"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good ...
"Ideology - that is what gives devildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors."
- Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[While Solzhenitsyn no doubt had in mind the Communist elite of the old Soviet Union when he made these comments, they could just as well have been directed at the activity of today's Religious Right as it seeks to "take the country back for Christ and the Church."]
Today it's fashionable to dismiss talk of conspiracy theories - or a belief in conspiracism - as the prattle of uneducated naïfs. This is certainly what the mainline media and "establishment" pundits would have us think. For example, take the way the conspiracy theories of today's militia movement are treated: essentially, they are written off as the product of an unsophisticated "redneck" and "blue collar" paranoia. But if that's so, it's a paranoia that the "establishment's" own proven lies and deceit have helped to fashion over the last thirty years: Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, the Contra fiasco, Irangate, the MIA controversy, etc. - all deliberate government fabrications (and recognized as such by most civil libertarians)! - lies which have over the years eaten away like an acid at the historic trust most so-called "redneck" and "blue collar" Americans have historically had for their government.
As a result, there exists today a basic notion in "blue collar" communities throughout the country that the government is simply incapable of telling the truth; and that, therefore, its heated denials regarding F.E.M.A., the "black helicopters," the stationing of UN troops in remote areas, etc. cannot be taken seriously. The plain fact of the matter is, an aura of deceit now surrounds the government and bathes it in a light which is not conducive to engendering trust.
Commenting on the paranoia that grips today's militia movement, Christopher John Farley, writing in Time Magazine, says,
"Patriots ... fear that foreign powers, working through organizations like the United Nations and treaties like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization), are eroding the power of America as a sovereign nation."
Specifically, militia members assert that the United States is being subverted from within by a clandestine and sinister cabal of multicultural, multi-racial, "one world" New Age elitists dedicated to the destruction of Western Civilization and the Christian religion. [Please see our article, "The Civilian Militias & The Mythology Of The Religious Right."]
According to militia members, the cabal operates out of the United Nations and has been secretly stationing UN troops in isolated areas throughout the country in preparation for the takeover - and some speak in hushed whispers of actually seeing secret highway signs meant to guide UN forces. In addition, members believe that the appearance of mysterious formations of "black helicopters" in the sky over certain areas of the country is a prelude to the takeover; and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) is the cabal's principle coordinating agency in the country charged with the responsibility for managing the seizure. [It's interesting to note in this connection that an Associated Press release in June of 1997 confirmed the fact that there is substance to "black helicopter" sightings; according to the AP, the "black helicopters" are associated with secret Special Forces training designed to prepare U.S. forces for urban warfare. The training has from time to time been carried out on a clandestine basis in the continental U.S. The AP revelation came as a great embarrassment to liberal critics of conservative conspiracy theorists who had ridiculed militia outrage over this matter.]
For example, in Fort Bragg, California, Mike Howse - a 42-year-old auto body repair shop owner and an interim unit commander of a citizen's militia group - says,
"... the UN. troops and equipment that are in the country ... (are here to) be used to disarm the people ... In fact, that seems to be what they're training for. The government won't give you a figure. We've received figures from people in the military that ... say they know of up to 800,000 here. I don't thing there's that many. The closest approximation is up to 300,000."
And there's more! - on a video promoting patriot ideas, a man who gives his name only as "Mark from Michigan" says he fears that America will be subsumed into "one big, fuzzy, warm planet where nobody has any borders," and Samuel Sherwood, head of the United States Militia Association in Blackfoot, Idaho, tells followers that the Clinton Administration is planning to import 100,000 Chinese policemen to take guns away from Americans. ["Mark" and several others mentioned in this report have since "passed from the scene" - and have been replaced by even more radical figures.]
Junas warns that militia organizers in Eastern Montana have been
"...encouraging their audiences to form citizens' militias to protect themselves from the impending military threat."
To a great extent, the origins of this mistrust can be traced back to a single event and a single moment: the morning of November 22, 1963 - the assassination of JFK; specifically, to the government's explanation of that event.
Without question, the unease and discomfort surrounding the government's account of the JFK assassination has done more to undermine the public's confidence in the government than any other single event in the last half of the twentieth century. Indeed, a November 1994 CBS News poll indicates that 89 percent of the population (up from 52 percent in 1963) now believes that the assassination was the result of an elaborate plot, and 81 percent believe that the government has conspired to hide the truth regarding the assassination from the public. And unless one is prepared to say that 89 percent of the American populace is "wacko," hardly a vote of confidence for democracy, than one is left with the thought that there may indeed be some justification for the anxiety most militia members exhibit toward their government's basic "truthfulness."
The fact is, the great majority of Americans now believe that the Warren Commission Report was nothing more than a government fabrication - a giant cover-up typical of countless others which have been perpetrated on the American public since - and, despite attempts to quash such thinking by "responsible authorities," there is a good deal of evidence - not all of it generated out of the "nut circuit" - which tends to support such a thesis.
Sacramento Bee reporter Sam Stanton reports that it is exactly this kind of government subterfuge and duplicity that has essentially produced the anxiety that is driving the conspiratorial belief systems which now seem to surround most of the militias - a suspicion of the government so vast and extensive that many of the militias currently operate as "cell groups" analogous to those used by the IRA and other terrorist groups - a stratagem designed to prevent civil authorities from obtaining their membership lists.
