interconnection is found in the power of the collective imagination…. It is the arrogance of Western theology to assume that all of our theological musings are rooted in rationality and logic and therefore must not be susceptible to dysfunction.  However, a diseased theological imagination can put forth a dysfunctional expression that ultimately forms a dysfunctional social imagination.  The diseased theological imagination (such as Christendom, the Doctrine of Discovery, and the myth of Anglo-Saxon purity) contributed to a dysfunctional social imagination (white supremacy) that has perpetuated unjust leaders, systems, and structures.”[iv]

“Whiteness was being held up as an aspect of creation with embedded facilitating powers.  Whiteness from the moment of discovery and consumption was a social and theological way of imagining, an imaginary that evolved into a method of understanding the world.  It was a social imaginary in that it posited the existence of difference and the collectivity for those in the Old World faced with the not easily explainable peoples and phenomena of the New World.  It was a theological imaginary because whiteness suggested that one may enter a true moment of creation gestalt.  Whiteness transcended all peoples because it was a means of seeing all peoples at the very moment it realized itself.  Whiteness was [and remains] a global vision [rooted in Western civilization] … a way of organizing bodies by proximity to and approximation of white bodies.”[v]

Elevate & Desegregate Dealing Publicly with Whiteness

“The question is not what [we] should know.  Too many educational institutions are lost in that question, looking obsessively at the commodities of learning.  The question is, what should be the shape of the journey to know?  What should be the character of the search?  How might there be a shared inwardness that opens the joy of not knowing inside the joy of learning together?”[vi]

“Our highest spiritual power – the highest arousal of the spirit – is only ignited by mysteries revealed or by puzzles to be solved…  This way of the mind…seeks to discover reality in the first place [in the raw, unfinished — disclosed]!  This process of discovery is the mind’s supreme rational effort… The process rolls by cinematically in a series of scenes.  The scenes create the process; the thinker has as yet no ‘overall concept’ of [repentance, reparations, reconciliation, restoration or redress]…

“The movements and scenes of creative speech are not fragments, but are complete in themselves, areas with their own [texture], whose polyphonic sound uncovers and reveals the law of movements (or scenes or words).  All thought is afterthought, thought about an existing world… The creative speaker…is the mouth of an unfinished world, one that becomes a world [within the speaker]…seized by the forces of this world [in need of healing power]… This type of thought must not be dismissed as merely ‘poetic.’  This is not a question of the mere luxury of art, but of the mind’s discovery of the world…”[vii]

Structural Racism, Definitions

“Throughout this country’s history, the hallmarks of American democracy – opportunity, freedom, and prosperity – have been largely reserved for white people through the intentional exclusion and oppression of people of color. The deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today are a direct result of structural racism: the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white supremacy.”[viii]

“Structural Racism in the U.S. is the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It is a system of hierarchy and inequity, primarily characterized by white supremacy – the preferential treatment, privilege and power for white people at the expense of Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Arab and other racially oppressed people.”[ix]

“Structural racism–the normalized and legitimized range of policies, practices, and attitudes that routinely produce cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color, especially black people–is the main driver of racial inequality in America today.”[x]

U. S. Population by Race, 2019[xi]

Racialized Wealth, 2019

“Racial financial inequality is often discussed in terms of income inequality. While income inequality is important, it is essential that it is complemented by an understanding of wealth inequality. Inequities in holdings of wealth are particularly central to perpetuating economic immobility across generations.

“Who owns wealth in the United States?  According to data from the Federal Reserve, in 1990, white households owned 90.7% of household wealth in the United States, whereas Black households owned 3.8% and Hispanic households owned 2.1%.  These numbers have changed little over the past 30 years, with white households now owning 85.5% of wealth in 2019, and Black households owning 4.2% and Hispanic households owning 3.1%.  Most of the white wealth decline is due to other racial groups attaining a share wealth.

“Another way to look at this is the net worth, or assets (such as stocks and real estate) minus liabilities (such as loans and mortgages left to pay), by race. The average net worth per capita among white Americans is roughly $437,000 per person, whereas this value is $105,000 among Black people and $53,000 among Hispanic people.

“While the assets of white households are equally split between real estate, equity and mutual fund shares, pensions, and other assets, the assets of other racial groups are less diversified. Almost two-thirds of Black wealth is composed of real estate and pensions, with 38% coming from pension assets alone. Similarly, 61% of Hispanic wealth and 56% of wealth from other races is composed of just these two asset types.”

The gap in homeownership rates between white and Black Americans has also widened since the recession. In 2004, 49.3% of Black Americans and 75.5% of white Americans owned homes, with a gap of 26.2 percentage points. In the first quarter of 2020, 44.0% of Black Americans owned homes, while 73.7% of white Americans did, a gap of 29.7 percentage points.”[xii]

Racialized Corporate Executive Board Membership, 2018[xiii]

Racialized Nonprofit Leadership, 2016

“Nonprofit leadership remains predominantly white and isn’t likely to grow more diverse anytime soon, according to a new report.

“Whites fill 90 percent of board seats and CEO positions, according to BoardSource, a research and support organization for nonprofit boards. More than a quarter of boards are all-white.

“Those numbers have varied little since the organization began surveying board chairs and top nonprofit executives in 1994. And BoardSource concludes they aren’t likely to change, because recruitment, at least at the board level, typically doesn’t focus on diversity. Only about a quarter of board chairs and chief executives rate demographic diversity as a high priority in recruiting.

“These are really, really disappointing findings,” said Anne Wallestad, BoardSource’s president. “You would hope that we would have made much more progress in the past 20 years than we have.”[xiv]

117th United States Congress, 2021

About a quarter of voting members (23%) of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities, making the 117th Congress the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. There has been a long-running trend toward higher numbers of non-White lawmakers on Capitol Hill: This is the sixth Congress to break the record set by the one before it.[xv]

Fifty State Legislatures, 2015

The nation’s growing diversity is not reflected in state legislatures. Nationwide, African-Americans, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, account for 9 percent of state legislators, according to a new survey of the composition of the nation’s 50 state legislatures by Stateline and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Latinos, who are 17 percent of the population, only account for 5 percent of state legislators. Asian-Americans account for 5 percent of the population but only 1 percent of state legislators.[xvi]

Racialized Marriages & Households, 2015

“Whites have experienced a sharp increase in intermarriage rates, even though they remain the group least likely to have a spouse of another race.  Between 1980 and 2015, the share of white newlyweds who marry outside their races has grown from 4 percent to 11 percent.”[xvii]

“Although 11 percent of white newlyweds are now married to someone of a different race or ethnicity, white people are still the least likely of all major racial or ethnic groups to intermarry.”[xviii]

“Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at Pew who authored the report [Pew Research, “Intermarriage in the U.S. 50 Years After Loving v. Virginia (5/18/2017)], says whites have the lowest rates of intermarriage partly because of the number of potential partners who are white. ‘If you’re living in a place where 85% of the marriage market is white and you’re white there’s a low probability that you will marry someone who is not white,’ she says.” Thus, “intermarriage occurs least in the places where the fewest minorities live.”[xix]

American Racialized Religion/Christendom, 2019[xx]

All Congregations, All Faiths – at least 20% racial/ethnic diversity in attending membership:

  • In 1998, only 6%
  • As of 2019, 16%  

Christian Only – at least 20% racial/ethnic diversity in attending membership:

  • Catholic Congregations: from 17% (2006) to 24% racial diversity (2019)
  • Mainline Protestant: from 1% (2006) to 11% (2019), having previously reached 12% in 2012
  • Evangelical Churches: from 7% (1998) to 23% (2019), up from 15% in 2012

Multiracial churches Leader/Head Pastor

  • Asian: 3% (1998) to 4% (2019)
  • Hispanic: 3% (1998) to 7% (2019)
  • Black: 4% (1998) to 18 percent in 2019, describing the growth as “pretty big change”
  • White: 87% (1998) to 70% (2019), down from 74% in 2012

Racialized Leadership of U.S. Military, 2018[xxi]

Racialized Collective Memories

“There are as many collective memories as there are groups and institutions in a society.” Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945)

“For Halbwachs, it is the particular nature of the group and its collective experience that shapes its collective memory. The particular nature of a group’s experience creates a shared memory and identity. As a result every group has its own collective memory and that collective memory differs from the collective memory of other groups.”[xxii]

[i] Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address (3/4/1861), The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, accessed at https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/lincoln1.asp.

[ii] Iris Marion Young, Responsibility for Justice (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 187.

[iii] Daniel Hill, White Lies, Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zonervan Books, 2020), p. 7.

[iv] Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths, The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery (Downers Grove, Illinois, IVP, 2019), Locations 214, 489 of 4498.  Teaching church history in the West from the tenth century forward without explaining the doctrine of discovery is like orienting a map to the landscape using a compass without a needle.  See Robert J. Miller, “The Doctrine of Discovery: The International Law of Colonialism,” The Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance, vol. 5, iss.. 1 (2019), pp. 35-42. Available online at https://www.steiner-verlag.de/uploads/tx_crondavtitel/datei-datei/9783515129534_p.pdf.

[v] Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination, Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2010), Location 1307 of 8980.

[vi] Willie James Jennings, After Whiteness, An Education in Belonging (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans  Publishing Company, 2020), Location 1867 of 2450.

[vii] Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, “Ichthys, Life, Teaching, and Action as a Reflection of the Trinity from Das Alter der Kirche (1927),” trans. by Raymond Hussey in The Fruit of Our Lips, The Transformation of God’s Word into the Speech of Mankind by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, ed. by Raymond Huessy (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2021), p. 44.

[viii] “Structural Racism in America,” Urban Institute, accessed at https://www.urban.org/features/structural-racism-america.

[ix] Keith Lawrence and Terry Keleher, “Structural Racism,” Race and Public Policy Conference (2004), accessed at https://www.intergroupresources.com/rc/Definitions%20of%20Racism.pdf.

[x] “How Structural Racism Works Project,” Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown University, accessed at https://www.brown.edu/academics/race-ethnicity/programs-initiatives/signature-series/how-structural-racism-works-project.

[xi] Iman Ghosh, “Visualizing the U.S. Population by Race,” Visual Capitalist (12/28/2020), accessed at https://www.visualcapitalist.com/visualizing-u-s-population-by-race/

[xii] “White people own 86% of wealth and make up 60% of the population” USA FACTS (6/25/2020), accessed at https://usafacts.org/articles/white-people-own-86-wealth-despite-making-60-population/.  As the largest source for standardized US government data, USAFacts offers something unique. We exclusively use publicly available government data presenting a vast array of reports on US spending, revenue, population and demographics, and policy outcomes.  https://usafacts.org/about-usafacts/.

[xiii] Deb DeHaas, Linda Akutagawa, and Skip Spriggs, Deloitee LLP, “Missing Pieces Report: The 2018 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (2/5/2019), accessed at https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2019/02/05/missing-pieces-report-the-2018-board-diversity-census-of-women-and-minorities-on-fortune-500-boards/

[xiv] Drew Lindsay, “Diversity Among Nonprofit Leaders Still a Long Way Off, Report Says,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy (9/6/2017), accessed https://www.philanthropy.com/article/diversity-among-nonprofit-leaders-still-a-long-way-off-report-says/. Read “Leading with Intent,” BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practice, here:  https://leadingwithintent.org/.   On May 10, 2016, BoardSource sent the Leading with Intent survey to a convenience sample of 22,708 nonprofit chief executives and board chairs with an invitation to participate in the research project. BoardSource received a total of 1,759 individual responses: 1,378 from chief executives and 381 from board chairs.  The sample includes 191 organizations where both the chief executive and the board chair of the same organization completed the survey. https://leadingwithintent.org/methodology/.

[xv] Katherine Schaeffer, “Racial, ethnic diversity increases yet again with the 117th Contress,” FacttTank, New in the Numbers, Pew Research Center (1/28/2021), accessed at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/.

[xvi]  Teresa Wilz,“Why State Legislatures Are Still Pretty White,” Governing The Future of States and Localities (12/9/2015).  Survey from National Conference of State Legislatures: https://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/who-we-elect-an-interactive-graphic.aspx#.

[xvii] Michael A. Fletcher, “more than 1 in 6 new marriages are interracial,” The Undefeated – Black History Always (5/18/2017), accessed at https://theundefeated.com/features/pew-research-center-steady-rise-in-interracial-marriage.

[xviii] Natasha Balwit, “The Urban-Rural Divide in Interracial Marriage,” Bloomberg CityLab (5/18/2017), accessed at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-18/where-interracial-marriage-is-most-common-in-america.

[xix] Belinda Luscombe, “More Americans Are Marrying People of Other Races Than Ever Before,” Time (5/18/2017), accessed at https://time.com/4783074/american-race-marriage-pew/.

[xx] Michael Emerson, “Released! New 2020 Statistics on Multiracial Churches,” Multiethnic.Church (1/8/2020), accessed at https://multiethnic.church/released-new-2020-statistics-on-multiracial-churches/.

[xxi] “Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Armed Services: Background and Issues,” Congressional Research Service (6/5/2019), p. 21, accessed at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44321.pdf.

[xxii] Lewis A. Coser, ed., Maurice Halbwachs 1877-1945 On Collective Memory, trans. by Lewis A Coser (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 22. Nicolas Russell, “Collective Memory before and after Halbwachs,” The French Review, vol. 79, n0. 4 (Mar. 2006), p. 797.

Between the frozen myth of whiteness suspended over us all, imposed from above in commemorative stone, and the individual intentions, fears, and desires of the heart in each of us, there churns in America’s spacious skies the turbulent storm clouds of our racially disparate collective memories undermining the American motto, E pluribus unum.

Progress of Civilization Pediment, Thomas Crawford (1863), East Entrance to the Senate wing of the U. S. Capitol Building at https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/progress-civilization-pediment. America at the center personified as a white woman is blessed by the rising sun. The colonist clears the land and presses upon the four figures of an indigenous family to the right, who are without place or property except for the burial mound in the corner. The adolescent hunter is accompanied by a dog even as America has her totemic eagle. The compliment to the rising sun signifying divine blessing is the serpent defending the “Indian”, head raised about to strike against the advance of civilization. The serpent signifies Satan’s resistance to America’s progress of civilization. White civilization marked by military prowess, global commerce, educational enlightenment, industrial might promises a future full of hope (anchor) and bounty (sheaves of wheat).

