For forty-eight years a single organization has led the way in preserving America’s national sovereignty while helping to fortify the moral blockade on our failing culture. And like most organizations that stand up to the machinations of wickedness, this group has suffered the unjust disparagement and ridicule from those who misunderstand its mission or are trying to subvert its efforts. This contempt of The John Birch Society (JBS) has left it isolated with few who will call themselves “allies” to its cause.
Those who have stood long beside Chalcedon, and the mission of Christian Reconstruction, can heartily empathize with that same sense of national quarantine. Such organizations have chosen to keep to the straight and narrow, and they understand that it is usually a “remnant” who will make the difference. Attempts to allure the masses are considered anathema to those whose greatest concern is the truth.
R. J. Rushdoony once wrote, “The key to the John Birch Society’s effectiveness has been a plan of operation which has strong resemblance to the early church: have meetings, local ‘lay’ leaders, area supervisors or ‘bishops.’” This resemblance to the early church is understandable in that the JBS is “both criticized, hated, and attacked as the early church was to a far greater degree, and that it is led by volunteer laymen.”
The JBS has preserved itself by maintaining a simple but effective model of information distribution, and both my father and I have participated for many years as representatives for both the mission of the JBS as well as Christian Reconstruction. We see them as having complementary missions, and both endeavors are needed now more than ever. My hope is that after reading this article, you will have a greater appreciation for organizations like the JBS and Chalcedon. Such groups deserve our support and prayers.
What Is The John Birch Society?
What do you know about The John Birch Society? Maybe you’ve heard that the JBS was a far-right racist organization reminiscent of fascistic Nazis or hate-filled Klansmen. Or maybe you’ve caught wind that the JBS is a paranoid think tank for conspiracy theorists perpetually decrying the impending takeover by the United Nations. Either way, identifying oneself with the JBS has meant risking a public relations blemish that could stain one’s efforts for years to come, and this has frightened a good many Christian conservatives from publicly endorsing the JBS mission.
This is why I was delighted when Chalcedon asked if I would contribute an article on the JBS to this issue on Christian action. My family has always viewed participation in the JBS as a primary means of preserving Christian liberty for our countrymen and ourselves, and as the threat to personal freedom looms closer than ever, I feel we are long overdue an insider’s view into this American organization.
For the best perspective on the mission and work of the JBS, I recently interviewed the president of the society, John F. McManus. I believe you will find that despite areas of difference, there is a genuine congruence between the JBS and Chalcedon. I hope also that more can be done in the future to galvanize the mutual missions of such organizations so that peace, freedom, and Christian civilization may be preserved for succeeding generations. Our faithfulness to Christian action now will greatly determine the health of liberty for years to come.
Q: Mr. McManus, how long have you been affiliated with the JBS?
A: I joined the JBS in 1964. I accepted a staff coordinator position in 1966, and August first will mark my fortieth anniversary on the JBS staff. They brought me into JBS headquarters in 1968, and I was named JBS Director of Public Relations in 1973, president in 1991. It has been quite a ride, and I certainly have no regrets.
Q: When was the JBS founded, and what prompted its founder, Robert Welch, to create it?
A: The JBS was founded on December 8–9, 1958. Founder Robert Welch met with eleven men in Indianapolis, Indiana. He spoke to these men for seventeen hours over two days. The transcript of his lengthy presentation can be read in The Blue Book of The John Birch Society. There were three major concerns that led him to launch the Society: (a) the spread of communist control over many nations and the penetration of the U.S. by Communists and Communist sympathizers; (b) the “disease of collectivism,” as he termed the growth of government everywhere, especially in the U.S.; and (c) the rise of amorality, the attitude among so many who hold that there are no absolute rights and wrongs and who therefore conduct themselves with only self-promotion as the goal. These people have no concern about the moral codes given by man’s Creator, and they fit perfectly into being used by powerful and wealthy forces who have evil designs.
A: The goal of the JBS is found in the organization’s motto: “Less government, more responsibility, and—with God’s help—a better world.” It has always been the belief of Society members that a “satanic and diabolic conspiracy” formed by and kept in existence by totally amoral individuals has been working for many years for the complete opposite of what The John Birch Society seeks, meaning [this conspiracy seeks] more government leading to total government, less responsibility among persons and organizations, and, while effectively shaking a fist at the sky, no acknowledgment of God’s existence or His dominion over mankind.
