Rev. Carl McIntire: a fundamental approach to fighting Satan
By Joseph Busler
Marshaling his troops like an army general, Rev. Carl McIntire which is a constant fundamentalist battle plan against the forces of Satan, in a world he claims is besieged by apostasy and Communism.
And because of his never ending assaults, Collingswood's fire and brimstone radio preacher has spent more than 40 years of his clerical career in a swirl of controversy, melodrama and conflict.
Despite his reputation as an anti-subversive, he has most frequently launched his attacks against members of the establishment, fellow clergymen, and politicians for what he regards as their insufficient zeal in combating the forces of Satan on earth.
And in McIntire's view, the forces of Satan are involved in a long list of earthly activities, from world Communism to women's lib, because he regards the earth as "Satan's dominion."
On October 1, McIntire will celebrate 40 years as pastor of the fundamentalist Collingswood Bible Presbyterian Church which emerged amid controversy and litigation.
During those 40 years, McIntire has also founded many other religious organizations, which are fundamentalist split offs of larger Protestant religious organizations but are too liberal for McIntire and his followers. The Bible Presbyterian denomination, of which his church was the first, has now grown to 55 separate congregations.
And, while it is known that McIntire has a large and intensely loyal following, even the 67 year old minister himself can't say how many there are. But his preaching has been carried by as many as 600 radio stations, he is president of the 122 denomination International Council of Christian Churches, chancellor of Shelton College, editor of the weekly Christian Beacon, author of numerous books, president of Faith Theological Seminary and guiding spirit behind the worldwide activities of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.
Most people know McIntire by his reputation and from his more successful publicity stunts.
There's McIntire, an imposing white haired figure in a three button, blue suit (all buttons fastened), leading the procession of matronly women, with NEC length hair and plastic frame glasses, and shiny eyed, short haired men up Pennsylvania Avenue, a massive but unlikely procession bearing placards calling four "Victory Now," "Capital Punishment" and "Prayer in Schools."
Strange crowd was that marched with McIntire for victory in Vietnam on April 4, 1970. Strange because it was not strange at all. Mostly white southerners from McIntire's large following in the Bible Belt, a great percentage middle aged or elderly, conservatives in politics and fashion. The kind of folks who advertise laundry detergents, where he used to watch Ted Mack's amateur hour. The kind of people who do not march.
What were they doing out there, raising a fuss like the hippies who have become one of McIntire's favorite targets?
Some of his enemies call him a right wing nut; others, a character assassin and, still others, a throwback to the days of John Calvin and John Knox.
He and his religious movement, which she calls "The 20th Century Reformation," have repeatedly been attacked in books and articles. The most detailed attack was contained in Ralph L Roy's book, The Ministry of Disruption, devoted entirely to McIntire and his movement.
But his followers see him as a general marshalling the forces of righteousness to do battle with apostasy and Communism, as Mrs. Ruth Trato, one of McIntire's closest associates in the International Council of Christian Churches, put it.
McIntire himself says, simply, "I am a preacher, a Christian. I am no more than what every Christian should be."
It is a typical McIntire statement: simple, certain and with no sign of inner conflict, but likely to stir up a storm in the outer world.
It is a quality that can be traced back to the particular simplicity and consistency of his religious upbringing in Oklahoma, where, at some time during his childhood, Carl McIntire was saved from damnation. But he has forgotten when.
"I'm a perfect example of someone who doesn't know when he was saved," McIntire explains.
Here McIntire was, at puberty, one of the "Elect" in an Oklahoma parish house, stranded in a sea of blue haired matrons and cover dish suppers.
Even as an adolescent, McIntire claims he sensed a great an acrimonious gulf opening in Protestantism, the division between the traditionalists (or liberal minded fundamentalist.) and the modernists, who, using symbolical or metaphorical interpretations of the Scriptures, were attempting to adapt Christianity to modern conditions.
McIntire's family was, of course, fundamentalist.
When McIntire was a Princeton, the modernist-fundamentalists schism was coming to a head, any sense the fundamentalists were going to lose out.