Genesis 10:9; Ecclesiastes 1:11.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 18, 2021 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Defraud but Do Not Curse the Jews — MBI’s Tryst with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Beckwith Protocols 1920

Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor… Leviticus 19:13a

“God is pleased when believers acknowledge their failure to treat Him as holy.  When the faithful recognize wrongs committed in ignorance and do what is necessary to make amends, His name is honored.  Making restitution, or putting right what is wrong, thus shows genuine repentance.  Because sin usually involves the defrauding of God or man, when sin is confessed, the injury must be made right.”[1]

Claiming Jews conspire to rule the world; the little book titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion served as a foundational source for modern anti-Semitic ideas throughout the secular twentieth century, and continues to do so into the postsecular twenty-first.  According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is entirely a work of fiction, intentionally written to blame Jews for a variety of ills, accusing them of conspiring to take over the entire world through the establishment of a global government they plan to establish and control.  Those who distribute it claim that it documents a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world.  The conspiracy and its alleged leaders, the so-called Elders of Zion, never existed.”[2]  Coming out of Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century the Protocols as a piece of anti-Semitic propaganda “describes an arcane Jewish-Masonic conspiracy directed toward the enslavement of non-Jews.  Purporting to be a series of twenty-four protocols in which a mythical Chief Sage of Zion lays out the philosophy and method of the conspiracy, this widely circulated and frequently translated work has been exposed as a hoax, plagiarized from a number of sources, and ascribed to Jewish authors.”[3]  The Protocols galvanized hostility toward the Jewish people, converting hatred and suspicion into political action in Germany and elsewhere. “Once the premise of a sinister conspiracy of demonic would-be slaveholders was accepted, it gave anti-Semites with political and military might the final impetus needed to combat mercilessly what they considered the mortal enemy.  Thus the Protocols of the Elders of Zion became, as Norman Cohn asserted, a warrant for genocide.”[4]

By recommending that students of the Bible should read the Protocols, the Moody Bible Institute defrauded its Jewish neighbor.  Under the leadership and teaching of James M. Gray, the Moody Bible Institute from 1920 through 1935 put its imprimatur to the Protocols because Gray believed it enhanced understanding end-time biblical prophecies. He insisted it confirmed in fact these prophecies to be true and thus, to his thinking, proved the Bible to be God’s word. With selfish, reckless disregard of the consequences, Gray used the Moody Bible Institute Magazine to cast the Protocols in a favorable light.  Held by tens of thousands as a trustworthy Bible teacher, his awarding legitimacy to the false charges the Protocols lodged against the Jews undermined their rightful social standing in America and in Europe.  Christians who followed his recommendation and read the Protocols, if they believed what they read, were tempted to view Jews with fear, suspecting them to be subversive, dangerous and destructive.  Coming from such a reputable source, Gray’s endorsement abetted those who already harbored anti-Semitic sentiments.  It made questionable Jewish American patriotism.  Gray’s approval of the Protocols gave the Moody Bible Institute a part to putting in jeopardy for Jewish men, women, and children their peace of mind, their sense of belonging, their right to live without fear in safety and security, and to be perceived by others with the respectful recognition all law-abiding citizens deserve.  In a word, the Moody Bible Institute defrauded its Jewish neighbor.

The Institute encouraged reading the Protocols in the middle of the work’s “first wave of influence” during the years 1905-1945, when “it played a key role in inspiring and justifying the Nazi attempt at genocide of the Jews.”[5]  Gray never publically condemned the Protocols as anti-Semitic propaganda, even after Hitler endorsed it in his speeches beginning in 1921,[6] when this brew of fantasy and lies about the Jews “played an important part in the Nazis’ propaganda arsenal,” with the Nazi party publishing “at least 23 editions of the Protocols between 1919 and 1939.”[7] He never issued a public condemnation of the Protocols, nor did he either apologize for or revoke his favorable view of this text, “the most deceitful, dangerous and pernicious of the libels ever used to incite hatred and violence against the Jewish people.”[8]   He remained steadfast in his conviction that it revealed truths of history and confirmed events prophesized in the Bible throughout the 1920s and until his death in 1935.  His death brought to a close the Institute’s infatuation with the Protocols.  The Institute has never expressed regret or remorse for its having given reputable refuge to The Lie That Wouldn’t Die: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[9] 

Corporately, MBI banished this deplorable episode from its institutional memory.  This convenient silence continues to the present.  I submit this post in hope that I am not alone in believing a contrite memory promises better things worthy of praise will replace whatever temporal advantages forgetfulness provides and are far more desirable.  It covers the period 1920-1922, when Gray introduced the Protocols to the readership of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine (MBIM).  A second post will examine how Gray defended Henry Ford, who was most responsible for the wide circulation of the Protocols in America, winning the admiration of Hitler and the Nazis.  Before turning to the things printed in the Moody magazine in the 1920s, a question needing answer is, why would the Moody Bible Institute get itself entangled with the Protocols?   

The MBI brand of premillennial-based political theology provides at least a partial explanation for why Gray and Institute found the Protocols so attractive. The Protocols reinforced their conviction that they read the Bible correctly.  They saw the Protocols as supporting their interpretation of current events.  In their eyes, the Protocols testified to the truth of their properly correlating these events with the end-time events revealed in the Bible.  The Protocols spoke of a conspiracy to establish a single world government, which they knew the Bible prophesized.  The Protocols spoke of a conspiracy to bring about the total apostasy of modern Christianity, which they too saw prophesized in the Bible.  Most especially the Protocols claimed the existence of a Jewish conspiracy, which culminates with a Jewish dictator ruling the Gentile nations and abolishing Christianity.  The Protocols referred to him as “The Pillar of the Universe in the person of the World Ruler, sprung from the sacred seed of David.”[10]  Gray equated this fictitious anti-Semitic fantasy figure with the Antichrist. Gray saw the Protocols vindicating MBI’s premillennial handling of the Bible.  In exchange for this benefit, he legitimized its updated, modern rendition of the longstanding anti-Semitic trope that the Jews were an evil people in league with the devil.       

That however, is only half the story.  MBI stressed those living a holy life in hope of the imminent return of the Lord for His church (the Rapture) should dedicate themselves to the Christian service of winning souls.  In the hour of crisis shortly before He removes the church from the world, God providentially had set the majority of evangelical premillennialists within the political spheres of white Protestant America and the Protestant white-ruled British Empire.  God expected this Anglo-American political partnership both to hold off world revolution and to administer the global infrastructure of imperialism necessary for world evangelization.  As the “West Point of Christian Service,” the Moody Bible Institute understood itself as assuming a commanding role in preparing men and women for doing the work of evangelism and world missions.  White leadership of the Institute assured holding fast to the doctrinal integrity needed to produce effective Christian workers, which in turn guaranteed maximum efficiency in fulfilling the Great Commission.  Advancing God’s agenda by shortening the time before the Lord came for His saints was the generator of its activities, giving the Institute’s “corporate soul” its purpose and identity.  Seeing the Institute’s premillennial mindset combined with championing a particular kind of English-speaking white Protestant Christendom as a holistic political theology contextualizes its casting the anti-Semitic spewing of the Protocols in a positive light.  Being Dean/President of the Moody Bible Institute made James M. Gray commanding officer of the West Point of Christian Service.  His post equipped with a premillennial hermeneutic gave him a commanding height from which he saw the vista of political history reaching back to Nimrod.  From there he could skillfully read the signs of the times in the last days, as well as rightly arrange the role of the nations and the Jews in the future after the rapture during the great tribulation before the millennial rule of the Lord.  His rightly dividing the word of God and the position from which he did so qualified him not only to discern the forces at work in behalf of the coming of the Antichrist.  He had a commander’s responsibility to both warn Christians and equip them for duty – to resist world revolution and accelerate world evangelization.  A confident state of mind combined with a disposition of urgency and a determination to complete his mission created for James M. Gray the meaning of the Protocols

Publishing houses in London, New York and Boston began selling English translations of the Protocols to the public in 1920, the same year James M. Gray introduced the text in the September issue of MBIM.  What incited Gray to publish this anti-Semitic propaganda?  Pragmatically speaking, perhaps to shore up the Institute’s reputation.  Owing to its commitment to “premillennial truth” the school had been the subject of what Gray had called in an earlier editorial “common everyday criticism…that finds its way into the newspapers in a more or less garbled fashion, the flotsam and jetsam of current thought.”  Gray complained that a “lack of knowledge” explained “the lack of discrimination in speaking of premillennialists.”[11]  This defensive attitude coupled with the Protocols apparent affirmation of the veracity of the Institute’s premillennial teaching might account for Gray’s quick publication of its content.   

Whatever reasons precipitating the decision, the article Gray authorized quoted extensively from the Protocols, presenting its content as corresponding to biblical prophecies of end time events that signaled the coming of the Antichrist to power.  The Protocols, taken as an authentic document, disclosed the actual evil plan to bring about the rise of the Antichrist. Beginning with the title, “The Latest Preparations for Antichrist,” the content of the Protocols is presented as factual, not as speculation or conjecture.[12]  The leadoff sentence accused the Jews as arranging these evil preparations:  “The supreme proof, thus far, of the horror to which Jewish apostasy is sinking, and certainly as appalling a sign of the end as we have yet seen, are the protocols of the elders of Zion, published at Tsarkoe Selo, in Russia, in the year 1905.” The use of a declaratory rhetoric augmented by detailed information worked to persuade the reader the text was authentic and worthy of acceptance, as if it dealt with irrefutable facts.  The second sentence reinforced this alleged factuality by pointing out, “A copy of the original is in the British Museum Library, under No. 3926 d 17 stamped, ‘British Museum, 10 August, 1906.”

The use of footnotes gave the piece an academic appearance.  In them the reader is informed, “The protocols’ profound, if unconscious, knowledge of prophecy makes any likelihood of their being a fake extremely remote.”  The writer relies upon comments made by three British newspapers as proof that the Protocols truly are the minutes of a secret Jewish organization, which is determined to destroy the Christian faith and conquer the world.  One paper he writes, “in a startled and puzzled article, demanding a thorough investigation, points out the dilemma which confronts us; for, published long anterior to Bolshevism, the book either reveals an uncanny power of prophecy, or else it is what it claims to be – a stolen betrayal of a world-wide conspiracy of revolution.” From a second he quotes, “‘We are inclined to believe on internal evidence, that it is not a forgery,’ and it is ‘a most powerful though dangerous work.’”  Finally, he pulls from a third, “The system revealed in the protocols is Satanic in all its parts.” 

The writer advised Moody-magazine readers that the “Jewish cast” of the Protocols “should not blind us to its significance as a world-conspiracy that will embrace Gentiles equally with Jews.”  Moody readers should know that a recent “alleged exposure” of the Protocols as fraudulent “consists of unproved innuendoes which ignore a mass of internal evidence.”  Further, the author was “an unbeliever,” thus the work “is totally unaware both of Scripture revelations concerning the Antichrist and of rapidly impending though to the world invisible, facts.”  Readers must realize the Protocols perfectly dovetail not only with what the Bible reveals about the Antichrist but also with unfolding current events.  This perfect correspondence proves the providential timing of their publication.  “Even if the protocols were a forgery, their issue and circulation at this moment, would be of enormous significance.”  The writer underscores that the Protocols genuinely disclose the political machinations and ambitions of those advancing the cause of the Antichrist, stating, “for it is only by such means as the protocols divulge that the advent of Antichrist can become a political fact (emphasis in original).”  Thus, God Himself is obligated to adapt His will to the plan laid out in the Protocols in order to fulfill prophecies about the Antichrist that He had revealed in the Scriptures He inspired.      

I will only quote one example from the main body of the article because it is nothing more than strung together portions of the Protocols arranged as if disclosing how biblical prophecies will be fulfilled in history.  The article quotes the claim of the Protocols that because the “worldly ruler” will soon be crowned, “The time is only a few years off when Christianity will fall to pieces altogether.”  Commenting on this, the writer of the article states, “Thus the corrupt remnants of the Christian faith, after the rapture has removed the watchful, will be fiercely attacked (Rev. 13:7), and Rome, bombed from end to end (Rev. 17:16), will sink under the more awful apparition of incarnate blasphemy.”  As a footnote to this statement he continued, “A curiously subtle and conclusive proof…of the book’s diabolic origin, lies in a startling corrobation of prophecy.”  He finds this confirmation in the final item of the supposed minutes recorded in the Protocols

“The king of Israel must not only be under the influence of his own passions, especially that of sensuousness.  He must not allow animal instincts to get the better of his brain.  Sensuousness, more than any other passion, is certain to destroy all mental and foreseeing powers; it distracts men’s thoughts towards the worst side of human nature.  The column of the universe in such a person of the world ruler, sprung from the holy seed of David, has to forgo all personal passions for the benefit of his people.”

How does this provide any “subtle and conclusive proof” for the Protocols?  According to the author, the passage perfectly fulfilled biblical prophecies.  “It is the very forecast of Daniel (11:37), who foreshadowing the Wild Beast risen from the pit (Rev. 17:3), reveals that, as an immortal, he will be without ‘the desire of women’.”  Readers were led to believe that the Bible confirmed the consummation of the plan laid out in the Protocols that resulted in not only the Jews succeeding in securing the world rule of a Jewish king but also Gentile worship of their king. “The king of Israel will become the true pope of the universe, the patriarch of the international church.”  The Jewish conspirators will “say to the nations:  ‘Pray to God, and bow down before him who bears the mark of the predestination of the world, and whose star God Himself guided, on order that none other but himself should be able to set humanity free from all sin.’”

The article examples a troubling method of triangulation.  It worked to confirm the validity of the Bible by increasing the believability of the Protocols.  Authorizing the defiling of biblical prophecy by alloying it with the anti-Semitic smears, lies and fantasies concocted in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion marked the absolute nadir of Gray’s editorial judgment.  However, he did not stop there. 

Gray also implicated the Moody Bible Institute in providing copies of the Protocols to any readers interested in acquiring them.  The “Book Notices” section of the MBIM stated as the policy of the Institute, “Any book favorably mentioned below may be secured from the Bible Institute Colportage Association.”[13]  In the February 1921 issue of the magazine Dr. Grant Stroh, Moody Professor of Church History, History of Doctrine and Biblical Criticism, gave a favorable review of “The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion, translated from the Russian Language.”  Dr. Stroh affixed the semblance of authenticity to the bogus work by informing readers a copy of “these amazing ‘protocols’…has been in the British Museum since 1906.”  He then announced, “They are now available for all who are interested.”  Whether the Jewish plot to overthrow the world it presented was “true or not,” did not alter the fact that “the success of the Bolsheviki of Russia thus far has been due to the adoption of the principles and rules layed down in these protocols which were in existence years before the Great War.”  Stroh inserted in his short review the anti-Semitic canard, “It is also significant that the leaders of the Russian government are Jews.”  The church historian told his readers, “All who believe in true democracy, or in morals and principles upon which our present civilization rests, would do well to read this book.”[14] Whoever harkened to his pitch certainly would have contacted the Bible Institute Colportage Association to secure a copy of the Protocols to read for themselves. It goes without saying that the civilization to which Stroh referred was western civilization, best preserved, advanced and expanded under the administrative hand of white Protestant America and the Protestant white-ruled British Empire.

