Pride, Pragmatism, and Profit: The Three Snares That Have Compromised Evangelicalism

By Brannon S. Howse

Bear in mind that I use Liberty University as a prime example of compromise simply because it has long been perceived as a source of serious Christian conservatism. It shows that unbiblical compromise can happen anywhere and is happening almost everywhere. Liberty has compromised in other directions as well.

In 2010, Liberty U hosted an event called The Awakening. The roster of speakers included false prophets Rick Joyner, Cindy Jacobs, and Lou Engle—all part of the New Apostolic Reformation (for an in-depth look at the heresies and false teachings of NAR, see my book Religious Trojan Horse, available at 

Why are events like The Awakening happening at supposedly Christian institutions? In a word: pragmatism. Pragmatism seems to be the foundation for so many decisions that have been made that are the snare to compromise the Gospel. The bottom line appears to be to improve the bottom line, to bring in more money to organizations “so we can reach more people and have a bigger following.” Yet this is nothing more than the-end-justifies-the-means rationalization.

Over the last few years, I have made some decisions that have cost me significantly, but I had come to a fork in the road and had to decide: Will I be quiet? Will I allow my silence to be purchased with threats or intimidation or be threatened that “if you expose these people we’re working with in ecumenical events, you won’t be able to rent our e-mail list? If you mention this, you won’t be on our radio network anymore. If you mention this, we won’t promote your conferences.” My decision was clear: I would accept the consequences of doing what I believe is godly and biblical. I believe many in evangelicalism today who are willing to compromise are doing so because they saw what Jerry Falwell was doing and the way other leaders of the evangelical community approached the issue, and many are simply mimicking what they saw. 

Let me give you an example of how this began with Jerry Falwell and the previous generation of religious conservatives. First, though, let me offer a disclaimer. I knew Jerry Falwell and was even a guest on his television program. And, in fact, I hosted him on my radio show more than once. I also wrote for his newspaper, the Liberty Journal. Even at the time, I didn’t agree with Jerry on everything, but now I’m more aware of the downside of what Falwell was up to. I’m shocked at what I uncovered in my research for this book, Jerry Falwell, for instance, took over the PTL Club in about 1987 after the Jim Bakker scandal and tried to save the broadcast. He apparently hoped to pay off the organization’s debt, but some have said his ultimate goal was to get hold of the huge number of television outlets for the Bakker program through its satellite network. In the early 90s, I spoke at a church in Maryland for a pastor who was on the board of Falwell’s organization. He told me that the board had begged Falwell not to get involved with PTL, but Falwell insisted on moving ahead with his plan. 

I believe Falwell shouldn’t have been involved with Bakker because of the name-it-and-claim-it, prosperity-gospel false teaching promoted by Jim Bakker and the PTL Club. A lot of his fellow Baptists and Southern Baptists were upset with Jerry Falwell at the time. So much so that many folks stopped contributing to his organizations. But according to an April 11, 1987, article in the Los Angeles Times, by Robert Parry, here’s what Falwell said about his reasons for helping PTL: 

[quote] “I’m not here to stamp Jerry Falwell on this ministry,” referring to the PTL Club, “or to create an independent Baptist empire. I’m here to maintain what has been a Christian ministry for the family of God period.” [end quote] [source:  Robert Parry, “The GOP’s Own Asian Connection: Rev. Moon,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 16, 1997, posted at]


Why would Falwell want to maintain a ministry selling the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity false teaching? Bakker’s ministry was not for true Christian believers. No. Bakker undermined the Gospel. His was not a ministry to the family of God. The Times, I believe, correctly saw through what Falwell intended: 


[quote] Falwell is the only top electronic preacher who doesn’t have a satellite network and thus has to syndicate his programs. Falwell aide Mark DeMoss told the Times that, “Falwell is indeed considering using the PTL satellite for his own network, but has not yet made a decision about it.” [end quote] 


I have come to believe that the Religious Right in America was perhaps one of the most dangerous movements in the Church ever to exist. In laying the foundation for the compromise we see today, the pragmatistic connections between Jerry Falwell and 1990s Asian cult leader Sun Myung Moon provide a dramatic example. The Los Angeles Times noted how Moon had been known to spread his influence: “Much of Moon’s influence buying is done in secret and often occurs when conservatives are vulnerable to being bought.” And who might be one of the conservatives “vulnerable to being bought”? Parry’s article has the answer:


[quote] A recent example is Christian right leader Jerry Falwell, who feared his fundamentalist Liberty University in Virginia was slipping into bankruptcy. Desperate for infusion of cash, Falwell and two associates made an unannounced trip to South Korea in January 1994, where they solicited help from Unification representatives.

According to documents on file in court in Bedford, Virginia, months later, Moon’s organization funneled $3.5 million to Liberty University through a clandestine channel. The money was delivered through one of Moon’s front groups, the Women’s Federation for World Peace. [endquote] 


When conservatives get themselves into debt, pragmatism really begins.

Church pastors are certainly not immune to this temptation. Many think if they build a big building, folks will show up, thinking something big is happening at this church. So the church builds, and it goes from being debt-free to a church millions of dollars in debt. I’ve watched it happen. Then the dark side kicks in. If people don’t start showing up, what does the pastor do? He begins to soften his message, to compromise. To be more “seeker sensitive,” he preaches on experience-related topics and talks more about things that are emotionally based, not biblically based. He begins to manipulate people with feelings and a lot of stories and experiences. Pretty soon, you’re appealing to a seeker-sensitive generation, to get the numbers up and the dollars back up. 