John Newman, a former analyst at the National Security Agency concurs with Stanton's thinking. He remarks that essentially what the government has produced by all its lies over the last thirty years is a deep distrust of government by ordinary people - a conviction that the government is simply incapable of telling the truth. Commenting specifically on the government cover-up of the JFK assassination, Newman writes,
"In a sense it doesn't matter to me who killed Kennedy. What matters is whether we're told the truth about it today. If you study recent American history, the lies about Vietnam, Watergate, and on and on, and see the level of cynicism and malaise that's grown up, it's frightening."
"These notions that the government may be plotting against its citizens are common among militia members and have helped spur its tremendous growth ... that the United Nations may be preparing to sweep into cities and take over, that FEMA may be used to suspend the Constitution and could arrest people without cause, that so-called "black helicopters" used for spying by the government have been spotted nationwide. In years past, such talk was largely limited to shadowy anti-government groups such as the Posse Comitatus or others that came to prominence briefly in the 1980s. Today, however, it stems from (the) militias ..."
Mike Reynolds of Klanwatch warns that this kind of paranoia can't be bottled up forever. It's eventually going to result in something - and given the fact that the militias are well armed, that "something" could spell disaster. He says,
"... what we're seeing in these militia groups is ... (that they are) extremely paranoid, (and) they're extremely well-armed. Their fax messages, their computer (bulletin) board messages are just aiming for violent confrontation, which will happen sooner or later if the paranoia stays up like this."
Stanton believes that two recent events have added fuel to militia tendencies toward violent confrontation with the government: one was the Randy Weaver siege at Ruby Ridge that began August 21, 1992 in the mountains of Idaho. The standoff was precipitated when US. marshals went to the white separatist's cabin to arrest him on a weapons charge - a charge which a court later found was nothing more than a setup - and ended 10 days later after marshals had killed Weaver's wife and son. The other, which has led to a burning hatred against the government by many militia members, was the attack on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas for which they blame Janet Reno who, they allege, is nothing more than a "flaming faggot" bent on imposing homosexuality and militant feminism on the country at large.
In both instances, a great many unanswered questions remain - not only in the minds of militia members, but in the minds of countless others, including many civil libertarians - about the government's involvement. Charges of government cover-ups revolve around both attacks - and Weaver's acquittal on most of the government's charges has added fuel to militia anxieties against the government. Furthermore, the all-too-obvious "star chamber" proceedings against the remaining Branch Davidians have only buttressed militia suspicions - so much so that Linda Thompson, the self-appointed "Acting Adjutant General of the Unorganized Militia of the USA" has called for an armed march on Washington to demand an investigation of the Waco siege. Frank Swan, a trucker who is a member of a militia unit in Montana, says,
"The Waco thing really woke me up. They went in there and killed women and children."
Farley writes that the incidents at Waco and Ruby Ridge have helped convince
"... many would-be militia members that the US government is repressive as well as violently antigun and untrustworthy."
The attacks on Randy Weaver and the Branch Davidian compound have convinced most militia members that the government is utterly evil and will stop at nothing in order to carry out its "One World" designs - and in this respect the government has done little to allay militia fears with regard to this matter in the clumsy way it has tried to "cover" the matter up, as a report by the University of California (Berkeley) laid bare. One of the findings of the report indicated that the government's explanation as to how the fire at the compound began was not truthful - it's not at all the way the mainline media and the government have attempted to portray it. The report says,
"If you don't believe that the residents started the fire, how do you explain the tapes where voices are saying, 'Pour the fuel'? A little over a month before the April 19 fire, FBI tank drivers tried to remove three steel drums that sat on a frame outside of Mt. Carmel's 'southern' wall. In the process, they tipped over those drums, which contained diesel fuel and gasoline. Koresh berated the FBI for using tanks to remove those drums. He believed that the exhaust systems on those tanks threw sparks, and when the tanks passed over the fuel that they'd split, he thought that they were likely to set themselves on fire. 'Those tanks aren't fireproof, you know', he warned the federal lawmen. The 'pour the fuel' reference-between six and seven o'clock on the morning of April 19, five to six hours before any fire-reflects back on that incident. Koresh and his cronies may have been trying to lay a trap for the tanks. The object was defensive, not suicidal."
This is the kind of "stuff" that drives militia members into fits of rage, and ratchets their paranoia higher and higher. Schneider writes that most militia members believe that the government now aims at "... utterly crush(ing) all those who resist ... (its 'one world' aspirations)." Jim Southwell, a 43-year old Montana real estate agent who says he served in the navy in the early 1970s and who is also a militia activist, confirms Schneider's assessment. He says,
"What's driving this movement (i.e., the militia movement) is the lesson being taught by the American government (itself) ... That lesson is that you are not in control of your life, your children, your home. The government is in control. And if you push back, if you cross the government, they will come down on you hard."