Another book readers could secure upon request was The Cause of the World Unrest, which integrated the Protocols into an expanded history of the imaginary Jewish conspiracy stretching back to the medieval era of the Christian crusades.  Gray himself wrote the favorable review.  Of this work, Gray said it was “the most remarkable and some sense the most awful” book “we have ever read.”  He signaled its legitimacy by telling his readers a “reputable” publishing house made the work available to the public.  He also informed them that it carried an introduction written by the editor of a London newspaper.  He told his readers, “We have read the book of about 300 pages entirely through, and with the deepest interest, the latter being contributed to by the attention we have given for many years to the study of scriptural prophecy and the current events of the world in the light of it.”[15] 

Mentioning his “many years” of its study, Gray presented himself as an authority on the Bible’s prophetic teaching. This focus coupled with a political theology that had as its substratum devotion to the idol of whiteness aroused Gray’s sympathetic response to the anti-Semitic fantasies undergirding the Jewish conspiracy laid out in The Cause of the World Unrest.  Gray’s handling of premillennialist prophetic teaching convinced him he rightly interpreted current events and correctly understood history sufficiently to award legitimacy to the false charge against the Jews that they conspired to rule the world.  Modern revolutions of the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries, the anonymous author of The Cause of the World Unrest explained, were the outworking of a “formidable sect” that began during the Crusades, when the Templars “formed a close and sinister connection with the Order of Assassins or Hachichiens – a branch of the Ishmaelites of the East.”  The membership of this secret society “must have been Jewish, since their object was the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple.”[16] The author claimed a sinister Jewish secret society worked through networks of Freemasonry in order to destroy Christendom.  Citing the Protocols, The Cause of World Unrest informed its readers, “The general object of the conspiracy is the government of the world by a king of the blood of David.”  Once enthroned all the “forces of anarchy and revolutionary Masonry” by which he came to power will be destroyed.  The people of the nations will pay homage to its king.  Again relying upon the Protocols: “Then will it be possible for us to say to the peoples of the world:  Give thanks to God and bow the knee before him who bears on his front the seal of the predestination of man, to whom God himself has led His star that none other except him might free us from all the before-mentioned forces of evil.”[17]   

Nothing in the Bible attests to the perverse Jewish plot this book lays out, nor does the Bible contain as a prophecy its blasphemous culmination.  After reading these outrageous, fictitious, and anti-Semitic assertions, instead of correction, rebuke or condemnation, Gray advised without qualification, “No student of prophecy should overlook it.”[18]  

The work Gray recommended understood for victory, the Bolsheviks “must first get rid of Christianity.” The anonymous writer concluded this would be their undoing.  “For to the peoples of Western Europe, whether they are conscious of it or not, Christianity is still the beacon that will guide them out of the slough of despond in which they now groan.”[19]  This beacon in Gray’s eyes like Stroh’s, burned brightest giving the surest guidance under the leadership of Protestant white America and the Protestant white-ruled British Empire.  Only these free white forces could prevent world revolution, especially if rightly marshalled under the commanding counsel of Bible teachers such as himself who clearly saw the true state of current events and international affairs.  Only this Anglo-American end-time rendition of a Protestant Christendom provided the medium (imperialism), evangelists and missionaries, and the sound biblical instruction needed to achieve world evangelization.  Gray’s total view of the world held in tension both the advance of apostasy and revolution, which prepared the way for the coming of the Antichrist, with supporting the economic and military forces of an American-Anglo alliance, which God used to evangelize the world.  God directed events through this dialectic to mark the timing of the rapture of the church and to fulfill the conditions for the Antichrist to assume power. 

Gray’s premillennial interpretation of the Bible led him to interpret the sign of the times in a way that made the anti-Semitic Protocols too seductive to resist. However, that same reading of the Bible convinced him God would still make good on His outstanding promises to the Jews.  Protestant white Christendom must remember God told the Jews, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee (Genesis 12:3).”  The remarks of a London minister quoted by the assistant editor of the Moody magazine capture the tension arising from recognizing the worth of the Protocols as a confirming witness to the prophetic teachings of the Bible and running the risk of being subjected to God’s curse for condemning His chosen people.  Regarding the widespread reading of the Protocols in both Britain and America, he wrote:

“The great outstanding fact is that the incipient stages of a new Jewish persecution are in progress; that even if the grave charges against certain Jewish conspirators be true, the ventilation of them in public is calculated to excite already existing prejudices into the blind and positive penalizing of a whole race; that it is calculated to infect Great Britain and America with the virus of vindictive anti-Semitism and its baneful effects, and to bring in time the same curse on the Anglo-Saxon race as has fallen upon the Teutons and the Slav.”[20]

The Jews may be defrauded but must not be condemned, because to penalize “the whole race” was to incur God’s curse.  From Gray’s holistic perspective intermeshing God’s providential governance of history with human motives and action, anti-Semitism threatened Great Britain and America as much as it did the Jews.  Gray authorized selling ad space to the publisher of the Protocols Stroh recommended be read because those who “believe in an Anglo-Saxon Christian civilization” needed to be informed of the dangers they faced in the threat of the Jewish conspiracy.  The Beckwith cover of the Protocols put it succinctly – praemonitus praemunitus – forewarned is forearmed.  Nothing less than, “Your Christianity and your Americanism are at stake!”[21]  The writers of Beckwith’s ad copy worked the other side of the dialectic as well.  An earlier ad ran in MBIM stressed the Protocols as proof biblical prophecies were true.  It even recommended reading the favorable review Stroh gave the book:  “To prove the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, concerning the appearance of the Anti-Christ [Sergei Nilus] published in 1905 The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion from which the BECKWITH TRANSLATION was made.  See February number of the Moody Bible Institute Monthly.”[22]  As Gray wrote elsewhere, “the Protocols are a clinching argument for premillennialism and another sign of the possible nearness of the end of the age.”[23]  Self and corporate vindication were more important than the wellbeing of the Jewish people.

Moody’s Professor of Church History, History of Doctrine and Biblical Criticism gave another favorable review to Nesta H. Webster’s World Revolution.[24]   He praised the author for tracing the revolutionary plot “to overthrow the civilization of the entire world” back to “its origins in the false socialistic philosophies, the secret societies and the ‘illuminisms’ of the eighteenth century which culminated in the great French Revolution of 1789.”  He said, “The special value of the book lies not merely in the historical development of world-revolution, but in laying bare all the schemes by which the plotters against civilization hope to accomplish their dastardly ends.”  Grant assured his readers Webster’s book “will convince any candid inquirer that the principles and plans of the ‘Protocols,’ Illuminism,’ and ‘Bolshevism’ are identical.”  “If the Jews wished to discredit and destroy the ‘Protocols,’ he said, “much more will they dislike the present volume whose historical veracity cannot be questioned.”  Grant added, “Not, however, that this volume exposes Jews more than other plotters against the present governmental, industrial, social and religious attainments in the hope of reducing civilization to a primitive state for it treats all alike.”  Whether deliberately or by oversight Grant failed to grasp the unique responsibility for the grand plot of revolution Webster attributed to the Jews.  The very purpose of comparing the Protocols with the writings of the 18th century Illuminati and with the 20th century Bolshevik program was to demonstrate “the plan of World Revolution runs like a ‘complot suivi’ [plot followed] carried right up to the present moment.” Thus she concluded, “If, then, the Protocols are genuine, they are the revised programme of illuminized Freemasonry formulated by a Jewish lodge of the Order (emphasis in original).”[25]  About the genuineness of the Protocols she wrote, “The truth is, then, that the Protocols have never been refuted, and the futility of the so-called refutations published, as also the fact of their temporary suppression, have done more to convince the public of their authenticity than all the anti-Semite writings on the subject put together.”[26]  Without question, in Webster’s thinking the Jews played an exceptional part among the conspirators plotting world revolution through the centuries.  And as already noted, the civilization for which Stroh was concerned was white, English-speaking and Protestant because it was God’s instrument on a global scale for orchestrating the timing of end-time events. 

It is difficult to fathom what combination of fantasy and passion lured James M. Gray’s biblically disciplined mind into the absurd den of anti-Semitic madness.  But enter he did, taking the Moody Bible Institute with him. I have suggested a political-theological context that at least provides coherence to this misstep.  At a deeper level, Stephen R. Haynes argues, “In the depths of the Christian mind is a mythical complex more ambivalent and more subtle in its pernicious influence than pure Jew-hatred.”[27]  Understanding why the Institute allowed Gray to take this step without censure requires further research into this complex of the Christian imagination, where reason, demons, and angelic beings meet beneath the almighty hand of God. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…”

[1] John Jelinek, “Leviticus,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), Location 7003 of 93419. 

[2] “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum accessed 11/20/2020 at https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/protocols-of-the-elders-of-zion.  Emphasis added.   

[3] Albert S. Lindemann and Richard S. Levy, eds., “Glossary of Terms” in Antisemitism, A History (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 271.

[4] Ronald S. Green, “Scholars Contending with Delusional Ideology: Historians, Antisemitic Lore, and ‘the Protocols’,” Shofar, vol. 18, no. 2 (Winter 2000), p. 100.

[5] Richard Landes and Steven T. Katz, “The Protocols at the Dawn of the 21st Century,” in The Paranoid Apocalypse, A Hundred-Year Retrospective on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York and London: New York University Press, 2012), p. 1.

[6] “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Holocaust Encyclopedia accessed at


[7] See Lorna Waddington, Hitler’s Crusade, Bolshevism and the Myth of the International Jewish Conspiracy (London & New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007).  Hitler became convinced of the reality of Jewish bolshevism beginning in June, 1920 through the influence of Alfred Rosenberg.  Hitler relied upon the Protocols in his Mein Kampf to prove there is a Jewish conspiracy committed to the ruination of Germany, Chapter XI: Nation and Race, Vol I, published in 1925.   

[8] Alex Grobman, License to Murder, The Enduring Threat of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Noble, OK: Balfour Books, co-published with America-Israel Firendship League, Inc., 2011), Location 106 of 2309.

[9] Hadassa Ben-Itto, The Lie That Wouldn’t Die, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Vallentine Mitchell, 2005).

[10] “Protocol XXIV, Protocols of the Meetings of the Zionist Men of Wisdom,” in The Protocols and World Revolution (Boston:  Small, Maynard & Company, 1920), p. 73.

[11] James M. Gray, “Current Criticism of Premillennial Truth, The Christian Workers Magazine (March 1918), pp. 548-551.  For awarding premillennialism respectability and credibility, Gray relied heavily upon the “English ‘Manifesto’” (p. 548), the seven point “Advent Testimony Manifesto” was a call by Dr. F. B. Meyer and others for a conference to discuss “The Significance of the Hour (11/8/1917).  Penned during WWI, Gray also defended the Institute’s patriotism and refuted the attack against premillennialism that “unjustifiably associated the hope of our Lord’s return with pessimistic gloom.”  Gray may have been emboldened to embrace the Protocols by the Chicago Tribune.  The July 17th 1920 edition of Ford’s Dearborn Independent quoted a Tribune front page article by John Clayton published in its June 19th, 1920 issue, titled, “Trotsky Leads Jew-Radicals to World Rule.  Bolshevism Only a Tool for His Scheme.”  According to the International Jew, the Tribune reported a Jewish radical group within the ranks of communism “aims for the establishment of a new racial domination of the world.”  Gray’s view was the same as that reached by the Tribune: “As any movement of world revolution must be, this is primarily anti-Anglo-Saxon.”  Gray publically acknowledged he read “The Dearborn Independent, published by Henry Ford.” [Reverend James M. Gray, D.D., “‘The Jewish Peril’ and How to Meet It,” The Jewish Era, vol. 30, no. 4 (July-August 1921), p. 97.]  Ford’s Dearborn Independent’s July 17th 1920 issue insisted the Jewish conspiracy to rule the world was real.  It not only spread the lie but demanded Jewish Americans and English Jews must separate themselves from a sinister plot that in fact did not exist.  Until they took this impossible step all Jews would suffer distress. “The unfortunate circumstance is that all the American and English Jews must for a time feel a distress which no one desires them to feel, which everyone would do much to save them from, but which seems inevitable until the whole story is told and until the mass of the Jews themselves cut off from their name and support some who now receive their deepest homage.”  This summarizes the unjust and untruthful defraudation James M. Gray endorsed to the detriment of the Moody Bible Institute’s reputation for impeccable integrity.  See Chapter IX. “The Historic Basis of Jewish Imperialism, (7/17/1920)” in The International Jew, Being a Reprint of a Series of Articles Appearing in the Dearborn Independent from May 2 to October 2, 1920 (Dearborn, Michigan: The Dearborn Publishing Co., November, 1920), p. 100.

[12] Rev. D. M. Panton, B.A., “The Latest Preparations for Antichrist,” MBIM (September 1920), pp. 14-15, 24.  The article quoted portions of eleven of the twenty-four articles: Numbers 1-3, 5, 9-10, 11-12, 14, and 23-24.  Panton quotes from the first English translation of the Protocols published in London and titled, The Jewish Peril (London: Eyre & Spottiswood, 1920).  Without informing the reader Panton cobbled together different sections of the text, forming sentences not in the published original.   See “David Morrieson Panton,” Wikipedia for a biography accessible at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Morrieson_Panton.   For the history of how the Protocols came to America see Robert Singerman, “The American Career of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’,” American Jewish History, vol. 71, no. 1 (September 1981), pp. 48-78.

[13] “Book Notices,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly, vol. 22 (February 1921), p. 287.

[14] G.S. (Grant Stroh), “The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion, translated from the Russian Language, (New York: Beckwith Company)” Moody Bible Institute Monthly, vol. 22 (February 1921), p. 287. Reviewing Grant Stroh’s God’s World Program, God’s Plans for Men and Their Communication (New York: George H. Donan Company, 1924), The Princeton Theological Review identified him as Professor in Church History, History of Doctrine and Biblical Criticism at the Moody Bible Institute.  The Princeton Theological Review, vol. 23 (Princeton University Press, 1925), p. 507.

[15] J.M.G., James M. Gray, “Review of The Cause of World Unrest,” MBIM (February 1921), p. 287.

[16] No author, The Cause of World Unrest, With an Introduction by the Editor of “The Morning Post” (Of London) (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons/The Knickerbocker Press, 1920), p. 36.

[17] Ibid., pp. 69, 82.

[18] J.M.G., James M. Gray, “Review of The Cause of World Unrest,” MBIM (February 1921), p. 287.

[19] No author, The Cause of World Unrest, With an Introduction by the Editor of “The Morning Post” (Of London) (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons/The Knickerbocker Press, 1920), p. 244.

[20] J. H. Ralston, “The Jewish Peril,” under Notes and Suggestions, MBIM (November 1920), p. 115.  Ralston quotes Rev. Samuel H. Wilkinson of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, London.

[21] The Beckwith Company advertisement in The Moody Bible Institute Monthly, vol. 21(May 1921), p. 416 and (June 1921), p. 457.     

[22] “Bolshevism and the Appearance of Anti-Christ,” The Beckwith Company advertisement for The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly (April 1921), p. 381.

[23] James M. Gray, “The Jewish Protocols,” MBIM (October 1921), pp. 598.  

[24] Grant Stroh, Review of World Revolution (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co., 1921) by Nesta H. Webster, Moody Bible Institute Monthly (March 1922), p. 942.  According to scholar Richard Gilman one reason for an “uncritical acceptance” of Webster’s work…is certainly her insidious anti-Semitism.”  Gilman goes on to say, “Indeed, Mrs. Webster should probably be rated as one of the most sophisticated and eloquent anti-Semitic propagandists of the 20th Century.”  Richard M. Gilman, Behind World Revolution, The Strange Career of Nesta H. Webster, Vol. 1 (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Insights Books, 1982), pp. 7-8.

[25] Nesta H. Webster, World Revolution, The Plot against Civilization (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company Publishers, 1921), pp. 303, 308.

[26] Ibid., p. 306.

[27] Stephen R. Haynes, Jews and the Christian Imagination: Reluctant Witnesses (London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1995), p. 7.


New York Times (9/4/1921), p. 58.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 16, 2020 at 2:11 pm  Comments (3)  

The Day After



Sometimes I sit in the selfish shadows of life instead of life’s light.   

I find myself asking, “Why am I so lonely?”

Other times, “Why won’t these people leave me alone?”

The lie these moments pander to is powerless.

It has no final say over who we are.

Therefore, wherever I am going,

Bathed by warmth from beyond the morning sun,

I leave these few thoughts among the things one day I leave behind. 

Happiness comes from holding onto the enduring good in life.

Longing and belonging are good.

They are the tides of life.

They pull on our hearts,

Drawing us through the hours,

On our journey through our numbered days.

Longing is good.

It hints at better things to come.

Remembering this,

May we be grateful for what we have,

Sharing from our excess to help another in want,

Willing to be blessed by another,

Agreeing it is more blessed to give than to receive.

May we be mindful of our loved ones who have passed.

May we entrust them to the Lord,

The Father of our spirits,

Who knows them as the Spirit knows the depths of God.

May we trust in God’s love knowing His judgments are just.

May we be merciful with one another,

Mindful mercy rejoices against judgment.

In all our work, dreams, and desire,

In all we adore, achieve, or create,

May we be guided by a wisdom that is generous, peaceable, and fair.