This pragmatic approach is motivated by pride. And suddenly, as I said before: the end justifies the means. Pride produces pragmatism in order to yield a profit. Here’s how the Los Angeles Times followed Falwell’s pursuit of profit:


[quote] It passed through the Christian Heritage Foundation, a Virginia nonprofit corporation, that was buying up and forgiving Liberty’s debt. On January 28, 1995, during his nationally televised Old-Time Gospel Hour, Falwell credited the directors of the Foundation, Daniel A. Reber and Jimmy Thomas, with saving Liberty. Falwell made no mention of his more prominent financial angel, Moon, who is objectionable to many fundamentalist Christians because of his unusual biblical interpretations and his recruitment of young people away from their families. . . .

I discovered the $3.5 million contribution while examining the Internal Revenue Service records of Moon-connected organizations. On the 1995 tax report for Women’s Federation, there was a line item listing $3.5 million going to the Christian Heritage Foundation. Susan Fefferman, the Federation’s vice president, admitted the money was targeted for Falwell’s Liberty University. [end quote] 


In some ways, I feel sorry for Jerry Falwell, Jr., that his father didn’t provide a better example for him. But now I believe he’s following the pattern—from Moonies to Mormons. The junior Falwell was steeped in pragmatism. He was part of a leadership team that included Ronald Godwin, who eventually left Falwell’s organization to work for . . . Sun Myung Moon. Here’s the story as reported by Forbes magazine on August 6, 2008: 


  • [quote] Besides his sons, Jerry, Jr., and Jonathan, there was a third force guiding Jerry Falwell in his decade—Liberty’s chief financial officer, Ronald D. Godwin.
  • “My own little career beats the fool out of fiction,” says Godwin, 67. Godwin is a veteran of the religious right, who did two tours of duty with Falwell. They travelled together everywhere. As Falwell disbanded the Moral Majority in 1987, Godwin was approached by an official at the Unification Church to see whether he might be interested in working for Moon. The job was senior vice president for New World Communications, the Unification Church-backed publisher of the Washington Times.


  • “They offered me a ton of money and the chance to travel around the world.” That’s a quote from Godwin. It was an easy decision for Godwin, but a tough one for Falwell, who sat in Godwin’s office in tears when Godwin broke the news.


  • Godwin became an ambassador for the Washington Times and a roving efficiency expert for the giant constellation of Moon’s enterprises in real estate, hotels, and restaurants. He swooped in on Moon-owned operations to analyze productivity and suggest ways to squeeze profits. He says he got to know all of Moon’s children and attended their birthday parties.


  • Godwin had returned to Liberty after a 12-year absence, becoming Falwell’s chief financial officer and spokesman in 1999. When he returned, he was rich, but his personal life was a shambles. Falwell was alone in his sympathy for Godwin. To some faculty members, hiring Godwin was blasphemy. He was a twice-divorced single man, who had spent the last decade working for the Moonies.


  • “In our subculture, hiring me was a very outrageous thing to do,” he says. Falwell made a prescient countermove. He convinced the board to appoint Godwin as executive vice president and Liberty’s chief financial officer. Falwell had saved Godwin; now Godwin would say Falwell. [end quote] [source: Righteous Brothers, By Dirk Smillie, Forbes Magazine, August 6, 2008.]


Reverend Moon used Falwell—and presumably others—to wend his way into the American Church. Moon claimed to believe that Christianity needed to be “resurrected,” and he was the man for the job. And just what would a resurrected Christianity look like? Likely something akin to Moon’s strange beliefs, summarized by my friend and apologist, the late Ron Carlson: 


[quote] Eve sinned by having sexual relations with Satan. A second Adam was thus required, and Christ thus came to Earth to find a sinless woman by which He would procreate the kingdom of God on Earth. Moon taught that Jesus was not able to bring in the kingdom of God because He got Himself crucified.

Moon taught that there thus needed to be a third Adam. He said that in 1936, Jesus appeared to him on a hillside in Korea and told him he was chosen to complete the plan of salvation that Jesus had failed to complete. Moon taught that in the late 1930s and 1940s, that as the savior of the world, he—as the savior of the world—he was to have sexual relations with 70 virgins, 70 married women, and 70 widows so he might pass on his purity to them and sexually bring in the kingdom of God on Earth.

In the 1950s, he changed his theology to say that blood atonement was required, and that meant non-stop exertion of his followers in servitude to Father Moon. He would call himself “Father.” So, he said no longer was the kingdom going to be brought into this sexual process, but that it was now going to be brought in through blood atonement. And the blood atonement that was required was non-stop exertion of his followers in servitude. [end quote] 


The Moonies relentlessly pursued its founder’s goal of revamping the church, brainwashing young people and stealing them from their families. Moonies taught their followers that atonement meant non-stop work for Father Moon, often requiring 18-hour days of selling flowers and trinkets on the streets. Many believe that their effort is how Reverend Moon ended up with millions upon millions of dollars. Ron Carlson worked with many families to get their kids un-brainwashed and away from the Moonies. He also ministered to former Moonies who likewise helped him to save young people from the Moonie cult.

Long before Moon became accepted by leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Ron Carlson explained that Moon believed he and his fourth wife—married in 1960—were the true parents of humankind and that she was the incarnate Holy Spirit. Moon claimed their marriage was the marriage feast of the Lamb recorded in Revelation 19 and that their eight children were sinless offspring who would bring in the kingdom of God. He taught his followers to hate the cross and the blood of Jesus, and he claimed that Korea was the new Israel. The 38th parallel, dividing North and South Korea, was the battle line between God and Satan. Ultimately, politics is why he was so involved in America and anti-Communism efforts. 

I believe the Religious Right and the New Religious Right, and their ecumenicalism, and their moralizing, and much of what they’re doing today is a complete undermining of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And their compromise contributes greatly to the potential for a one-world religious system.


Copyright 2015 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative. 

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