Southern Baptists and the Reconstructionist Blueprint
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Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 04:04:30 PM EST
Christian Reconstructionists have a six point blueprint for making America a theocracy:  

1)  Make the ten commandments the law of the land;  2) Strengthen patriarchically ordered families;  3)  Close the public schools and make parents totally responsible for the education of their children;  4) Require "tithes" to ecclesiastical agencies to provide welfare services;  5) Reduce the role of government to defense of the nation and the defense of property rights;  and 6) Close the prisons and reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel's capital offenses -- including apostacy, blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft.

Comparing the opinions and actions of influential Southern Baptist leaders with this six point blueprint reveals a striking measure of agreement with these goals.  Below the fold is a brief comparison.

1)  Make the Ten Commandments the law of the land.

Emblematic of this goal are the Ten Commandments monuments and posters that are springing up on public property all around the country.   Today, the Decalogue has become the foremost symbol for both American Christian Nationalism and for Dominionist biblical morality.  It is the chief icon of the culture war in this nation.

Southern Baptist political organizers like Rick Scarborough of Vision America have been sponsoring rallies throughout the country around Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument, organizing rallies to influence judicial appointments and legislation in Washington, D.C., and recruiting "patriot pastors" to get out the vote.   Most of his "patriot pastors" come from the ranks of the breakaway Southern Baptists of Texas (-- comprised mostly of the Texas fundamentalist pastors who led the successful takeover of the SBC, but who were prevented by  Mainstream Baptists from taking over the moderate Baptist General Convention of Texas), Independent Fundamental Baptists, and the Assemblies of God.

Baptist denomination executives like Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, are giving weekly advice to the White House and exerting concerted pressure on the judiciary whenever they decide against the elevation of their symbols:

Land said of the Kentucky courthouse decision, "If we allow the continuation of the brazen power grab of this judicial oligarchy masquerading as a Supreme Court, it will fundamentally alter our freedom and liberties. It is time for the American people to rise up and demand that we want government of the people, by the people and for the people back. We have not ceded our freedom and liberty to the imperial Supreme Court."

2)   Strengthen patriarchically ordered families.

In 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention added a statement on the family to the Baptist Faith and Message, a confession of faith commonly accepted in SBC churches.  That statement mandated that wives "graciously submit" to their husbands.  The SBC then enforced that mandate by terminating every professor, missionary and employee who refused to agree with it.

In the secular political realm, Southern Baptists support patriarchically ordered families by opposing legislation affirming equal rights for women.

3)  Close the public schools and make parents totally responsible for the education of their children.

This issue be brought before the Southern Baptist Convention again next week.  For the past three years, denominational leaders have attempted to suppress open discussion of this issue.  Each year, however, advocates for a resolution encouraging all Southern Baptists to exit the public schools have returned with stronger support.  Currently, the most influential SBC leader for this movement is Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who was once described as the "Baptist Pope" by Paige Patterson -- an architect of the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

4)  Require "tithes" to ecclesiastical agencies to provide welfare services.

There once was a time when all Southern Baptists were totally opposed to supporting any ecclesiastical agency out of the public treasury.  That was before the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC and before the SBC severed ties with the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty.  

Today some Southern Baptist Churches are enlisting to receive funds made available through President Bush's faith-based initiatives.  Last year, Second Baptist Church in Houston -- whose pastor became President of the SBC after the takeover -- donated a million dollars to help the victims of hurricane Katrina -- under the proviso that the church be given the right to coordinate, and thereby control, all the resources of public relief efforts in Houston.

5) Reduce the role of government to defense of the nation and the defense of property rights.

Southern Baptist political organizers like Scarborough are vociferous about the threat of big government (Enough is Enough, p. 113), about OSHA regulations bankrupting business (p. 109-110), and about the EPA undermining man's right to exercise "dominion over the earth" (p. 110-11).  In a book mailed to every Southern Baptist church in the state of Texas with the recommendation of three former Presidents of the SBC, Scarborough said:    

Carnal laypeople have refused to give God his ten percent in the form of a tithe, often limiting the ability of the church to perform meaningful ministry for lack of funds.  Now these same laypeople find themselves being compelled to give as high as forty to fifty percent of their income through various forms of taxation.  Instead of the church compassionately meeting the needs of people in the name of Christ through freewill offerings, we now have professional bureaucrats doling out confiscated money, without compassion, to people who are largely unaccountable to anyone, in an ever increasing welfare state that is bankrupt, both financially and morally.  If I give my money to the poor, that is compassion.  If I give your money to the poor, that is theft.  Politicians have made careers out of confiscating the money of law-abiding citizens through exorbitant taxation and in turn legitimizing unscriptural behavior with countless government subsidies.  (p. 98-99)

Key denominational leaders have been more subtle in their approach to this issue.  Except for voicing support in 2000 for the tax cut removing the "marriage penalty," Richard Land has said little about tax cuts.  Unlike many other leaders of religious ethical agencies, he has also been largely silent about the effect of tax cuts that enlarge federal budget deficits, lead to reductions in health and social services for the poor, and leave mountains of unpaid bills for future generations.  Land has a simple solution for poverty, "The single most effective cure for poverty among women and children in America is for women to marry the fathers of their children."

