Sunday, January 20, 2013

100 years ago: The birth of Cleon Skousen

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
II Corinthians 6:14-15

On January 20, 1913, political theorist W. Cleon Skousen was born in the Raymond, Alberta; a lifelong Mormon, he grew up in California. Mr. Skousen was an FBI agent from 1940-1951, and police chief of Salt Lake City from 1956-1960. He was a supporter of the John Birch Society and made his name writing and speaking against Communism and the New World Order. His best-known book was The Naked Communist (1958); other books of his included The Naked Capitalist (1970); The Five Thousand Year Leap (1981); and The Cleansing of America (2010). He died in Salt Lake City on January 9, 2006, 11 days before his 93rd birthday. Mr. Skousen's views have been embraced by some--including Mormons such as Glenn Beck--and denounced by many others.

I heard Mr. Skousen speak on the campus of the University of Alberta on May 5, 1983, following Eldridge Cleaver in an appearance sponsored by the Freemen Institute (now known as the National Center for Constitutional Studies). I had read a newspaper item sometime earlier stating that Mr. Cleaver, a former leader of the Black Panther movement in the United States and a professing Christian by the late 1970s, was flirting with Mormonism (strange, given the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' historic attitude toward blacks); indeed, seven months after his Edmonton appearance, Mr. Cleaver was baptized as a Mormon, and was apparently still a member at the time of his death at the age of 62 on May 1, 1998. Mr. Cleaver's conversion to Mormonism didn't have any apparent influence on his behaviour, since he developed a cocaine addiction and had numerous brushes with the law. As I recall his speech at the U of A, his message consisted mainly of how he became disillusioned with Communism after spending time in societies dominated by it. There was nothing in his address that mainstream conservatives would have disagreed with.

I'd never heard of Mr. Skousen or the Freemen Institute, but as I recall, the FI billed itself as an organization interested in promoting constitutional government. I don't remember much of Mr. Skousen's talk, but if I recall correctly it seemed to focus mainly on things that would have been of interest to Americans, and seemed somewhat inapplicable to Canada. I started to suspect that the Freemen Institute was a Mormon front, and that suspicion was heightened by a look at the audience, which consisted mostly of young people who had a "Mormon look" about them--better-groomed and better-dressed than average, looking as though they had stepped out of a television show from the 1950s.

Mr. Skousen and the Freemen Institute were popular with some Christians and political conservatives at the time, and some Christians were appearing at conferences sponsored by FI (as well as with the Unification Church ("Moonie") front organization CAUSA International, perhaps unwittingly (the Freemen Institute, like a typical front, didn't come right out and say that it was a Mormon front organization). This sort of fellowship with unbelievers on the basis of similarity of political views is in disobedience to scripture, and should be avoided by Christians, regardless of how worthwhile the cause appears to be. Such forbidden fellowship may have affected the results of a few elections in the last few decades, but it hasn't resulted in a more godly society.

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