The American people are fiercely competitive, a fact which some liberal educators and modernistic theologians have severely criticized.  But competition can be either good or bad, depending on the direction it takes.  Our American competitive free enterprise system of economics had provided more goods and services for more people than any other economic system in the world.  Technologically, the United States has surpassed any other nation in the history of the world.  To a great extent the American success story is directly related to competition.  Competition in every field—medicine, business, manufacturing, education—has contributed tremendously to our economic and professional well-being.


On the other hand, we can become so competitive, so intent on winning, that we overlook compassion, honesty, justice and goodness.  Some businessmen and professional people are so determined to win that they trample on thousands of people, ignore legitimate needs of our citizens, rape the earth’s natural resources and contaminate the atmosphere.  For them, winning is not just the best thing in life, it is the only thing.  Michael Milken, the “junk bond” king is one recent example of this almost total disregard for the welfare of others.  Ivan Boesky is another example.  These men apparently thought that winning was so important that they were willing to engage in illegal and immoral activities.  They both made and retain fortunes from their greed.


Winning—whether in business, in sports, or in love—is very important, but it is not all there is to life.  When we hear certain sports figures talk about their team exploits, it is easy to get the impression that nothing matters but winning.  It is not unusual to hear a coach or a player or a business tycoon say, “We are going to win whatever it takes.”  People with that attitude are likely to engage in underhanded, illegal and unscrupulous behavior.  In fact, our newspapers and magazines are full of the deeds of men and women who tried to win—and in many cases did win—regardless of the cost.


As valid and significant as competition is in many phases of life, should we not use the Bible as our guide in planning our winning strategies?  Should not Christians put God and family and country before winning?  I am not saying or even implying that Christians cannot win or should not try, but winning a ballgame or a business contract is not so important as living by the principles of righteousness.  But can we win by observing Christian principles which are outlined in the Bible?  Would it surprise you to learn that there are many who call themselves “Christians” who think you are bound to lose if you follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and of the apostles?  Ted Turner called Christians “losers”.


Tragically, there are sports figures—including some nationally known coaches—who would do almost anything to win.  Some college and university teams violate NCAS regulations by improper recruiting of athletes or by paying them on the side for their performance or by other unsportsmanlike and immoral means.  I have seen coaches throw chairs on to the gym floor when they did not like what the referees were doing.  Responsible university presidents should fire such coaches—immediately or sooner.


College and high school sports touch the lives of countless thousands of Americans—both young and old.  But they do not have the effect on so many people as do our business and professional leaders.  All of us have known business and professional people who have used every conceivable means to get to the top of the heap.  They have lied, stolen, cheated, and even killed to achieve their goals.  There is no point in our denying the truth of these immoral practices.


John D. Rockefeller, a staunch evolutionist, did not believe that Christian ethics should govern business development.  He believed in using whatever means were necessary to achieve his goals.  He used the law and unscrupulous lawyers to expand his business interests, regardless of the countless thousands of people who were hurt in the process.  There is no way of estimating the number of people who were hurt by the evil plots and plans of John D. Rockefeller and his associates.  Andrew Carnegie belonged in the same category.  In modern times, he is best know for his generosity in endowing libraries through the United States, but he was a bitter enemy of Christianity, probably because its moral values ran contrary to his evolutionary views.  His faith in the survival of the fittest guided him in his dealings with his fellowmen.  He might have been mean and ruthless even if he had never heard of the Darwinian theory of evolution, but evolution unquestionably had a direct bearing on his crooked dealings.


Probably no businessman or politician embodies the “win-at-any-cost” philosophy better than Joseph Kennedy, Sr., the father of John, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy.  The unconscionable behavior of the Kennedy clan-including John Fitzgerald Kennedy—is chronicled in a book, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, by Thomas C. Reeves. The book by Reeves is not yellow journalism but a serious historical examination of the Kennedy dynasty.  The book has the endorsement of Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post, of the Los Angeles Times and of other reputable people and organizations.  In fact, Jonathan Yardley calls the book “the best biography I read this year.”  It is “a revisionist view of John F. Kennedy from which his reputation is unlikely to ever fully recover” (back cover). The Los Angeles Times says, “The John Kennedy who emerges from these pages was not a man of good moral character.  He was reared not to be good but to win” (back cover).