Mike Howse, the interim unit commander of the citizen's militia group at Fort Bragg, California, says,
"A lot of people I'm sure have called ... (us) paranoid. A couple of years ago I probably would have called it paranoid, too - (but) not any more (after the Weaver and Branch Davidian incidents)"
Yes, there is more to conspiracy theories than meets the eye - but there is a twist to it - a twist that we as Christians had better note very, very carefully. Hiding the truth - which is what generates conspiracy theories in the first place - is an activity of the elites. It's not an activity in which the "left-outs" of society can easily participate. And it is a very expensive activity - not one in which those who don't have a lot of money can engage. And exactly who is it that the Religious Right is getting itself in bed with? - well, it's certainly not the "Worker's Party," or the socialists (which essentially derive their support from the "left-outs" of society)! The ironic truth of the matter is, the leaders of the Religious Right are currently in the process of getting into bed with the very elites who have been responsible over the years of perpetrating the very conspiracies which have so enraged its "rank and file" members. Now that's what we in Antipas would call an IRONY!!
The trade-off between the two groups [i.e., the Religious Right and the economic elites (which essentially is represented by the establishment wing of the Republican Party)] is a simple one: the economic elite agrees to support financially the cultural agenda of the Christian evangelicals, while Christian have agreed to support many of the economic policies of the Republican elite. In other words, the Religious Right has been "bought off." Evangelicals are playing in a game they are bound to lose. They're being used. They've become the "toadies" of the world's super elite. No doubt they think to do good with the money they've received as a result of the bargain they've struck - build bigger churches, create better programs, etc. But in the end, they'll choke on the money and rue the day they ever made such a bargain.
This effort is made all the easier by liberals (mostly Democrats) who insist on pushing gay rights, radical feminism, militant secularism, abortion on demand, women in combat, affirmative action, unrestricted immigration, minority rights, etc. - in the political market place to an electorate which is really no longer buying this kind of liberalism, a liberalism which many in America's mainstream are beginning to believe has run amok. In furtherance of this strategy, American business leaders have been pouring money into Religious Right organizations (especially those organizations which are attempting to "take America back" from the "secular-humanists") and in the process helping Religious Right activists ratchet up the Christian community all the more against the so-called "liberals."
The genius in all this lies in the fact that the anger so generated has blinded most Christians to what the business community has been doing to them economically. Peter warned,
"... with feigned words (they are) mak(ing) merchandise of you ..." (2 Pet. 2:3)
But let's pause now and examine all this more closely. What follows will constitute the opening article in a series on "Conspiracy Theories, the Elites, and the Religious Right."
The elite can be called the arbiters (or referees) of the status quo - the status quo being defined as "the way things are presently constituted or organized" - and it can be the status quo of anything: a business, a social club, a fraternal organization, a union, a political party, a church or a church denomination - even a whole society, nation or civilization. The elite, then, of any one of these groups are the ones who are in control - who make up the rules, who act as the referees as to "how the game is played." As a result, the elites are those who have a STAKE in the way things are organized. They are the ones who benefit from the way the "game is played" - and the specific benefits can be any number of things - money, prestige, power, etc.
Sociologist C. Wright Mills defines the American elite - those who are in charge of the way the "game" is played in the United States - as (1) the upper classes and the wealthy; (2) the political directorate at the top of the government including the perennial "lawyer-statesman;" (3) the large industrialists; (4) other corporate executives and owners; and (5) that vague status system known as "celebrity."1 To this category others have added (6) the media; and (7) the university and educational establishment. Finally, with the growing power of the Religious Right, a not insignificant number of academicians have begun adding (8) the leadership of the major religious institutions (especially conservative religious organizations). These are the groups which (despite the fact that some of them are in open competition with others) control America - these are the ones which have a stake in the status quo - and all of them are committed in one way or another to maintaining that status quo.
One of the primary ways in which elites maintain the status quo is by quashing any and all information which could challenge their qualification or "right" to rule, and the manner in which they govern. This is important - because throughout history elites have been challenged and eventually destroyed when their "qualifications" have been soiled and besmirched to the extent that they no longer can command the respect of those whom they govern - and this is especially so in democracies or in democratically controlled organizations, although it is also true in absolutist organizations as the outcome of the French Revolution and the recent collapse of communism so adequately demonstrate.
Despite the mythology which surrounds elite power, it is in reality a very delicate and fragile thing. Challenges to that control have a way of expanding once they take hold among the governed; assaults which are initially (and sometimes quite legitimately) mounted against one individual or segment of the elite have a way of extending to other members, and from there on ad infinitum. It's for this reason that elites often feel obligated to spring to the defense of even their most offensive members, of quashing information (even well-substantiated information) which - should it become public knowledge and believed - could incite enough anger to cause the kind of discontent which might eventually lead to their destruction.
Once such challenges gain "critical mass," all bets are off and the elite can easily become prey to the mob.
The success or failure of challenges to elite control are often predicated on the ability elites have in getting the governed to identify themselves with the elite. If they are successful, then even legitimate challenges to their control can be thwarted; if they are unsuccessful, then even spurious challenges cannot be withstood. The legitimacy or illegitimacy of the actual facts presented by the challengers to elite control often have only peripheral importance in such contests. What's really important is whether or not the governed identify themselves with the elite, and whether or not they perceive the challenge against the elite as a challenge against themselves and their interests or not. This is not to say that elites have nothing to fear when they have succeeded in associating themselves with the interests of the governed - legitimate challenges to their control, even when mounted in "good times," have a long-range corrosive effect.
