One of the major players in what came to be known as the “Religious Right” in the 1980s has shut its doors. The Center for Reclaiming America, based in Ft. Lauderdale, part of Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, has decided to close. It will also shut its Washington, D.C., office known as the Center for Christian Statesmanship.
Kennedy, who is 76 years old and recovering from a heart attack he suffered in December, is one of the best educated and most compelling of all the cultural conservatives who sought to use the political process to reverse the “moral slide” in America. Most of Kennedy’s televised messages in recent years have strayed from traditional preaching and focused primarily on politics and social issues.
Brian Fisher, executive vice president of Coral Ridge Ministries, told the Miami Herald, “We believe that by streamlining the operations we will be able to return to our core focus.” One hopes that will be preaching the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, unencumbered by the allures of the political kingdoms of this world, because that is where the greatest power lies to transform lives and ultimately nations. It does not lie in the Republican Party, with which Kennedy’s organization was almost exclusively associated.
Politics is about compromise. The message of the church is about Truth. One has to look no further than the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons — who long ago gave up speaking of another kingdom and another King (if they ever did) in favor of faith in the Democratic Party — to see how quickly the church and its primary message can be blurred when it enters into a shotgun marriage with politics. Jim Naugle, the mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, told the Herald that the last election persuaded candidates to package themselves “in the middle, rather than to the right.”
Nearly 30 years after religious conservatives decided to re-enter the political arena — after abandoning it as “dirty” and leading to compromise — what do they have to show for it? The country remains sharply divided and the reconciling message they used to preach has been obscured by the crass pursuit of the golden ring of political power. In the end, they got neither the power, nor the Kingdom; only the glory and even that is now fading, as these older leaders pass from the scene.