Sermons On Hate Still Resonate 60 Years After President John F. Kennedy’s Assassination

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Holmes stressed that he was aware of the left-wing nature of Oswald’s ideologies. 

“But my friends,” the pastor added, “whether extremism wears the hat of left wing or right wing, its by-products are the same. It announces death and condemnation to all who hold a different point of view.

“And here is the hardest thing to say: There is no city in the United States which in recent months and years has been more acquiescent toward its extremists than Dallas, Texas. We, the majority of citizens, have gone quietly about our work and leisure, forfeiting the city’s image to the hate-mongers and reactionaries in our midst. The spirit of assassination has been with us for some time. Not manifest in bullets but in spitting mouths and political invectives.”

CBS broadcast a portion of Holmes’ sermon, prompting death threats and New York Times coverage of police guarding him, as the United Methodist News Service recounted in 2013

At Highland Park Methodist Church, pastor Dickinson told congregants they’d be shocked by what a respectable Christian couple of fine education said at a dinner party two nights before the president’s visit.

The couple, he said, “told friends they hated the president of the United States and that they wouldn’t care one bit if somebody did take a potshot at him.”

“There are among us today,” Dickinson preached, “too many purveyors of hate, people who call intelligent, sincere holders of public office traitors. People who fill our cars with leaflets bearing printed lies and calling our public officials disloyal. People who fill our mail with emotional, bitter harangues and accusations and who make harassing telephone calls to our honest and sincere citizens at all hours of the night. And then there are those who give subtler approval to such extremists and breeders of hate through either indifference or through financial support.

“Hate not only in our city but throughout our nation has become big business and is supported by large contributions and exceedingly competent leadership,” he added. “But we in Dallas, it seems to me, have more than our share of these extremists. It is not a pretty picture into which stepped an assassin.”

‘God have mercy on us’

At Wesley Methodist Church, pastor Denman recounted that he and his two boys witnessed the president’s motorcade up close (“so closely we could have almost reached out and touched it”) before later hearing sirens and learning of the shooting.

“Did he have to die to get Christians to quit hating?” Denman said he asked his weeping wife after arriving home.

“In Dallas, entire sermons have been devoted to damning the Kennedy administration and the United Nations, and they have been delivered from Methodist pulpits,” he told the congregation. “In the name of the church, men and women have sown seeds of discord, distrust and hate and have called it witnessing for Christ. 

“As a church, we are sick,” he continued. “God have mercy on us.”

Less than a week after Kennedy’s assassination, the Rev. Jimmy R. Allen, secretary of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission, spoke at a community Thanksgiving service.

Allen agreed with those concerned about Dallas’ image that “it could have happened anywhere … in any city.”

However, he stressed, “Something far deeper and more disconcerting is the fact that so many in our nation were not surprised that it happened here!”

“A climate of character assassination, carping criticism toward national leaders and constant complaint about the processes of law has developed in our nation,” Allen said. “Dallas is not the only city where this has been present. But it has been present.





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