Let's pause now and examine this phenomenon in the light of two powerful elites: (1) that which controls today's evangelical movement, and (2) that which controls the larger American society; to understand the pathologies at work in the one is to understand the pathologies at work in the other - and insofar as "old-line" evangelicals are concerned, this knowledge will go a long way in explaining the reaction of the evangelical elites to people like Dave Hunt, Al Dager, Pauline MacPherson, Constance Cumbey, Jewel van der Merwe, etc. - a reaction which bears little connection to the legitimacy or illegitimacy (i.e., the "rightness" or "wrongness") of the facts these people have marshaled against the current direction of the evangelical movement.
For years a number of "old-line" evangelicals have wondered - and quite legitimately it would appear - about what's happening in today's evangelical movement. They've asked themselves, Where are the voices of dissent today against the dangerous but growing transformation of the evangelical community from the church of Dwight Moody, Harry Ironside, Donald Barnhouse and C.T. Studd's World Evangelistic Crusade to the church of Paul and Jan Crouch, Morris Cerrillo, John Wimber and the so-called "Promise Keepers?" Where is the godly cry from our leadership against the church's politicization by forces which seek to use the church simply as a means to advance their own elitist economic and far right political agendas? Where is the anguished cry against the developing ecumenicism between the Roman Catholic Church and the evangelicals? Where is the outrage against Tim LaHaye for taking money from the Moonies? Where is the righteous fury against Pat Robertson's, Larry Lea's, and Cubie Ward's involvement with Death Squad activity in Central and South America? It's all too obvious that, for the most part, there has been no reaction - except perhaps for that which passes as such in the hushed whisperings that take place behind closed doors and stamped "leaders only" - coy, tactful and "delicate" debates by leaders who have already resolved not to "name names" and call anyone's "theological integrity" into question.
Countless numbers of befuddled "old-line" evangelicals have asked themselves, Where are the Martin Luthers of our day? The Jonathan Edwards? The Increase and Cotton Mathers? - the pastors and leaders who would dare to shout out an answer to this apostasy from their own pulpits - and hang the cost to themselves personally? There appears instead only the skittish, mouse-like shuffling of "position papers" and the concomitant demand for more "proof" - and, sadly, in the shuffling of all that bureaucratic paper and the demands for "more proof," many honestly bewildered "old-line" evangelicals cannot help but hear the "death rattle" of the church they have served and loved so well - a foreboding stillness that resembles more a corpse-like hush than anything else; a quiet that is broken only by the muffled sound of the steady tramp, tramp, tramp of millions of feet on their way to hell because of our failure as evangelicals to preach a clear Gospel - the feet of people who have been seduced by "Another Gospel" and "Another Christ."
And why all this skittishness and timidity on the part of today's evangelical leadership? - it's the same as with all elites, whether religious or secular: they have too much to lose to throw caution to the wind and fearlessly speak out - their paychecks, the hard-won respect of their congregations and peers in the pastorate, their social status, the recognition they have finally achieved from the "powers that be" in the Republican Party apparatus, etc. In short, the evangelical leadership has become a part of the status quo, (i.e., the "establishment") - and while they are perhaps willing to admit that there may indeed be something wrong, they can by no means find the necessary "proof" which they would deem sufficient to cause them to take action - and all this despite the mountains of evidence that has been presented to them by people like Dave Hunt, Al Dager, Pauline MacPherson, the Bobgans, etc. Indeed, their endless cry for ever more evidence is nothing more than a very transparent sham - an excuse to delay, hesitate and obfuscate; an artifice to evade the responsibility to take action.
Dr. Martin Schotz, MD, a psychiatrist in Brookline Massachusetts, writes concerning this phenomenon - and the reality that lies behind it:
"It's important to understand that one of the primary means of immobilizing ... people ... is to hold them in a state of confusion in which anything can be believed but nothing can be known (for sure), nothing of significance that is. "And ... (average) people (if they believe they have a stake in the status quo) are more than willing to be held in this state because to KNOW the truth - as opposed to only BELIEVING the truth [by which Schotz means to think it's probably true (i.e., to suspect that it's true), but to not know for certain - editor] - is to face an awful terror and to be no longer able to evade responsibility. It is precisely in moving from belief (i.e., suspicion) to knowledge that ... (people) move from irresponsibility - from helplessness and hopelessness - to (the responsibility to take) action ..."2
Dr. Schotz's observation goes a long way in explaining the seeming paralysis of people - any people - in the face of a crisis, their refusal to face the true facts of a bad situation: they are afraid of the consequences of the action which they would have to take if they admitted to the truth of the situation.
And this is true not only for evangelicals, but for anyone. In other words, and as we indicated above, the paralysis of the evangelical community's leadership in the face of its profoundly changed circumstances is by no means unique. There are, of course, many examples in any elite which detail the predisposition of "mainline," status quo leaders to avoid admitting to the truth of painful situations, but the one which comes closest to the average American - and the one to which he can probably most easily identify - is the example of the Kennedy assassination and the concomitant reaction of the American elites to this tragic event; their seeming paralysis in the face of what appeared to be an overwhelming and monstrous crime goes a long way in explaining the reaction of the evangelical movement's leadership to Dave Hunt, Al Dager, et. al.