May we always see ourselves as belonging to one another.

May we love one another, knowing we are loved.

Because He is love who gives to all

Life, and breath, and all things,

May we trust God to live His love through us.

May we ask Him every day how He might do this,

Giving Him thanks for the love He has for us all.

Hebrews 12:28-29

Thanksgiving 2020

Published in: Uncategorized on November 27, 2020 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Do You Believe in an Anglo-Saxon Christian Civilization?

Beckwith protocols ad 1

The Moody Bible Institute Magazine (June 1921), p. 427.


first protocol ad

The Moody Bible Institute Magazine (April 1921), p. 394.

At the commencement service for the 1921 summer-term of the Moody Bible Institute, eighty graduates, forty-five women, and thirty-five men, “representing twenty-five states and four foreign countries” received their diplomas. The Reverend Joseph Taylor Britan, D. D., pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Ohio, delivered the commencement speech. The subject of his remarks was “Religious Foundations of National Life.” Britan based his remarks on Isaiah 60:12, “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish.” Reporting on the commencement speech the Institute’s editor of publications stressed Britan’s remarks expressed his dismay over America abandoning the nation’s biblical foundations. “Showing that from the time of the Pilgrim Fathers the Bible has been made the foundation of all our civilization and political structure, he called attention to the fact that our nation is showing a decided tendency to depart from the faith of its founders, despite the warning of the Scriptures.”[i]  

Editor James M. Gray published the entirety of Britan’s remarks in the November 1921 edition of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine. This commencement speech lays out in capsule form the political theology embedded in the Institute’s instruction. It gives the reader entry into the political ethos, social perceptions, and spiritual motivations intrinsic to the lifeworld – the world experienced together – of the white men who both ran and subsidized the Institute’s operations. 

After Jesus stated He was the Resurrection and the Life, He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” Similarly, in the form of a question, the creedal heart of MBI’s syncretistic lifeworld is, “Do you believe in an Anglo-Saxon Christian civilization?” Reflected upon while immersed in a postsecular imagination, the ironic ignorance prevalent in the lifeworld in which the Moody Bible Institute has its roots is an effect of a kind of working wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual and demonic (James 3:15). The condition of ignorance manifests itself in the fact that the individuals possessed of this wisdom, as Britan examples, failed to see how they venerated the idol of whiteness. The fact that their words and actions made this veneration obvious to others who did not idolize whiteness makes ironic the nature of their ignorance. An examination of Britan’s speech confirms these observations.  

Reverend Britan informed the graduating class that the work of the Moody Bible Institute was fundamental, “because it is only as civilizations and institutions are founded on the principles and doctrines of Scripture that permanency can be expected or is possible.”[ii]  The first point Britan made about the religious foundations of national life was to convey the horrors of a nation’s death throes. The “death of a nation,” he told them, “is the most fearful sight on earth.” The young men and women sat in silence as the pastor described this corporate death: 

 “To see cities depopulated, houses rotting, streets filled with refuse, pestilence sweeping the city and country alike, lines of communication destroyed, commerce cut off, industries destroyed and governments overthrown, the dust of oblivion settling down over the whitening bones of those who died an untimely death because of the ravages of the oppressor and the just judgment of God upon idolatry – this is the supreme tragedy of earth.”

Britan was unaware of what many today see. His discourse typifies the idolatry of whiteness. He wanted his listeners to serve as the vanguard advancing sound biblical teaching for the good of white America, because “religious apostasy is ever the first step toward national death.”[iii]   As guardians against apostasy they were to preserve white America’s religious heritage and protect the white American way of life. Britan’s vision of providential history saw God giving humankind the “giant ideas” of “representative government, free churches, free schools and popular education” through the Calvinist Reformation “to refresh the land and fertilize the minds and energies of men.” God timed the creating of these provisions with the colonization of America as the means of their dispersal. “Now, it was at the exact time that God opened His word that He opened a new world for colonization, and He selected as the founders of this republic men, and women of faith, in whom dwelt the Spirit of the Living God, for He was determined that His Word should be free and that it should be given as opportunity to mould a great nation and influence future civilizations for Him.”     

Britan used the fear of America’s death to rally his listeners for keeping alive what he believed was God’s will for the nation. It is as stunning as it is egregious that Britan sought to conscript Moody graduates into the loyalist ranks of white Protestant Anglo-American nationalism, thus enticing them to become venerators of the idol of whiteness. Britan revealed his own commitment to whiteness by how he interpreted the story of America. He told the graduates, “Two great purposes actuated the founders of this republic – building a Christian nation and converting the natives to Christ.”  

As if channeling the spirit of genocide, for the remainder of his remarks Britan dropped any further mention of evangelizing the indigenous peoples of North America.[iv] He entirely ignored the troubling history of mission work among them. Like in the lifeworld from out of which he spoke, Britan banishes the Indian nations, placing them somewhere outside the scope of his words. The lifeworld born from a devotion to the idol of whiteness has no place for Native Americans because they have no role to play in the divine work of establishing America as a white Christian nation.

Significantly, Britan also ignored the racist slavery of America’s past and the legal segregation of people of color to respect white sentiments and preserve the racial “purity” of the white “race.” His vision of God’s white America had no place for black citizens. Britan banished them to imaginary oblivion. They need not exist because God disqualified “other Americans”[v], choosing white Protestants alone to fulfill His vision not only for America but for future civilizations.    His rhetoric exemplifies a celebrant of the white republic reforged (Edwin J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic, 2005).   His silence over the War Between the States, the squelching of civic nationalism and the making of Jim Crow America honored the reconciliation struck between white Americans from the North and South at the expense of black citizens.  It testifies to his endorsing the unjust suffering of millions of black citizens, including his black brothers and sisters in Christ.  It also exposes how the idol of whiteness morally cripples its lovers, because a segregated America violated the very constitution (13th/1865, 14th/1868 & 15th/1870 amendments) he said rested upon biblical foundations of truth.      

The structure and content of Britan’s remarks are an excellent example of how the condition of whiteness effectively works absent any moral compunction to name it. There is no claim to white supremacy, yet the very texture of his narrative focused upon white Protestant colonists and Protestant Americans alone enjoying divine approval. In Britan’s version of American exceptionalism, God chose white Protestant colonists and their children to serve as His ordained vessels for bestowing His blessings upon others.  

Britan’s commencement address expressed what historian Sam Haselby identifies as “a distinctively Protestant historical consciousness,” one in which the “sacralization of origins” is stressed. His commencement address conforms to the characteristics of what Haselby calls “American religious nationalism,” as a particular kind of consciousness. Haselby argues this sense of identity rests upon a mythology of the American Revolution.[vi]  Britan illustrates Haselby’s thesis in his claim that the founding fathers relied upon divine guidance for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Britan was convinced, “Back of all our national history, therefore, is the Bible with its doctrines of righteousness, justice, providence, worship, and redemption.”  

Britan embedded his sacralized myth of America within the broader expanse of the British Empire.  British officials Britan concedes “have made mistakes,” and its Parliament “has sometimes apparently compromised with truth and the highest ideals,” this however did not dissuade him from  concluding that “on the whole the British Empire…believed and practiced the gospel and brought liberty and blessing to her colonies.”  As the biblical vanguard useful to God’s impelling the nations to complete His will, the graduates needed to realize the crucial role of both America and British imperialism. “Today the United States and the British Empire stand as the principal bulwarks against the tide of red anarchy and lawlessness which threatens to destroy the Christian civilization and Christian institutions of earth.” He told the graduates “these two nations stand today because of the blessing of God and because within these nations are men and women who worship and serve Him.”[vii]  

Britan espoused a political theology that appropriated the doctrine of soteriology for promoting national well-being.  A ridiculous example might be helpful.  Using the general welfare clause of the U.S. Constitution to express this subordination allows us to see more clearly how inappropriate it is to invert eternal salvation and temporal prosperity:  “The Moody Bible Institute shall have Power to teach Biblical instruction to provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” This is the crux of Britan’s message.  He does not urge the graduating class to go out into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He does not mention the Great Commission. There is no cry of compassion for lost souls. Very absent in his address is any sense of Moody’s urgency in doing the work of evangelism in a shipwrecked world. Souls are to be won and evil to be fought for the good of a white-dominated nation and a white-ruled empire. 

Britan stressed resisting the advance of evil against the political and economic order of the world held in place by the Anglo-American alliance. “The spirit of lawlessness is attempting to organize the forces of evil for a massed attack upon the Christian religion, free government and the right of property, and the attack is being directed against the Word of God.”   

The two threats challenging God’s world order are Germany’s “New Theology” and the “Program of the Bolshevists.” The “degeneration of Germany was the fruit of her theological folly,” chief of which was a denial of the supernatural, rejection of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures,” and reliance upon “Darwinism” with its principle of “the survival of the fittest.” Germany made man “the agent and goal of progress,” thus in Germany’s “theological folly” man “becomes his own god.” Because “Germany politely but effectively bowed God out of her religious and political affairs and placed the super-man with his blood lust and ruthlessness on the throne…the judgments of God descended; the nation that would not serve God perished, in soul if not in physical existence.” 

Within his corporate frame of thinking, Britan exhibited no sympathy for the individual lost souls in Germany; the men, women, and children lost to eternal destruction owing to their living under conditions of religious apostasy. He issued no call to the graduating class to reach these lost sinners with the gospel. Germany to him is a dead thing, a perished nation without a soul. Similarly, he failed to exhibit any care for lost American sinners in need of a Savior, who desperately needed someone to proclaim to them the gospel. Instead, he asked, “Are there preachers in our pulpits, and professors in our colleges and universities who teach as gospel these godless doctrines which led to the downfall of Germany and which will bring national degeneration and destruction to us?” Britan’s focus upon the idea of a nation’s group soul downplayed God’s desire to save individual souls as much as the theological thought that he condemned denied the deity of Christ.  

 Turning to the “horrible example” of Russia Britan tells the graduating class that it “seems that the program outlined in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the identical one followed by the Bolshevists. To confirm this claim he quotes from the fraudulent anti-Semitic document, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, in which a fictionalized council of Jewish leaders supposedly agree, “It is indispensable for us to undermine all faith, tear out of the minds of the Gentiles the very principle of the Godhead and to put in its place arithmetical calculations and material needs.”[viii]   By quoting this anti-Semitic screed Britan condemns the Jews as the secret conspirators pulling the strings of Communist revolutionaries, tricking them into advancing the “program outlined in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Britan goes on to tell the graduating class that these revolutionaries “murder the priests of Russia, make stables of the churches and open atheistic schools for the children whom they separate from the love and guidance of their parents.” Because Bolshevist actions are identical with those laid out in the Protocols, Britan is suggesting that Jews were behind these atrocities. The Jews are responsible for the Bolshevists, which aim “everywhere..to overthrow what they call ‘the damnable trinity of religion, government and capitalism.’” This writer has reserved for a future blog further comment about the Moody Bible Institute’s approval of the Protocols in line with James M. Gray’s adamant endorsement of this anti-Semitic text. It suffices to say here, giving credence to the Protocol’s lie of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world is symptomatic of a sociopathic breach with both biblical ethics and reality, a fact about the Institute’s history for which its leadership has yet to either acknowledge or address.     

Britan called upon the Moody graduates to heed God’s call of the day to stand up against these sinister forces of evil. They were to carry and broadcast the call even as they were to live it out in the church. This mandate included the following. “First, the church of Jesus Christ can realize and proclaim the almost infinite power of the enemies of God and the deadly nature of the combat.” Behind these enemies was their leader Satan, who will use “a giant organization and league,” that eventually will “dominate the world through the Antichrist.” The church must “recognize the deadly nature of the assault being made on our liberties, faith and institutions.” The church should proclaim, “every man who discredits the Word of God is consciously or unconsciously untrue to his country and in league with the forces of national dissolution.” The church should also declare that any teacher that “destroys” a student’s faith in the Bible “takes a soldier from the ranks of patriots and puts him in the army of the Bolshevists and enemies of world peace.” Any preacher that denies “the sovereignty of God and the vicarious atonement of Christ” removes “the foundation stones from under the Republic,” preparing it “for its overthrow.”     

Britan trumpeted “the true Christian” as “the greatest patriot” and “the mightiest influence for national stability.” His entire agenda to which he called the graduating class was the temporal undertaking to indenture the church in service to the Christian nation. He replaced the church with the nation as God’s main concern, as much as he replaced life in Christ with national life and loyalty to Christ with patriotism.

Against the political forces in the world that resisted the Spirit of God and “the ethics and power of Christ,” Britan called the Christian nation to use force – “force to the utmost.”  He assured his listeners that God sanctioned this crusade mentality. He said, “God laid upon governments, and not upon the church, the duty of restraining evil by force.” The role of the church was to strengthen the Christian nation by reliance upon the Holy Spirit, “the one great restraining power in the world today…working through consecrated men and women.” The church must call men to arms that they may dedicate themselves to this sacred purpose.  

Enveloped within the greater providential cause of combatting evil to preserve white bastions of power, Britan told the graduating class “we can win souls to eternal life, help fill up the number of the elect, put obstacles in the way of evil men, and so hasten the day when the kingdom of God will come.” Britan gave a full expression of the ironic ignorance of his idolizing whiteness when he insisted the graduates must resist “the worship of democracy, universal suffrage, self-determination of peoples, league of nations, disarmament or education, or any other of the modern gods in which the world is putting trust.” Solemnly he warned, all of these things may be “used by Satan and Satan-inspired men for the ruination of religion, civilization and national life.” Britan imagined his thinking was immune to this evil assault.  He was blind to how his way of thinking too “could be captured and used by Satan and Satan-inspired men” to rationalize unjust laws, systems of inequality, and conditions of exploitation and oppression.  Indicted as an idolater by his own reasoning, Britan’s speech was an instrument by which he transferred an unspoken veneration of the idol of whiteness into the listening hearts of the Moody graduates. Unless they deliberately chose consciously to cast down this idol to the glory of God, they would carry it secretly, unknowingly into their future ministries.   

Britan demanded loyalty to America as a white Protestant nation. He insisted God approved of its political order, together with the white-ruled British Empire. He selectively read structural sin as existing in certain theories of government while portraying as insignificant the sins of white America and British imperialism. He made Native Americans and African Americans disappear. He accused the Jews of a world conspiracy aimed at establishing a single worldwide government based upon atheistic and material principles. All of these things in Britan’s eyes God approved and He accomplished to fulfill His will for all humankind.  Having been seduced by the idol of whiteness, Britan affirmed what the faith once delivered to all the saints for our common salvation denies, that nations can be regenerated and empires are able to believe in the gospel.  

Britan delegated godliness to serve national loyalty and corrupted Christian love by mixing it with patriotism. He made idols of white civilization, white national life, and white imperialism. He sought to recruit Moody graduates to take up a crusade on behalf of the idol of whiteness. He aimed to invest their enthusiasm in this undertaking. Those who listened to him were being tempted to corrupt their Christian compassions for a political cause at the expense of undivided devotion to Christ in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.  

The work of the Moody Bible Institute, Britan said, was vital “because the Institute honors the Word of God and it is the Word which God uses to convict, to regenerate and revive men and nations.”  In this tenet, Britan’s political theology lacks biblical warrant.  God does not convict, regenerate or revive nations.  Each individual receives God’s word in a moment of time carried in the bosom of the generations of his or her people.  God immerses every person’s identity unto his or her innermost being within a stream of history flowing through a channel of speech born of those generations.  Accordingly, God’s providential rule prepares every person, tunes every ear and sets every heart for receiving the glad tidings of His gospel of peace.  God sends His people to preach the gospel (Romans 10:11-15), proclaiming His excellencies, because He called them out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). 