Thomas Reeves says that Joe Kennedy wanted to be a millionaire by the age of 35 (p.22). When he had reached the age of 35 he was a millionaire many times over.  Reeves thinks Joe was involved in the illegal liquor trade during Prohibition.  One mobster reported that Joe was involved in a hijacked shipment of whiskey from Ireland to Boston (p.27).  Reeves commented on Kennedy’s penchant for lechery and then added: “In politics they would do what it took to win” (p.31).  The Kennedys were completely devoted to getting whatever they wanted—no matter who was hurt in the process.  In their religious activities they may have talked about integrity, humility and love, but their religious life had little or nothing to do with their daily lives.  They were not going to allow anything or anyone to keep them from achieving their goals.  “The Founding Father thus commanded” (p.33).


Thomas Reeves quotes from Richard J. Whalen’s carefully researched biography of Joseph Kennedy, The Founding Father, as follows:  Joseph Kennedy was “an unscrupulous manipulator, shamelessly willing to plot and spend in order to propel his son into the White House.”  He succeeded in instilling in his children the same beliefs and the same drive which had made him a name to be feared.  He pushed his children to fulfill the design he believed had been ordained (p.6).


There is a question which seems especially pertinent to me, since we spend weeks on television and in the print media eulogizing Kennedy every anniversary of his assassination. Why do the media exalt John F. Kennedy? They cannot be ignorant of the illegal and immoral deals he arranged to get into the White House.  They have to know about the dozens and dozens of young women he brought into his residences.  They know he was guided and ruled by his infamous father. Yet they treat him as if he were some kind of god and his years in the White House as if they really did constitute Camelot.  The influence of the Kennedy clan has been decidedly detrimental—morally, spiritually, politically, financially and in many other ways.


Politics and politicians have for a long time been considered inherently rotten, although that need not be the case.  The word “politics” comes from the Greek polites which means the science of good government, but in too many cases politics deteriorates into using one’s position to enrich his own personal financial condition and that of his friends.  The very mention of scoundrels likes Lester Maddox of Georgia, Huey P. Long of Louisiana, Mayor Richard Daly of Chicago and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is enough to turn one’s stomach on political matters.  How does one explain the reelection of a Ted Kennedy or a Gerry Studds or a Bob Packwood?


George Grant’s 1991 book, The Quick and the Dead (Wheaton: Crossway Books), tells of the story of the development of RU-486, the French abortion pill.  The developer of the pill was Dr. Etienne-Emile Blum, a highly respected French physician.  Dr. Blum engaged in an intense campaign to have his baby-killing pill approved by the government and accepted by the populace.  He angrily criticized religious fundamentalists and right wing Protestants and Roman Catholics.  Please listen to Dr. Blum’s pragmatic and unchristian philosophy: “I really don’t see a division between politics, industry and medicine.  Each mechanism helps to contribute to the overall goal.  I just do whatever it takes to win” (p.105).  Were you listening to that latest statement by Dr. Blum?  “I just do whatever it takes to win.”  That was also the philosophy of Hitler, of Stalin, of Edi Amin, of Pol Pot and of other ruthless killers.  In the long rum, Dr. Blum will probably succeed in killing more human beings than all of these monsters combined.  He just does whatever it takes to win.  Such an attitude on the part of politicians keeps millions of Americans from going to the polls


Let me return briefly to Thomas C. Reeves’ book, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy.  If you have ever had any doubt as to whether or not the Kennedys bought the presidency—that they intended to win whatever the cost—please listen carefully. “In 1966 Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston said to (Hubert) Humphrey: ‘I’ll tell you who elected Jack Kennedy. It was his father, Joe, and me, right here in this room.’”  The cardinal explained that he and Joe Kennedy determined which protestant preachers would be given money for their support of Kennedy.  Cardinal Cushing smiled and said to Humphrey: “It’s good for the church.  It’s good for the preacher, and it’s good for the candidate” (p.165).  I guess I am having some problems figuring out how it is good for the Lord to have such an immoral man in the White House.


