Fundamentally UnAmerican
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Fri Feb 03, 2006 at 06:15:26 PM EST
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"The Christian Right wants a halfway house between democracy and theocracy," writes Gary North in "What Went Wrong with the Christian Right," an essay published in January 2006 on the Chalcedon web site. "It also wants a halfway house between theonomy and autonomy, revelation and rationalism, creationism and evolutionism. It wants equal time for Jesus, which means equal time for Satan."

North, a cofounder of Christian Reconstruction, is admitting that the full arrival of theocracy means, necessarily, the death of democracy. It is not possible for both to exist together, and he is willing to tolerate no halfway measures. North's view of a Christian Nation is not a democratic nation; his fundamental Christian country is fundamentally unAmerican.

In making clear that his vision of a Christian Nation is fundamentally unAmerican, North surfaces and shines a light on a powerful message frame. North's vision of a Christian Nation is a nation without democracy. And without democracy, our nation cannot enjoy freedom and liberty, cannot pass along America's history and heritage to our children's children.

People who work for theonomy undermine autonomy -- the ability of people to choose their own government; that's anti-democratic. People who steer by revelation alone without reference to rationality or modern science are leading our youth astray, and endangering America's ability to compete in a global economy. People who want to replace public science classes with state-sponsored religion classes are making America weaker and depriving our children of economic opportunities that come with a sound education.

People who support democracy stand up for the value of diversity, build community, seek higher education, think freely, speak freely, teach freely, and protect our natural resources for future generations. That's what democracy is for; that's what theocracy is against. Being for democracy means reclaiming our American citizenship, our individual stories, our cultural legacies, and our shared history, and renewing the parts of us that call us to higher purpose -- you may call that your faith, your spirituality, your reason for being. Nurture your God-given talents, see the divine spark in others, and welcome everyone as someone who can teach you something positive, something of value.

But what North advocates is theocracy -- predicated on the demolition of democracy. He wants theonomy -- the notion that Old Testament laws should still be binding today -- and to him, that implies an absence of self-governance, self-reliance, self-determination. He wants revelation -- and he commits a logical fallacy by implying that one cannot seek both divine revelation and also sharpen one's God-given faculties of reason. He wants school children to learn creationism -- not along side of, or in addition to, but instead of, a study of evolution.

He wants his vision, his version of Jesus only; and he falsely posits that anyone else's vision of Jesus is not only false, but Satanic. He posits that anyone else's sense of purpose -- whether rooted in humanitarianism, spirituality, or rooted in any religion but his own, is Satanic. Demon-possessed. Evil to the core. Subject to total elimination. Because, as North implies, there can be no "halfway house between democracy and theocracy."

What he advocates is complete intolerance, complete religious bigotry, complete Christian supremacy. This is black-and-white thinking that refuses to see that there are distinctions to be made, or that there is value in recognizing different viewpoints, including perspectives and beliefs that challenge our own.

North's world is comfortably simple. Yet North is wrong that there is no halfway house between democracy and theocracy. Here is one: the Republican Party.

North writes, "Leader by leader, issue by issue, the Christian Right turns to political alliances with humanists in the Republican Party. They are now facing the situation that Blacks face in the Democratic Party: 'When you are in a political Party's hip pocket, you will be sat on.' "

It remains to be seen who is in whose pocket -- whether the Christian Right is in the hip pocket of the Republican Party, or whether the Republican Party is in the hip pocket of the Christian Right.

North concludes that the Christian Right cannot continue to cooperate with humanists in the Republican Party:

"We see the outworking of two rival Christian covenants: two rival strategies. The Christian Reconstructionists want replacement, not capture, of tax-supported institutions. The Christian Right wants capture, but with shared power as the price -- shared power with Republican Party humanists who hate the idea of Christian civilization far more than they hate the Democrats. Then the Christian Right seems amazed when power is not shared.

"The Christian Right is terminally naive."

If the Republican Party is now a halfway house, then North is leading conservative Christians farther and farther from the dream of democracy, from religious freedom, from respect for different cultures and creeds -- farther, and inevitably away from, the America that we love, where we live, which we hope to pass along to future generations.

I returned 20 minutes ago from a diocesan church leadership workshop for the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.  What I heard and observed there was an Institute of Religion and "Democracy" exhortation.  The bishop used the phrase, One Church, (an IRD phrase) over and over again.  His audience moaned, cried hallalujah, and murmured Amen.  A local leader in the Cusillo movement was given 15 minutes to describe the success of the movement in the New York Capital district. We were sternly warned to pray ceaselessly to keep evil and Satan from entering our churches.

