Two of the most loving and genuine people we have known are Bruce and Ellen Craswell. We greatly respect this precious couple. My wife and I had the privilege to know them in the late 1980’s for a time, when we were prolife and political activists. We were among the grass roots while they played county and statewide roles that periodically reached to national influence. After 16 years as a state representative and state senator in Olympia, Washington State, Ellen was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1996 but lost to the Democrat, Gary Locke.
4/18/06 – Updated 6/18/16
Intro – Us Prolifers – Their Conversion – Bill Gothard & R.J. Rushdoony & David Barton – American Heritage Party to Ron Boehme – Grateful Anyway
Bruce, a dentist, had been the politician early on. And yet, Bruce once told about how it was his unwillingness to run for the Washington state legislature that started his wife’s long career. Ellen served as a state representative from 1977 to 1980 and in the state senate from 1981 to 1992. She was the first woman to serve as President Pro Tem of the state senate in 1991.
The Craswells were part of the “Reagan Revolution” in 1980. Bruce served as chief of staff of the King County executive in the early 1980s. Bruce and Ellen were already part of the Reaganite conservative wing of the Republican establishment by the time the “religious right” began to come to power.
Many of us Christians became political activists through participation in the “prolife movement” in the mid to late 1980s. Some of us were from the local Christian Action Council; some from the Crisis Pregnancy Centers; some from Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA). I had been inspired by a Melody Green article in the “Last Days Newsletter” of the late Keith Green to become a prolife activist. Judge Steve Alexander encouraged me through my mother-in-law to become involved in a prolife initiative campaign in 1984. Statewide, we prolifers were being organized and mobilized by various initiative campaigns and by leaders such as Michael Undseth and Dottie Roberts. A number of us in Kitsap County who began to participate in county and state politics were encouraged by the Craswells. The Craswells were in a position to try to bridge the gap between the Reaganite right wing and the new Christian Right.
Bruce and Ellen had been participating for years in a conservative gathering every two years called, the “Sun Mountain Conference” named because of the lodge that was the location of the first meeting. The Washington State conservative elite would meet to plan strategy. There were mostly old guard Republican conservatives, but there were a few conservative Democrats. The Craswells invited some of us Christian activists to attend in the late 80s when a Silverdale hotel hosted the event. Former governor Dixie Lee Ray was one of the speakers. John Carlson and his fellow University of Washington classmate Brett Bader were there. Carlson, who like Ellen lost a governor’s race to Gary Locke (2000), was another one of the speakers.
For many years Ellen Craswell published a “Family in Touch” newsletter which was a vehicle for informing and mobilizing to action her constituents and supporters. Bruce and Ellen were the lightning rods for controversy as the Kitsap County Republicans were taken over by the Religious Right. Adele Ferguson, then a columnist for the Bremerton Sun newspaper, had a “love – hate” campaign going as she often wrote about the Craswells. Adele had been longtime close friends with Bruce and Ellen but could never get use to their increasing testimony for Jesus Christ. And she found it unforgivable that they would use their religious following to ruin the Republican party and county and state politics.
My wife, Kim, and a number of our friends were elected precinct committeemen in the elections of 1986 and 1988. We all went to the Kitsap County Republican conventions and to the State Conventions. So many of us were new to politics. We really only knew the dogma of the prolife movement. At the 1986 state convention, every time a resolution was up for a vote, Bruce Craswell and prolife leader, Dottie Roberts, took turns holding up “yes” or “no” signs so that all of us prolife newbies knew how to vote! It looked ridiculous, of course, to the establishment Republicans. But it was all the more galling to them because we usually won each vote.
At the 1988 state convention, the Craswells were among our leaders again and we heard speeches by presidential candidates, including Pat Robertson. Some of our crowd were Robertson delegates and some were delegates for Donald Rumsfeld’s bid for president, or Bob Dole, or Jack Kemp, or Alexander Haig, or the eventual winner, Vice President George Bush. Bob Williams, at the state convention, was the Republican candidate for governor and he relied quite a bit on us in the Christian Right. Lynn Harsh was his campaign manager. He ended up losing to the Democrat, Booth Gardner. Future U.S. Senate candidate, Linda Smith, was at the convention. During this period of our political activism was also when fellow Christians, Bob Oke and Lois McMahon, began their careers as state legislators.
Bruce and Ellen Craswell were not always “Right Wing Christians”. They started out just as “Right Wing”. It always blesses me to hear about how people came to put their trust in the Lord Jesus, whether I end up agreeing with their politics or not. Consider the following account of Bruce’s conversion to Christ by political writer, Mark Matassa, in a 1995 article called, “Craswell’s Crusade”:
So it happened that anti-tax crusader [Ellen] Craswell fell into a quick kinship with Rep. Ron Dunlap, a tightfisted Bellevue Republican, and in 1979 they sponsored Initiative 62, a tax-limitation plan.