Here is a revelation which ought to anger every American citizen.  The FBI learned through wiretaps that the Mafia made large donations to the Kennedy campaign in West Virginia.  Those donations were distributed by Frank Sinatra.  The money was used to buy key officials.  One Mafia boss distributed thousands and thousands of dollars to local sheriffs so they would get out the vote for Kennedy (p.166).  My friends, there are literally hundreds of other quotations from Thomas Reeves’ book which I could use to show that the Kennedys were determined to win whatever the cost, but these should be sufficient to awaken us to what often occurs on the political scene in the United States and in the various states of our union.


Obviously, we cannot go back and undo what the Kennedys and other crooked politicians have done.  But can we not learn from their examples not to place such men and women in high positions?  Should we not make a practice of voting for men and women who are committed to right principles?  Any time we put a man in office who lies, deceives, and misleads us, we are sounding the death knell to our own democratic system of government.  Searching for and electing honest men and women to public office have never been easy, but we have no other choice if we want to preserve our freedom, our moral values and our sanity.  I plead with you not to be deceived by empty promises of politicians.


But surely churches would never be guilty of using pragmatic means for furthering their religious agendas—would they?  Many of us—perhaps most of us—have come to expect sports, business and politics to be dirty, although there is no reason they ought to be that way.  But those who claim to be Christians must never fall in with the fleeting fashions of the world, the literal meaning of Romans 12:2.  The scriptures make it very plain that God expects all of us—regardless of our professions, occupations or avocations—to be honest, upright and truthful.  Please listen to these inspired statements… “recompense to no man evil for evil.  Provide for honest things in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17).  Paul goes a step further in his admonitions to the Corinthians. “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:21).  Paul commanded the Ephesians: “Let him who stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him who needs” (Eph. 4:28).  Scriptures like these can be multiplied by the hundreds, but these ought to be sufficient to show that our heavenly Father expects of all men. He wants us to be honest and fair and gracious.


These passages from Paul’s writings are clear and powerful messages from God’s holy book.  Do you think some churches would do whatever it takes to win, regardless of what the scriptures teach?  Would church leaders ever have the attitudes of some businessmen, sports figures and politicians that we are going to win regardless of the cost?  If you believe that cannot happen, you are not keeping up with what has been taking place among various religious groups for centuries.  Let me give you some illustrations of what I have in mind.


There are cases where elders and other leaders are so concerned about increasing numbers who attend or about keeping those who attend that they demand that the preacher soft peddle the gospel message.  They generally do not come right out and say the preacher ought to be a little less demanding in his sermons. They gently remind him how easy some people are to offend and suggest he be very careful in his presentations.  Of course, there are church leaders who tell the preacher if he is going to preach on marriage, divorce and remarriage, he ought to begin to look for work elsewhere.  Do you think I am exaggerating?  I assure you I am not.


Marriage, divorce and remarriage are not the only topics which some elders and members find intolerable and offensive.  If there are drinkers, adulterers, or homosexuals in the congregation, we may be warned to go easy on these topics also.  After all, we would not want to damage anyone’s self-esteem or self-worth, would we?  I once worked in a school setting where one woman objected to my speaking out against the Women’s Liberation Movement, abortion and other social issues.  When I went to preach in a meeting where she was supposed to be attending worship services, she asked the local preacher, “What social issues will he be discussing during this meeting?”  Is it any wonder she has lost her son to agnosticism and unbelief? 


Some preachers are so determined to keep their positions that they are willing to sell their souls for a mess of pottage.  The apostle Peter mentioned Balaam “who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:15).  Churches in our day certainly do not need any more Balaams; we already have an abundant supply.  We need some Elijahs, Micaiahs, Jeremiahs and Amoses.  These great Old Testament prophets were not for sale to the highest bidder.  They preached the truth even when their lives were in danger. 


My friends, it does not make any difference about one’s occupation or profession.  One cannot use unchristian and illegal means to get what he wants.  We must not have the attitude: We will do whatever it takes to win.  I want to win by following the One who has already won the victory.


Winford Claiborne

The International Gospel Hour

P.O. Box 118

Fayetteville, TN 37334

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