There was not one word about valuing diverse voices in the Episcopal Church In America.  The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, which is treasured by American Episcopalians, was held up before the audience as a laughable relic of the past by the bishop.  My husband, a cradle Episcopalian moderate who has been fairly ignorant about this issue till today, came away offended by the inherent censorship of the One Church (IRD) diatribe and the inherent insult of people who love Episcopal tradition.

When I asked someone who was involved in the planning of the event about diocesan connection to the IRD, they said they didn't know if it was directly connected but "...isn't Diana Knippers our Anglican leadership in the IRD?"  (Rarely do moderate and progressive laymen and clergymen know the term IRD, or the name, Diana Knippers)  

This is the way the Radical Right eats into the mainline churches.  They know they can't come straight out with their dominionist agenda, but they keep moving the spiritually and politically ignorant further into their camp by isolating progressives and moderate voices within the fold.

It was a day well spent.  I found out how the convention is loaded with conservatives and conservative issues.  Now it remains to be seen if there is a body of people serious enough to effectively alter this state of affairs.

by tikkun on Sat Feb 04, 2006 at 05:15:17 PM EST

I'd say that it's very relevant to John Dorhauer's recent post on the IRD

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When I asked someone who was involved in the planning of the event about diocesan connection to the IRD, they said they didn't know if it was directly connected but "...isn't Diana Knippers our Anglican leadership in the IRD?"

Just to clarify: Someone at an event you've just returned from referred to Diane Knippers in the present tense? Knippers died last April.

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by johncity on Thu Apr 11, 2019 at 07:31:39 AM EST

Jonathan, nice commentary on North's article. But what happened to Chris Ortiz's partial denial of the consequences of this theocratic line of thinking?

by Carlos on Fri Feb 03, 2006 at 07:00:29 PM EST
is that Ortize denied nothing. He just downplayed it.  He says that Rushdoony envisioned a theocracy many years, maybe centuries or more down the road. Ortiz is worried about 'humanist backlash', which he says is what Rushdoony predicted would happen once "they" figure out what the Reconstructionist are up to.

While Oritz is doing his best to soft-peddle what they are about, Chalcedon under his ausupices as communications director, published North's essay, as well as a very sympathetic interview with ex-judge Roy Moore a few months back. In fairness, just because Chalcedon published these things, doesn't mean the institution agrees with every point.

Reconstructionism has never been a uniform set of ideas and strategies. But it is a movement headed in the same direction, sooner or later.  

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by johncity on Tue Jan 15, 2019 at 05:48:06 AM EST

Gary North views the Internet as a tool for undermining people's confidence in civil governance. On February 2, 2006, he posted an essay titled, "A Non-Nostalgic Recap of the 'Sixties," in which he wrote:
"The only technological innovation to rival the IBM 360 in its impact on American culture was the launching of ARPAnet in 1969, which became the Internet. It was a classic government project. It was begun as a communications network to insure the survival of the U.S. government after an atomic attack. There was no atomic attack. Instead, there are uncountable websites that are day by day eroding the public's confidence in civil governments. I can think of no other government project in my lifetime where the money was better spent . . . by mistake, of course."
But of course the Internet can also be used to undermine people's confidence in theocracy, and to bolster democratic community-building. That's why Talk to Action is here, pointing the way back to America. By sustaining thoughtful dialogue, we're pointing the way back to reclaiming citizenship, history and faith.

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by johncity on Thu Jan 17, 2019 at 02:36:20 AM EST

I found this commentary as well as Gary North's original article very enlightening in helping me distinguish the full-on Reconstructionists from other politically right wing Christian fundamentalist positions.  And this is an important distinction for average people like myself who are trying to educate and activate other average people to the urgent danger to the fascist implications of the merging of the Republican Party with theocratic Christianity.  

I find danger in the entire spectrum of theocratic groups, but Reconstructionist like Gary North seem to represent the greatest danger of all in that they don't want to "capture but replace" democracy with a system that, as North points out, upholds not only Exodus 21, but Exodus 22 as well and which would use execution to eliminate all opposition.

Does anyone have any idea how widely accepted North's ideas are on the Christian right?

by larry jones on Sat Feb 04, 2006 at 03:39:51 PM EST

Did you note the anti semitism in the article by North? Intersting that he and Rushdoony believed the only justified war in the nation was during the 1700s.  Thus the Civil War and WWII were immoral acts according to these folks.

by wilkyjr on Mon Feb 06, 2006 at 03:16:53 PM EST

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