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Biography of Preacher and Evangelist Billy James Hargis Part 1

About the famous preacher and evangelist Billy James Hargis, history and biography of the religious figure and leader.

BILLY JAMES HARGIS (1925- )

"Kill a Commie for Christ" may have been a macabre put-on devised by the New Left of the 1960s, but one could almost believe it a serious rallying cry to the banner of Billy James Hargis.

As founder and leader of the Christian Crusade, the rotund Oklahoma evangelist struggles against the dark forces of World communism in all its many forms. In Hargis's view that includes the UN, the National Council of Churches, rock 'n' roll, the Playboy philosophy, long hair, modern art, mental health programs, sex education, and national magazines like Time and The Saturday Evening Post. Since Hargis mentally divides all human endeavor into 2 camps--either pro-Christian or procommunist--he necessarily enlarges the enemy's influence mightily.

The Christian Crusade, with headquarters in Tulsa, Okla., operates a multi-million-dollar complex of religious and educational institutions, including 2 youth camps and an agency offering guided tours of the Holy Land, Greece, and Rhodesia. The Crusade's far-right message is spread through books, pamphlets, a magazine and weekly newsletter, and taped radio broadcasts aired over more than 100 stations. Most of its tax-exempt income is drawn from direct mail solicitations sent regularly to a computer list of 200,000.

The Crusade's founder was born in Texarkana, Tex. Hargis was apparently raised hard-pan dirt poor and filled with a rural fundamentalism as angry and tempestuous as an Oklahoma dust storm. As a lad of 10, the future firebrand evangelist promised his life to the Lord if He would see his mother through a serious operation. The Lord kept His end of the bargain, and Billy James kept his.

After high school Hargis entered unaccredited Ozark Bible College in Bentonville, Ark. The fact that he left after little more than a year didn't stop him from being ordained in the Rose Hill Christian Church at age 18. He pastored small rural congregations in Missouri and Oklahoma for awhile. Then he found his true calling--the one that would make him rich and famous--the fight against "godless Communism."

"I'd rather win souls to Christ than fight Communism, any day," he explains, "but a man has to do what God calls him to do...."

Hargis earned his spurs with the far right in the early '50s, working with the Rev. Carl McIntire on "Project Bible Balloon." Hargis supervised the launching of thousands of gas-filled balloons that were subsequently floated across the Eastern European frontiers and into Russian satellite countries. Each balloon carried a selected Bible verse translated into 7 languages, intended to "succor the spiritually starved captives of Communism."

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