It's for this reason that we will pause now and examine this in detail - noting carefully the reaction of the American elites as the evidence mounted against their efforts to deny what had really occurred. One will be shocked by the parallels to what is occurring today in the evangelical community insofar as the revelations Hunt, etc. are making against elite personalities within the evangelical community. The pathology in both instances (i.e., in the evangelical community with regard to its transformation, and the larger American community with regard to the JFK assassination) is remarkably similar. AND THERE IS A VERY PROFOUND AND SOMBER POINT TO BE MADE IN ALL OF THIS: IT IS FUTILE TO LOOK TO THE ELITES (OR GOVERNING CIRCLES) IN TODAY'S EVANGELICAL COMMUNITY FOR REDRESS TO WHAT IS OCCURRING! WE MUST - AS THE "LITTLE PEOPLE" - LOOK TO OURSELVES!
It isn't that there are not countless numbers of godly men and women who are part of this elite who fervently love the Lord and who honestly are seeking to do His will, it's just that they are a part of an institution that is going in the wrong direction, and there is nothing they can do - other than tampering with odds and ends on the periphery - to change that. It's like someone who is walking west towards New York on a ship which is sailing east towards London and who thinks that by doing so he can with much effort at last reach New York. It's impossible! [Please see our material on the church: "Working Within or Outside of Today's Evangelical Establishment"; "The Jesus Revolution: The Search for the Real Church Life."]
Commenting on the ambivalence of the American elites towards the facts of the JFK assassination, Gaeton Fonzi, author of The Last Investigation - a book which deals with the effort by the elites to cover it up (and, of course, the related willingness of the American public to accept that cover-up) - writes,
"Dr. Schotz is absolutely right. Today most Americans BELIEVE there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, but they don't KNOW it. They don't want to KNOW it - and our government doesn't want to KNOW it and our elected representatives don't want to KNOW it because KNOWING it would mean having to do something about it. That's an awesome thought."3
And Fonzi - who is an award-winning investigative journalist, a former senior editor of Philadelphia magazine, a contributing editor of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News and a former investigator for Richard Schweiker's Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities as well as for the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations (one of the two Congressional committees which finally concluded that the Warren Commission had erred and that the JFK assassination was in fact the result of an elaborate conspiracy) - is absolutely right! While today the public's attitude with regard to the truthfulness of the Warren Report has changed radically from what it was in 1964, there is still a reluctance to ferret out the real truth as to who was really responsible. Indeed, a November 1994 CBS News poll indicates that 89 percent of the population (up from 52 percent in 1963) now believes that the assassination of JFK was the result of an elaborate plot, and 81 percent believe that the government has conspired to hide the truth regarding the assassination from the public.4 And - as we indicated previously - unless one is prepared to say that 89 percent of the American population is "wacko," hardly a vote of confidence for democracy, (to say nothing of the work of the House and Senate Select Committees which concurred in the public's attitude towards the Warren Report) than one is left with the thought that there may indeed be some justification for the public's present and persistent anxiety towards their government's basic "truthfulness."5 But - and this is important - there is still no real "hue and cry" to get at the truth of the matter. Most people instinctively realize that the revelations which would result could cause a fundamental change in the American political system - a change that most are not prepared to embrace - and this is exactly what the leadership of today's evangelical church is afraid of with regard to what Dave Hunt, et. al. are saying.
Again, it's one thing to believe (i.e., to suspect) that the facts of a certain matter are true, but it's quite another to know that they are true. The fact is, that while a great majority of Americans now believe that the Warren Commission Report was nothing more than a government fabrication - a giant cover-up typical of countless others which have been foisted on the American public since (i.e., the Pentagon Papers, Irangate, Iran / Contra, etc.), they don't know that that's the case - and that's somewhat comforting. But that the American public has even come to this point with regard to the facts of the matter is something to be remarked on. That was not always the case and is the direct result of the work of hundreds of "little people" who have been mercilessly reviled by the mainstream press. In September, 1964 - when the Warren Commission finally presented its report to the American public - the major national media quickly accepted the report's conclusion that a lone gunman had been responsible. Indeed, Harrison E. Salisbury of the New York Times, called the report, "comprehensive, careful, compendious and complete" - and why shouldn't he? - after all, the report was more than 888 pages long with 26 volumes of documentary evidence to support it (the problem was, of course, that most of the evidence was contradictory, incomplete, and to some extent, even fabricated).
There were, however, a few small voices at the time which objected, one of which was Sylvia Meagher's. Writing in a small magazine called Minority of One, she wrote,
"There are no heroes in this piece (i.e., the Warren Report), only men who collaborated actively or passively - willfully or self-deludedly - in dirty work that does violence to the elementary concept of justice and affronts normal intelligence."6
"The members of the Warren Commission collaborating in dirty work? That was simply too preposterous to accept. Consider the stature and reputation of these men: Chairman Earl Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the paradigm of objectivity; John J. McCloy had been president of the World Bank and chairman of the board of Chase Manhattan Bank - prestige personified; Allen W. Dulles, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, an Ivy League patrician who represented America's dauntless defense against the threat of international Communism's evil aspirations; Senator Richard Russell and Congressmen John Sherman Cooper, Hale Boggs and Gerald Ford all had reputations as being reasonable, politically responsible and honest. President Lyndon Johnson had personally chosen these honorable men to investigate the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy ..."7
And that was that! By moving the debate from a situation which involved issues to one which involved personalities, the supporters of the Warren Report (i.e., the defenders of the status quo) succeeded in quashing its opposition - and the Washington press corps went along, a not unusual thing for the press corps of that era, a press corps which could not bring itself to believe that such powerful men would lie to the American people and participate (willingly or unwillingly; knowingly or unknowingly) in such a cover-up. [Of course, this is exactly what mainline evangelical leaders are attempting to do insofar as their controversy with Hunt, Dager, etc. is concerned; by shifting the focus away from the issues at hand, and making it one which focuses on personalities by implying that if people stand with Hunt, Dager, van der Merwe, etc. they are ipso facto standing against people like Packer, Swindoll, etc. they are attempting to get people to focus on personalities rather than issues. It's an old trick - and it's a dirty trick!]