It is true God will judge the nations “because of their idolatry.”  However, Scripture does not teach what Britan dogmatically asserts:  “Nations may die in soul, or they may die soul and body, but each and all perish because they will not serve God.”  The Bible says, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).”  Pride resides in a person’s soul, not in the soul of a nation (Habakkuk 2:4).  A people lifts up a national altar of idolatry because as individuals they first built it in their own hearts (Psalm 135:15-18).  God warns His children not to commit the sin of idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:7, 14; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 5:21). 

Britan judged others for committing the sin of idolatry, but never noticed his own idolatrous love affair with whiteness.  As he received and was deceived so he delivered to his eighty listeners that 1921 summer day.  We cannot count the number that received from them the same and too were deceived.  The effects of this sinful affection for whiteness lingers in the lifeworld of the Moody Bible Institute as a stale residual routine as it does throughout white American evangelicalism.  The sins of idolatry committed in the past have no bearing upon our character today, unless we lie about it, suppress it, or attempt to rationalize it away.  Honesty about the past is the prerequisite for living lives of integrity today.

Lord, be merciful.  We know with what judgment we judge, we shall be judged: and with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again. Heal us of hypocrisy.  Help us Lord to cast out the beam out of our own eye so we may be useful to you, seeing clearly to cast out the mote out of our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:21).   

Matthew 12:36-37.


[i] “Summer Term Graduation Exercises,” under “Moody Bible Institute of Chicago,” ed. by Joseph B. Bowles in Moody Bible Institute Monthly (October 1921), p. 634.

[ii] Rev. Joseph Taylor Britan, D. D., “Religious Foundations of National Life,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly (November 1921), p. 652-654.

[iii] For the heightened awareness among evangelical Christians of the sinful constellation of dispositions, perceptions, and judgments shaping Britan’s views espoused here see Kay Higuera Smith, Jayachitra Lalitha and L. Daniel Hawk, eds., Evangelical Post-Colonial Conversations, Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2014).  

[iv]  Literature on colonial Christian missions with Indian nations lacks consensus of English attitudes and motivations.  See Alden T. Vaughan, New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians, 1620-1675, 3rd ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995). Vaughan criticizes G. E. Thomas’ “Puritans, Indians, and the Concept of Race,” New England Quarterly, XLVIII (March 1975): pp. 3-27, rejecting the claim that Puritans perceived the people of the Indian nations in racial terms and the conclusion that this color division was the primary cause for bad relations (p. xix). Francis Jennings argues that Puritan missionary work was politically motivated and was not a conscientious effort singularly to evangelize Native Americans in The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cost of Conquest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1975).  Specialists in the field of Puritan studies have challenged the findings of this work; nonetheless, it remains a standard for this more critical point of view.   

[v] Term used by Reginald Horsman as a reference to Indians and black slaves in Race and Manifest Destiny, The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1981). By 1815, according to Horsman, Christian and Enlightenment thought merged with an American way of life that capitalized upon seizure of land and forced labor. “In the West violence engendered by the white advance was used to condemn the Indians who had been provoked to resist; in the South, the degradation engendered by slavery was used as a justification for continuing the enslavement (p. 115).”  

[vi] Sam Haselby, The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 19-22.

[vii] Britan three times refers to the British Empire, and only calls America a Christian nation. The interchangeability of these terms explains the ellipses they form, America as a Christian nation is eligible to become a Christian empire.  

[viii] Although closer to the English translation published by Eyre & Spottiswoode, Britan’s quote fails to be identical to either of the early-published editions in English. In The Cause of World Unrest (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1920) this portion of the fourth protocol reads, “It is indispensable for us to undermine all faith, tear out of the minds of the goyim the very principle of Godhead and the Spirit, and to put in its place arithmetical calculations and material needs (p. 81).” Within The Jewish Peril copy of the Protocols published by “The Britons” (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, LTD, 1920) Protocol #4.3 reads, “That is why we must extract the very conception of God from the minds of the Christians and replace it by arithmetical calculations and material needs.” 

The cover illustrations of these works written by a noted evangelical writer display how vital still among contemporary evangelicals is the fantasy affiliated with an idolatrous veneration of the idol of whiteness.

(Regency Publishing, 2018, 2019, and 2020 respectively)

Published in: Uncategorized on November 11, 2020 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The Immutable James M. Gray

“…nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 26:1)

“Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female…” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16)

James M. Gray, D.D., Dean/President of the Moody Bible Institute (1907-1934), took upon himself as editor of the Institute’s periodical to publish in the November 1919 issue of The Christian Workers Magazine a sermon he preached in Boston thirty years earlier. His justification for doing so was simply “because he wanted to do it.” Such is the power of the editor-in-chief of a magazine if permitted by its owner. “Editors,” Gray said, “sometimes please themselves.” 

Gray took pride in the sermon being “‘old-fashioned’ in its style.” It was “old-fashioned” in its “allusions,” he said. By this, he meant that in 1919 public opinion had increased in significance while at the same time becoming more secular and less religiously minded. “In thirty years the thinking of the people has meant more than for the previous three hundred years, and its tendency has ever been in the direction of a natural causation of things rather than a supernatural.” Gray published his “old-fashioned” sermon when secular modern thought was reaching the apex of its vain claim on certainty in knowing and controlling reality without challenge. That day is gone. Without needing to be as intelligent as he was, but solely based upon the new context in which God has set us today in 2020, we read a different meaning from what Gray wrote in 1889 and published in 1919 (herein God reminds us never to cease reading His word). 

A 2020 reading of Gray’s 1889 sermon published in a 1919 edition of the Moody Bible Institute’s periodical subjects it to meanings that were inconceivable by most white readers then but are becoming very painfully obvious among a growing number of white readers today. Gray’s “‘Old-Fashioned’ Thanksgiving Sermon” speaks to us today more about the idol of whiteness than it does about the shortcomings of secular modern thinking upon which Gray focused then, both in 1889 and 1919. As Gray points out, however, one thing has not changed. “Ignorance is still the mother of ingratitude. Ignorance of God is still the awful sin it always was. Men are still making gods out of the gifts of God… And God has not changed his mind about these things, and it is still true that neither rebel spirits nor rebel men can deliver themselves out of His hand.” 

Gray’s thoughts about idolatry are extremely important today. His teaching about divine providence is a lesson we should take to heart. He remains long after his death a living parable from whom we may learn much (herein God warns us by incessantly reading His word we are to train our senses to discern good and evil and exercise them accordingly). Additionally, this writer has learned from him by having him serve as a synecdoche not only for the racialized history of the Moody Bible Institute, but also for the white mentality of American evangelicalism. Gray’s blindness to the effects of the idol of whiteness should cause us to tremble with reverent humility today. We cannot fully know the set of prejudices we have inherited that prearrange our social sensibilities. It is no idle injunction when the apostle to the nations says to the church, “And do not be idolaters… (1 Corinthians 10:7).”

Gray bases his sermon upon Hosea 2:8 that reads, “For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold which they prepared for Baal (KJV).” The nation of Israel received “the material blessings of Providence,” but attributed this bounty “to the gods who represented the functions of nature.” Gray interpreted this giving of “glory to Baal” as “an earlier form of ascribing the same honor to the ‘laws of nature,’” which is “more familiar to modern ears.” Gray saw in the America of his time the same ingratitude toward God as that of the ancient nation of Israel. The difference was that modern Americans practiced a kind of secularized idolatry. American guilt was greater however because of the widespread witness of Christians. God, therefore, offered America a greater opportunity for thanksgiving. Gray argued,

“by parity of reasoning, if Israel’s responsibility was correspondingly increased by the opportunities she enjoyed, how much greater the guilt of a nation such as ours, with all that is included in the knowledge of the gospel, and in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, if we too are unthankful to God for our mercies through any misapprehension of their source!”

The plural pronoun “we” and his double use of the plural possessive pronoun “ours” indicate Gray’s idea of America and “the Christian conscience of our nation” has as its referent the idol of whiteness. Gray was addressing white Americans devoted to this idol when he preached and published, “Thus is a large majority of us doing just what the Hebrews did in Hosea’s time, making gods of God’s own gifts!” Gray confirms the presence of this idol at work in him in the writing of his text although neither he nor the text itself acknowledges its presence. To make this idol visible requires understanding Gray’s definition of idolatry, and then applying that definition to his text.

Gray explained, “with the gold and silver God had so multiplied unto them, Israel made for herself idols, false gods, setting before them, for a sweet savor, the corn and wine, and oil which God had given her.” Gray linked the ancient nation of Israel’s idolatry with her “lovers,” which he said, “is only another name for devils.” He relied upon an 1860 Bible commentary in giving his definition of idolatry. The passage Gray relied upon and quoted from deserves a fuller hearing: 

“The lovers are, whatever a man loves and courts, out of God. They were the idols and false gods, whom the Jews, like the heathen, took to themselves, beside God. But in truth they were devils. Devils she sought; the will of devils she followed; their pleasure she fulfilled, abandoning herself to sin, shamefully filled with all wickedness, and travailing with all manner of impurity. These she professed that she loved, and they, not God, loved her. For whoever receives the gifts of God, except from God and in God’s way, receives them from devils. Whoso seeks what God forbids, seeks it from Satan, and holds that Satan, not God, loves him; since God refuses it, Satan encourages him to possess himself of it. Satan, then, is his lover.”

Based on this definition Gray turns his attention to “several of these devils, or lovers if you prefer it, by which our nation is in danger of seduction.” Among these demons or seductive lovers, Gray lists intellect or “the practical sciences and arts” with which “the worldly-mind no longer see the need of a direct and upholding providence and are on the brink of an affirmation that man has only to seek out more inventions to become master of the world.” “Mammon worship” is another. He asks, “But how many citizens of the United States can, on this Thanksgiving morning, lay their hand upon their hearts and say, ‘I am free from this affection, dollars and cents are not in any sense my god?’” Others of our “fallacious lovers,” Gray said were “of a more religious sort whom we are running after.” He named “ritualism,” “rationalism,” and “spiritualism.” The last he described as “a prophetic feature of the latter times and a return to the demonism of the days of Christ.”

All of the above are “color-blind” or race-free idols, lovers, who as demons arouse in us an ardor that seduces us into receiving the blessings of God through them rather than directly from Him in obedience to His ways. Gray makes visible the idol of whiteness, the seducing lover or demon at work through all of them when he turns his attention to the political world of governance and policy. “Statecraft,” he said, “is another of these lovers.” He wrote:

“Our corn, and wine, and oil are to be increased, our gold and silver will be multiplied by a better adjustment of international relations, by reforming the tariff, by a thorough system of internal improvements, by prohibiting the liquor traffic, by extending the right of suffrage, by educating and colonizing the Indian and the Negro [emphasis added], by equalizing the value of currency, and all that.”

This passage sheds light on the form or image of America that Gray saw. He restricted “the Christian conscience of our nation” to the white citizenry, especially, white men. He does so unaware of the white idol to which he bears witness. All six recommendations in his eyes are commendable. He did not condemn any of them as sinful. He passed over identifying any as unworthy of endorsement, by simply stating, “To many of these things we say ‘Amen,’ to some of them a very hearty ‘Amen’.” 

We have to pause a moment to let that sink in. The colonizing of black people, indigenous people, and people of color is in itself not wrong, indeed is worthy of at least an “Amen.” The sin in colonization is not to receive this opportunity with thanksgiving — failing to dominate, subjugate, and control others as God intended, as a gift that He gave to white Americans. The imperialist task God bestows upon white Americans as a good thing becomes evil only if pursued as stimulating white pleasures aroused by a burning lust for a seductive demon-lover through the idol of statecraft. 

For Gray there was no danger in the implementation of any of these undertakings, instead “the danger is that in their calculation and execution we turn our back and not our face to God, who therefore will reject our confidences, and we shall not prosper in them.” Reading his litany of demon lovers, we now can decipher Gray’s we/our construction as his concern for white America. The danger of idolatry for America then is that [white men] turn our [white] back and not our [white] face to God,” He “will reject our [white] confidences, and we [white men] shall not prosper in them.” 

Gray addressed white America when comparing it to the Hebrew nation. “Was the Hebrew nation ungrateful for God’s mercies, and were they visited with this punishment in consequence? Can the United States be equally, or still more ungrateful and escape free?” Gray meant white civilization when he said, “And there are thoughtful and able men prejudiced neither the one way nor the other so far as Christianity is concerned, who believe that our civilization is now advancing with greater rapidity than ever, yet the same causes which turned Roman progress into retrogression are operating among us.”

Living the lesson extracted from the text as he preached it, Gray insisted this meant forsaking idolatrous/demonic lovers. In their place, we should take up “a love which shall open our bowels of compassion to the poor, the lost and erring, and a zeal for God in Christ that shall spread the knowledge of His name, and challenge every detractor of His grace and every pretender to His crown.” His exhortation left unnamed the idol of whiteness and the demonic-induced love it aroused in those who superstitiously adore it. Gray’s unnamed idol of whiteness was the one idol that was lord and master over all the others. The immutable Mr. Gray, D.D., never turned away from this master idol. The effects of this failure distorted his grasp of the true love of God that he undoubtedly truly desired. He died oblivious to how often God extended grace to him, actualized whenever he spoke within earshot of black people, indigenous people, and people of color, who listened to him for learning truths that could help them to be kind and patient when wronged and to overcome temptations of hatred, despair, and bitterness.  Had they been given the chance, the Lord knows how many of these brothers and sisters could have corrected him with gentleness that he might recover himself out of the snare of the devil.   

Gray saw America (and the church) through the eyes clouded by his love affair with the idol of whiteness. Because of this underlying faulty vision, he could not see obvious idolatry even when staring him in the face. The monumental, 24-foot-high gilded bronze sculpture, “The Republic,” by Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), images of which are at the beginning of this post, is still a landmark on display in Chicago’s Jackson Park since 1918. It offers to the eye opened so to see the idol of whiteness an interpretive “figured stone” image of it. The statue is a one-third reproduction of French’s colossal 65-foot-high sculpture, which originally dominated the “Court of Honor” of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Gray would have seen both before publishing his Thanksgiving sermon in The Christian Workers Magazine. Yet Gray was blind to what now strikes some of us as obvious. The statue symbolizes the normative status of whiteness as its referent.

In fine postmodern fashion, contemporary scholar Judy Sund deconstructs the 65-foot statue, relativizing its meaning, critically undercutting its colossal testimony to the traditional ideal of womanhood, which it displays. Nonetheless, she gives an objective and neutral description of the original 65-foot statue that conforms to the specifications of consensus demanded by the secular modern academy. Thus, the statute becomes an object of the secular imagination that banishes any living thing upon whom it is impossible to perform a postmortem clinical examination. However, the words magically change their meaning if we listen to them alive with insights conjured up out of a postsecular imagination in which deceitful spirits solicit our attending to doctrines of demons and where the skies are filled with angels, whom God made winds and flames of fire for the sake of those who will inherit salvation:

“The Republic was a highly visible and readily legible emblem of state: immense, unbending, secular, wealthy (by virtue of its gold sheen), imperialistic (the eagle-topped globe), and dedicated to liberty (the pike and cap). The bilateral symmetry of the body and the head’s impassive features suggested an unyielding nature; the figure’s few curves were overwhelmed by a preponderance of straight lines, the personification more stern than graceful.”

