In the 1950s and 1960s no preacher of the old time religion was better known or more controversial than Billy James Hargis. A sturdy six foot six, Hargis was a televangelist whose ministry reached millions and brought in millions of dollars. His preaching was overtly political, with favorite targets being sexual permissiveness, drug abuse and communism. Hargis and Carl McIntyre are sometimes considered the fathers of the religious right in America. He founded a college, is credited with authoring many books, including The Far Left in 1964. His inspired oratory and determination brought him great fame and power. Like Jimmy Swaggart it was a sexual scandal that brought him down.
"When the Beatles thrust their hips forwards while holding their guitars and shout, "Oh Yeah!!!" who cannot know what they really mean."
Hargis was born in Texarcana, Texas
. At age 17 he was ordained in the Disciples of Christ
even though he had not completed seminary work, possibly due to the manpower demands of World War II. He began to work as a pastor
for the denomination in Oklahoma and Missouri, and married his wife Betty in 1951.
Early on he displayed a strong obsession with international communism, and an interest in broadcast ministries. His broadcast ‘'Christian Crusade”, Hargis described as “ a Christian weapon against Communism and its godless allies.” The radio ministry proved successful, and at its peak Hargis’ daily broadcasts were carried on over 500 radio, and 250 television stations. The ministry’s annual income from donations exceeded a million dollars a year, an enormous sum for the day. He was one of the first evangelists to appear on television.
The entire left-wing movement is of the devil. As Christians, the first way in which we can recognize the devil and his presence is that he is a liar. He speaks lies, he uses lies, his conspiracy is built on lies. Hear the words of Jesus and His controversy with the Jews: “'Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”
From The Far Left, 1964
Hargis made his ministry explicitly political. He was a member of the reactionary John Birch Society and wrote speeches for Senator Joseph McCarthy. But his political emphasis brought problems. In the 1960s the Disciples of Christ removed his ordination for putting political activism before the gospels. But by then Hargis had outgrown the denomination. Their action led was for him to form his own ministry. He attacked mainstream Christian denominations for losing their faith under the influence of “socialist intellectuals".
One of the most famous examples of Communists infiltrating the newspapers is that of Carl Braden. Braden was on the editorial staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal. His Communist activities first came to light when he bought a house in an all-white section of Louisville and transferred it to a Negro, Andrew Wade IV. When Wade’s family moved in, trouble broke out. There was shooting and bombing, and racial tension became explosive. Braden organized a “Wade Defense Committee” which, by press, radio, and mass meeting, defended Wade’s occupation of the house. The Commonwealth Attorney in Louisville, A. Scott Hamilton, investigated the whole affair and came to the conclusion that Communists had planned the whole thing, including the rioting and bombing, as a means of inciting racial hatred and trouble.
From The Far Left
In 1964 his church lost its tax free status for overtly engaging in political activity, and for questionable use of church funds. Hargis openly endoresed Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. His salary was $25,000 per year, an excellent wage for the day, particularly as the church paid almost every one of his expenses. Hargis blamed the liberal media and leftist politicians. As he aged Hargis broadened his attacks from communism to a general moral malaise and permissiveness. Sex education was a particular target. In 1968 he published Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?, which sold over a quarter million copies. The title proved particularly ironic in light of his eventual downfall.
Americans are tired of "educational professionals" operating in a vacuum, trying out whatever they wish, defying community standards, as they experiment with the minds of our precious children.
In 1974 the story broke that began Hargis’ slide. He married two of his students, Sally Bowles and Brian Roberts. Despite Hargis’ insistence on sexual purity, it seems that neither was a virgin as both had been sexually deflowered by their mentor. Others corroborated the story and later three boys from the choral group the All-American Kids came forward saying they had been molested by Hargis. They alleged that the evangelist had told them of the friendship of David and Jonathan and threatened them if they broke silence on the affair.
I have made more than my share of mistakes. I'm not proud of them. Even the Apostle Paul said, 'Christ died to save sinners. of whom I am chief.' Long ago, I made my peace with God, and my ministry continues."
The scandal led to Hargis’ dismissal from the church organization he founded. He is said to have confessed when confronted by church elders. They say he blamed ‘'genes and chromosomes’, ironic in light of the right wing efforts to deny a biological role in homosexuality. Later he recanted that confession blaming the attacks on him on Satan and the forces of international socialism. In his 1985 autobiography, My Greatest Mistake he wrote: "I was guilty of sin, but not the sin they accused me of."
Known to millions as "America's Crusading Evangelist," Billy James Hargis is either loyally supported or bitterly attacked by all who are exposed to his far-reaching ministry. Communists all over the world oppose him…the powerful, liberal church-related World and National Councils of Churches have sought to smear and discredit him, but Dr. Hargis carries on his crusade "for Christ and against Communism" to the Free World unflinchingly and courageously.
From his 1986 book Communist America . . Must it Be?
Though forced out Hargis continued his much diminished ministry, continuing to blame his downfall on others until his death on November 27, 2004 at the age of 79. Hargis left his wife Betty, a son and three daughters.