Reconstructionists and the Tithe
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Wed May 24, 2006 at 02:19:46 PM EST
Reconstructionist thought has a special attraction for rural Americans.  A glance at R. J. Rushdoony's explanation of the biblical tithe in his Institutes for Biblical Religion reveals why.

Rural America subsists mostly on farming and ranching.  Every decade, for more than a generation, greater challenges have threatened the economic survival of those that live in these communities.  Every year the population of small towns decline as the elderly die, the young move to the cities to find work, and the rest live from one day to the next.  Foreclosures by banks for unpaid mortgages and by local governments for unpaid taxes have been commonplace.  Bad weather, bad luck and bad policies by civil bureaucrats have caused thousands of small farmers and ranchers to lose homesteads that have been in their families for generations.  Resentment is strong, conspiracy theories are rampant, and every possible scapegoat is actively pursued.

In this context, it is not hard to understand why rural Americans find a resonance in the implications that Rushdoony draws from the biblical tithe:

       The Bible provides, as the foundation law of a godly social order, the law of the tithe.  To understand the full implication of the tithe, it is important to know that Biblical law has no property tax; the right to tax real property is implicitly denied to the state, because the state has no earth to tax.  "The earth is the Lord's" (Ex. 9:29; Deut. 10:14; Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26, etc.); therefore, only God can tax the earth. . . . For the state to enter into God's realm is to invite judgment.
    The immunity of land from taxation by the state means liberty.  A man then cannot be dispossessed of his land; every man has a basic security in his property. . . . Because the land is not the property of the state, nor is land a part of the state's jurisdiction, the state therefore has no right under God to levy taxes against God's earth.  Moreover, for the state to claim as much as God, i.e., a tenth of a man's income, is a sign of apostasy and tyranny, according to I Samuel 8:4-19.  The modern state, of course, claims several tithes in taxes.  p. 56-57.

Rushdoony believes that paying biblical tithes is a perpetual obligation and that "Those who do not tithe are spiritual anarchists; they destroy both the freedom and order of society and unleash the demons of statism."  p. 58

Rushdoony rues the days after the American revolution when the church was being separated from the state and laws requiring mandatory payment of tithes were being repealed:

       The tithe was for centuries legally collected, i.e., the state provided the legal requirement that tithes be paid to the church.  When Virginia repealed its law which made payment of the tithe mandatory, George Washington expressed his disapproval in a letter to George Mason, October 3, 1785.  He believed, he said, in "making people pay toward the support of that which they profess."  From the 4th century on, civil governments began to require the tithe, because it was believed that a country could only deny God His tax at its peril.  From the end of the 18th century, and especially in recent years, such laws have disappeared under the impact of atheistic and revolutionary movements.  Instead of freeing men from an "oppressive" tax, the abolition of the tithe has opened the way for truly oppressive taxation by the state in order to assume the social responsibilities once maintained by tithe money.  Basic social functions must be paid for.  If they are not paid by responsible, tithing Christian people, they will be paid for by a tyrant state which will use welfare and education as stepping-stones to totalitarian power.  p. 57.

Welfare and education are the foremost concerns that Rushdoony sees addressed by the biblical tithe and he sees a special class of people, "the group best instructed in the law of God," as those who should receive those funds:

       The Lord's tithe, and the poor tithe, took care of the basic functions which, under the modern totalitarianism, have become the province of the state, namely, education and welfare.  Education was one of the functions of the Levites (not of the sanctuary). . . . In a godly civil order, the group best instructed in the law of God will clearly have far-reaching social services to render.  Since their support is undergirded by the tithe, the basic cost to society for civil government becomes slight.  The tithe is an acknowledgement of God's kingship; in I Samuel 8:4-19, the consequences of a rejection of God's kingship are cited:  they are totalitarianism, oppression, a loss of liberty, and an increased cost of civil government.  Without the tithe, basic social functions fall into two kinds of pitfalls:  on the one hand, the state assumes these functions, and, on the other, wealthy individuals and foundations exercise a preponderant power over society.  Tithing releases society from this dependence on the state and on wealthy individuals and foundations.  The tithe places the basic control of society with the tithing people of God.  p. 55

This statement reveals a major thrust of Dominionism.  They view funding for welfare and education as the mechanism by which to regain "basic control of society."  They also realize that the language of "tithing" needs to be reframed for the American public.  That's why their agenda has been framed as a "faith-based initiative" that ends "discrimination" against churches in the distribution of federal funds.  

The chance that moderates and progressives will ever contribute sufficient funds to counteract these groups is slim.

In the end, these people may well "name and claim" this country by funding the people and organizations that are leading the Dominionist takeover of this country.

by Mainstream Baptist on Thu May 25, 2006 at 12:33:52 AM EST

Vouchers for education + faith-based funding for social services = the Dominionist mechanism for social control.

by Mainstream Baptist on Wed May 24, 2006 at 02:23:10 PM EST

If you think Rushdoony's promotion of tithing as the sole source of helping out the poor is scary, he has nothing--nothing--on some of the outright foot-bulleting towards the poor practiced by the "dominion theology" pente-dominionists.

Not only are people typically required to give no less than ten percent of their pre-tax income to these churches, the "dominion theology" community  (and in particular the "name it and claim it" folks, a MAJOR part of the bigger dominionist churches) promote the idea of "seed faith offerings"--tithes above and beyond the "minimum" ten percent to "secure a blessing" and as a way of "naming and claiming it".

