EDITORIAL 

McCarthy's Legacy

We are as pleased as anyone at the success that has greeted the current Edward R. Murrow biopic, Good Night, and Good Luck. There is no question that the late CBS broadcaster played a constructive role in the safeguarding of American civil liberties -- never more so than in his determined opposition to the savage and ill-considered attacks on those liberties in the 1950s by one Senator Joseph McCarthy.

As next-door neighbors to Arkansas, we also were glad to be reminded, via the movie's evocative news clips from the time, of the part played by the late Senator John McClellan, whose eloquence in decrying the effects of McCarthy's innuendo were a highlight of the film. Like fellow Arkansas senator, J. William Fulbright, McClellan symbolized the often decisive and moderating role in national affairs played by that border state, and our own.

Unfortunately, that was then, when Tennessee was served by the likes of Estes Kefauver and Albert Gore Sr., and this is now -- but that's another issue.

What concerns us is the overlooked fact that McCarthyism is remembered as having made unjust accusations of left-wing sympathies. The fact is that many of the persecuted ones actually held such views, which they learned to disguise during the McCarthy era, even as their political descendants today still do. As an example: Just try to find one member of Congress who will proudly acknowledge, as Harry Truman did, being a "liberal."

 

Adrian Rogers

The Rev. Adrian Rogers, the longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, had become so much a part of the local landscape that it was genuinely surprising when he announced his retirement from the active pulpit last year. And, though we subsequently learned that he was battling cancer, it still came as something of a jolt when he died this week.

We will not pretend to have agreed with Rogers on several key aspects of his social gospel -- notably his across-the-board rejection of more moderate positions on abortion, women's issues, and gay rights. We regret also that, during his term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention a generation ago, he led the movement that purged the convention of its more forthright dissenters against rigid dogma. And, frankly, we wondered if he hadn't blurred the necessary boundaries between church and state by his occasional interventions in partisan politics.

Even so, we had a respect for Rogers that goes beyond a regard for his recognized public stature. The man had conviction, and in most ways most of the time, his sincerity and passion were manifested in the service of good pasturing and constructive social activity. His religious beliefs were rock-solid, and his sermons, whether one agreed with them or not, were of the highest standard.

There is no doubt that he was a large figure who will be long remembered in the community at large -- deservedly so.

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