The Death of Harold O. J. Brown: Culture Wars Fought, Lost, and Misunderstood
by Mark Dankof for the American Free Press
My old friend and academic mentor, Dr. Harold O. J. Brown, passed from this life on July 8th, 2007. For the uninitiated, Brown earned four degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School; taught at my alma mater, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and at Reformed Theological Seminary; wrote a pantheon of articles over many years for Chronicles, National Review, and Christianity Today; and authored many books, including my personal favorite, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church (Hendrickson Publishers) For legions of Protestant evangelicals personally unfamiliar with his academic prowess, he is equally remembered for his tireless activism for the pro-life cause, which included co-founding the Christian Action Council (now known as Care Net) with ex-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
Brown joins a mighty pantheon of some of evangelical Christianity’s leading lights in a now fading age of twilight who once graced the halls of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and are now departed from this life. The roll call includes Carl F. H. Henry, Gleason Archer, Paul Feinberg, Kenneth Kantzer, Warren Benson, J. Herbert Kane, Victor Walter, S. Lewis Johnson, and Thomas McComiskey. One strongly suspects that we may never see their like again prior to arrival in eternity and the Kingdom of God.
Personal notes and letters addressed to me by Dr. Brown over the last quarter of a century include several poignant gems. 4 days prior to the surgery for a cancerous tumor in the sinuses that would ultimately claim his left eye and begin a decade-long slide in health, he sent me a postcard dated December 7, 1996. The note on the card was succinct but to the point. He stated that, "We need people like you [Dankof] in the ministry, but apparently the churches don’t know it. My big operation is Dec [sic] 11th. Supposedly, it is likely to be a success. Merry Christmas! In Christ, HOJ Brown." And in a fashion typical of Brown, the front of the purchased card seemed as important as what he had personally inscribed on the back. I felt then, as now, that its message was pointedly directed by him to both of us:
"Know perfectly well that poverty and misfortune suit me better than riches and pleasure. Christ the Lord, Himself, was poor for our sakes."
Patrick of Ireland
And beneath the quotation from St. Patrick’s Confession, the Celtic Cross, and the photograph of the formidable concrete pillars on the card’s front cover, was another message based on Holy Scripture:
"In God I trust; I will not be afraid."
Other mental snapshots of my memories of Harold O. J. Brown also come flooding back. In the earliest 1980s, I was a frequent house sitter and guardian of both his suburban Chicago home and canine friend, Sadie, when he and his beloved wife Grace were on the road traveling on behalf of the pro-life cause. Part of that activism involved tireless work for the Ronald Reagan Presidential candidacy against Jimmy Carter. The sense of deluded euphoria we all felt after the first Tuesday in November of 1980 was followed, for Brown, by a personal Presidential invitation to partake in a group photo-op with the Gipper and key conservative activists in the Oval Office after the Inauguration. Unfortunately, that historic event, in turn, was followed by Reagan’s immediate and cynical betrayal of his politically naive Christian Right supporters when Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated and confirmed for a seat on the United States Supreme Court.
After the O’Connor appointment, Brown came storming back to his home in the wee hours after a frustrating road trip, motoring in a driving rain on a dark night from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to his Deerfield abode. He was drenched in simply walking from his driveway to the front door, where I awaited him in greeting. He was furious. It was the only time I ever witnessed him in such a state. With reference to the arrival of the latest pro-abort to the nation’s highest court, and Reagan’s direct complicity in the tragedy, he announced he would never be used again in such a fashion by the President. He nurtured a small glass of bourbon, provided me with a glass of German Weissbier, and invited me to discuss my take on the real meaning of what had transpired in Washington. I recall two emphatic points as contributions of note to the dialogue on that grim night north of the Windy City, so long ago. I told Brown that I suspected other betrayals of the conservative cause by Reagan and his Party would follow. That observation was followed by the proffered recommendation to him that he and his fellow activists on behalf of traditional culture in America desperately needed to extract a painful political price from both the President and the Republican Establishment. To do otherwise would ultimately consign the American Christian Right and its cultural allies to the ash heap of political irrelevancy in time and space.
I reminded Brown of that stormy night in Chicago on the last occasion I would see him alive. It was in his office on the Trinity campus in the summer of 1997. It was my only return to Deerfield after an absence of a dozen years as a denizen of two other cities in another life. Aside from our discussion of the possibility of my pursuit of further academic work at the graduate level, the talk turned to the state of America. He asked me about my departure from the Republican Party a year earlier, after the demise of the Buchanan candidacy and the end of the Republican National Convention in San Diego. My response was simply to say that my words to him on a dark, rainy night in his home in 1981 had proven distressingly prophetic. I had concluded that the moral and intellectual prostitution of continuing with a political party that had sold itself to the manifestly demonic was simply unsustainable any longer. I underscored this point by telling him exactly what I thought of the malignant contemporary state of Protestant Evangelicalism in the land, and the compromised character of much of its public leadership. My final contribution to the political end of that last exchange with Brown was perhaps the most painful for both of us. It was apparent to me, I said, that the real Rosetta Stone in uncovering the character of the malaise in the entire country, was in identifying the spiritual, logistical, and financial force driving the United States to a day of reckoning in the final days of the American Republic. The Core of the Stone is the alliance of the Jewish Lobby with our most basic and trusted institutions. He was silent, but strangely contemplative. He looked as solemn as he did on the night of our conversation about the Reagan betrayal in his home, 16 long years before. The sadness was accentuated by the eye patch and elastic strap which now clothed his countenance, to conceal the after effects of the cancer surgery that had robbed him of half of his eyesight.
Another ten years have now passed. Harold O. J. Brown is now gone. After 1997, there would be no further opportunity to compare political, cultural, and theological evaluations. I wonder what he would say today about 9-11; the Project for the New American Century (PNAC); talk of a preemptive nuclear attack on Iran; the chronicle of Dr. E. Michael Jones in the April 2007 Culture Wars on the Jewish infiltration of the American Right through William F. Buckley and National Review; the documentation of Canadian paleo-conservative Jayne Gardener regarding the central role of Jews in promoting the abortion industry in the United States; or the revelation that Dr. Brown’s old pal at First Things, Richard John Neuhaus, had taken $8.5 million dollars in contributions from Jewish neo-conservative sources as thanks for the latter’s support of the Israeli enterprise in perpetuity.
I cannot ask him now. But I plan to do so again, when we meet once more in the eternal Kingdom of God in Heaven through Jesus Christ, a place Dr. Brown spent a lifetime proclaiming as a message of transcendent hope in an ever darkening temporal world.
He will be sorely missed.
Mark Dankof is the voice of Mark Dankof's America, heard live on the Republic Broadcasting Network, 7-10 am Central time. He was the Constitution Party candidate for the United States Senate in Delaware in 2000. His articles may be found throughhis blog with Al Bawaba of Amman, Jordan, and at http://www.MarkDankof.com.
Mark Dankof is a contributor to
American Free Press and serves as a talk show host and radio
broadcaster for the
Broadcasting Network. Born in Wiesbaden, Germany, the
son of a United States Air Force Colonel, he graduated from Valparaiso
University in 1977 and from Chicago's Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in
1983. In recent years, he has pursued post-graduate work in systematic theology
and theological German at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Formerly the 36th District Chairman of the Republican Party in King
County/Seattle and later an elected delegate to Texas State Republican
Conventions in 1994 and 1996, he entered the United States Senate race in
Delaware in 2000 as the nominated candidate of the Constitution Party against
Democratic candidate Thomas Carper and Republican incumbent William Roth. He is
a member of
Columnist Guild (BATR).
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