Concerned about what it calls a “proliferation of racism and Jew-hatred in our world today,” the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) has adopted a resolution urging Christians to be “alert to the presence and danger of the ‘Christian’ Identity movement.…” This movement essentially asserts that, according to the Bible, the white race is superior.

The LCJE is a task force of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. According to the LCJE resolution, the Christian Identity movement and like-minded groups such as the Ku Klux Klan are “fostering the same attitudes and actions that existed in pre-Hitler Germany that led to the genocide of 6,000,000 Jews.”

In a major paper prepared for the LCJE, Louis Lapides, one of the drafters of the resolution, outlined the theology of the Christian Identity movement. According to Lapides, pastor of a Messianic Jewish congregation in California, Christian Identity theology is rooted in “British Israelism,” which holds that Anglo-Saxons make up the ten lost tribes of Israel referred to in the Old Testament.

Said Lapides, “This theology teaches that white Anglo-Saxons are the true Israel and that in order to establish God’s kingdom on earth, the white race must be kept pure.” Some segments of the white-supremacy movement, he said, advocate violent eradication of nonwhite races.

By most accounts, traditional white-supremacy organizations have experienced general decline over the past decade. But some fear a reverse of that trend is in the offing. The Anti-Defamation League reported an 18.5 percent increase in vandalism against Jews and a 41 percent increase in harassment, threats, and assaults against Jewish people and institutions in 1988.

One probable reason for the rise is the recent emergence of a neo-Nazi faction called Skinheads, who have established violence-prone gangs in several cities. According to a leaflet distributed by the Skinheads, the group is intent on replacing the “present anti-white Zionist (Jew) puppet-run government with a healthy, new white man’s order.”

Unlike some of their white-supremacist counterparts, the Skinheads generally make no attempt to cite scriptural justification for their beliefs. But, said Lapides, “traditional racist groups are trying to bring the Skinheads into the fold by providing them with an ideology for their racist behavior.” Earlier this year, at the invitation of the white-supremacist Aryan Nations church, about 30 Skinheads attended a conclave in Idaho to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth.

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Lapides is concerned, among other things, about the Christian Identity movement’s negative impact on evangelism to Jewish people (see “Evangelizing Jews” on this page). He said Christian Identity leaders allege that Jews commonly fake conversions to Christ in order to corrupt Christianity from within.

According to Lapides, Christians by and large have been hesitant to address the Christian Identity movement. He said he hopes the LCJE resolution will help change that. Lapides warned against underestimating the attraction the movement holds for sincere Christians, noting that it offers “the appearance of a thoughtful, biblical argument for racial superiority.”

Evangelizing Jews

Christians attempting to take the gospel to Jews have several obstacles to overcome, including anti-Semitic sentiment from the small but dedicated white-supremacist movement. According to some in the so-called Christian Identity movement, humans are saved not by grace, but by race, and only the white race is worthy of salvation.

Another hurdle is presented by those who contend evangelism among Jews is unnecessary. Advocates of a “two-covenant” theory maintain that, because of God’s unique relationship with the Jewish people since the time of Abraham, Jews need not believe in Christ to obtain salvation.

Still another obstacle comes from the Jewish community itself. Jewish leaders maintain that to be a “Jewish Christian” is a contradiction. They believe it is deceptive for Christians to maintain their Jewish identities while attempting to convert Jews to Christ.

However, Jewish evangelization efforts got a big boost from an international consultation of 15 Christian leaders who met in Willowbank, Bermuda, in late April. Nine countries were represented at the meeting, sponsored by World Evangelical Fellowship.

Among those in attendance were North American theologians J. I. Packer, Kenneth Kantzer, and David Wells; and Bong Ro of the Asia Theological Association. The meeting was chaired by Vernon Grounds, president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

The group endorsed the efforts of independent Christian organizations dedicated to reaching Jews with the gospel. In the seven-page statement, “The Willowbank Declaration on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish People,” the group rejected the notion that Jews do not need Christ to be saved.

