Rev. D. James Kennedy, Broadcaster, Dies at 76
Article by NEELA BANERJEE[For some reason, Ms. Banerjee has a problem calling Dr. Kennedy by his proper title. Yet, she entitles Barry Lynn "reverend" as though it means something. ???]
The Rev. D. James Kennedy, a Christian broadcaster and the pastor of a Florida megachurch who played a critical role in the rise of conservative Christianity, died yesterday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 76. The cause was not immediately known, said Kristin Cole, a church spokeswoman, but Mr. Kennedy suffered permanent damage from heart arrhythmia last December and had been undergoing rehabilitative therapy since then.
From the founding of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale 48 years ago, Mr. Kennedy became an indefatigable and persuasive voice urging Christians to take on a broader culture that, in his view, had begun to decay.He argued that the decline was due to society’s increasing secularization and hostility to Christianity, said Frank Wright, a friend and the chief executive of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. Though not as well known to the broader public as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell or the Rev. Pat Robertson, Mr. Kennedy provided much of the theology that attracted millions of Christians into the camp of the religious right, said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “He was absolutely relentless in his criticism of everything on the left,” Mr. Lynn said. “He was a formidable creator of an opposition to what people like I believe.”
Mr. Kennedy stayed largely in the background as men like Mr. Falwell, Mr. Robertson and James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family spoke to Americans about the need to curtail abortion rights, gay rights and the teaching of evolution. But over the last decade, he, too, grew more openly active, creating the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, which held conferences that taught people to how to get involved in the political process. The center closed in April.
Mr. Kennedy opened the Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington to equip evangelicals on Capitol Hill to be more effective in government. He was also instrumental in establishing the Alliance Defense Fund, an increasingly active Christian counterweight to secular civil liberties groups.
“For decades, Dr. Kennedy has been a passionate defender of biblical truth in a culture that increasingly forgot it,” Dr. Dobson said in a statement. “He was a giant in the battle to restore traditional values in our nation.”Kennedy accepted Jesus after the message of a radio preacher woke him one Sunday morning. In Mr. Kennedy’s often-repeated account, which appears on his Web site, the preacher asked: “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and he were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into my heaven?’— what would you say?”
In 1967, he started an “evangelism clinic” called Evangelism Explosion, which taught Christians how to spread the Gospel. Mr. Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, which includes radio and television, says it now has an audience of 3.5 million people, according to the group’s Web site. “Coral Ridge Hour,” a weekly sermon by Mr. Kennedy, is broadcast in more than 145 countries and on more than 600 stations.
Mr. Kennedy also founded a seminary and a school and wrote more than 65 books. Mr. Kennedy worked with other evangelicals to articulate the core beliefs of what would become the religious right. Mr. Kennedy spoke sharply against gay rights and abortion rights. But he thought the greatest threat to society was the fact that public education had left prayer out of the classroom and continued to teach evolution, Mr. Wright said. “When people feel that they are the product of some accident and not the intended creation of God, they are filled with a sense of hopelessness and there is an almost pagan barbarianism in the way some people would act,” Mr. Wright said.