While Craswell and Dunlap campaigned around the state for their initiative, Bruce and Dunlap’s wife, Allison, traveling with them, killed time discussing the Bible. Bruce loves a good-natured argument – “If it’s Advil vs. Anacin,” Allison Dunlap says, “he’ll take you to the mat” – and he was sure he could prove the Bible was not absolute divine truth, as Allison had accepted it to be. But after several weeks of debate, Allison recalls, Bruce was astonished to see he hadn’t shaken her faith. Intrigued, the Craswells agreed to join the Dunlaps and several other couples in a more thorough Bible study.
All of this was floating through Bruce’s mind that Wednesday evening as he drove south after work. He was thinking about the Rev. Billy Graham’s remark that it is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Suddenly, he says, he realized what the passage meant: It wasn’t his money God wanted, but his life. He had to surrender his life to God.
And with that, he was so overcome with emotion that he had to pull the Mercedes over to the side of the freeway, somewhere around Fort Lewis. When he got out of the car he saw a vision, he says, that is still “just as clear and just as real as sitting here looking out the window.”
There before him was Christ, nailed to the cross.
And for five minutes Bruce Craswell, who had been so proud of his skepticism and his logic and his impeccable debating skill, knelt, crying, traffic whizzing past, staring up at Him.
Mark Matassa goes on to write about Ellen’s conversion:
ELLEN CRASWELL’S acceptance of Christ was not nearly so dramatic as her husband’s. He told her what happened that day on the freeway; she watched him, liked the new sense of peace she saw, and six weeks later, April 15, 1980, decided she, too, would surrender her life to God.
“I remember feeling suddenly it was like the weight of the world was off my shoulders,” Craswell says. “I think that’s part of what gives you strength. You don’t have to do it alone. You have this inner strength. Somebody else is there to hold you up.”
In that sense, politics got easier for Craswell when she became a Christian. She could look to the Bible for guidance, and she felt God supporting her efforts, no matter what the earthly outcome.
At the same time, though, her devotion weakened her effectiveness in Olympia. Compromise is everything in a legislative body. But if every position you take is a matter of religious faith rather than mere political ideology, compromise becomes nearly impossible.
[I don’t know anything about Mark Matassa so I can’t endorse him in general, but look at his article about the Craswell’s for more good info about them: 1995 article called, “Craswell’s Crusade” (http://www.seanet.com/~matassa/craswell.htm) This article is gone now, I’m sorry to say, Jim B. 4/7/08] [Heres is Mr. Matassa’s blog article: http://incrementalupdates.blogspot.com/2008/04/gods-plan-for-ellen-craswell.html 4/9/08]
Though not mentioned in the above article, Ellen use to often testify how she was miraculously healed of cancer in a charismatic ministry at Silverdale United Methodist church in the early 1980s. Since that time she has had to face at least one other bout with cancer, but the Lord has used each circumstance in both her life and in the lives of many who have come in contact with her.
Bill Gothard & R.J. Rushdoony & David Barton
By the time my wife and I met the Craswells in 1985 or 86, they were a part of a small Baptist congregation. The two greatest influences on their lives seemed to be Bill Gothard’s “Institute in Basic Life Principles” and the Reconstructionism of R.J. Rushdoony. These two personalities and their doctrines and their systems had become the basis for the Craswells’ world view about everything from diet and nutrition to their politics and vision for mobilizing Christians for political action.
During this period of our political activism the Lord had also been breaking me and remaking me and teaching me in many ways. I had become a Christian in 1976. In 1978, in my little Assembly of God church in Hawaii, I had heard a Human Potential seminar about visualizing your goals and creating your own reality. I completely bought into the views and techniques taught at that motivational seminar. I moved to Kitsap County, Washington state, in 1979. Pat Robertson’s 700 Club was a huge influence on me at the time. Kim and I were married in 1981. I went with Kim to a Bill Gothard, Basic Youth Seminar which was required by my wife’s employer, Bremerton Christian Schools.
By 1984 we were prolifers and getting into politics. While watching a Christian talk show one day, I heard the guest speaking about truth from the Bible that totally demolished, in my understanding, the deception of the Human Potential movement. The guest’s name was Dave Hunt. The “New Age” media hype was just beginning. In November, 1986, I was required to take a course where I worked, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, that included guided visualization techniques and promoted the Human Potential movement philosophies. My confronting of this improper use of taxpayers’ money was to have a huge impact on my life.
And yet, overlapping this period, I continued my social and political activism and became involved in the “Coalition On Revival” or COR, led by Jay Grimstead, which sought to unify and mobilize Christians to take dominion over all aspects of civilization, including politics and government. Eventually, through the ministry of Dave Hunt (Christian Information Bureau which turned into the Berean Call) and Al Dager (Media Spotlight) I realized the corrupt nature of the “Coalition On Revival” and how professing Christians were being manipulated and used and the Gospel was being perverted and idolatry was being promoted by unholy alliances in the name of “traditional family values” and conservative political agendas. I was also learning to what degree the occult and Freemasonry and other unbiblical traditions had had on the founding of America; the many threads of deception within Evangelical Christianity; and the trends toward a false religious and political unity, preparing the world for a counterfeit Christ and global deception.