The statement affirms that “Jewish people who come to faith in Messiah have liberty before God to observe or not observe traditional Jewish customs and ceremonies.” It denies “that any inconsistency or deception is involved by Jewish Christians representing themselves as ‘Messianic’ or ‘completed’ or ‘fulfilled’ Jews.”

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For Bush, a Mural

President George Bush recently received at the White House a team of representatives from the Christian relief organization International Aid (IA), which presented him with a large mural sent to him by a children’s hospital in China.

In 1986 and 1987 the Spring Lake, Michigan-based relief agency supplied the Tianjin Children’s Hospital with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical equipment and supplies. To show its appreciation, the hospital commissioned a well-known Chinese artist to paint a mural to be presented to the President of the United States.

Shown here from left to right are James Franks, president of International Aid; Bush; Michigan Congressman Guy Vander Jagt, who arranged the visit; and IA officials Hung Liang, Jack Henderson, and Tedd Bryson. The mural consists of eight eagles perched on mountaintops. It represents, according to the artist, the spirit of the American people, who “stand towering like a giant in world history.”


Religion as News

Do secular newspapers take religious news seriously? Not nearly as seriously as they should, according to the Religious News Service (RNS) survey “Religion Reporting and Readership in the Public Press.”

The study, which made use of two Gallup polls, was funded by a $100,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment. Over 80 percent of those surveyed identified religion as being at least “fairly important” in their lives. Over half said it was at least fairly important for newspapers to cover religion as extensively as they cover other kinds of news.

“What surprised us most,” said Temple University’s Stewart Hoover, chief researcher for the project, “was that all the highly ranked [religious categories of reader interest] were national and international in scope, rather than locally or individualistically oriented.”

The newspaper industry has extensive data on reader interest in a variety of topics, but according to RNS editor/director Judy Weidman, it has ignored religion for over a decade. Weidman said she believes the survey results “will have an impact on the field for years to come.”


Swaggart, Porn Before Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether California violated television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s religious liberty by taxing materials he sold in the state from 1974 to 1981. Swaggart is seeking a refund of $183,000 in state sales taxes his organization was forced to pay on religious books, tapes, and other items sold at evangelistic rallies and through the mail.

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Attorneys for Swaggart’s ministry maintain the tax places an unconstitutional burden on the evangelist’s free exercise of religion and contradicts previous Supreme Court decisions.

On another issue, the high court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of a congressional ban on “dial-a-porn” telephone services. The U.S. solicitor general’s office has urged the Court to uphold the ban as the “least restrictive” way to protect children from “patently offensive sexual speech” over the telephone, noting that with “dial-a-porn,” children have “easy access” to sexually explicit language.

Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe argued against the 1988 ban, claiming it violates First Amendment guarantees of free speech. A decision is expected by the end of this month.


Gay Sergeant Rejoins Army

A federal appeals court in San Francisco last month ruled seven to four to allow a former sergeant who is a self-avowed homosexual to re-enlist in the U.S. Army. In granting Perry J. Watkins permission to rejoin the military, however, the court did not address the constitutional issue of whether the military services may discriminate on the basis of homosexuality.

The Pentagon regards homosexuality and military service as incompatible. Prior to 1981, a person could be dismissed from the service only after homosexual activity was proven. In 1981, regulations were changed to require dismissal of all homosexuals.

In effect, the appeals court ruling does not change the policy. But the court made an exception for Watkins, citing the fact that the army had allowed him to re-enlist in the past, despite knowing about his homosexuality, which, according to the court, had no negative effect on Watkins’s military service.


People and Events

Stepping down: As the nation’s top health officer, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, effective July 13. Koop, 72, is best known for his campaign against smoking and for his emphasis on aids education. Koop’s statements on AIDS and abortion distanced him from many conservatives who supported him initially.

Named: As president of the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), theologian and author George Weigel, who most recently served as president of the James Madison Foundation, also in Washington. Weigel replaces Ernest Lefever, who served for 13 years as the head of the EPPC.

Acquired: By Christianity Today, Inc., Christian History magazine from the Worcester, Pennsylvania-based Christian History Institute. The quarterly was begun in 1982 and currently has 15,000 subscribers. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between church history scholarship and the nonprofessional’s interest in church history.

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