The postsecular imagination with this description in hand transports the listening heart to the plain of Dura on the South Side of Chicago, and shudders standing before the statue in Jackson Park, hearing the words of French’s daughter, who said of the original, “Lo! An American goddess stood forth, with golden hair, clothed in shimmering draperies, and by night a halo of stars around her head.” In hurried prayer with fear for neighbor and nation the Christian with the postsecular imagination listens to teachers like Willie James Jennings, who tells us, 

“Whiteness is a working, a forming toward a maturity that destroys. Whiteness is an invitation to a form of agency and a subjectivity that imagines life progressing toward what is in fact a diseased understanding of maturity, a maturity that invites us to evaluate the entire world by how far along it is toward this goal… White agency and subjectivity form as people imagine themselves being transformed in three fundamental ways: (1) from being owned to being an owner, (2) from being a stranger to being a citizen, and (3) from being identified with darkness to being seen as White.”

Jennings warns his listeners, “It should also be clear at this point that anyone can enter White agency and subjectivity.” Pondering this the Christian with the postsecular imagination wonders, “Why didn’t anyone point out French’s The Republic was a statute of a white woman? Why is it difficult to see that the statue symbolizes a deeper devotion than love for America? Why aren’t we ashamed of this statue, realizing it represents an act of idolatry seeking to excite in the viewer the aesthetic pleasure gained by seeing in the goddess of whiteness all that is worthy of admiration, evoking the sense of exultation that accompanies triumph. 

Gray’s love for the “poor, the lost and erring, and a zeal for God in Christ” was completely at peace with an idolatrous statue depicting a white woman representing the white Republic of America. Gray’s conscience was unresponsive to God’s warning that His people should not act corruptly by making any graven image for themselves. Instead, he had published on the front page of the Institute’s magazine a photograph of an idol in the form of a female figure honoring the greatness of [white] America. Instead of calling for the casting down of this graven image, he betrayed his understanding of idolatry. He practiced the very kind of secular modern thinking he condemned. He saw no seductive lover. He saw no demon. Instead, he trivialized the Bible’s teaching about idolatry and reduced The Republic to a mere cultural artifact, having published under its photograph the commendatory caption that read in part, “Artists speak of it as one of the finest pieces of sculpture in the United States.” 

For Gray, white Americans entered into multiple love affairs with various demons, but the secret lover, the chief demon of white America, the idol of whiteness remained unnamed. It is the power that this idol had on Gray’s imagination that prevented his Christian conscience from being troubled by a gold-gilded statue as tall as a two-storied house, with the original equal to the height of a six storied building. 

Gray carried a torch for the idol of whiteness. He was the product of an institutionalized life of education, particularly a theological education in which, as theologian Willie James Jennings put it, “the presumptive possessiveness of whiteness imagines its central role in building and sustaining ordered life (After Whiteness, An Education in Belonging, 2020).” Without any need to explicitly express it or even acknowledge being consciously aware of it, Gray so conditioned was convinced that white administration of theological instruction under white authority and delivered through white expertise alone guaranteed its soundness.  White control was indispensable for preserving and protecting the integrity of biblical truth. 

The immutable imagination of the Reverend James M. Gray took captive and held hostage his Christian testimony. The record he left behind as the editor of the Moody Bible Institute’s magazine testifies to his inability to break free from his superstitious attachment to the idol of whiteness. Because Gray was deaf to voices of color that saw the idolatry of whiteness, his unspoken commitment to it remained insusceptible to any turn of mind or change of heart. The social imaginary of America together with the white evangelical structural cocoon that incubated Gray’s imagination dissuaded him from opening the eyes of his listening heart to a prophetic voice of conscience like that of W.E. Burghardt Du Bois, who in 1919 wrote:

“These super-men and world-mastering demi-gods listened, however, to no low tongues of ours, even when we pointed silently to their feet of clay. Perhaps we, as folk of simpler soul and more primitive type, have been most struck in the welter of recent years by the utter failure of white religion. We have curled our lips in something like contempt as we have witnessed glib apology and weary explanation. Nothing of the sort deceived us. A nation’s religion is its life, and as such white Christianity is a miserable failure.”

James M. Gray never repented of this sinful disposition, even though he had a clear understanding of the true nature of idolatry. He never broke free from the skewed “habits of the heart” that deferred to and gave sanctuary for the sentiments of white supremacy coveted by the Ku Klux Klan. Gray permitted the Moody Bible Institute’s magazine to carry articles about the Klan that ignored its core commitment to white supremacy while giving a pass to the organization’s racist reading of the gospel. He never deviated from this biblically flawed position. 

In the May 1935 issue of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine, he approved a troubling article entitled, “The Spread of Communism in Our Land.” This is the last mention of the Ku Klux Klan before his death in September of that year. The article cast the Klan as standing against the advance of communism in America in the state of Washington. “The grand dragon of the Klan made an address over the radio advocating the preservation of our American institutions and calling for the loyal support of our Constitution.” The communists in a response sent a letter to the Klansman. “The communist party has among its members some of the most prominent citizens of Bellingham. We are unable to work in the open at the present time, but we are ready to strike and strike hard when the opportunity arises.” Leaving the reader to wonder where else communists might be working in secret suggests perhaps it might be a good idea to have a strong chapter of the Klan in his or her own hometown. 

The article Gray authorized to be published not only portrayed the Klan in positive terms, but it also planted in the reader’s mind he or she should be suspicious of black Americans and American Jews because they were most likely to take up un-American subversive activities. The article conveyed a story told by the editor of the Defender Magazine, Rev. Gerald B. Winrod, who was the founder of the Defenders of the Christian Faith. Winrod, by the mid-1930s, “was applauding Adolf Hitler’s suppression of alleged Jewish subversives.” The reader is told Winrod was on board a passenger ship departing from the east coast bound for Europe. “On the deck of the vessel close to the editor and his friend two young men were standing, who were particularly boisterous, one a Jew and the other a negro, each about twenty years old.” The two joined others on the wharf and “began singing the Third Internationale, the official hymn or battle cry of international communism, the words of which viciously advocate the destruction of every government in the world.” The reader learns, “The hymn declares that Moscow will eventually rule the human race, and it demands that every flag shall be torn down except the Red, which shall fly over all nations.” The story emphasized the social danger that “the Jew and the negro” were sympathetic and susceptible to radicalization. “No sooner had the song started on the wharf than the Jew and the negro began to join heartily in the singing, and the editor looking down, saw hundreds of arms raised and hands clenched, which is the salute of the Reds. The Jew also and the negro raised their arms throughout the song.” Christians present although “unprepared” unlike the communists who “had carefully rehearsed their program” burst into song, singing “that grand hymn of the Church, ‘Faith of Our Fathers,’ which also happened be the theme song of Winrod’s followers. The story concludes by pointing out that, “Mr. Winrod discovered later that the Jew and the negro were leaving for Moscow to be trained in the art of communist agitation, in order to come back as organizers for the overthrow of the American social order.” The article warned that those who do not believe there is a communist conspiracy to overthrow America are “due for a rude awakening,” and that therefore, “It was high time that every patriotic American should consider seriously the threatening cloud.”

It was clear what Gray intended to have conveyed through authorizing the article’s publication. All the righteous white Protestant citizens of the land would do well to hold Jews and Negroes suspect as subversives. They should consider being supportive of the Klan’s purpose for white America of protecting home, decency, and country.


If he could speak today, would Mr. Gray cry out, “Do not do as I did. Little children keep yourselves from idols”? Will we pray for the spell to be broken that we might remove this yoke of whiteness from our midst? Will we appeal to God for the power to be set free from the “pedagogical imperialism” of whiteness? Will we listen to those who have learned from Willie James Jennings and others to teach us:

“In our current context, many idols stand between us, but one is particularly strong. The one we regularly approximate and judge others by is not the true human who is also the true God. The one who regularly tells us who we are, and who we are in relation to others, is not our Creator who desires unity with us all. Although our social identities are indeed fundamentally shaped by it, it orients us toward death rather than life. By now it is no surprise that [as Jennings puts it] ‘the body of another has remained at the center of our relational imagination, the body of a powerful, white, Western man, the image of self-sufficiency, social power, and self-determination.’”

The community of the Moody Bible Institute assembles in a building the trustees had named the Torrey-Gray auditorium only in 1955. Here the Institute’s community participates in its most solemn and celebratory moments. This fact bears witness to the truth that its leadership has yet to take seriously the responsibility to learn the lessons of reproof and correction its past teaches. Humility is the medium of love, and the medium of faith is memory. Biblically, to hear is to remember what the Holy Spirit wants to remind us of. We are all of the primal dust from which God took up a handful and breathed into us the breath of life. The command to turn away from idols is the call to return to God. The gospel belongs to the listener as much as the listener belongs to God (Isaiah 55:7; Acts 17:28; 1 Peter 2:25). All we can do who respect the mission of the Institute is pray for one another that we learn to listen better and pray God gives us ears to hear — and remember.

Mark 4:24.


James M. Gray, “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Sermon,” and “Ignorance the Mother of Ingratitude,” The Christian Workers Magazine (November 1919), pp. 173-174, 188-194.

Gray referred to Philip Edward Pusey (1830-1880), The Minor Prophets, with a Commentary, 2 Vols., Vol. I, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Jonah (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005, orig., 1860).

Judy Sund, “Columbus and Columbia in Chicago, 1893: Man of Genius Meets Generic Woman,” The Art Bulletin, vol. 75, no. 3 (Sept., 1993), p. 450. Sund quotes French’s daughter.

Willie James Jennings, “Can White People Be Saved?”, in Can “White” People Be Saved? Triangulating Race, Theology, and Mission, ed. by Love L. Sechrest, Johnny Ramírez-Johnson, and Amos Yong (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2019).

W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater Voices from Within the Veil (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1920).

Rev. John Robertson Macartney, “The Spread of Communism in Our Land,” Moody Bible Institute Magazine (May, 1935), p. 413.

Leo P. Ribuffo, “Winrod, Gerald (1900-1957),” Encyclopedia of the Great Plains accessed at http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.pd.058.

Jacquelyn Price-Linnartz, “Christ the Mediator and the Idol of Whiteness: Christological Anthropology in T. F. Torrance, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Willie Jennings,” Doctor of Theology Dissertation, Divinity School of Duke University (2016), p. 212.

James M. Gray, became sole dean of the Moody Bible Institute in 1907, with the name of this position changed to president in 1925. He resigned from the presidency in 1934. Gray was editor of the Institute’s periodical under various names reaching back to 1900, ending with his death in 1935. See “James M. Gray,” Biographies/Archives, Moody Bible Institute available at https://library.moody.edu/archives/biographies/james-m-gray/.

Image of Statute of the Republic from “Chicago Landmarks,” City of Chicago — The City of Chicago’s Official Site, accessed at https://webapps1.chicago.gov/landmarksweb/web/landmarkdetails.htm?lanId=1428.

french statute chicago fair

(Photo: Chicago Historical Society)

Published in: Uncategorized on October 21, 2020 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

MBI’s Execrable Dalliance with the KKK, Part Two

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon Thee.  (Revelations 3:2-3)

And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.  (Genesis 35:4)[1]

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21)

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)

“The fightin’s commenced. Either get to fightin or get away.”[2]

“The basis of authority in the last analysis must be either human imagination or the mind of Christ… Those who will not bow before the true God will end in manufacturing their own gods, which are in fact idols.”[3]

“Christ as King means Jesus has been declared as supreme over all things.  Over all things.  Therefore, anything that challenges Christ for his supremacy is reflective of an opposing kingdom, of the forces of evil, of the gates of hell.  It stands as an enemy to the kingdom of light, life, and love.  I have done my best throughout this book to demonstrate why I believe that White supremacy stands and has stood for four-plus centuries, as one of the greatest challengers to this very supremacy of Christ.  I have done my best to clarify how this system is built on lies about human value and how these lies are fiercely protected by the father of lies.  I have done my best to describe White supremacy through a biblical lens and put words to the brawl happening between two warring kingdoms over which one will functionally define God’s image bearers.”[4]

Peace will come
With tranquility and splendor on the wheels of fire
But will bring us no reward when her false idols fall
And cruel death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating
Between the King and the Queen of Swords[5]

As editor of the Watchman-Examiner, a Baptist weekly published in New York, Curtis Lee Laws in a July 1, 1920 editorial coined the term fundamentalist.  Speaking at the Moody Bible Institute two years later, he explained that others catalog those “who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals” under a collection of different designations.  “Other names given to us are ‘literalists,’ ‘dogmatists,’ ‘separatists,’ ‘medievalists,’ ‘cranks,’ ‘ignoramuses,’ and ‘ku-kluxes.’”  Laws told his audience “Whether we are called fundamentalists, conservatives, premillennialists, landmarkers, literalists, separatists, medievalists, cranks or ignoramuses or ku-kluxes, unafraid and undismayed we shall be present at every roll call in life to stand for the things we believe.”[6]  With the exception of maybe landmarkism, which may have been unfamiliar to northerners who were not Baptists, all of the names Laws lists would have been common enough in 1922 Chicago, including “ku-kluxes.” 

One wonders, how many seated in “the large Auditorium of the Institute” looked upon the 1915 reorganized Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as an ally of the Gospel as opposed to those who saw it as a carnal undertaking that lusteth against the Spirit.  This is no idle question.

During the early 1920s, a man calling himself “Pat Malone” was a leading agitator for the Ku Klux Klan in parts of Wisconsin.  Malone “succeeded in rocking northwestern Wisconsin with his preachments of hatred and bigotry—particularly in relation to the Roman Catholic Church.”  Malone was a “self-proclaimed evangelist” who “advertised himself” as a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute.  The school’s registrar insisted in 1971 that there was no record of Malone having studied at the Institute.[7]  Still, one wonders, why would the Institute’s reputation for preparing workers to win souls for Christ be of any use in awarding credibility to a promoter of the Ku Klux Klan? However he spun his connection with the Moody Bible Institute, listeners must have associated sufficient overlap of it with the goals of the KKK to make it worth his while to lie. 

The Ku Klux Klan made a public display of its presence in Chicago on the night of August 16, 1921, when 10,000 Klansmen assembled to induct over 2,000 new members into the Invisible Empire.  The following day the headline of the Chicago Daily Tribune announced, “Ku Klux Rites Draw 12,000.”  Historian Kenneth Jackson tells us, “By the summer of 1922, no informed individual could deny the existence of a significant Klan movement in Chicago.”  A second Ku Klux Klan demonstration in August 1922 initiated over 4,000 new members, thus assembling “one of the largest groups in the history of the Invisible Empire.” On September 19, 1921, the Chicago city council unanimously proclaimed:

Whereas, the traditions and odium attached to the Ku Klux Klan and the acts which have attributable to it make it a menace to a city like Chicago, having a heterogeneous population and different religious creeds; now therefore be it Resolved, that the City Council of Chicago officially condemns the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Chicago and pledges its services to the proper authorities to rid the community of this organization.”[8] 

Later that same year “the Chicago Klan began publication of Dawn: A Journal for True American Patriots,” which historian Jackson described as “one of the most influential of the Invisible Empire’s many periodicals.”[9]  With 50,000 registered Ku Klux Klan members, the city of Chicago had “the largest membership of any city in the United States.”[10] 

James M. Gray as editor-in-chief of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine reported none of this.  Chicago papers reported and editorialized over the clandestine organization’s activities.  The strongest condemnation of any Chicago newspaper came from the pen of the editor for the Chicago Defender.  Robert S. Abbot headlined how a hallowed sense of whiteness paralyzed white people from openly condemning the white supremacy advocated by the Ku Klux Klan.  Writing a September 1922 front-page editorial, Abbot titled it, “Ku Klux Klan Made Possible by Bigotry and Cowardice of American White Man.”  Urging the federal government to take action against the KKK he wrote, “One of two things will happen.  Either the Ku Klux Klan diseased child of a clandestine association must die, or this government itself must go.  The two cannot live together, side by side, under the same flag and the same Constitution.”  Above his signature, he concluded the editorial bluntly stating, “To hell with the Ku Klux Klan.”[11]

The Moody Bible Institute Magazine published one reference to the Ku Klux Klan in relation to a Chicago event by quoting General Pershing, the former commander of America’s Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I, when he spoke before the Chicago Association of Commerce.  Pershing denounced “home foes”, issuing “a warning against the growing potency of government obstructionists.”  Along with pacifists, Communists and labor organizing violence, Pershing also said, “We cannot shut our eyes to the activities of the invisible empire of the Ku-Klux-Klan, whose members in office disregard their duty to the public and allow their criminals to go unpunished…”[12] 

This mention conformed to the pattern Gray consistently followed when as editor-in-chief of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine he authorized publication of anything about the Ku Klux Klan. The content of these articles stressed political and cultural issues. When airing concerns about the organization, worries were expressed over practices like secrecy, brutality or law-breaking activities.  These references to the Klan delivered a false image of it into the hearts and minds of the men and women who read the magazine. The articles published in Moody’s magazine did not report the Klan’s core commitment to white supremacy. Its racist stand was hidden behind a mask of secondary information. A result of projecting this false image was that the Moody magazine never took a stand either for or against the essential Klan doctrine of white supremacy.

