The Reconstructionist Roots of the War on Christians
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Thu May 25, 2006 at 03:32:50 PM EST
A few weeks ago Alan Cooperman wrote in the Washington Post, "The `War on Christmas' has morphed into a `War on Christians.'"  He was writing about Rick Scarborough's recent conference in Washington, D.C. entitled the "War on Christians and Values Voters in 2006."

The idea that Christianity is under attack is not new.  It was a theme popularized in the early 1970's by the late R. J. Rushdoony, founder of the Christian Reconstructionist movement.  A man whose thought permeated the conference that Scarborough organized.  A movement that views democracy as heresy.  In his Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony wrote:

Even as Rome declared war on Christians, so socialism and communism, and progressively the democracies, are at war against orthodox or Biblical faith.  The consequence of such a desertion by the state of its calling as the ministry of justice can only be finally the fall of the state.  The state which ceases to be a terror to evil-doers and becomes a terror to the godly is committing suicide. p. 62.

When Rushdoony offered examples of how the state has become a "terror to the godly," he wasn't talking about a "war on Christmas" or on "values voters."  He was terrorized by the democratic values of "civil rights" and "equal rights."  His fulminations were against laws prohibiting discrimination.  In Rushdoony's mind, "the law is always discriminatory."  He said,

The law cannot favor equality without ceasing to be law:  at all times, the law defines, in any and every society, those who constitute the legitimate and the illegitimate members of society.  The fact of law introduces a fundamental and basic inequality in society. . . .
        The law has often been used as an ostensible weapon to gain equality, but such attempts represent either self-deception or an attempt to deceive by the group in power.
        The "civil rights" revolutionary groups are a case in point.  Their goal is not equality but power.  The background of Negro culture is African and magic, and the purposes of magic are control and power over God, man, nature, and society.  Voodoo, or magic, was the religion and life of American Negroes.  Voodoo songs underlie jazz, and old, voodoo, with its power goal, has been merely replaced with revolutionary voodoo, a modernized power drive.  pp. 60-61.

Rushdoony's followers have merely reframed his logic onto  issues that resonate with more voters.  With the wisdom of serpents, they have learned to conceal their racism.  Their convictions, however, make it hard for them to pass themselves off to others as being as harmless as doves.   They too are on a "power drive."  

Theirs is a movement to see that "orthodox," "biblical" Christians dominate every aspect of life -- family, society (church), government and culture.  Most alarming is the fact that they think they are immune from the corrupting influence of power.  Rushdoony himself assured them that,

Lord Acton's dictum, "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," is a liberal half-truth and reflects liberal illusions.  First of all, all power does not corrupt.  The power of a godly husband and father to govern his family does not corrupt him; he exercises it under God and in terms of God's law-word.  Instead of being corrupted by his power, the godly man is blessed by means of his power, and he makes it a blessing to his family and society.  A godly ruler, who uses his power readily for legitimate and moral ends, prospers the society under his power.  The two evils with respect to power and the exercise thereof are, on the one hand, the fear of using power, and, on the other, the immoral use of power.  Both evils extensively prevail in any humanistic society.  Men who are afraid to use power lawfully and morally corrupt their families and societies.  The failure to exercise due power reduces a society to lawlessness and anarchy.  p. 59.

Christian Reconstructionism appears to be most popular in those areas of the country that Kevin Phillips identified as "Southern" culture.

See American Theocracy, p. 161.

by Mainstream Baptist on Thu May 25, 2006 at 03:40:13 PM EST

...those same areas of the country are also the areas where:

a) revivalism in general started, especially the prototypical "tent meetings"

b) the Holiness Movement, a proto-dominionist and proto-pente movement, started in the mid to late 1800s (in fact, it started in large part out of those "tent meetings")

c) pentecostalism, including the specific denominations and movements associated with "dominion theology", first took root (in fact, some documentation even puts the birth of pentecostalism in Kentucky itself, several years before the Azusa Revival)

