When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
From the hymn “Trust and Obey”
July-August 2017 – I was 14 years old when my dad, Don Wildmon, started the National Federation for Decency which later became American Family Association. The year was 1977. What kicked it all off was when Dad asked the congregation he pastored at First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, to participate in “Turn the Television Off Week.”
The local news media in Memphis found out about it, then the story hit the wire, and media calls from across the country started pouring into the pastor’s office. The church secretary was used to answering questions about what time services started and when the next potluck supper was scheduled. Now she was getting calls from NBC News and Wall Street Journal. In today’s vernacular, we would say the story of a small town preacher protesting sex, violence, and profanity on television “went viral.”
In was in the mid-1970s and early 1980s that God began to raise up several Christian leaders to address the decline of morality and common decency in America. They came from different denominations and varied backgrounds. Names that come to mind include D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Larry Burkett, Marlon Maddox, Adrian Rogers, and Pat Robertson. Of course, there were many others.
Politically, this group of leaders and the millions of people they represented became known as the “religious right.” That term was meant to be pejorative when used by the liberal media, but it was that group of people who basically put Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 with a stunning victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter.
In the 1980s, Dad was making regular appearances on national television news shows like Nightline with Ted Koppel and the Tomorrow Show with the late Tom Snyder. I remember when I was in high school traveling to Washington, D.C., so Dad could appear on the McNeal-Lehrer Report on PBS and NBC’s Meet the Press. At the time, those programs were leading news sources, so Dad’s profile and that of AFA began to rise across the country.
If I had to name one issue that put AFA on the national map and that brought in many new members to our cause, it was when the movie The Last Temptation of Christ was released in 1988. This was a blasphemous film about Christ directed by famed Hollywood liberal Martin Scorsese. I remember we had about 10 employees at the time, and we would all sit and take hundreds of phone calls a day from people all over America who wanted copies of our petition to theaters asking that they not show this movie. It worked. The movie only made it to 1% of the theaters in the country and was a financial flop.
If you ask our supporters what one word describes why they support AFA, the word would likely be action. AFA addresses the moral issues of our day and attempts to bring about change in favor of the Christian teaching of right and wrong. So we take on specific issues on a weekly basis. However, we are also about framing the worldview conflict between Christianity and secular humanism (progressivism) that is greater than any one issue. And we take action by educating the Christian community.
The mission of AFA is not hard to understand. Whatever God is for, we are for, and whatever God is against, we are against. That’s not our official mission statement, but it simplifies the reason we do what we do. And where do we get our guidance on what God is for and against? From the Bible.
I am encouraged by people like you who believe in that mission and who continue to stand in obedience to God, for the love of our country. It is only respect for Christian values that will restore our nation’s crumbling moral foundation.
Today is another opportunity for us to stand for those values as we go forward together practicing our trust in our great God.