Many of these pastors even claim that God will increase any "seed faith offering" tenfold or more; in other words, God is being promoted in these churches as no less than a glorified Ponzi scheme.

The poor are especially targeted in these schemes--often, multigenerational poverty is claimed to be the result of "generational curses" that are the result of one's ancestors (up to seven generations back) having misbehaved somehow and "opened doorways to Satan" to cause the whole family to be "oppressed".  The cure always is for the family to pretty much devote all their free time to the church (including political dominionist groups, "spiritual warfare" groups, endless "deliverance services", and "Christian alternatives" to things like Scouting, etc.) and to give ever larger amounts of "seed faith offerings" to the church.  In fact, the story of the "widow's mite" is specifically abused in this promotion.

People who can ill afford to give any money to the church as is have literally spent themselves into poverty donating fully fifty percent or more of their pretax income to the church (I grew up in this very situation, and it was one of the few things my mother and father got into violent shouting matches about; my father disapproved, my mother literally accusing him of "denying God" and "trying to take away her blessing").

When the "seed faith offering" fails--as it inevitably does--the parishoner is encouraged to send even more of his money to the church and is often accused of not having "named and claimed" enough or of having some sort of "secret sin" or "having opened a doorway to Satan in your life"; more and more, the person is isolated from non-dominionist influence as practically everything not preapproved by the church is described as infested by demons and thus "opening doorways" (including such innocuous things as the peace symbol, Nike shoes, and Cabbage Patch Kids dolls).  This also includes control of information--thus people are sucked farther into a particularly spiritually abusive form of dominionism, whilst digging themselves ever deeper into financial holes.  

These same groups also promote the idea of marathon fasting (for periods of 21 to 40 days) as a way of "naming and claiming" things.  (These fasts are even more extreme than, say, Ramadan fasting--often people will consume nothing but water for 40 days or more.  Even diabetics (who are generally advised NEVER to fast or even skip meals)  and other persons for whom fasting is medically inadvisable are encouraged to do limited fasting--through the "cabbage soup diet" (condemned by the Mayo Clinic and American Heart Association, and whose authors even warn never to stay on more than seven days due to risk of malnutrition).  The church I escaped from is a major promoter of this within Assemblies circles, and in fact a 1948 book (from near the dawn of modern dominionism) is literally titled "Atomic Power with God Through Fasting And Prayer".

Very often, poor people are also specifically targeted (as they get sucked further in) by dominionists promoting multilevel marketing schemes--particularly AmWay, which itself promotes dominionism and has been used as a recruitment front for dominionists; increasingly, people are being targeted in the "name it and claim it" neopente churches for frank pyramid schemes (in fact, the problem of "affinity fraud" targeting dominionists is sufficiently severe that many state Attorneys-General are issuing specific advisories on it, and it's now thought by consumer advocates that "affinity" pyramid schemes may be, along with 419 schemes, the fastest growing category of fraud in the United States).  The promotion of these schemes as "Christian business opprotunities" doesn't help here, either, and serves as yet another tool to lock down access to the outside world.

So people are throwing their finances in further chaos, are essentially being recruited to coercive religious groups (some of which are highly abusive, literally comparable to Scientology in some cases and as widely regarded as abusive by experts), are putting their actual health in jeopardy, and are often recruited into frank fraud--all in the name of something that is ironically called the "Health and Wealth Gospel" and which serves to do nothing short of stealing the health and wealth of the poor unfortunates involved.

The scary thing is, the groups that are promoting this the most are in fact some of the largest dominionist groups in the US and some of the oldest to boot (Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church, Ted Haggard's New Life Church, so many pastors in the Assemblies of God as to be innumerable (practically the entire "word-faith" expose section of Deception In The Church features either Assemblies-linked or "independent" neopente preachers with close links to the Assemblies; also, of note, practically all televangelists that are not explicitly Baptist, with very rare exception, are linked with the Assemblies or one of its daughter or granddaughter denominations or movements), and many other neopente preachers deep into the dominion theology and deliverance ministry movements are major, major promoters of this stuff).  Part of how groups like the "Patriot Pastors" get their money to do stuff is because members of the involved churches are literally giving half their pre-tax income to these churches in some cases (and World Harvest Church even keeps an automatic billing and deduction program on their website through Mastercard, just to make sure they get their thirty pieces of silver a week; several other really big megachurches do have similar programs).

by dogemperor on Wed May 24, 2006 at 10:20:53 PM EST

Thanks, dogemperor, for such a thorough exegesis of this malady & for listing AofG predominance in these Ponzi-ing of America ripoffs via very bad religion, extreme to be sure but prevalent also. That automatic billing via MC deduction surely must come under some FRAUD statute & may be the gall that brings the entire house of cards down sooner than not. Such 'bad religion' is what is first our legacy abroad & against which we must separate ourselves from in its totality if we are ever to be considered anything other than "kooks" in the rest of the world!
  And Bruce's following observation that normative folks can never keep up with such psychotic giving patterns is gainsaid, while that is a positive legacy of sanity & commended. This is what having such a fundamentalist at the presidential helm brings, in all its tyranny, here & abroad. Gawd 'elp 'us all!

by achbird65 on Thu May 25, 2006 at 12:45:11 PM EST

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