d) separatist and segregationalist movements have been in place since practically the end of the Civil War, including not just racist groups but general anti-government groups as well (of note, a lot of the "fundamentalist Baptist" groups that embrace Christian Reconstructionism are also linked with "tax protester" movements and some are even linked with blatantly secessionist movements, usually tied to Confederate and neo-Confederate groups (and, more darkly, to Klan groups as well); Posse Comitatus, a "tax protester" movement which advocated removal of all legal authority above the county level which is often linked with the birth of the militia movement (and which was also quite antisemitic) also had a lot of popularity in the South)

e) general mistrust of "Northerner" government since, again, the time of the Civil War (and yes, this does tend to be used even to this day in political stumping in those areas)

f) one of the few areas where agriculture is still being done in small farms, and where one of the major crops where small farms were still in the majority--tobacco--is increasingly non-viable, and traditional cropgrowers are crowded out by large agribusinesses (as it is, here in KY a lot of tobacco farmers are hoping their salvation is in niche agriculture--organic crops, or "exotic" agriculture like bison ranching).

Being from that part of the country, I can definitely see it.  I'd probably put Appalachia in there too (while not strictly Southern, there's a lot of the same cultural feelings).

by dogemperor on Thu May 25, 2006 at 05:26:42 PM EST

An absolutely fantastic find: the Rushdoony blather about Christian, male-based power being the one kind of power that doesn't corrupt. It's telling.

Taken as a whole, this passage seems to me to be Rushdoony's grotesque declaration of a Reconstructionist disavowal of basic Christian humility, and an idolizing of power itself.

I can agree with him in a very, very broad sense that--in the political realm, and even within the home--not exercising power against a threat can be dangerous, and be unethical.

But, it such a belief depends on whose power, what the threat is, and if there is a stronger foundation to the power, such as love. More importantly, I certainly wouldn't seek to justify such a power fetish--especially insofar as it applies to all of society--with scripture or by invoking God or the "godly" ruler.

There is not a compelling amount of tradition within Christian orthodoxy or within scripture itself to support such a twisted dismissal like Rushdoony's of what is often characterized as Christ's "upside-down" view of power: that real power isn't likely to be power as we recognize it at all--certainly not power as force of will or force of arms; that Christ's attitude about power is essentially a refusal to deal in the currency of power at all.

Consider even that in the Gospels when Christ cleanses the temple--a story that I suspect Reconstructionist force-advocates might love (maybe I'm wrong about that though)--force, power doesn't seem to be the real point of the tale: force is an incidental extra, a supporting aspect of the cleansing episode. A prop, like the whip itself. What seems to matter in that story is the authority of Jesus specifically, and his spiritual proximity to God--which could have been, and throughout the Gospels is, expressed in many different ways.

The cleansing of the temple tale doesn't seem to be, in the final analysis, a recommendation for our own behavior. The Jesus who takes up a whip is, after all, the same Jesus who preached repeatedly about the meek inheriting the earth, and who was himself led as a lamb to the slaughter, who never pushed back at hostile crowds but simply walked away from them, who refrained from urging a legal or military revolution and said that Caesar should have what he's owed, etc.

Rushdoony's fixation on power shows that really he's the heir of Machiavelli, or even Marx or Mussolini, not Jesus.

by IseFire on Thu May 25, 2006 at 04:52:01 PM EST


A few weeks ago, I read Dr. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's book "Black Sun". It deals with fascist estorica and its impact on modern identity politics. It's a very good book and serves as an excellent corollary to what's going on with the Dominionists. There are many, many, disturbing paralells especially when you get to the sections on the Church of Jesus Christ Aryan or the ones on Rev. Butler and his Aryan Nations movement.
How much of the Dominionist movement is also based on racial identity politics? It's scary to speculate.

by Frank Frey on Fri May 26, 2006 at 10:47:11 AM EST

I think "Christian Identity" (the overtly racist movement in the Religious Right) has been influenced by Christian Reconstructionism.

They would be at the far right wing of the Dominionist movement.

There are significant differences between Christian Reconstructionism and Christian Identity.