Klan teaching embedded the idolatrous idea of white supremacy in its religious teachings about God, Christ and the Bible. Here too Gray was derelict in his responsibility to rightly inform Moody magazine’s readership. He failed to subject the Klan’s religious teachings to a theological examination based upon the truths of the Bible. Therefore, Gray never condemned the Protestant organization for being a pseudo-Christian cult. James M. Gray decided not to accurately portray the true teaching of the Ku Klux Klan. He chose not to assess the Klan’s teaching about Christianity by the standard of biblical truth. The effect of these decisions left the Moody Bible Institute without any record of condemning the Ku Klux Klan either as a racist organization or as a cult that preached a false gospel, what the Klan called “Klankraft.” As the following will show, Gray gave far more space in the Moody Bible Institute Magazine in support of the Ku Klux Klan than he did for opposition to it. Gray himself in spite of what he claimed, never said anything bad about the Klan. His own judgment of the Klan included only positive observations coupled with questions about Klan practices, without any reference to either is racist commitment to white supremacy or its distorted teachings about Protestant Christianity.

Gray turned to a Texan to publish in the March 1923 edition of Moody’s magazine for addressing the question, “The Ku Klux Klan—Is It of God?”[13]  The guest writer’s first sentence puts Gray to shame for his leaving the Institute without a record of condemnation lodged against the Ku Klux Klan.  Funderburk insisted, “The Ku Klux Klan question has thrust itself suddenly and forcibly upon us, and one must line up for or against.”  Unlike many religious periodicals and their editors, Gray, and thus the Institute, never took a clear stand either for or against the Ku Klux Klan.[14]  There is a query here deserving scrutiny and reflection.[15]  What prevented the Dean/President of the Moody Bible Institute in his role as editor-in-chief of the school’s periodical from condemning white supremacy?   How did the heart of the Ku Klux Klan’s identity dovetail with the mission of the Moody Bible Institute? 

Funderburk clarifies the question he is examining, asking, “Is it of God?” by adding, “Everything that is of God is right.”  The only way to determine whether it is good or not is to “compare the teaching and principles of the Klan with the teaching and principles of the Bible.”  Gray did not do this.  As far as I am aware, he did not publish anything one way or another about the biblical legitimacy of white supremacy.  To his thinking, it evidently did not rise even to the level of an adiaphorist controversy.  Critical of lawlessness and violence, as well as challenging certain of their policies such as public education, he nonetheless, never either denied or affirmed the Ku Klux Klan’s fundamental commitment to native Protestant white supremacy as America’s divinely ordained birthright. 

“The Klan, Funderburk said, “stands for one hundred percent Americanism and white supremacy.”[16]   Yet he did not subject the cardinal doctrine of white supremacy to a biblical assessment.  Instead, he argued that the Klan’s abuse of Jews and Roman Catholics was wrong because it did not line up with “God’s Word” that “contains the mind of God and does not conflict with right.”  He also faulted the Klan for its violent activities contrary to law and order.  Based upon its unethical actions – and not owing to the doctrine of white supremacy – he found “the teaching of the Klan is not the teaching of the Bible.”  Because this was the case, “We see that the religion of Ku Kluxism is not the religion of Jesus Christ.”  Funderburk instructs his readers, “If you love Jesus and want to honor Him you will not want to go where you cannot take Him, and you cannot taken Him into the Klan.”[17]

“The Klan stands for one hundred present Americanism and white supremacy.”  This is the only reference recorded in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly to the Klan’s foundational doctrine. The omission is noteworthy.  White supremacy was the main tenet of the Ku Klux Klan “Kreed.”  White supremacy held center of place in two different ways.  First, the revived secret organization paid homage to the original Ku Klux Klan founded after the Civil War.  William Joseph Simmons as founder of the reorganized Klan wrote, “The organization of the original Ku Klux Klan made a most thrilling chapter in the history of the Anglo-Saxon civilization in America… The present Klan is a memorial to the original organization, the story of whose valor has never been told, and the value of whose activities to the American nation have never been appreciated.”[18]  Beyond memorializing the first Klan, the Imperial Emperor of the 1915 reorganization understood its entire enterprise as an effort to preserve white supremacy.   “The present Klan has purposed the supremacy of our heritage of ideals throughout the nation.”  He spoke plainly in making clear “there is a purpose underlying the entire organization and pulsing in every fiber of its being, [which is] to maintain Anglo-Saxon civilization on the American continent from submergence due to the encroachment and invasion of alien people of whatever clime or color.”[19]  Simmons seamlessly wove the two together to secure the one objective of preserving the white way of life uncontaminated by inferior intrusions.  “There was not in the old organization a solitary motive except to save the civilization of the white man that had been wrung out of the thousands of years of his struggle upward.  There is not a single motive actuating the new Klan except to save the heritage which the fathers have left for us in the present to transmit to the generation yet to come.”[20]

Dartmouth professor John Moffat Mecklin highlighted in 1924 this dependency of the reorganized Klan upon the original by writing, “The twentieth century Klan copied a great deal from its precursor – the hierarchy of officers, subdivisional structure, regalia, silent parades, and mysterious language.  There was only one thing, however, taken over from the original Klan by the twentieth century order which was ideological in nature rather than ritualistic or ornamental – and that was the belief in white supremacy.”[21] 

James M. Gray never squarely faced this fundamental fact of Klan life.  He used his position as editor-in-chief of the Institute’s periodical to mask it behind lesser matters.  It was disingenuous of him to focus on peripheral issues or controversial activities concerning the Klan without informing the readers of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine that the Klan was primarily a white organization for whites only, a gentile organization, an American organization and a Protestant organization,[22] whose top priority was to keep America a Protestant white nation.

Mecklin’s 1924 study of the Klan’s mentality included looking at the testimony William Joseph Simmons gave before Congress in 1921.  Mecklin explained how Simmon’s used this event to promote the Klan, to emphasize what would be well received and to downplay associating the Klan with law-breaking or acts of violence. Mecklin writes, “The penumbra of vagueness, that characterizes thinking of Simmons and makes futile any attempt to give clear and final formulation to the Klan ideals, appears in his reply to the charge that the emphasis on white supremacy ‘is being taken as an indication that the organization has for its mission the practice of violence and injustice towards other races and colors.’ Simmons’s reply is: ‘That is not so.  The supremacy of the white man means that supremacy of the white man’s mind as evidence by the achievements of our civilization.’  The Klan’s object is ‘to preserve the dignity and achievements of the white race in justice, fairness, and equity toward all the human family.’” Whether Mecklin was right in assuming that this “spin” on white supremacy was normative or not does not take away from the fact that the Imperial Emperor went on public record as advocating white supremacy. To avoid this fundamental truth about the Klan in describing it would require creating a fictitious alternative to the real organization.[23]

Simmons’s testimony before Congress is an example of the contextual dialectic between the social imaginary in which whiteness resides and a reified ideology of white supremacy that grew out of it.  Whiteness immensely influenced the western and therefore American moral order.  It still conditions the way people who see themselves as white unreflectively imagine the social reality in which we live. The ways it does so are systemic or structural, harnessing individual thinking to a hierarchical predisposition, which permeates our “collective practices that make up our social life.”[24] Like Elud’s sword in Eglon’s belly, the ideology of white supremacy is isolated and absorbed into the manifold idol of whiteness that remains unidentified and unchallenged.  Gray’s decision not openly to criticize white supremacy indicates a degree of sympathy for the doctrine.  His refraining from having the doctrine raised again in the Moody magazine points to the broader, deeper effects of the idol of whiteness.   

Gray will not publish another article that warns readers to stay away from the Klan.  In the April 1923 edition under the heading of news about the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, it was reported that “the K. K. K.” paid a visit to a church pastored by a Moody grad, giving him “an envelope containing $25” and congratulating him for his service.  The representative pledged the Klan’s support for him “as he had been waging war on the local brewery and bookleggers.”[25]  

In May 1923 Gray had published the first of two articles that defended the Ku Klux Klan.[26]  The writer of the first trumpeted Klan propaganda simultaneously in both grandiose and pedantic terms.  With exaggerated outrage, he said his “immediate reaction” to Funderburk’s article was “to regard it as a transgression of the laws of righteous publicity.”  The writer displayed his pedantic nature by rebuking Funderburk for making “assertions he had no right to make unless the proof is absolute and complete.”  Unlike Funderburk’s “tirade on street gossip,” which relied “upon the statements of irresponsible persons,” his evidence was “taken from the official data of the Klan itself,” and thus, was “based only on official investigation.”  The writer insisted out of “fairness to your readers, and out of respect to Klansmen generally, who for the most part consist of earnest, kind-hearted, patriotic Christians,” his correction should be published.  Gray granted this request.

The writer dismissed charges against the Klan of committing acts of lawlessness. He quotes Simmons who claimed such violence was perpetrated by those who were not members of the Klan but wore “masks and robes somewhat resembling the official regalia of the Ku Klux Klan”.  He relied upon the claim made by a Congregational minister from New York that charges of unlawfulness against the Klan were unfounded.[27]  The writer insisted the Klan was not against either Jews or Catholics, but rather was a Christian organization that resisted, again quoting Simmons, “the combination of church state in the United States.”  

Not once does the writer broach the essential identifying feature of the Ku Klux Klan, the honoring, advocating, and advancing the idea of white supremacy.  He intimates it only when describing why the Klan has come back into existence.  America had “arrived at the watershed of destiny.”  A conspiracy of “a silent penetration of our national institutions has been going on.”  The writer warned, “Subtle mischief is at work.  Nefarious combinations have grown so powerful as to present a national menace.”  The Klan stands against these evil interests.  The closest the writer comes to acknowledging the Klan’s white agenda is to say, “native Americans are sweeping into its ranks by the hundred thousand.”  They do so he claimed to resist the establishing of a Communistic government.  They fight against the foreign drug peddler, “who came over to this country to be a parasite on our body politic.” The join the Klan “to drive these monsters from our midst.”  Faced with these dangers, “A few men thought that something ‘ought to be done.’”  Not once does the writer mention white supremacy. He writes as if he were ignorant of this belief the very heart and soul of the Klan. The white movement for white Protestant Americans hidden behind the writer’s conclusion is made visible by inserting the adjective “white”: “that the [white] churches never had a more active ally, the [white] state a more determined champion; our [white] homes a more resolute defender, and lawlessness and vice [committed by those designated as not white] a more powerful foe that the Ku Klux Klan [a white organization committed to white supremacy].

Gray gave space in the Moody magazine for a second writer to compliment the Ku Klux Klan.[28]  This writer assured the magazine’s readership, “I have for over twelve months conducted a most comprehensive investigation of the ideals, principles, teachings and activities of the Klan and have come to the slow and deliberate conclusion that there is not now organized in America a more hopeful secret society.”  This second propagandist for the Klan matches the tactic of the first.  He too like the first seeks to recruit support for the Klan, yet avoids speaking of any belief in the idea of white supremacy.  The Klan is a “positive and active friend” of Protestant Christianity.  It is an advocate of biblical instruction in public schools.  It is an “active defender of virtue in American womanhood.” It is the ally of law enforcement and the enemy of “foreign ideals that have today massed for the destruction of American ideals and standards of living.”  Lastly, this sympathizer of the Klan tells Moody’s readers that “there is massed against the Klan an array of foes that constitute her most flattering recommendation.”  Without naming any of these enemies he nonetheless insists, “Protestant Christians need do nothing more, in arriving at a favorable estimate of the Klan, than to study the nature and activities of the foes of the organization.” Cursory knowledge of the Klan’s ideology publicly disseminated clearly identified these foes as Roman Catholics, Jews and Negroes.”

Gray decided to publish this written infomercial in spite of its false portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan.   By the end of 1923 it was inexcusable to allow a writer to deliberately avoid openly declaring the obvious truth of the Ku Klux Klan, that it stood as Funderburk already put it, “one hundred per cent Americanism and white supremacy.” It is an affront to both common decency and common sense to disseminate apologies for the good services of the Klan to Protestant Christianity and for what it stands without explicitly stating its sole purpose for existing was to guarantee white supremacy in America.  If Gray wanted to give the readership of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine a fair appraisal of the Klan he could have referred them to the pamphlet published in May 1923 for the Reference Shelf, a standard reference source for libraries and universities in the United States since 1898.[29]  Relying upon this reputable source Gray could have published the first three statements of faith stated in the Ku Klux Klan Kreed: 

1.  WE, THE ORDER of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, reverentially acknowledge the majesty and supremacy of the Divine Being, and recognize the goodness and providence of the same.

2.  WE RECOGNIZE our relation to the Government of the United States of America, the Supremacy of its Constitution, the Union of states thereunder, and the Constitutional Laws thereof, and we shall be ever devoted to the sublime principles of a pure Americanism and valiant in the defense of its ideals and institutions.

3.  WE AVOW THE distinction between the races of mankind as same has been decreed by the Creator, and shall ever be true in the faithful maintenance of White Supremacy and will strenuously oppose any compromise thereof in any and all things.[30]

The meaning of supremacy does not change as it was applied in the Kreed’s three spheres. God is attributed with primacy, dominance and eminence as the supreme power with sole authority over all creation. The constitution possesses the same privileged position over all the laws that govern the United States. Correspondingly, the ideas and status of the native born Protestant white race rightfully possessed supreme power and authority over Roman Catholics, foreigners, Jews, and black citizens in America. Gray facilitated mainstreaming Klan racism by not allowing it to be mentioned in the pages of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine. He made the public platform of the Moody Bible Institute a mouthpiece for communicating a distorted and disingenuous image of the Ku Klux Klan.  He did this in the moment of the Klan’s spurt of growth after World War I, when a sound theological evaluation grounded in the teachings of the Bible would have had the greatest effect in warning fundamentalist/evangelical Christians to avoid association with it because of its false and hateful teachings. Regardless of his personal motives, the effect of this editorial decision helped make the Ku Klux Klan palatable for the magazine’s readership.

