Two fundamentalist-sponsored directories urging consumers to patronize the business of "born-again Christian" advertisers have been published in about 50 American cities and have drawn strong opposition from Jewish and main-line Christian groups in many of these communities.
A principal aim of both the "Christian Yellow Pages" and the Christian Business Directory," which have been produced by separate fundamentalist groups, is to keep money within the Christian "family," according to their promoters.
"This identifies Christians to other Christians," said Frank Ford, who is heading the Richmond, Va., "Christian Yellow Pages."
"From the Christian perspective, the value is that we are one (Christian) family . . . This will help unite the family of Christians . . . If I had the choice of giving money to a stranger or to my brother, I would give it to my brother. Otherwise, it would mean I care for strangers more than my own family," Ford said.
Christian and Jewish leaders in several cities have condemned the directories as economically discriminatory and antisemitic and based on a distortion of biblical teachings. They have also charged that it is anti-Christian because its effect is to divide the Christian community into those who say they are "born again" and those who do not use that expression.
"I would like Jews, Moslems, Universalists, agnostics and atheists to know that Mr. Ford does not speak for all Christians," the Rev. N. Robert Quirin, an ecumenical specialist in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"To say that the New Testament commands that we Christians must love one another means that we should do business with one another is more than just plain ridiculous interpretation of scripture," he wrote. "It is a perversion of scripture. The making of profit and the accumulation of wealth and power is exactly what Jesus asked his followers not to concern themselves with."
Both the Modesto, Calif.-based Christian Yellow Pages and the San Diego, Calif.-based Christian Business Directory are franchise-like operations in which regional staffs sell advertising space to businesses and pass a portion of the profit on to the national office.
These directories, whose sizes range generally from 8 to 24 pages, are distributed free through churches and sponsoring businesses. They have appeared primarily in cities in the West, South and Midwest, such as Portland, Tuscon, San Jose, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Miami. None is in print in the Washington area nor in the Northeast.
Officials of these enterprises tend to be local businessmen whose livelihood is not dependent on the directories and who are active in right-wing political and religious activities.
In some cities, such as Atlanta, publication of one of these directories has produced little discussion.
In other cities, like Richmond and Dallas, Christian clergy informed of the content of the directories and the Jewish concerns about them, took the lead in condemning them also as anti-Christian and destructive of a "sense of community," in a pluralistic society.
Arnold Foster, general counsel of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish civil rights agency, explained part of the Jewish resistance. "When consumers are urged to inquire into the religious beliefs of those with whom they do business and of religion, the consequence inevitably will be religious division, resentment and conflict in the business community, he said.
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"And if religious discrimination is sanctioned in business relationships, it will almost certainly tend to spread voting practices, housing and employment."
Leaders of the directories argue that their projects are necessary during a "moral slide away from God," as Bill Bray, marketing manager for the Christian Business Directory, put it.
"The smaller Christian society becomes and the more pagan America becomes, we'll be forced to put these out to cling to each other," contended Bray, an enterpreneur in Wheaton, Ill., and organizer of Campus Crusade for Christ's "Here's Life" evangelistic campaign in New York City.
Both Bray and Pat Booth, a Dallas entrepreneur, a one-time Campus Crusade worker, now regional director of the Christian Yellow Pages, vigorously denied charges of antisemitism. "We're friends of the Jewish people and friends of Israel," said Bray.
Besides, Booth said, the Christian directories are no different from the new "Jewish Yellow Pages" and yellow pages in the "Second Jewish Catalogue."
"Historically, Jewish people have done business together," he said. He cited a statement in the Jewish Yellow Pages, which said: "Patronize Jewish talent."
These Jewish yellow pages contain free listings of Jewish services and products and are sold in bookstores, pointed out Lucy Negus, an Episcopalian in Richmond who opposes the Christian Yellow Pages.
"What is 'Jewish' about the listings are the products and services offered, rather than the religion of the businessmen selling them," she said.
In the Christian Yellow Pages and Christian Business Directory, advertisers must sign a statement of faith that they are "born-again Christians," a term used by some conservative Christians to explain the conversion experience but not one that has a common theology associated with it.
The Christian Yellow Pages advertising order states: "Advertiser herewith acknowledges the fact that he has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and according to the Holy Bible (John 1:13) knows that he is a born-again Christian."
The success of the business directories is mixed. Bray said the Christian Business Directories, which cost from $12,000 to $40,000 to publish, are "definitely money-making" ventures. In Dallas, however, where the Christian Yellow Pages doubled from 14 to 28 pages between 1975 and 1976, Booth said "I'll probably be lucky to break even."
In Richmond, where area director Ford met a barrage of protest from practically every main-line Christian, Jewish and interfaith organization from Southern Baptists to Episcopalians, what was evisioned as a 40-page directory will total 12 pages with fewer than 100 advertisers. Ford said he expects to lose between $2,000 and $4,000 on the venture. Publication of 20,000 copies is expected this month.
W.R. Tomson, national coordinator of Christian Yellow Pages, refused to discuss the operation by telephone but said he would provide information in writing. He added that only "born-again Christians would understand what we're about."
In Dallas, Booth has been responsible for revising the "Concept" printed at the front of the Christian Yellow Pages. His 50,000-copy Dallas edition in 1975 asked Christians to "patronize" the advertisers. The latest directory requests Christians to "pray for" them.
The new "Concept" also embraces "born-again Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Arabs and others because we are one in Christ." It states that the publishers believe the directory will protect consumers since advertisers are expected to practice biblical principles of honesty and fair play. That, argues Booth, will help preserve the free enterprise system.