The roots of McIntire's fundamentalism run deep. And in its tenets of the sources of his politics as well as his religion.
He is the eldest son of the Rev. and Mrs. Charles Curtis McIntire, and, as he is fond of telling, would have been born in China had not his father been taken ill hours before his parents were to leave on a missionary assignment for the Presbyterian Church.
His parents admit in Park College, a Presbyterian school in Parks Hill, Missouri, from which they were graduated in 1901. His father went on to study a Presbyterian Princeton Seminary and take his master's degree from Princeton University.
It was a pattern to be repeated in the life of their son Carl, who spent most of his young years in Oklahoma, where, when the area was still an Indian Territory, his maternal grandmother, Mary Semple, was the first woman missionary to the Choctaw Indians.
When young Carl and his two brothers and sister were growing up, the Bible was read every day to the children and the family would pray together. On Sunday afternoons, the family gathered together in the parlor and sang gospel hymns.
He grew up, he sometimes says, "in the true Scottish tradition, on oatmeal and the Shorter Catechism."
"I was raised on the book of Proverbs," McIntire says, relating how his mother, to win a prize in college, memorized the Biblical book of ponderous moralisns. "So naturally they were ingrained in us."
Thus McIntire grew up in an atmosphere of the Old Testament Prophet Solomon, who in Proverbs hands down the wisdom he had learned from his father: "A foolish son is grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him." (Proverbs 18:25); and, "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with a rod, he shall not die. Thou shall beat him with a rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:13-14).
In 1931, McIntire married Fairy Eunice Davis, of Paris Texas, whom he met at Southeastern State College in Durant, Oklahoma. At college, he started pre law, in hopes of becoming an international lawyer, and was elected class president of Southeastern in his junior year.
The next year, he transferred to Park College, which is own parents attended, and it was here he decided to become a minister "because of my mother's prayers."
At college, one of his main activities was debating.
For his theological training, he went to Princeton seminary, where he became embroiled in the fundamentalist modernists split and withdrew along with his mentor, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, then on the faculty. McIntire says Machen's book, What is Faith? influenced his life and beliefs greatly.
Withdrawing from Princeton, in 1929 when it was reorganized along modernist lines, he completed his training at Philadelphia's Westminster Theological Seminary, from which he took his bachelor of divinity degree. It was because Westminster later, in McIntire's opinion became modernist, that he started the independent Faith Theological Seminary, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, in 1937.
After leaving school, he married and took over the pastorate of the Chelsea Presbyterian Church in Atlantic City, where he preached for two years before coming to Collingswood, where he lives in a handsome frame colonial house at 26 Collings Avenue.
It was not until 1951 that he obtained his doctor of divinity, from the Toronto Baptist seminary, a small Bible institute affiliated with the American Council of Christian Churches. He also receive an honorary doctorate of literature degree from conservative fundamentalist Bob Jones University in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The McIntire's have three children and 10 grandchildren.
His oldest child is Mary Ann, Mrs. Raymond Clark, of Cherry Hill. His daughter Celeste, the middle child, became Mrs. Keith Bashaw and also lives in Cherry Hill. Both daughters have four children.
McIntire son, Carl Thomas McIntire, is now teaching in Toronto. He is married with two children.
God's justice, in McIntire's eyes, is stern; and mercy, even more than vengeance, is reserved to the Lord.
Behind his militaristic life is opposition to Communism, his firm advocacy of capital punishment and harsh law and order policies and his rigid adherence to evangelical fundamentalism. There is an old Calvinist Protestant dogma that most people - if they have heard of it at all - think had gone the way of the dodo bird or the counters of angels on pinheads.
It is: salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible alone, and not through good works.
"You see, we don't believe God had any obligation to save anybody," McIntire says.
"The perfect love of God was what put Christ on the cross," he adds.
"Christ died for our sins and his perfect love for us satisfied God's perfect justice. Because of his death, by accepting him as the one who pay the penalty for our sins, we are no longer under condemnation before God. That's the heart of it. That's the grace of God which brings salvation!"