Still, as time went on, a number of people began to openly join Meagher in her dissent - people who, while they didn't have as much access to the media as those who supported the findings of the Warren Report had, nonetheless, possessed a thirst for the truth. Their articles appeared in little known and limited circulation magazines like The National Guardian, Commentary, Minority of One, The Progressive, and the unlikely Computers and Automation.
Then came a few books which were so incisive in their criticism of the Warren Report that they couldn't be ignored: Edward J. Epstein's Inquest, Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment, and Sylvia Meagher's Accessories After the Fact.
In addition, new information and revelations began to emerge - largely because of the pressure that Meagher, Lane, etc. were applying, and the resultant shame that this pressure was generating on those who had covered-up for the Warren Commission. In fact, even some Warren Commission members began to speak out. For example, before he died, Senator Richard Russel, perhaps the leading member on the Warren Commission, had come to believe that the assassination of JFK, rather than being the act of a lone gunman, was in fact part of an elaborate conspiracy. Russell said,
"I'm no longer ... satisfied that he (Oswald) planned and committed this act ... on his own."8,
Moreover, new evidence which has surfaced recently seems to suggest that - rather than coming to this conclusion late in life - Russell had doubts about the Warren Commission Report early on: indeed, tapes which have recently come to light strongly indicate that this was the case. For example, they reveal a cryptic 1964 conversation between Russell and President Johnson in the Oval Office in which Russell is heard telling Johnson:
"I don't believe it (i.e., the Commission's report)."
And Johnson is heard responding:
"I don't either."9
John McCloy, another Warren Commission member has remarked in a similar vein:
"I no longer feel we simply had no credible evidence or reliable evidence in proof of a conspiracy."10
And McCloy goes further: he has actually come to believe that both the FBI and the CIA lied to the Commission. McCloy has been supported in that belief by William Sullivan, then the FBI's own domestic intelligence chief; Sullivan has said:
"There were huge gaps in the case, gaps we never ... (were permitted) to close."11
Warren Commission members Hale Boggs and John Sherman Cooper have also become doubters.12 Boggs told an aide that he now thinks that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had -
"... lied his eyes out to the Commission - on Oswald, on Ruby, on their friends, the bullets, the gun, you name it."13
And it's not just ex-Warren Commission members who have become doubters as to the basic veracity of the Warren Commission's Report. For example, John McCone, who later became CIA Director, actually told the president's brother (RFK) early on that his research had led him to believe that several gunmen had fired shots in Dealey Plaza. Even the Dallas police chief at the time of the assassination, Jesse Curry, now believes that the JFK murder was the result of a conspiracy.14
And that's not all - both JFK's close aide, Kenneth O'Donnell, who was riding in the car immediately behind Kennedy, and Roy Kellerman, the secret service agent charged with actually guarding JFK on the day of the assassination, have added fuel to the fire by substantiating Boggs' doubts. Both now believe that the assassination was "no doubt" the result of a conspiracy.15 O'Donnell even told then Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill that he had been pressured at the time by the FBI to say nothing about a "conspiracy" to the commission.
O'Neill has also expressed "profound doubts" as to the Warren Commission's truthfulness.
If not Oswald, who was it then? Haynes Johnson, a leading reporter at the time (1964) and one who had seemingly accepted early on the truthfulness of the Warren Report, admitted later that shortly after the assassination, he had heard Robert Kennedy telling someone on the phone at the CIA,
"One of you guys did it. I know it, one of you guys did it."16
In the years that followed, Kennedy began to more openly voice his suspicion that a "rogue element" in the CIA had been responsible for his brother's murder. In 1966, for example, Kennedy told Richard Goodwin that he believed that his brother's murder was part of a giant conspiracy (involving the CIA and the FBI), but -
"... there's nothing I can do about it - (at least) not now."17
Goodwin sensed at the time that what Kennedy meant by the words, "at least not now," was that he was going to vigorously pursue the matter if he ever became president - and that it was for this reason, more than any other, that he was assassinated in 1968 - an assassination which Frontline, the Public Broadcasting Service's investigative program, has suggested had all the hallmarks of a CIA hit 18
Democratic Representative Don Edwards of California, a man not much given to conspiracy theories who actually chaired the 1976 House committee hearings on the veracity of the Warren Commission Report and a former FBI agent himself, agrees. He says:
"There's not much question (anymore) that both the FBI and the CIA are somewhere behind this cover-up. I hate to think what it is they are covering up - or who they are covering up for."19
And, as if to confirm everyone's worst fears, in a conversation which took place many years later - and which has only now surfaced - J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI at the time of the assassination, has been reported to have said to a close colleague,
"If I told you what I really know, it would be very dangerous to this country. Our whole political system could be disrupted."20
Still, as the 1975-76 Select Committees in both the House and the Senate moved inexorably to the conclusion that the JFK assassination was indeed the result of a conspiracy, they refused to investigate the matter further - to discover who was involved and why.
