John R. Rice

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John R. Rice (1895–1980) was an evangelist and an Independent Baptist. Best known as author of the book Prayer: Asking and Receiving, and the 1962 tract "What Must I Do To Be SAVED?" which would-be evangelizers passed out to kids at Beatles concerts. He also authored another tract called "What Was Back of Kennedy's Murder?". According to John R. Rice, the Kennedy family is under a curse from God because Joseph Kennedy made their family fortune in the liquor industry.[1] Why aren't others in the alcohol industry worldwide similarly cursed?

The Preacher[edit]

John Rice started preaching under the influence of J. Frank Norris, a fundamentalist of a particularly authoritarian and cranky type who was popular during the 1920s. Rice's early sermons used a flamboyant, aggressive style with titles like "The Dance--Child of the Brothel, Sister of Gambling and Drunkenness, Mother of Lust--Road to Hell!" and "Diseased, Decaying Bodies with Undying Maggots and Unquenched Fire in Hell". His later sermons, many of which he published in booklet form and sold in Christian bookstores throughout the Bible Belt, used simpler titles like "All Satan's Apples Have Worms", "The Sin of Formalism" (which attacked liturgical Christianity such as the Episcopalians), and "Ecumenical Excuses for Unequal Yokes" (which attacked the neo-evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention), although the content was still hell-fire and damnation as ever. One of those sermons was "The Truth About the Homosexuals" which called for a return to using the term 'queer' instead of 'gay' (ironically he posthumously got his wish) and concluded "God hates this sin, and punishes it".

The Newspaper[edit]

He was also the publisher of a newspaper called The Sword of the Lord, a notable fundamentalist Baptist publication. The Sword of the Lord, started in 1934 as the newsletter of Rice's Dallas church at the time, grew into a publication with nationwide circulation peaking for the first time at about 90,000 in the mid 1950s. The Sword was an early enthusiastic promoter of Billy Graham, Charles Fuller and other evangelicals of several denominations as well as fundamentalists like Carl McIntyre and Bob Jones, Sr.

But a fundamentalist/evangelical split took form during the last half of the 1950s and John Rice and The Sword of the Lord threw their lot in with the fundamentalists, embracing an extreme separatist version of fundamentalism, opposed to any cooperation with so-called "modernists" and "neo-evangelicals". Circulation dropped off rapidly after The Sword began attacking Billy Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention in print, and The Sword settled into being popular among the fundamentalist fringe but losing much of its influence in the broader evangelical realm. Later, this morphed into an even more separatist, Baptist-only version of fundamentalism which the paper continues to hold to this day under succcessive editorships since Rice's death in 1980. Circulation grew again with the rise of the fundamentalist "Independent Baptist" movement, peaking at about 300,000 in 1974. Jack Hyles and Jack Chick are closely associated with this brand of separatist Baptist fundamentalism.

Mellowing with age — just like scotch[edit]

Rice himself possibly felt some hesitance over the direction this brand of fundamentalism was taking late in his life; he backed off from a completely King James Only position, embracing the King James Version for stylistic reasons ("thees and thous") but refusing to go along with those who insisted it was the only legitimate translation; and in 1971 Rice attempted to reconcile fundamentalism and evangelicalism, backing off from any further overt criticism of Billy Graham, but this led to a split with the most extreme fundamentalists like Bob Jones Jr., who began criticizing Rice as a compromiser. Bob Jones Jr. and Bob Jones III were sacked from the board of The Sword of the Lord in 1971 and replaced with the more "moderate"[2] Curtis Hutson and Jerry Falwell. Since Rice's death in 1980, The Sword resumed its status as the house organ of the most extreme fundamentalist Baptist separatists, more recently attacking the megachurch movement and groups like Promise Keepers as compromises with "the world" and claiming they are subtly bringing ecumenism and New Age practices into the church.

See also[edit]


  1. Read it here!
  2. By comparison this is true, which says more about the Bob Jones clan than it does about Falwell.