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri May 26, 2006 at 12:15:19 PM EST

connection to Rushdoony has not been sufficiently investigated.  We know only that he was close enough to Rushdoony to have been at his deathbed and that he is one of the the most consistant funders of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD)

There seems gap in our knowledge of the history of the concordance of the southern millenialists, ultra right Roman Catholics, and disgruntled mainline protestants who are all represented in the IRD, and our understanding of how they manage to operate together.  

On the face of it, it seems like this organization is made up of parties on a collision course.

by tikkun on Fri May 26, 2006 at 01:55:38 PM EST

It looks like the "parties on a collision course" have united to oppose a common enemy -- and it is us.

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri May 26, 2006 at 04:04:23 PM EST

A gap? Well, maybe, but :

Lately, there has been a lot of talk around homeschooling/religious circles about Doug Phillips, founder of VisionForum, and pastor of the Boerne Christian Assembly, a hyper-patriarchal non-denomiational group where women are relegated to virtual slavery in their own homes, denied higher education, and are not permitted to participate in prayer in the church services, make prayer requests in church, or even receive communion unless it is served to them by their husband or another male member of the congregation. Phillips stands accused of the abusive treatment of several members of his congregation; other charges last year led to the defrocking of Phillip's longtime associate, R.C. Sproul Jr.:

A website, Patriarch's Path, owned by James Mcdonald, expounds on Patriarchal views, among them the idea that only landowners should vote: .htm

Above is the link to that article, but to get a balanced view of what the Patriarchal Movement is all about, one should read all of the articles on the site:

But did you ever wonder what is BEHIND the extreme patriarchy movement? As you say, it is not limited to the evangelical Protestant churches.

Consider this: traditionally, Calvinists and Catholics don’t see eye to eye (to say the least!!!), but there has been an almost identical movement growing within the Roman Catholic Church since about 1980. These schismatic Catholics do not get along with the Catholic powers-that-be at all — they claim that the Pope is an impostor and that THEY are the only true Catholics left.

Another interesting  thing is that ALL of these “patriarchs” claim to be restoring their respective religions to a purer form that was practiced in the past — with the Evangelicals it’s the 1800’s, with the Catholics it’s pre-Vatican II, etc; but in the past that they claim to be attempting to re-create, their respective denominations NEVER taught the kinds of things that these fellows are preaching now.

Now for the interesting thing: ideologically,  the Protestant patriarchalists and their Catholic counterparts are coming to have nearly as much in common with each other, as they do with either traditional Protestantism or orthodox Catholicism.

To begin with, both the Protestant and the Catholic patriarchalists tend to be quite involved with politics and finance. Some of the biggest names in this movement are also big names in finance, politics, the media, and publishing: think  Greg Ahmenson, Marion T. Horvat, Christopher Ferrara, Roberto Fiore, Paul Weyrich, Greg Bahnsen, Gary North, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, JimBob Duggar, David Chilton, Howard Phillips, D. James Kennedy, Marvin Olasky, etc.
In addition to their conservative stance on politics and economics, many seem to share rather similar ideas about the role of women, homeschooling, the Quiverfull movement, etc; AND,  a similar movement has also arisen within Judaism.

It is this very fact, the fact that the same movement has  apparently infiltrated Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism, which leads me to think that something other than religion is at work here, something not particularly concerned religious belief or practice at all.
 I say this not to cast aspersions upon the beliefs of non-Evangelicals, but the simple fact that Catholicism is very different from Calvinism shows us that whatever is driving this movement is not so much concerned with religious doctrine as it is with working to achieve its goals through religious channels.

The thing is organised like a corporation, or a hydra, and appears to be umbrella group which is trying to absorb MANY denominations, and bring them round to a certain common way of thinking, under the auspices of evangelism.

It’s almost like radical patriarchy is a religious theme in itself, and the Christian, Jewish and even the Moslem versions of it are mere variations on that theme.

AND, the Unification Church (Moonies) is dancing to this exact same tune, though to be fair, one must admit that the Unification Church has been hyper-patriarchal from the beginning.
Check this out:

by Cynthia Gee on Sat Feb 03, 2007 at 11:21:21 PM EST
Sorry, that last link didn't come through. Hopefully this time it will work:

by Cynthia Gee on Sat Feb 03, 2007 at 11:27:51 PM EST

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