And the reason? - while everyone had become convinced that the mob (i.e., the Mafia) had been involved, a gnawing realization had been growing in the minds of most of the members of the Select Committees (as well as among the investigative staffs) that there had unquestionably been a "hidden presence" behind the mob: specifically a rogue element in both the CIA and the FBI - and everybody felt it best to stop before too much more was discovered.
Most suspected the CIA, and enough evidence had surfaced to actually SUGGEST who the real ringleader had been [i.e., David Atlee Phillips, one of the CIA's most senior employees as well as a "card-carrying member" of what euphemistically was called the CIA's "Old Boy Network" (which clearly connected him to people like Bill Casey, Allen Dulles, the shadowy and extremely enigmatic James Jesus Angleton, Richard Helms, etc.)]; moreover, there was additional evidence to indicate to whom these ringleaders answered and to whom they were connected in the larger society [specifically, to various high-ranking elements in right-wing political and industrial circles - elements which, incidentally, surfaced for the first time for all to see during the Iran / Contra hearings (i.e., those business and political figures connected to Oliver North's efforts to circumvent Congressional restrictions on providing military assistance to the Contra War effort during the Reagan years - the same elements which supported out of their own not inconsiderable largesse the continuation of the war despite those restrictions) - and it should be noted in this connection that all these elements are today closely connected to the Council on National Policy (CNP) the principle coordinating body which connects the Economic Right and the Political Right on the one hand to the Religious Right on the other hand]. Fonzi writes,
"David Atlee Phillips was deeply immersed in the world of all-consuming anti-Castroism (a circle which felt utterly betrayed by Kennedy and his "left-leaning cronies" in the White House). His professional life had been dedicated to it and to battling what he considered the expansionistic tentacles of Communism throughout Latin America. It is no coincidence that the man who emerges as the Maurice Bishop who planned Alpha 66 attempts to sink Russian ships in Havana harbor with the aim of embarrassing Kennedy and sabotaging his negotiations with Khrushchev, was the same man responsible for staging the entire Mexico City scenario designed to link Lee Harvey Oswald to Fidel Castro (which was, of course, nothing more than a ploy to shift blame for the assassination from off the CIA and onto Castro - editor). Nor is Phillips's tight working association with the Agency's most lethal operatives insignificant. His was a cabal of associates whose careers were entwined with the history of CIA assassination plots, top echelon officers that ranged from Richard Helms to E. Howard Hunt and from Ted Schackley to the Agency's Mob liaison William Harvey."21
In the end, however, the 1976 House and Senate Select Committee members didn't really want to KNOW who they (i.e., the conspirators) in fact were. They seemed to sense that should these people be revealed for whom they actually were and what they had really done, the rage that such revelations would produce against America's foreign policy, intelligence and political establishments among the "masses" would spell disaster for the American political (and even the American economic) system. The elites in both the Democratic and Republican Parties were in agreement on this matter. It was one thing for the citizenry to "suspect;" it was quite another thing for them to actually "know."
Led by Harry Goldenson of ABC, William S. Paley of CBS, David Sarnoff of NBC, Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times, Katherine Graham of the Washington Post and Newsweek Magazine, Peter Kann of the Wall Street Journal, Mortimer Zuckerman of U.S. News and World Report, etc., the elite media establishment, as if on cue, all concocted a fall-back position - one which, while admitting now that the JFK assassination was probably the result of a conspiracy, nonetheless left everything up in the air and muddied (ultimately they all knew which side of the toast the butter was on). For example, Katherine Graham's Washington Post, which - despite its liberal record and reputation for digging for the facts - had done more than most to prevent the publication of the issues surrounding the JFK assassination and had gone out of its way more than others to ridicule those who tried, now "deplored the state of affairs in which Americans found themselves" - and in 1983 published an article entitled "Did Oswald Act Alone?" and concluded finally that he hadn't. The article finished with the words: "We evaded the truth then, and now it can't be found." Walter Cronkite, another who had done so much to muddle the truth, said the same thing.
Mark Lane, author of Rush to Judgment, believes - in obvious disdain - that what the elite media was doing was moving from the now obviously untenable position that there was no conspiracy involved in the assassination of JFK (and that there had been no cover-up of the facts and that the CIA had not been involved) to a new position that "we'll never know now - it's too late." How convenient! But again, it was all smoke and mirrors designed to protect the status quo - i.e., to prevent the people from making the jump from SUSPECTING to actually KNOWING. Why? - because everyone had too much to lose if the truth actually surfaced - that is to say, if the public ever moved from "suspecting" the truth to actually "knowing" the truth.
Again why is it - one may ask - that we have gone to such lengths regarding this matter? - because the same pathology which has been at work in the JFK assassination probe and cover-up is now at work in the evangelical community. The play is the same, the lines are - for the most part - the same, only the players are different [although maybe not all that different when one contemplates how close the Religious Right is today to the Political Right and the Economic Right (the two groups which, more than most others, were involved in the JFK assassination and subsequent cover-up)].