A: The John Birch Society is not a religion. Practically all members are deeply religious, though not in agreement about which particular faith. Because the organization is not a religion per se, members of various faiths can and do work together for the common goals noted above. Most who join the JBS become more intensely religious.
Q: What sets the JBS apart from other Americanist organizations? What makes it different or more effective?
A: Among the several features separating the JBS from other Americanist organizations are (a) no ties to any political party or to any candidate at any level, (b) no tax-exempt status that could be taken away at a critical point and force the Society to go out of business, (c) monolithic structure that does not leave decision-making to a popular vote of the members, (d) protection from infiltration via an agreement by all who join that membership can be revoked by an officer in the Society without any requirement that a reason be given, (e) a chapter structure whereby members in a given area accept the challenge of waking the town and telling the people in their area, (f) a steady stream of recommended action programs with the U.S. Constitution as the basis for such action, (g) a nationally acclaimed magazine and divisions that engage in book publishing and film and video production, and (h) a fully paid field staff to guide member activity and build membership where it does not exist.
Q: What are some of the major successes of the JBS?
A: As founder Robert Welch stated more than once, staying alive was a huge accomplishment in the wake of a withering media campaign of smear and falsehoods aimed at us in the 1960s. In addition, creating awareness about the proper role of government, as defined in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, has been a significant accomplishment. Beyond these general successes, other partial or complete victories include:
(a) creating awareness about the difference between the republic created by our nation’s founders and a democracy which they despised;
(b) alerting fellow Americans about the United Nations and the plans of its partisans to build a godless world government (“new world order”) to rule mankind;
(c) impeding the plan to create morale-destroying police civilian review boards throughout the nation;
(d) exposing the subversive individuals who were creating civil turmoil as a prelude to converting the U.S. Southeast into a minority Soviet Republic;
(e) focusing attention on the many programs of aid to the USSR and its satellites that hastened the breakup of the Soviet bloc;
(f) exposing the plans of the subversives leading the American Indian Movement who sought to establish an enclave within U.S. borders for the purpose of spreading strife and terror throughout the nation;
(g) torpedoing an already heavily endorsed Declaration of Interdependence by Congress during the bicentennial years;
(h) successfully blocking ratification of the subversive Equal Rights Amendment;
(i) having President Clinton impeached by the House and receiving grudging credit for our leadership in that effort from the leftist Washington Post;
(j) stopping the drive to have Congress create a Constitutional Convention that would likely have led to a complete rewrite of the venerable document;
(k) cautioning fellow Americans not to accept the fright peddlers who claimed that Y2K would end civilization as it has been known;
(l) exposing and blocking the plans of the United Nations to steer American children away from their religious-based heritage with indoctrination leading to the worship of the earth goddess Gaia, the substitution of the blasphemous “Ark of Hope,” and the adoption of the UN’s Earth Charter;
(m) exposing the subversive plan to insert our nation and the entire Western Hemisphere into a sovereignty-destroying Free Trade Area of the Americas via congressional approval during 2005;
(n) distributing the voting records of numerous left-leaning members of Congress that led voters to oust many incumbents from office without ever condemning them or endorsing their opponents. More successes could be listed, but those named above should blunt the claims of anyone who may insist that our organization has never accomplished anything.
Q: It’s my understanding that R. J. Rushdoony, the founder of the Chalcedon Foundation, worked with or for Robert Welch at one time. What was the relationship between Rushdoony and Welch? Did they have a falling out, and if so, what was it over?
A: R. J. Rushdoony and Robert Welch had a mutual respect for one another, but their relationship was never very close. Rushdoony authored numerous articles for the Robert Welch–led magazine American Opinion during a period from the late 1960s until the early 1980s. I know of no “falling out” between them.
Q: The JBS has faced unrelenting attack from the media, the Establishment, and others since its founding. What was the most damaging and how was the JBS able to survive?
A: The most damaging aspect of the attacks from the media and the Establishment was its intensity over several years. No nasty adjective was spared as the Society was labeled secret, subversive, racist, anti-Semitic, like the Nazis, like the Communists, like the fascists, like the Klan, etc. None of these charges were in any way justified, and some charges were mutually contradictory—such as being labeled anti-Catholic in some parts of the nation and pro-Catholic in other parts, or being portrayed as pro-Mormon in one area and anti-Mormon in another.
