PART TWO - - -25 Most Influential Evangelicals
Father and Son In the Spirit
H E HAS HAD THE EAR OF PRESIDENTS FOR 5 DECADES , but except for his public disavowal of racial segregation, Billy Graham, 86, , has stuck to soul saving and left the political proselytizing to others.
He explained his self-imposed separation of church and state in the language of a Gospel preacher: “It’s not what I was called to do7 His son Franklin, 52, the anointed successor to the Graham evangelical empire, has no such reticence. “As a minister, I have every right to speak out on moral issues,” he says. And he has, frequently and freely opining on subjects ranging from homosexuality (“1 don’t believe in the lifestyle”) to the Iraq war (“I don’t advocate war, but it’s. important to support our government”). Some suggest the difference in approach is the result of temperament and target audience. “Dr. Graham, having [ministered] to many Presidents, is more private about his counsel than Franklin, who speaks more to average Americans than their leaders,” says Rod Parsley, pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio. “But we’re thankful he’s raising his voice on issues central to our faith.
A Feminine Side Of Evangelism
It is the stories from her personal history—her abuse as a child, her failed first marriage—that resonate with Pentecostal Joyce Meyer’s predominantly female audience. Based in Fenton, Mo., Joyce Meyer Ministries teaches Bible to a virtual congregation. She is a traveling road show with a multimedia connection to followers. Meyer, 61, offers a gospel of prosperity that promises that Cod rewards tithing with his blessing. But her own conspicuously prosperous lifestyle—which, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. includes a $2 million home and a $10 million jet—concerns some Christians. Meyer’s spokesman says 93% of the $8 million her ministry takes in each month goes to more than 150 charities worldwide, but the Christian watchdog group, Wall Watchers has asked for an IRS investigation into the ministry’s finances. Meyer says an investigation does not worry her, and she continues to deliver her uplifting message on more than 600 TV stations and 400 radio stations as well as in 70 books and scores of stadium-filling appearances.
The Point Man On Capitol Hill
T he Senate’s third-ranking Republican may be a Catholic, but he’s the
darling of Protestant Evangelicals. Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference Committee is the standard bearer of social conservatives on the Hill, regularly and vocally taking the point position against gay marriage, abortion rights and judges who defend either. He speaks monthly with evangelical leaders, hearing their concerns and briefing them on the status of legislation, while his staff regularly taps evangelical broadcasters and activists to help mobilize support for their common agenda. In the new congressional session, that includes pushing laws aimed at limiting access of minors to interstate abortions and giving legal rights to fertilized eggs in utero. Though highly controversial for his verbal attacks on gays and supporters of abortion rights—he once likened homosexual sex to bestiality— Santorum, 46, is said to have president-ial ambitions. “Never say never,” he says— music to evangelical ears.
Bringing Latinos To the Table
I n the summer of 2000, a fleet of dark, unmarked vehicles pulled up to the North Philadelphia office of the Rev. Luis Cortés Jr. As neighbors watched in amazement, armed men hustled a mysterious visitor inside. What happened next launched the remarkable ascent of a Hispanic Baptist minister until then little known outside Philadelphia. The visitor was G.O.P. presidential candidate George W Bush, on a low-profile visit to woo Cortés and other Hispanic leaders. Over the next few hours, Cortés and Bush formed a bond that has vaulted the minister to the top tier of the fast-growing Hispanic Protestant community. With grants from Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative and the cachet that comes from his Bush connection, Cortés, now 47, has expanded his two-decade-old organization, Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) nationwide, building houses in poor communities, offering start-up loans to Hispanic businesses and launching an AIDS-awareness program. In 2002 Cortés established the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, addressed annually by Bush and attended by a bipartisan slate of political heavyweights. “Part of integrat-ing is understanding power says Cortés. “Our people have power, but they have never used it.” Now he’s showing them how.
The Christian Power Couple
I n his role as minister and organizer, the Rev. Tim LaHaye, who will turn 79 in April, somehow never achieved the name recognition of, say, Jerry Falwell—or for that matter of his wife Beverly LaHaye, 75, founder of Concerned Women for America, one of Washington’s most influential antiabortion and anti-gay- marriage organizations. But it is a measure of Tim LaHaye’s reach that his role in founding Falwell’s Moral Majority is only his second most notable venture.