Would to God that the Lord would raise up enough evangelicals - enough "little people" (because the "big wigs" have too much to lose) - to take a stand against this cover-up; "little people" who would move from only "suspecting" to actually "knowing," and who would then be willing to put their names on the line for what they see! It's not enough to only see - knowledge without action is useless!
The point to be made in all this for us as evangelicals is threefold: first, for truth to prevail, all of us as the "little people" must become involved. IT'S FRUITLESS TO WAIT FOR HELP FROM OUR MAINLINE, STATUS QUO LEADERSHIP! We are the only ones who can change things! We can make a difference! You can make a difference! And I can make a difference! - and all this despite the fact that we don't have access to the mainstream media within the evangelical community, we have little support from recognized leaders, and we really are what we claim to be - "the unknowns," the "little people." There's much to be learned from the example of those "little people" - people like Sylvia Meagher, Mark Lane, Gaeton Fonzi, etc. - who stood up against the power of the national media and the prestige of the Warren Commission and who persistently picked away at the inconsistencies in the Warren Report, so much so that today the Warren Commission is acknowledged for what it really was - a fraud and an artifice designed to protect the status quo and those who benefited from the way things were.
We can make a difference too! - just as such heroes of the faith are doing now - people like Dave Hunt, Al Dager, Jewel can der Merwe, Pauline MacPherson, etc. who continue to write and preach against great odds and against the most vicious forms of character assassination possible - and all that often at their own expense and at great sacrifice to themselves in time and physical discomfort. You can do it right there in your own communities, in your own churches, and among your own friends. You don't have to be a writer or an orator to get started - just open up your mouth and start speaking. The Lord will take it from there.
"... they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues (i.e., church authorities), and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
"And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
"Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
"For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
"And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. (Luke 12:12-17)
Remember, we have something on our side that they can never have on theirs - TRUTH! - and truth is more powerful than all the slick magazines the "mainstream" can muster, all the seminaries and Bible schools who have now caved in to the "new wave" thinking that's going on, and all the new Christian radio and TV networks like TBN and CBN. In addition, we have dedicated people - and they're more powerful than all the big names and all the titles at the end of those names; finally, we have thousands of groups (many which don't know the others exist) all across the country; those "little ones" who love the Word of God and are dedicated to it despite all the efforts to make it of no effect!
Second, we must get out and find others who feel the way we do. Believe me, they're there. You'll find them - and the best way to do that is to begin to tell others how you feel about what's going on in the church today.
Of course, when you begin to do that, people will start to take notice of you - and not all of them will be friendly. They'll begin to charge you with being "divisive," of being "unloving," of being "rebellious," etc. - but remember, what's really unloving is letting your loved ones go down a one way street to spiritual oblivion and not saying anything about it. It's better to be "hated" by our loved ones now, then to be "hated" by them later because we failed to warn them - and in the most persistent manner possible! - much as a brother or sister would call out to his or her siblings if they were in danger of being hit by a car. No time for politeness and diplomatic niceties then - and neither is there time for such now. Remember, we are charged to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once (and for all) delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) - and the word "contend" is taken from the Greek word epagonizomal which means to fight for the faith much as a prize fighter (a boxer) contends for the championship in the ring.
When you contend for the faith in such a way it may sometimes seem that you are not making much headway with those with whom you are contending; but bear in mind, others (i.e., the "little people") are watching and listening from the sidelines, not making much noise - just as others watched and listened to Jesus when He contended for the Truth (sometimes in very heated and pointed exchanges) with the Pharisees. While not many Pharisees may have ever been won over (though there were a few), many silent "little people" were watching and listening - and as they watched and listened, they were convinced and later joined themselves to the disciples after Christ's ascension.
Finally, you can begin to host "home Bible classes" to study the Word of God and to get really clear on what the Word has to say with regard to the times we are living in. Home Bible Fellowships can help in other ways too. They help to build you up with others who feel as you do in your communities - and that is especially helpful; as the going gets rougher, these fellowships will become a place where you can meet with others of like mind and pray and fellowship together with them - and by doing so, derive strength to continue on.
Our next article in this series will deal with a "black" CIA operation known as MK-ULTRA; it deals with the CIA, and the growing connection of the Religious Right to such "goings-on." It will carry on where this one has left off - in the murky world of CIA assassination programs. To the uninitiated, MK-ULTRA was the CIA's effort at producing a "Manchurian Candidate" - the same kind of assassin which most likely was responsible for the assassinations of not only such Third World leaders as Patrice Lumumba, but also JFK, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and the crippling of Alabama governor, George Wallace.
Americans, of course - especially "middle-class Christians" - like to believe that these kinds of things don't go on in the United States. Undoubtedly, they occur in Third World countries, in some European capitals, and - no doubt - in the Middle East, but surely not here. But the Bible says that "We are all sinners" (Romans 3:23) - and Americans are no more immune from these sorts of things than anyone else. The only thing we might be better at is in covering them up.
You will be amazed at what's been happening. The sad fact of the matter is, it's into this gloomy, cheerless and dismal world that the leadership of today's evangelical world is taking us, and in the process polluting the church.
Remember this: things are not always what they appear to be.