And performance of good works, in McIntire's view, is not necessary for salvation.
"We completely throw out works," McIntire says.
So what about those who believe but don't do any good works?
"Well," says McIntire, hunching back steadfastly, with an expression that suggests the possibility he may realize he is facing one of those foibles of the Deity, "they are saved by the skin of their teeth! They are going to heaven empty handed."
And what of those who don't come into contact with, or for some reason don't accept, this literal view of the salvation of man?
They don't go to heaven and all, McIntire says.
"They are lost, all except infants. We don't believe innocents will be condemned."
When McIntire speaks of modernism, he means the sort of Christianity preached by most liberal protestant churches and organizations today. Ministers who believe in evolution; that Jesus was not God; that Mary was not a virgin; that pre or extramarital intercourse may be accepted; and abortion, euthanasia, socialism is allowable for Christians.
"Modernism comes when you leave the Bible because you don't believe it anymore. Fundamentalism is right when it believes the Bible and glories in what the Bible has given us," McIntire says flatly.
"Satan is a being. One of the great archangels God created, who fell and took with him a great dominion. He is the active opponent of God himself and the great perverter, the imitator. And his great dominion is down on earth."
Sitting behind his desk, McIntire seems suddenly to realize the antiquarian quality of the statements.
"See, when you make those statements, people say, 'My goodness.'"
He rears back in his chair.
"But when you believe Christ is a person in the devil is a person, the conflict here is between the forces of righteousness in Christ and the forces of darkness under the domination of the devil."
He believes it was Satan, acting through his Allies, the apostate Modernists, who brought McIntire to trial for "fomenting rebellion against the established institutions of the Church" in 1935.
McIntire, along with a number of other fundamentalist Presbyterians, were convicted and left the Presbyterian Church to form their own. As a result of these events, McIntire was deposed as minister of his 1200 member Collingswood congregation.
Although the 27 year old minister, following a precedent setting lawsuit, lost control of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church building, 1100 members supported him and followed him out of the regular Presbyterian church.
In March, 1936, what was to become the Bible Presbyterian church held its first services on a vacant lot, in a circus tent. Communion was served in paper cups.
It was a bittersweet experience for the then lanky, young minister. For, although he lost a luxurious building, he learned he could go it alone, and that others would follow him.
It was the beginning of McIntire's career as a successful separatist rebel.
Since that time, McIntire has engaged in many battles, repeatedly and dramatically confronting rival churchmen on their own grounds, picketing National and World Council of churches conventions, charging them with harboring Communists and always charging they have betrayed Protestantism.
And to protect Protestantism from adulteration, McIntire is formed his own separatist groups. In the International Council of Christian Churches (his answer to the World Council of Churches), are 122 fundamentalist churches. He is president and presides over its periodic conventions, which it been held all over the world since the group was founded by McIntire in 1947.
McIntire founded the American Council of Christian Churches to parallel the liberal National Council of Churches; but the ACCC leadership split with him several years ago because of his activism and alleged "dictatorial" policies. The ACCC has since withered, but it's still sizable.
The hundreds of small radio stations which carry McIntire's Hour, however, are the base of his multimillion dollar financial empire. His appeals at Christmas bring in over one million dollars for his missions, crusades and other purposes. Loss of WXUR and other stations, as a result of the FCC fairness doctrine attack, threaten his financial base.
His newspaper, the Christian Beacon, has about 100,000 circulation and properties belonging to his movement include numerous hotels, restaurants and other structures on large tracts of land in Cape May, New Jersey, and in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
These properties, he brags, are his "white elephants", uneconomical relics from the turn of the century, he picked up very cheaply.
McIntire's enemies say he loves war, and they're right - at least, he loves his own.
"I tell my people, if we're going to have troubles, let's enjoy them. Let's enjoy them," he says and he does.
McIntire says he loves his enemies. There's no reason to think he is being insincere when he says this.