Q: What would you say are the demographics of the members of the JBS? What is an average Bircher?
A: The JBS is made up of people from all walks of life, from practically every religion and ethnic background, and from all levels of personal wealth. We delight in pointing out our many blue-collar historians and our crusading housewives just as much as we are proud to number among our members many entrepreneurs, clergymen, teachers, etc. An average “Bircher” is someone who loves this nation, believes that our government should be limited by the U.S. Constitution, understands that individuals should rule themselves according to a moral code such as is found in the Ten Commandments, understands that a conspiratorial plot against civilization has infected our nation, and is willing to join with others to expose and rout the conspiracy while laboring to keep our nation free and independent.
Q: How many members do you have today, and when was membership the highest?
A: Membership numbers are never published, but, in general, there are several tens of thousands of Society members. Surprisingly, the greatest growth period in the Society’s history occurred in the wake of several years of smear being directed at us. When the orchestrators of the smear campaign realized that all the attention being given us was helping the Society by steering people to investigate us, the smear campaign ceased almost entirely.
A: The current rise in membership is not what we want it to be. We do take in new members all the time, but we constantly lose some through death, personal problems, and burnout. Occasionally, we find people who have joined for the wrong reasons, such as believing we were racist or hoping that we would support a political favorite or expecting that they could gather support within the Society for their own purpose (religion, consumer product sales, racism, etc.). As soon as an unsavory purpose is discovered in these persons, they either fade away of their own accord or any advance dues they may have paid are returned and they are sent on their way.
Q: What do you think poses the greatest threat to the United States today, and what is the JBS doing about it?
A: The greatest political threat to the United States today is the drive to compromise sovereignty via numerous routes—all of which are part of the plan to deliver this nation to the United Nations. The threat isn’t that the UN will “take us over.” The real threat is that our leaders are indeed delivering our nation to the UN where they and like-minded megalomaniacs will then rule the world. But beyond the very real political threat lies a far more dangerous threat to the continued existence of a free country. It is the decline of morality. Asked many times over the years what he believed to be the most serious threat facing America, JBS founder Robert Welch always pointed to moral decline.
Q: The New American magazine seems to be gaining popularity. Is readership on the rise? If so, how do you account for this? How about The New American website?
A:The New American magazine has achieved popularity among many friends and allies of the JBS beyond actual JBS members themselves. Sad to say, however, readership is not rising as much as we would like. There are two main reasons why this is so: (1) people don’t read as much or as well as they did in former years, and (2) many rely on the Internet for the information we supply. We do post articles from each issue of the magazine on TheNewAmerican.com website, and we know that there are many who avail themselves of the opportunity to read them. This adds to the effectiveness of the magazine, but it is always our hope, of course, that those who use the Internet will become actual subscribers.
Q: Why doesn’t the JBS affiliate or partner itself with other organizations?
A: Robert Welch always believed in working with other organizations, and the Society did so during the years he led the organization. He frequently congratulated others for a stand they had taken, recommended other publications, and sought to work with other groups and individuals for the common good. Sad to say, he was frequently betrayed by many he thought were allies, the most notable of these being William F. Buckley, Jr., who has never ceased disparaging the Society and its work. During the past year, after a change in leadership at JBS, a new campaign to work with other groups has begun.
Q: How would you define success for the Birch Society?
A: Success for our Society will come when a sufficient number of members of Congress stand by their solemn oath to honor the limitations on government contained in the U.S. Constitution. If the Constitution were adhered to, the federal government would be 20 percent its size and cost, and there would be no undeclared wars, foreign aid, or federal involvement in education, housing, welfare, medicine, and a host of other areas where no authorization for such federal action has ever existed.
Q: What would you say poses the greatest obstacle to the success of the JBS?
A: The greatest obstacle facing our Society—and the nation itself—remains moral decline. Couple that with a degree of cowardice among many who hear and understand our message, yet refuse to help, and you have two very significant barriers to our success. We do believe, however, that there are more good people than bad, and that there are more than enough of these who will meet their responsibility to oppose the evil in our midst if we can reach them in time. We emphasize with all whom we reach that the JBS is vibrantly involved in the struggle for good against evil, not anxious to promote a partisan political view or support a favored candidate. We stress that patriotism is a natural and praiseworthy virtue, and that loving and protecting a country that has as fine a foundation as ours should be a widespread goal.
Q: How do you see the next five years in terms of the success of the JBS and the future of the United States?