Twice he felt compelled to defend his actions in the pages of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine.  Gray inserted himself in the conversation in a June 1923 editorial.[31]  Gray deceptively declared, “We believe in giving our readers an opportunity to hear both sides of such a subject.”  Gray’s feigned fairness actually gave the Klan an undeserving veneer of legitimacy by censuring any mention save a single sentence of its advocacy for white supremacy or its unorthodox Christian teachings.  Gray pointed out to his critics that, “The contributions for which we assume…responsibility only are those over our own names, or which are found on our editorial pages.”  Gray wrote, “Our personal views on the Ku Klux Klan, for example, were expressed on page 240 of our February issue.”  This editorial relied upon the propaganda published by the pro-Klan Colonel Mayfield’s Weekly , which Gray used to cast the organization in a positive light. He did this by cherry-picking the original article which was published in The Literary Digest [see MBI’s Execrable Dalliance with the KKK, Part One]. He assiduously avoided any mention of white supremacy.  

Again, in December 1923, Gray referred back to this same February editorial in answering a correspondent who inquired as to why the Moody Bible Institute Magazine had not taken a stand over the Klan, since it published “nothing clean-cut in an editorial way.”[32]  The writer urged Gray, “If the thing is right and necessary, why not help to give it momentum; if wrong, sound the alarm, or at least give a warning before it is too late.”  Looking back to his February editorial Gray pontificated, “Our correspondent in saying that he recalls ‘nothing clean-cut in an editorial way’ as appearing in our pages, may have overlooked an editorial in the February issue in which we commended the good features of the Ku Klux Klan, pointed out the bad as we considered them, and raised a question mark against those which we did not understand.”  This is an inaccurate description of what he wrote.  Gray’s caveat as he “considered them” could mean he did not consider anything to do with the Klan as being bad. In any case, Gray never acknowledged the perverted teaching of the Ku Klux Klan that advocated a kind of Christian identity that recognized white supremacy as a gift from God. Therefore, he avoided taking a stand either for against the sinful teaching. Without publishing its essential identity as a white brotherhood, he weakly asked, “Is such a brotherhood compatible with the true brotherhood of Christ?”

In May 1923, Grant Stroh under the heading of “Practical and Perplexing Questions,” answered an inquiry by informing the readership of the Moody Bible Institute Monthly, “The only way we know whereby you can get the rules and doctrines of the Ku Klux Klan is by joining the order.”[33]  This was not true.  The Ku Klux Klan was a proselytizing pseudo-Christian cult.  It publicized its aims and beliefs to increase its numbers.  For example, in January 1923 multiple Chicago newspapers carried reviews of The Invisible Empire, a play both defining and defending the organization.[34]  At that time according to historian Kelly Baker the Chicago-based Klan weekly, The Dawn: The Herald of a New and Better Day celebrated in an April 1923 edition a circulation of 50,000, with demand being met by even selling it at newsstands for ten cents a copy.  The popular Indiana based Klan weekly; The Fiery Cross began sales in July 1922.  The national newsweekly of the Klan, The Imperial Night-Hawk, began publishing in 1923.  These organs, as well as other regional publications, “served as a means to instantiate the Klan’s worldview and to verse readers in the order’s goals.”  Whether members or not, by reading a Klan newspaper one could learn “its politics, ethics, and actions” as well as “it portrayal of faith and nation.”[35] 

James M. Gray spoke and wrote against Christian Science and modernism as corrupters of the true gospel in accordance with the inspired word of God.  He never subjected the teachings of the Klan to that same standard.  James M. Gray never used the pages of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine to expose the Klan’s fiery cross for what it truly is; a counterfeit cultic symbol looked to by those who for it sought to replace the Bible’s cross of cavalry.   Gray not only ignored the Klan’s commitment to white supremacy.  He also failed to tell students of the Bible and readers of the Institute’s magazine that the racist organization grounded itself in bad theology rooted in a bad reading of the Bible.  That failure was Gray’s, and therefore, the Institute’s greatest sin of omission. 

The Klan made American institutions – white institutions they claimed – holy institutions that God established and blessed for His purposes in behalf of all humankind.  The Klan’s national newspaper, the Imperial Night-Hawk, published in April 1923 an article outlining the founding principles of the Klan.  It described the initiation ritual in reverent religious terms.  The new Klansmen were “bound together as brothers in a common cause by [a] sacred, solemn and patriotic obligation.”  They were “arrayed in robes of white, like the redeemed host of heaven, emblematic of a pure life and a spotless character; in the light of [the] fiery cross, the symbol of heaven’s richest gift and earth’s greatest tragedy.”  They stood “under the fluttering folds of the Stars and Stripes, the symbol of Freedom and Justice.”  They swore, “to defend the right, uphold the law and oppose the wrong.”  They acknowledged they were “a part of a Great Invisible Empire, like unto the Church of the Living God during the dark ages of Roman rule.”[36]  Former Klan member Henry P. Fry had already published his condemnation of the Klan in 1922, which included his condemnation of this “naturalization” ritual.  He publically condemned it to be a “blasphemous and sacrilegious mockery of the holy rite of baptism, wherein for political and financial purposes, you have polluted with your infamous parody those things that Christians, regardless of creed or dogma, hold most sacred.”[37]  The Imperial Night-Hawk catechized its readers in its August 1923 edition about how God inspired white America’s political life.  “Who is it doubts the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of these United States were God inspired?  Who is it doubts that God Himself will prosper and cherish a people who accept Christ as their example, the cross and the living fire as their symbols.”[38]  In the November 1923 edition of its national newspaper the Klan identified itself as the “civic Messiah” that was “leading the nation into the clear, pure air of liberty.”[39] 

One example suffices to place beyond question the fact that the Klan was a white American, pseudo-Protestant cult.  The Fiery Cross was a Klan newspaper established in Indianapolis in July 1922.  Sold on at least a dozen different newsstands in the city, as well as mailed to subscribers, it boasted having a circulation of 125,000 in August 1923.  Whether exaggerated or not, its content was readily available to the public.   The January 5th 1923 edition answered the rhetorical question, why wear the mask, in part by saying:

“Most secret groups keep in concealment their deeds and ideals and vows, though proudly revealing their membership, while the ‘Invisible Empire’ openly carries on its glorious works, makes public its ideals and before the assembled multitudes takes its sacred vows, although it willfully and designedly throws the mantle of concealment over its membership.”[40] 

In its July 4th 1923 edition it carried an article titled, “The White Horseman of the Apocalypse.”  The author interprets the 19th chapter of the Book of Revelation as referring not to Christ, but to the Ku Klux Klan.  “Who then, is the white horseman?  The white horseman is the Klansman of today.  How do we know this to be true?  We know this to be true because the 19th chapter of Revelations he is perfectly described.”  Among other proofs, the writer said, “In Revelation 19:13 we read: ‘And he is arrayed in a garment dipped in blood and his name is called ‘the Word of God.’  The blood in this case refers to the red which is found on the robe of the Klansman.  The Word of God refers to the truth for which the white rider takes his stand.”  The writer took Revelation 19:14 as “a vivid description of the Ku Klux Klan in action and on the warpath against sin, ignorance, Romanism, etc.  We read that the armies go forth clothed in fine linen, white and pure.”[41]

The Klan was a proselytizing organization that sought to recruit men and women through the media, especially the printed word.  Writes historian Kelly J. Baker, “Klan print journals, speeches, fictional works, newspapers, pamphlets, position papers, and broadsides document the religious worldview of the Klan.”  “The order” she explains, “imagined a white Protestant America in print, artifacts, rallies and speeches.”[42]    

The sad legacy of the Moody Bible Institute under the leadership of its Dean/President James M. Gray in his capacity as editor-in-chief of the Moody Bible Institute Magazine was that it was more secretive about the content of the Klan’s false gospel and its belief in white supremacy than the Klan itself.

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

[1] The Moody Bible Commentary scholars examining this chapter in the book of Genesis, which they teach “closes the section in which he is the main character,” pay no attention to this significant event in Jacob’s life.  They do however; point out that God caused “a great terror…upon the cities” which surrounded Jacob’s family as they struck out on their assigned journey.   Seeing God’s people following Him without carrying any idols always strikes the world with terror, even as it does the god of this world. 

[2] Zeresh Haman, “’Get to Fightin or get away’”: The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, STMU History Media (11/3/2017), accessed at https://stmuhistorymedia.org/get-to-fightin-or-get-away-the-gunfight-at-the-o-k-corral/.

[3] Donald G. Bloesch, The Ground of Certainty: Toward an Evangelical Theology of Revelation (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2002, orig. William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1971), p. 77.  Emphasis added.

[4] Daniel Hill, White Lies, Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2020), p. 253. 

[5] Bob Dylan, “Changing of the Guards,” Special Rider Music, Street Legal, Columbia Record (1978).

[6] Curtis Lee Laws, “Fundamentalism From the Baptist Viewpoint,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly (September 1922), p. 15.

[7] John Anthony Turchenseske, Jr., “The Ku Klux Klan in Northwestern Wisconsin (Master’s Thesis), Wisconsin State University – River Falls (1971), available at The State of Wisconsin Collection,   http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.KKKinNWWisc.  Cites Testimony of Pat Malone, State of Wisconsin v. Pat Malone November 15-17, 1926, Oconto County Court House, Oconto, Wisconsin (hereafter cited as Malone Trial), p. 98 (fn #22), “However, Malone’s veracity in this instance is questionable.  Both Drake University and Moody Bible Institute have no records of an Arthur William Malone Register, Drake University, January 21, 1971 and Roy Shewy, Registrar, Moody Bible Institute, January 8, 1871, to John A. Turchenseske, Jr.) (fn #23), p. 13.

[8] Kenneth T. Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930, with a New Foreword by the Author (Chicago: Elephant Paperback, 1992; orig. Oxford University 1967), Locations 1434 and 1445 of 5833. 

[9] Ibid., Locations 1471, 1536, 1546

[10] Kenneth T. Jackson, “Ku Klux Klan,” Encyclopedia of Chicago, accessed at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/696.html

[11] Robert S. Abbott, “Ku Klux Klan Made Possible By Bigotry and Cowardice of American White Man,” Chicago Defender (2 September 1922), p. 1, quoted and cited in Charlesetta Maria Ellis, “Robert S. Abbott’s Response to Education for African Americans via the Chicago Defender, 1909-1940,” (dissertation), Loyola University Chicago (1994), p. 181.

[12] James M. Gray, “General Pershing Speaks Out,” Moody Bible Institute Magazine (February 1923), p. 240.

[13] Rev. A. R. Funderburk, “The Ku Klux Klan-Is It of God?” Moody Bible Institute Magazine (March 1923), p. 291-292.

[14]See Robert Moats Miller, “Á Note on the Relationship between the Protestant Churches and the Revived Ku Klux Klan,” The Journal of Southern History, vol. 22, no. 3 (August 1956), pp. 355-368.   Based in part on the record of material published in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly under the editorship of James M. Gray, Robert E. Wenger concluded that “fundamentalist literature…reveals little sympathy for the Klan,” claiming the Dean of MBI “personally remained critical.”  He included James M. Gray among the fundamentalists who “criticized, condemned or ignored the Ku Klux Klan.”  Robert E. Wenger, Social Thought in American Fundamentalism, 1918-1933 (Eugen, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2007; previous University Microfilms, 1974), pp. 205, 208.  Within the context of his examining the fundamentalist-modernist debate, Joel Carpenter noted, “Gray criticized the Ku Klux Klan rather mildly”.   Carpenter also points out Gray “sympathized with Henry Ford’s charge that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion documented a Jewish world conspiracy.”  Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again, The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 42.  This writers review of the record leads to the conclusion that James M. Gray never endorsed the Ku Klux Klan, however, he never condemned it either.

[15] An article about how AskHistorians, one of the largest history forums on the internet, deals with Holocaust deniers sheds light on the danger of providing an allegedly neutral platform to publically air evil ideas.  See Johannes Breit, “How One of the Internet’s Biggest History Forums Deals With Holocaust Deniers,” Slate (7/20/2018), accessed at https://slate.com/technology/2018/07/the-askhistorians-subreddit-banned-holocaust-deniers-and-facebook-should-too.html.  

[16] Rev. A. R. Funderburk, “The Ku Klux Klan-Is It of God?” Moody Bible Institute Magazine (March 1923), p. 291-292.

[17] Ibid., p. 293.

[18] William Joseph Simmons, The Klan Unmasked (Atlanta, Georgia: Wm. E. Thompson Publishing Co., 1923), pp. 21-22.

[19] Ibid., p. 23.

[20] Ibid., pp. 23-24.

[21]Arnold S. Rice, The Ku Klux Klan In American Politics (Washington, D. C.: Public Affairs Press, 1962), p. 19.

[22] Ibid, p. 20, from a 1923 Ku Klux Klan information pamphlet, Ideals of the Ku Klux Klan (Atlanta, 1923), pp. 3-4. 

[23] John Moffat Mecklin, the Ku Klux Klan: A Study of the American Mind (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1924), pp. 26-27.

[24] Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004), p. 23.  Taylor’s definition of the social imaginary is “colorblind.” He defines it as “the ways people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectation (p. 23).”  I suggest Taylor’s definition is itself a demonstration of how whiteness exerts its influence while remaining unnamed and unnoticed.  For us who are white, we are dependent upon others designated as non-white for the conceptual equipment we need to see the invisible presence of whiteness.

[25] Moody Bible Institute Magazine (April 1923), p. 399.

[26] John Bradbury, “Defending the Ku Klux Klan – A Reply to Mr. Funderburk, Moody Bible Institute (May 1923), pp. 420-421.

[27] Newell Dwight Hillis, “New York’s Anti-Klan Outburst,” The Literary Digest, LXXX (December 23, 1922).  He does not however quote Hillis who said in the same article, “the Klan should be defended by every white American who is not under the domination of the Church of Rome.”  Location 2698 of 5833, Kenneth T. Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930.

[28] Bob Schuler, “Investigate the Ku Klux Klan,” (December 1923), p. 182.

[29] Julia E. Johnsen, “Ku Klux Klan,” the Reference Shelf, vol. 1, no. 10 (May 1923): pp. 1-105.

[30] Ibid., p. 47.

[31] “Ku Klux Klan,” MBIM (June, 1923), p. 459.

[32] “The Ku Klux Klan,” MBIM (December, 1923), p. 163.

[33] Grant Stroh, “Practical and Perplexing Questions,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly (May 1923), p. 427

[34] The Chicago Daily Journal (1/2/1923) and the Chicago Evening Post (1/4/1923).  See Tom Rice, “The True Story of the Ku Klux Klan”: Defining the Klan through Film,” Journal of American Studies vol. 42, no. 3 (2008), footnote #35, p. 476.  The Klan had made its first movie produced in Ohio in October 1923.  Ibid.

[35] Kelly J. Baker, Gospel According to the Klan, The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2011), p. 24.

[36] “Texas Klansman Outlines Principles Upon Which the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Is Founded,” Imperial Night-Hawk (April 1923), quoted by Juan O. Sánchez, Religion and the Ku Klux Klan, Biblical Appropriation in Their Literature and Songs (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2016), p. 1.

[37] Henry P. Fry, The Modern Ku Klux Klan (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1922), p. 27. 

[38] Ibid., p. 5

[39] Ibid. 

[40] V. Y B., “Why the Mask,” The Fiery Cross (January 5, 1923), p. 4Accessed through Indiana University Bloomington’s Collection: Digital Archive: Fiery Cross at https://libraries.indiana.edu/collection-digital-archive-fiery-cross.

[41] Rev. Chas. H. Gunsolus, “White Horseman of the Apocalypse,” The Fiery Cross (July 4, 1922), p. 18.  Accessed through Indiana University Bloomington’s Collection: Digital Archive: Fiery Cross at https://libraries.indiana.edu/collection-digital-archive-fiery-cross.    

[42] Kelly J. Baker, Gospel According to the Klan, The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2011), p. 32.


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