The Lord continued to transition my wife, Kim, and me out of social and political activism. We had our last get together with Bruce and Ellen Craswell when we had them over to dinner. I gave them what was developing into my presentation, “The World System and Rebellion Against God” which later was titled, “Counterfeit Christianity, The World Religion, and the New World Order”. As always our evening with them was precious fellowship because they are such gracious people. We spent time discussing our different views on what the Bible teaches about diet and whether the Old Testament dietary laws apply to Christians today and what the significance was of Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Bruce and Ellen encouraged us to look at some videos by David Barton of WallBuilders, an “organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built”.
The Baumgaertels and Craswells agreed to disagree. We parted ways. They were so kind to spend time with “grass roots” people like us. They are as sweet and unpretentious as anyone you will meet.
American Heritage Party to Ron Boehme
Eventually, after Ellen was unseated from the state senate in 1992 and then lost the governors race in 1996, the Craswells gave up on the Republican party. They helped to found the American Heritage Party, which was associated with the national American Taxpayers Party. One of the things I have always respected about the Craswells was their consistency in what they saw as their Christian convictions. While many Evangelicals have been willing to compromise with and yoke with conservative Catholics and Mormons; and compromise with various pro-abortion conservatives, the Craswells have stood their ground even when it cost them politically. From their point of view, it became impossible to be a Republican and still stand for Biblical values. They simply could not support some of the Republican candidates as they were expected to do as good Republicans.
In 1998, Bruce Craswell ran for U.S. Congress in the First Congressional district as the American Heritage Party candidate. Bruce was bitterly condemned by conservative Republicans for siphoning off 7% of the vote to cause Republican incumbent, Rick White, to lose to Democrat Jay Inslee.
In 1999 the American Taxpayers Party changed its name to the Constitution Party and has a Washington State affiliate by that name. There is still an American Heritage Party that has tried to create itself nationally.
Bruce and Ellen Craswell are listed (April 2006) as Campaign Advisors for Republican candidate for state representative, Ron Boehme on his campaign web site. Ron is a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) leader who teaches Moral Government theology and has promoted Kingdom Now – Dominion philosophies for years.
In spite of our differences, we continue to love and respect Bruce and Ellen Craswell. And even if I think that they have been misguided through the years by Bill Gothard and R.J. Rushdoony and David Barton, I know that our Lord Jesus has used them anyway. Our sovereign God brings fruit in our lives and uses us for His purposes in spite of ourselves! That doesn’t mean the Lord Jesus endorses our unbiblical agendas. But we can rejoice that Bruce and Ellen have preached Jesus Christ many times over many years. Those of us who homeschool in Washington State should be grateful to the Lord for the freedom our state’s excellent homeschool law affords. It is my understanding that Ellen Craswell is largely responsible for that law. The Craswells have been wonderful examples of loving parents and grandparents. We remember the house they use to live in on Dyes Inlet near Silverdale that had secret passage ways Bruce built for his children and a rope ride in the side and back yard. We praise the Lord for their extended family, including Jim and Denise. Bruce and Ellen live with some of their children and grand children on a large family compound.
In a January 2nd, 2005 article in the Seattle Times’ Pacific Northwest Magazine, Lynda Mapes writes about Ellen:
At 72, Craswell still radiates the gracious serenity that charmed voters who wrote to say thank you for her campaign, even though they wouldn’t vote for her in a million years. Now retired from politics, Craswell and her husband, Bruce — a former candidate for Congress — are enjoying 14 grandkids and their Poulsbo home, reached through a sign over the driveway that commands “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God” on the way in, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” on the way out.
See this article with a great photo of Ellen and the sign over their driveway at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0102/portraits.html or here: http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/ellen-craswell-was-true-to-her-conservative-beliefs/
I do pray that followers of Jesus would no longer be drawn away to worldly agendas in the name of American Heritage, in the name of Traditional Family Values or unbiblical concepts of unity, or taking dominion or reconstructionism.
And yet, we will always love and appreciate Bruce and Ellen Craswell.
Intro – Us Prolifers – Their Conversion – Bill Gothard & R.J. Rushdoony & David Barton – American Heritage Party to Ron Boehme – Grateful Anyway
VENGEANCE IS OURS THE CHURCH IN DOMINION
Albert James Dager – 283Pages A new militancy is stirring in the breasts of Christians in response to the evils that beset society. Tens of thousands attend spiritual warfare seminars hoping to learn how to “take back from Satan what he has stolen.” A call for vengeance on God’s enemies and a restructuring of society under God’s Law is being heard in ever-widening circles. But is it the Christian’s responsibility to take control of society and to reconstruct it in accordance with God’s Law? Vengeance Is Ours presents some startling revelations in this analysis of various forms of dominion theology from Manifested Sons of God to Christian Reconstructionism. Media Spotlight