A: We look forward during the next five years to greater success in our campaign to preserve the independence of our nation while exposing those who want it to become merely one part of a world government under the UN. We will be working to scuttle the plans of the internationalists to continue transferring sovereignty piecemeal to various UN-affiliated groups and arrangements (WTO, FTAA, SPP, and the UN itself).
Q: Finally, what are the major misconceptions of the JBS that keep otherwise sympathetic observers from joining the fight?
A: Major misconceptions are those that were long ago hurled at JBS: racist, anti-Semitic, like the Klan, the Nazis, or fascists, etc. Often, we can find and stimulate some people thirty to forty years old who have never heard any of the negative branding we endured but who will then mention having come to know JBS to a parent or some older American. They are then told by the older American about the nasty images painted about us so many years ago. The result: the younger Americans back away. Another problem is that people have become very reluctant to join anything for fear of having their name show up on some list that might be used by some government bureau to harass them. They don’t realize that they are already listed by the government via a Social Security number. There definitely is a spreading fear to become involved in anything that criticizes government. We constantly urge people not to build an Iron Curtain around themselves, and we remind them that they are free Americans who should never be afraid to speak out when they see something wrong being done in their name.
End of Interview
What can I say in criticism of the organization that my family and I have served for so many years? Not much. Certainly, I do not embrace the level of religious pluralism of the JBS, but I understand that it is not organized for a religious purpose. However, the Chalcedon Foundation is organized for advocating the distinctives of the Christian world and life view, and my hope is that these great advocates of freedom can support each other in their mutual missions in Christ’s Kingdom.
Both Reconstruction and the JBS recognize the evil of statism that robs us of liberty. And as the darker forces work to undermine national sovereignty and usher in greater governmental control, all other agendas face the threat of being stifled in the name of “national security.” For this reason I am pushed by a sense of urgency to awaken those around me to the two-fold assignment of preserving personal liberty while building Christian civilization.
It is not enough to simply state what we oppose. We must also state what we intend to preserve and make clear what we envision to build. In his 1969 article “Seeds or Weeds,” R. J. Rushdoony makes the analogy that if you spend all your time pulling weeds and never planting seeds, you won’t have any vegetables to show for your labor. Yet, at the same time we must be careful not to overlook the importance of weed pulling. For it is the weeds that seek to occupy the good soil while choking out the produce. It is quite obvious that both labors are necessary to yield a healthy, substantial crop.
Working in Terms of Things Not Yet Seen
The war we are in is both spiritual and tangible. My father recently apprised me of the fact that a good many of our Lord’s miracles involved man in action. This has been the consistent testimony of God’s great miracles throughout Biblical history. For his strong faith Noah and his family were preserved from a great destruction. But faith alone was insufficient to save Noah’s family. God required that Noah do more than believe. Noah was to work in terms of his faith for the saving of his household. By doing so, Noah was also a sign of condemnation to an immoral generation:
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Heb. 11:7)
For over four decades both the Chalcedon Foundation and the JBS have warned of “things not seen as yet” in politics, economics, nationalism, and morality. However, these warnings are now taking form on an unprecedented scale. We would be ill-prepared for such a national challenge were it not for the leaders of the JBS and Chalcedon moving with fear in what they knew was fast approaching.
It is difficult to predict the future. Many Reformed economists, including Rushdoony, expected a much earlier collapse of the U.S. dollar due to fractional reserve banking and ever-increasing inflation. In like manner, the JBS anticipated a much sooner transition to a world government under UN control. Despite the fact that America retains a semblance of constitutional freedom and is experiencing only a mild recession does not preclude the agenda of those opposed to freedom and Christendom.
Since 9-11 America has been on a fast track of government expansion. Despite the stated threats of international “terrorism,” our leaders in Washington are pushing for the creation of a North American Union based upon the open trade relationship between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The crisis over immigration is instilling great concern within the hearts of most Americans, yet a good many of them do not understand the big picture. Organizations like the JBS can provide the editorial resources to educate Americans to the many threats facing this once great nation.
My prayer is that equipping institutions like the JBS and Chalcedon will gain greater access to the national debate over religious freedom and civil liberties. By heeding the warning early enough, we can build an “ark” of preservation should the floods of God’s judgment be seen in our land. May God strengthen our hearts and minds to move in terms of His will and purpose.
 R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973), 747.