Regarding the need for a strong military, for homeland security, and for strict law enforcement Southern Baptist leaders are rarely reticent to express strong opinions.  At a time when the leaders of America's mainline Christian denominations were united in opposition to war, Richard Land's support for President Bush's pre-emptive strike on Iraq was instrumental in garnering public support for the war and earned the SBC the title "America's war denomination."  After the war started, SBC President Bobby Welch toured Baptist churches around the country promoting his book, You the Warrior Leader, with a picture of a camouflaged soldier on the front cover.

6) Close the prisons and reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel's capital offenses - including apostasy, blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft.

While Texas Baptists have issued statements opposing capital punishment, Richard Land and Southern Baptists remain staunchly supportive of it.   At present, few Southern Baptists would interpret the Bible so literally as to support the application of the death penalty in all these cases.  

It appears that Southern Baptist support for Chuck Colson's prison ministries has led to a merger of this goal with their desire to open the public treasury to faith-based initiatives.  Richard Land voiced strong disapproval of the recent decision that ruled Iowa's faith-based prison wing unconstitutional:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press this is another case where a federal judge "doesn't get it" and "can't see the forest for the trees."

"A federal judge finds a prison rehab program that actually works and has much lower recidivism rates than other programs, and so he declares it unconstitutional because it dares to bring a faith element into the program," Land said.

By my count there is strong support for about five of the six Reconstructionist goals.

Land and most other Baptists are reluctant to see churches their accepting government money.  But they are willing to let other churches and groups like Colson's Prison Fellowship take it.  That counts as half of one goal.

Most Baptists favor capital punishment, but not as extensively as strict Reconstructionism would require.  This counts as half of one goal.

That adds up to about an 84% approval rating for the Reconstructionist blueprint.

by Mainstream Baptist on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 04:29:01 PM EST

It would seem to me that points 1 (the Decalogue) and point 6 (reinstituting the punitive slave state) are one and the same. The Recons don't just want the Decalogue (and I always ask, "Which version?"), they want the whole of Deuteronomy, Levicitus, and Numbers. Every wicked little law.

But they're reading the CherryPicked™ translation of the Bible- they aren't going to give up football and cotton-polyester clothing and seafood any time soon.

But 613 laws would make a very hard to read plaque on a courthouse wall, I guess.

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 08:08:45 PM EST

It always puzzles me that devout Christians, who say they want everyone to accept Jesus as their Saviour, are more interested in posting the Ten Commandments on every wall, than the Beatitudes spoken by Jesus Himself.

I guess those inconvenient sayings in the Gospels sound way too liberal.

by cdunaway on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 08:52:15 AM EST

Excellent point. It seems that the hardliners love the harsh and nasty stuff of the OT, and completely overlook or downplay what Christ himself said in the NT.

Like the Beatudes, or the Great Commandment: Love your neighbor as you would yourself.

I seriously think that actual practice of that single commandment should be the Christian Shibboleth. It would be very easy to tell the real ones from the ones wearing sheepskins.

by Lorie Johnson on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 09:34:53 AM EST

(keeping in mind Jesus's words that the first and greatest commandment is the "Sh'ma Yisrael"...........)

Those who don't want this one bandied about are scared to death and back of it...... could it be because (among other things):

[1] almost every major religion has a version of it gasp Could it be possible that other faiths can have ANYTHING good about them at all, let alone one of the (sadly forgotten) core ethical values of their own faith?

[2] it gives way too much "soul liberty" (one of the great Baptist Principles, remember them?) to the individual believer and thus takes away their control and lets the Church dissolve into anarchy double gasp We just can't have all those people running around loving each other as the Spirit moves them in their daily lives........ This will surely start the world down the slippery slope toward the dreaded Situational Ethics gasp and hyperventilate

[3] ..........not to mention that it especially empowers "the least of these" by showing that God values them/us fully and holds them/us equal to White Anglo-Saxon Males.......... gasp, turn blue, and pass out then they'd have to deal with such abominations as my-dad-the-rev's greatest mentors being a black pastor and a woman pastor, and (even worse) a gay pastor's having played a major role in saving my life when I was mired in one of my most horrible depressions ever.

[4] if we accept this commandment, we'll have to deal with an even scarier one breathing down our necks, that one where Jesus says to love each other the way he loves us. gasp, swoon, and have a heart attack

I could come up with a few more reasons, but my coffee hasn't fully taken effect yet and I'm not entirely awake..........

by anomalous4 on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 12:18:17 PM EST

Given that the Jewish scriptures fundamentally consist of what Christians call the Old Testament, why are American Jews not the people trying to get a version of the Ten Commandments posted in American governmental buildings?

Are the Ten Commandments a routine part of court rooms in Israel?  A search for "Ten Commandments Israel courtroom" returned Judge Moore results.