However, sometimes even his praise can be devastating, as illustrated by this passage from McIntire's 1967 book, Death of a Church, in which he discusses the Rev. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, then general secretary of the World Council of Churches:
"The leaders of the World Council of Churches have indeed chosen the right man, the best man, to unify their interests and to promote the development of the ecumenical church. The tragedy is that a man of his gifts is dedicated to the advancement of apostasy and inclusiveism, and not to the preservation of the historic Christian faith and the preaching of Christ and him crucified.
The apostasy seems indeed to have able spokesman, whom the god of this world has blinded and has ordained them to drain the dreams of church power and the world grandeur."
McIntire believes, however, that his targets are too thin skinned.
"Of course they are. Their response is not to debate me, but to block me out. They use these names: they say I am ultra, extreme. They make these attacks on my character: they say I'm "deposed" or "unfrocked" as though I had committed some moral transgression.
And they haven't said it to me tolerantly. They tolerate Communists, but they put me on trial and opposed me because of my beliefs. If it is the liberal groups that have done this, the very groups that opposed my radio station."
McIntire has been called a bigot, an anti-Semite, an anti-Catholic.
But talk to him a while, and it becomes obvious that McIntire is greatest enemies are not Communists, Jews or Catholics, but other Presbyterian ministers.
He seems more comfortable with Communist and outright atheist than with political religious middle of the roaders.
For example, after sharing a debating platform with Madelyn Murray O'Hair, a former Presbyterian turned militant atheist, McIntire and she became pen pals.
During the debate, he denounced her successful attempt to remove prayer from public schools and she called his ideas "absurd rubbish."
And of professed Communists, McIntire says, "There's more hope for them than for modernist ministers."
"The Communists, you tell them about the resurrection of Christ from the dead of the salvation of man, they've never heard of it before and they really respond.
Of the liberal clergy, they've been exposed to light but they've become blinded," he says with distaste; adding, that they're "sincere" and "some of the most brilliant men you'll ever meet."
And of Catholics, McIntire says: "Today, it's all changed and denominational categories don't mean as much as they once did.
Conservative Catholics are much closer to us than modernist Protestants because the conservative Catholics believe the Bible!" But he once called acceptance of Greek Orthodox Churches into the liberal World Council of Churches a "whistle stop on the train back to Rome. The very presence of these Catholics means the Protestant Reformation has been surrendered, totally forsaken."
And, for a man strongly criticized for associating with apologists for Franco's Spain, McIntire once made a remarkable statement, which, during the McCarthy period, would have been enough to tar most anyone else as leftist and pro-Communist, but which furthered McIntire's anti-Catholic reputation:
"The greatest enemy of freedom and liberty that the world has to face today is the Roman Catholic system. One would be much better off in a Communistic society than in a Roman Catholic fascist setup."
However, McIntire claims that, for all his baiting of his enemies, he is a firm and unchanging advocate of freedom, for himself and for them.
"Let everyone have a radio station," he said, commenting on the loss of his own.
"Let the Communists have a radio station. Let anyone, whatever their views. I'm for freedom. We don't have to fear ideas. If the people are exposed to all views, they'll judge.
We fight Communism by exposure, that's all. All that's needed is to put them in the light," he said on another occasion.
Upon hearing the superficially non-reactionary statements, many people would say McIntire is mellowing.
But he denies it.
"These are people who haven't read my books, who don't know that this is what I have been saying all along. Haven't changed my preaching one iota."
He even regards his current eyeball to eyeball confrontation with the Federal government over WXUR, and the private radio station moved to 3 miles off Cape May in the minesweeper Columbus, as "The pinnacle of my career - what my work has been leading to."
While somehow denying it would be civil disobedience, McIntire says he would go to jail before obeying a court injunction ordering him off the air.
Repeating what he told the Presbyterians who tried him in 1935, he says, "I've got to obey God rather than you men."
And he adds: "Let's see what the government's going to do with me, now that they see I'm not afraid!"
Has McIntire mellowed? No. He would be right at home back there on the rugged Scottish Highlands, home of his ancestors and his religion, preaching the gospel with John Knox.