(Falwell was inspired to start the group in 1979 after seeing how Laflaye had organized scores of fellow pastors to work for conservative political causes in California in the ‘70s.) It wasn’t until 15 years later that LaHaye got the idea for a novelized account of the Second Coming. The result, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earths Last Days (1995), launched a literary empire. The book and its 11 sequels have sold more than 42 million copies (not counting spin-offs like kids’ books, CDs and greeting cards) and set the image that many people—believers and non- believers alike—now have about how the world will end. “In terms of its impact on Christianity;” says Falwell, “it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modem times outside the Bible
Reborn and Rehabilitated
T he spectacular Christian rehabilitation of Charles Colson—the man who once advised Richard Nixon to firebomb the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank—began after Colson’s Watergate prison term, with his best-selling conversion narrative, Born Again. His resurgence accelerated as he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries and built it into a $50 million organization that operates in all 50 states and 110 countries. His ministry’s success (a University of Pennsylvania study found that graduates of the prison program were 60% less likely to be re-incarcerated than was the average con) and his campaign for humane prison conditions helped define compassionate conservatism and served as a model for the faith-based initiatives that Bush favors. Colson, 73, is now regarded as one of evangelicalism’s more thoughtful public voices. And, says Ted Olsen, online managing editor of Christianity Today: “If he gets on a bandwagon, it’s likely to move” After decades of relative abstention, Colson is back in power politics. He helped cobble together an alliance of Evangelicals and Catholic conservatives, advised Karl Rove on Sudan policy and put his prestige behind an anti-gay- marriage lobbying body, the Arlington Group. And he has recouped one more lever of power: in 2000 Florida Governor Jeb Bush reinstated the rights taken away by Colson’s felony conviction—including theright to vote.
The Stealth Persuader
M any people think Congress is the host of the gala annual National Prayer Breakfast, which takes place this week. It is not. The breakfast is organ-ized by 33 members of Congress who belong to a well-connected but secretive Christian group called the Fellowship Foundation, which is run by Doug-las Coe.. Coe, 76, has been called the “stealth Billy Graham” He specializes in the spiritual struggles of the powerful.
Several members of Congress live in rooms rented in a town house owned by a foundation affiliated with the group. Coe and his associates sometimes travel (on their own dime) with congressional members abroad and—according to invest-igations by the Los Angeles Times and Harper’s—have played backstage roles in such diplomatic coups as the 1976 Camp David accords. Yet Coe also befriends dictators. “He would still hold out hope that these people could be redeemed and try to work through them to help the people over whom they have authority.” says Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship’s board of directors. Some skeptical Evangelicals criticize Coe’s indiscriminate alliances and his downplaying of Jesus divinity in favor of his earthly teachings—which allows Coe to pray with Muslim and Buddhist leaders. But few turn down an opportunity to confer with him.
Theological Traffic Cop
W hen it comes to doctrine, Evangelicals practice the equivalent of states’ rights. Encompassing huge, philosophically distinct denominations like >the Southern Baptist Convention, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and thousands of independent “Bible churches,” the movement has no formal arbiter. Nonetheless, J.J. Packer, 78, an Oxford-trained theologian, claimed the role inform-ally with his 1973 book, Knowing God, which outlined a conservative Christian theology deeper and more embracing than many Americans had encountered. It did real justice to hard topics such as suffering and grace. And, says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank, “conservative Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists could all look at it and say, ‘This sums it all up for us.”
That appeal led to Packer’s current role as a doctrinal Solomon whose pronounce-ments as executive editor at the magazine Christianity Today exert influence beyond its 340,000 readers. Mediating debates on everything from a particular Bible translation to the acceptability of free-flowing Pentecostal spirituality, Packer helps unify a community that could easily fall victim to its internal tensions.
The Lesson Planner
E ven before he got directly involved in politics, David Barton was a major voice in the debate over church state separation. His books and videotapes can be found in churches all over the U.S., educating an evangelical generat-ion in what might be called Christian counter-history The 51-year-old Texan’s thesis: that the U.S. was a self-consciously religious nation from the time of the Founders until the 1963 Supreme Court school-prayer ban (which Barton has called “a rejection of divine law”). Many historians dismiss his thinking, but Barton’s advocacy organization, WallBuilders, and his relentless stream of publications, court amicus briefs and books like The Myth of Separation, have made him a hero to millions—including some powerful politicians. He has been a co-chair of the Texas Republican Party for eight years, is friends with House majority leader Tom DeLay (whom he has advised on the Pledge Patriot Act, which seeks to keep the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance) and was tapped by the Republican National Committee during its election sprint as a liaison to social conservatives. Those elected as a result of his efforts need not feel lonely in Washington: Barton conducts tours of the Capitol, during which he shows his rare copy of the Bible that Congress once printed—for use in the schools.
Continue to Part 3
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