When Baptists Were Grateful that a Catholic was Killed in Dallas. Plus a Solid Read in Politico: John F Kennedy in the 1960 Election and Facing Anti-Catholicism Bigotry by Evangelicals

When I was growing up my Dad recalled what it was like being a Catholic in North Carolina in the 1960’s when word came in that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Dad was dismayed that Baptists were grateful that a Catholic was no longer in the White House. That made a negative impression on Dad. Plus in Politico a solid story about John F Kennedy facing evangelical and Baptists bigotry when he ran for the White House in 1960. 

“Let us not emphasize all on which we differ but all we have in common. Let us consider not what we fear separately but what we share together.”

John F Kennedy

“So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

John F Kennedy

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 NRSVCE

John F Kennedy

When I was growing up from time to time my Dad told me a story that was troubling. I think this is the first time I am sharing it on this blog. My Dad became a neurosurgeon in life. Dad did his Surgical Internship at Duke University. It was an interesting time for Dad. He saw segregation in North Carolina and he observed Southern Baptist culture and life. Dad was Irish Catholic and he felt like an outsider at times in North Carolina in the early 1960’s. What Dad told me about Kennedy’s assassination stuck with me and remains until this day. Dad had an internship in the Urology Department on November 22, 1963 and was working when news came in from Dallas, Texas that President Kennedy was shot. As the situation developed and Dad learned that Kennedy was killed he responded with shock.  What distressed and discouraged him more was watching his Baptist co-workers be happy that a Catholic was killed because they didn’t want one in the White House. One person told dad it was “about time” that someone took him out. As a Catholic, my Dad struggled with Baptists long term as well as other evangelicals because he could not comprehend why anyone would be happy about the death of another person. Many Southern Baptists and evangelicals opposed a Catholic president because they feared and believed that the Pope would control the United States.  Baptists and other evangelicals made a dark negative impression on my Dad on a difficult day in American history. He never forgot it. 

Evangelicals and Baptists have long engaged in bigotry against Catholics. Coming from an Irish Catholic family growing up I heard about this repeatedly. Its in that frame of mind that I want to encourage people to read an article that was published at Politico the other day. The article deals with anti-Catholic sentiment that John F Kennedy had to face in Houston, Texas while he ran for the White House in 1960. In addition this a good historical read of American history dealing with a difficult topic that evangelicals have not been honest about. You can read the article in, “The Kennedy Speech that Stoked the Rise of the Christian Right.”


One thought on “When Baptists Were Grateful that a Catholic was Killed in Dallas. Plus a Solid Read in Politico: John F Kennedy in the 1960 Election and Facing Anti-Catholicism Bigotry by Evangelicals

  1. It’s a weird thing to think about today, but there was definitely an anti-catholic sentiment in the country for 100s of years until JFK was assassinated. Older generations lived it and knew it first hand. But I don’t see the point in singling out Baptists and Evangelicals – it was pretty mainstream. Which is why populism is dangerous. It’s not a religious movement that pushes the anti-. Its almost always political. And I’ll leave it at that since all your word salad commenters would barf up the complete opposite of reality. Just know that socialistic, nationalistic, facist government ideologies always lead to isolating groups as a means to control the masses.


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