The Cold War isn't over. Yes, the Soviet Union has fallen, but the ghost of Karl Marx is still working from the inside to dismantle the United States of America, the last stronghold of Christianity on the planet — or so says William G. Lord, a Biblical scholar living in North Charleston and author of The Battle for America: Socialism and Christianity.
In the book, which Lord self-published in March through a branch of Southern Baptist publishing giant LifeWay, he posits that the Democratic Party has been infiltrated by socialists, that hate-crime legislation and the "homosexual agenda" are being used to oppress the church, and that socialists are using global-warming scare tactics to promote the "management of the human herd through a harvest of the unborn and the elderly."
"With respect to ideology, the Cold War did not end when the Berlin Wall crumbled," Lord writes. "That event merely marked the opening of a new chapter."
If you've turned on Fox News in the past decade, you've heard some of the same arguments, and indeed, Lord comes across at times like a more erudite Glenn Beck. He talks about "elitists" in American universities, accuses President Barack Obama of stirring up racial strife and class warfare, and warns that pastors who preach "social justice" are leading their flocks down a path to godlessness.
But there's a difference between Lord and the former TV host: In his book, Lord doesn't spend much time defending capitalism. Instead, he turns a critical eye to the founding fathers of socialist thought — Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, François-Noël Babeuf — and says that their chief goal was to dethrone God in the hearts and minds of mankind. He builds his case from the original texts, including the Communist Manifesto, which states that "communism abolishes eternal truths," and concludes that today's progressive movement is inherently anti-God.
In person, Lord lacks the bluster of a conservative talk-radio host or Tea Party crusader. He arranges an interview in the leasing office of his apartment complex, and he arrives early and sets out several pages of typed talking points, waiting at a glass table by the window overlooking the pool. He is confident but careful with his words, and though he has lived around the world, he still speaks with a rich South Georgia drawl. Retiring after six years in the Marine Corps and 30 years in aircraft maintenance for the United Parcel Service, he embarked on a new journey. He attended seminary and worked for a time as a Baptist pastor in New Mexico, and he now lives a quiet life with his wife in North Charleston, where he does some quality-assurance work for Boeing.
Prior to the interview, Lord had been warned about this liberal rag called the City Paper. He'd received a call to that effect from David L. Allen, dean of the theology school at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, who had fielded questions about the book the day before. Lord received his Master of Divinity degree there in 2009 after going into retirement, and Allen wrote the foreword to The Battle for America. "This work should be alarming to Christians and should serve as a clarion call to action," Allen wrote.
When he spoke with the City Paper via telephone, Allen patiently answered questions: No, the political topics in The Battle for America are not commonly covered in the theology curriculum at Southwestern, although the school's philosophy professors have been known to assign readings from liberal political organizer Saul Alinsky, a common target of the right. Yes, it is possible that socialism will play a role in fulfilling the end-times prophecies of Christian scriptures, although the book of Revelation is open to other interpretations. Allen left off with a word of caution:
"One of the things that oftentimes Christians suffer from at the hands of those who are more liberal than us is they don't get a fair shake in what they say," Allen said. "Sometimes their words are twisted. Sometimes there's an agenda from a liberal side that can be had, just like an agenda from a conservative side can be had. Sometimes I'm afraid some of my liberal friends don't see that."
The problem of the poor
For a politically conservative Christian, the Bible itself can put up a number of stumbling blocks, not the least of which is Jesus himself, who lived as a homeless person, proclaimed "good news to the poor," and once told a wealthy man to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the needy.
Then there is the early church in the book of Acts, which was essentially a commune (they "had everything in common" and "sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need," the disciple Luke wrote), and there are numerous provisions for the poor in the Old Testament laws. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that the sin of the city of Sodom was this: "She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."
For Lord, the issue of the poor is not an abstraction. He spent part of his childhood in Jacksonville, Fla., where his father — a pipefitter who attended school through the third grade — barely found enough work on a Navy shipyard to get by. The family later moved to Kingsland, Ga., where they lived for years in a single-wide trailer. There were no jobs to be had, so Lord joined the Marines at age 19.
"I was the poor. No one helped me," Lord says. "They had all these government programs, and no one helped me." Lord's father died in 1995 of asbestosis, which Lord says came from unprotected exposure to asbestos a shipyard job. Once again, there was little help from Uncle Sam. While Lord's father was dying, he watched as his mother, left with no means of support, tried to apply for welfare programs and was told she had little recourse as long as she was still married. "He's on his deathbed, and they told her the rules say you can't be married," Lord recalls. "They told my mother, who had been married to my father 40 years, she had to get a divorce to get help.
"On the other hand, there were no Christians beating the door down to help, either," Lord adds. He acknowledges that, in some ways, the Marxists and the Democrats have done a better job of following Christ's commandments than the Christians — but he believes they have done it without God, and they have done it for all the wrong reasons. The politics of the poor, he says, is just a tool for elevating the Marxist elite.
And where are those elite? Lord sees them in government and in liberal colleges like Columbia University, although he thinks many people have become unwittingly indoctrinated in the Marxist school of thought through public schools and the media.
Case in point: Happy Feet. The 2006 animated feature, about a tap-dancing penguin who inadvertently convinces the governments of the world to ban fishing in the Antarctic, ruffled the feathers of conservative pundits who saw it as environmentalist propaganda, but Lord takes issue with the religious themes. Mumble, the adorable penguin voiced by Elijah Wood, is an outsider in a religious community that believes a supreme deity controls the fish supply, and he proves that it is in fact the "aliens" (humans) who determine the years of feast and famine.
"Their purpose was to lift up the secular view, the godless view, and depict Christians as backward and out of touch with reality," Lord says. He adds, jokingly, that his wife has told him he can't go to movies anymore because he ruins them.
Taking off the mask
Lord makes a lot of slippery-slope arguments in his book. The government no longer allows public school teachers to lead their classes in Christian prayer, so it will one day ban private Christian education. Hate-crime laws were originally proposed by Marxists, so they will one day be used to control the speech of preachers and force Christians to accept homosexuality. Muslims are experiencing a population boom in Europe, so the Marxists will unite with them against the common enemy of Christendom. The modern model for a Marxist infiltration of American government, Lord says, is to introduce seemingly innocuous legislation and expand its application to the extreme with activist Supreme Court judges.
Lord currently attends a Southern Baptist church in North Charleston, but he doesn't teach; he's "just a guy" there, he says. He has observed that members of his denomination sometimes shy away from pressing political issues and tough questions about their faith.
"We have to understand the fifth-century answers of our early church fathers, but we must be able to meet 21st-century debate with reasonable answers," Lord says. "We've got to quit with the running and hiding. We've got to take the mask off, and we've got to tell people, 'This is who we are. This is what we believe.'"
Could he be wrong? "I don't take the position that I'm all-knowing because I'm a pastor. I want to hear what you say, because I could be wrong about some of the issues," Lord says. "I believe what I believe, and you're going to have to do more than stand on the street corner and say, 'Liar, liar, pants on fire.' You're going to have to prove your point, and I don't mean with innuendo. You've got to do your homework. And bring your lunch. It's gonna take a while."---