Where are the American hellfire and brimstone Jews?  If they're out there, they don't get much publicity.

by ValerieM on Fri Jun 09, 2006 at 04:19:21 PM EST

Well, there are "hellfire and brimstone"-esque Jews, but most of those seem to be in Israel itself (not counting the kosher pentecostals aka "Messianic Jews", of course).

There's a few reasons you don't see too many hellfire-and-brimstone Hasidim around:

a) As I understand it, the modern Jewish religion actually discourages conversion, and attempting to convert a non-Jew to a Jew is considered a sin (Judaism being defined as much by heritage as by faith--if your maternal ancestors were Jewish, you're still considered a Jew even if your family is not particularly religious).

And yes, this has been a point of controversy even within Israel itself--in allowing certain Jewish communities, in particular the Ethiopian Jewish community, right of return in Israel.

b) Jews consider not just the Ten Commandments, but all 613 Levitican laws of kashrut to be binding on them.  (In other words, you still are bound not to boil meat in the milk of its mother--meaning, in its strictest interpretation, no cheeseburgers--not to mix fabrics, etc.)  This is because (again, in modern Orthodox Judaism) they are taught they are supposed to be setting an example for gentiles and goyim.

It's also noted often that Gentiles are specifically not bound to this, that these laws are meant for Jews to be essentially "moral-plus" and that there are technically only seven laws that are binding on Gentiles.  It's also noted that a moral Gentile can enter heaven (see below), which is not the case in hardline dominionist Christianity (for example, the Assemblies of God has a particularly aggressive interest in converting Jews to "Messianic Jews" because they believe all Jews are damned to hell unless they "accept Christ as the Messiah").

c) The concept of sheol and, for that matter, Satan is in fact not the same in Judaism as it is in Christianity.  Sheol is simply a term for the afterworld (or even grave and is not the place of hellfire and brimstone as depicted in Christianity; of note, it also is believed that people can go to heaven without being Jewish.  This site gives some insight and comparison on the views of Sheol in Judaism and hell in Christianity.  Occasionally, sheol has been equated with Gehinnom (more on that below), which is often mistranslated as "hell" but is probably closer to the Catholic image of Purgatory; the Wikipedia article on Jewish principles of faith also equates sheol with Gehinnom and notes the similarity to the concept of Purgatory.

The image of whether one joins with God in transcendance or ends up in sheol is less similar to the popular Christian idea of St. Peter looking in the "book of life", and more like something out of "Law and Order"--the persons' deeds, not words, are judged and if the "court" (more on this below) rules that the person lived a moral life, then they join with God; otherwise, they end up in Gehinnom (essentially a Jewish analogue to the concept of purgatory).  Only a very, very few people are explicitly damned in the manner of the Christian Hell (the Pharaoh who persecuted the early Jews, for example).  

(Of note to our Catholic readers: Most dominionist groups in fact do not believe in Purgatory (and in fact consider the concept of Purgatory a reason Catholics are "heretics")--you are either among the Elect (and going to heaven) or among the Damned (and going to burn).  Judaism, on the other hand, essentially has a Purgatory but no Hell per se.)

Satan is actually a Jewish term for "adversary" or, more properly, "challenger" and the closest modern equivalent would be the role of prosecuting attorney in a court of law.  (It's also rather explicitly noted in Jewish tradition that satans are actually servants of God--God being the judge, man being the defendant, and the satanot being the "plaintiffs".  And yes, in Jewish tradition, any adversary is termed a "satan", hence the use of the plural.)  

In fact, Satan (and satanot) have a surprisingly positive role in Judaism, seeing as the purpose is to "temper" you so that you pass the ultimate test of living a holy life.  (Basically, if you don't have to struggle, you get fat and lazy.  The purpose of Satanot is to keep this from happening, in essence, and make you prove your worth.)  This page has a really good discussion from an Orthodox Jewish perspective; another sites from a rabbi goes further into discussion of the role of Satan as "God's prosecuting attorney".

In direct relation to the concept of Satan as challenger, Judaism has a strong concept of free will and notes how people on this planet have been referred to as satanot--as "challengers" to temper the Jewish people.  (As an aside, the article also notes how the New International Version--a Bible translation geared towards dominionists as a modern-English alternative to the King James Version because they felt the Revised Standard Version was "too liberal"--deliberately mistranslated a section of the Bible to fit their own imagery of "all good things come from God and all bad things come from the Devil".  It also gives some insight as to some of the downright bizarre things noted later in the Scofield Reference Bible and premillenial dispensationalism in general due to gross misunderstanding of the basic concept of satanot in Jewish tradition.)

(As an aside--no, I'm not Jewish.  Just have known a lot of Jewish people (and the majority not being Messianics, either), and have been doing a good amount of reading on Judaism.  Being required to read their religious texts and commentaries in the original language--and having a systematic "review board"--has helped for the most part to keep sanity.  :3

by dogemperor on Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 10:46:53 AM EST

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