Joseph McCarthy’s Search for Communists in the American Government
Joseph McCarthy was an unexceptional junior congressman from Wisconsin. He grew up brawling in the streets, playing cards, and embellishing his stories. Then, during a Lincoln Day address in 1950, Joseph McCarthy told an audience that he had a list of 205 communists working in the government. Within days, he was a household name.
McCarthy started “investigating” suspected communists in the American government, focusing on the US State Department. Along the way, he brought in a young lawyer named Roy Cohn. Cohn was already known for his work sending Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair. Now, he and McCarthy bullied and cajoled during private hearings. Being labeled a communist, or even a suspected communist could ruin a person’s career. People committed suicide rather than face their scrutiny.
Roy Cohn was Donald Trump’s Mentor
Their reign lasted four years, ending in the televised broadcasts of the Army-McCarthy hearings in which a lawyer asked if McCarthy had any decency. That was pretty much it for McCarthy. But Roy Cohn went on to have a well-connected career, providing legal services for the mob and Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News. He also became a mentor to a young real estate mogul named Donald Trump. Famous people like Andy Warhol attended his birthday party at Studio 54. Cohn died of AIDS, something that was killing gay men rapidly in the 1980s, though he denied he ever had it.
This is the story of two men allowed to prey on the fears of the American people for their own gain. One fell hard, the other found himself fighting against his own people.
Larry Tye, author of “Demagogue”
In this episode, Chris interviews Larry Tye, author of the book “Demagogue”. He’s also the author of “Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend” and “Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon”.
The first-century Christian Church had a lot going on. Their Savior died and was resurrected, sending the Holy Spirit and leaving them with the command to take this new message to all tribes and tongues. The book of Acts records some of their travels, as they went all over the known world with this good news. But they were not the only people evangelizing. So were the gnostics. Gnosticism takes a lot of different shapes. It was a belief system that challenged Christianity, even as some tried to incorporate elements into the faith.
Is modernism heresy?
Now consider modernist theology – what we’ve been talking about all season. It is a belief system that doesn’t believe in the miracles or the divinity of Jesus. To evangelicals of the 1800s and 1900s, this was a real threat. Like Gnosticism before it, modernism threatened to destabilize the gospel message. What to do?
In this bonus episode, Chris takes a look at 1-3 John to see what they have to say about dealing with heresy.
Chris is hard at work on season 6! He’ll be presenting these short episodes in the meantime to recap some of the themes of season 5.
If you were alive in the mid-1800s and saw modernism rising, what would you do?
Do you think modernism is a heresy?
How should Christians today deal with heresy?
What did the fundamentalists get right and how did they mess up when approaching heresy?
Between 1910 and 1915 a collection of 90 essays was distributed by two wealthy oil magnates. These essays attempted to nail down the basics of the Christian faith and counteract the growing modernist movement. “The Fundamentals” is often mentioned in history books about Christian fundamentalism, but it is rare for anyone to discuss the essays themselves. So I thought we should break down at least 6 of them together!
I’m joined this episode by some good friends to introduce you to “The Fundamentals”. This influential time capsule document takes us inside the proto-fundamentalist movement, just before it really took off.
What would you include in your own list of fundamentals?
Is creationism fundamental? What is the role of evolution in our modern theology?
The fear of evolution wasn’t just about people thinking we’d come from chimps. It also revolved around concerns of people applying evolution to other areas of life. How have you seen evolution applied to other studies?
Is the Bible inerrant? What does that mean?
Have you read the full Bible yourself? Why or why not?
Essays we read:
“My Experience With the Higher Criticism” by JJ Reeve
“The Deity of Christ” by BB Warfield
“The Certainty and Importance of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead” by Reuben Torrey
“Science and Christian Faith” by James Orr
“Evolutionism in the Pulpit” by “An Occupant of the Pew”
Most of us would answer with the translation we carry. Maybe it’s New Living, the King James, or the New International Version. I’ve heard plenty of conversations about translations in my life. But I’ve never heard a serious discussion about the notes in various Bibles.
Continuing our long exploration of the Christian fundamentalist movement, we explore the Bible version that nudged the United States toward a particular negative theology. One that encouraged people to question the trajectory of history itself. That was one of the purposes of the Scofield Reference Bible, named for its author C.I. Scofield.
The Bible that changed our view of the end
The Scofield Reference Bible emphasizes the premillennial dispensationalist theology we’ve been talking about all season. It expects that world history is sliding into chaos. That was not the primary view in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the US. Most people thought that humanity could improve things until Jesus returned. This Bible is one of the things that changed that.
Special thanks to Nick, Melanie, Hannah, Marc, and Marian for their help with this episode!
What kind of Bible do you have? Why did you choose it?
What agenda does your Bible have?
What audience is it intended for?
Who wrote your Bible notes?
Flip to Genesis 1 and Revelation 1. What position does it take on creationism? The end of the world?
Have you ever considered the origins of your study notes?
How do you feel about us having so many different targeted Bibles?
Select Sources for this Episode:
The History of the Scofield Reference Bible by Arno C. Gaebelein
The Evangelicals by Frances Fitgerald
Fundamentalism and American Culture by George Marsden
This is part 3 of an audiobook presented on Truce. Please start at part 1!
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In His Steps by Charles Sheldon is a classic of Christian fiction. It is also one of the top-selling Christian books of all time. We’ve been running through the history of Christian fundamentalism this season. It’s worth noting that fundamentalism was a reaction to liberal theology, especially modernism. Another form of liberal theology was the “Social Gospel”. It was a movement led by people like Walter Rauschenbusch that emphasized the socially conscious aspects of Christianity, while simultaneously downplaying evangelism.
Christian fundamentalists did not like the Social Gospel. For one thing, it had a positive view of human progress. It said that the world could get better and better and then Jesus would return. Christian fundamentalists generally think that world history trends downward.
I’m presenting this original audio recording for many reasons. I think this book offers a great window into the era in which it was created (the late 1800s). It also represents the Social Gospel and a slice of the Holiness movement quite well. Finally, I think we need to hear this story in our modern context. Modern Christian churches are divided. What would happen if we dared to ask “What Would Jesus Do?”
Things to track as you listen:
The role of women in this society
Wealthy attitudes toward the poor
The genesis of financial woes in this book is sometimes economic crisis (the late 1800s was full of panics and recessions) and sometimes sin based
The Holiness movement and those who object to it
Is this book evangelistic? If so, how is the gospel presented? If not, what does this book leave out?
The overall positive view of human progress
Social movements like the pure foods movement, temperance, suffrage, anti-gambling