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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,873
July 20, 2017
American Family Association's 40th Anniversary
By Mike McManus

Rev. Don Wildmon asked his United Methodist congregation in Southaven, MS in 1977 to participate in a "Turn the Television Off Week" to protest TV's growing sex, violence and profanity. That sparked a story in Memphis and calls by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

That was the spark that led to the creation of the American Family Association which now owns 184 Christian radio stations and publishes the monthly AFA Journal with 150,000 paid subscribers.

About the same time, other Christian leaders emerged to address "the decline of morality and common decency in America" such as D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Adrian Rogers and Pat Robertson. They became known as the "religious right," and helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House.

In the 1980s, Wildmon was interviewed by Ted Koppel on Nightline, the McNeal-Lehrer Report on PBS, and NBC's Meet the Press. The one issue which put AFA on the national map was its opposition to a film by Martin Scorsese called The Last Temptation of Christ, which Wildman called "blasphemous." He urged Christians to sign a petition to theaters not to show the movie. It worked. The film only made it to 1% of the nation's theaters and was a flop.

As Don Wildmon's son, Tim, put it in the 40th anniversary issue of the AFA Journal, "The AFA addresses the moral issues of our day and attempts to bring about change in favor of the Christian teaching of right and wrong."

To its credit, however, the anniversary issue is "not about ourselves, but on 40 of you - true activists, men and women who have appeared on our pages over the years," wrote the magazine's editor Randall Murphree. Some are well-known, such as Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King and Pat Trueman, president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which is fighting pornography.

Others given the AFA spotlight are less well-known but have made remarkable contributions. Ted Baehr, created Movieguide, to encourage Hollywood to produce "family friendly films." When he began, less than 3% of films had "any positive Christian content or values." However, in 2016, 184 films, or 64% of the major movies "contained at least some positive Christian redemptive content." And they earned $3.8 billion!

Another leader is Fr. Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest who directs "Priests for Life," that launched the "Silent No More Awareness Campaign," to persuade those considering abortion, to have the baby instead. That is one of many pro-life efforts that has a big result: the number of abortions is at the lowest point since the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. There were 1.4 million abortions in 1990, but the number was cut in half to 699,000 by 2012.

Asked for his reactions to euthanasia and assisted suicide, Fr. Pavone told the AFA Journal, "If you can choose to do away with your innocent unwanted child, the flipside of that is that you can choose to do away with your innocent unwanted parent or grandparent."

Edwin Hodges recently completed 62 years in ministry - 22 as pastor, 19 with Bibles for the World, and since 1994, president of Edwin L. Hodges Ministries which collected new and used Christian literature - Bibles, magazines, Sunday School curriculum and books which he shipped to Bible schools, seminaries and pastors around the world. They shipped 16,942,576 pounds of literature to 145 countries in 119 languages!

Steve Tybor is a businessman who organized a relief effort after Hurricane Katrina (2005) that mobilized 684 volunteers to go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and help rebuild 84 homes in eight days! He thought that would be a one-time effort, but his "Eight Days of Hope" inspired 20,490 volunteers to participate in a dozen relief efforts, giving 695,325 hours of labor worth $25.2 million to remodel, refurbish or rebuild 1,785 homes.

I was greatly honored to be cited with my wife for creating Marriage Savers that "helps local clergy establish Community Marriage Policies - signed covenants by pastors in a community to take specific steps to prepare couples for lifelong marriage. From 1996 to 2001, El Paso's divorce rate plunged 79.5% after using the CMP." While the average divorce rate fell only 17.5% in 230 cities, that was enough to save 100,000 marriages from divorce.

The American Family Association has encouraged thousands of Christians to live their faith for others.

Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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