More From The Biblical Stoning & Legalized Slavery Movement
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 12:13:45 AM EST
In 1998, a controversy broke out over Christian reconstructionist advocacy for stoning as a legal penalty for a range of infractions listed in the Old Testament. This scandal is more timely now because, at the time the controversy erupted, a key adviser who was working to get Mike Huckabee re-elected as Arkansas Governor had also just started contributing articles to a leading reconstructionist website and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has endorsed that man's latest (reconstructionist-linked) political endeavor.
[ for that timelier, newsier aspect of this story please see Huckabee Endorses His Christian Reconstructionist Arkansas Policy Adviser. The following is merely an account of the minor 1998 flap over Biblical stoning. ]


"For connoisseurs of surrealism on the American right, it's hard to beat an exchange that appeared about a decade ago in the Heritage Foundation magazine Policy Review. It started when two associates of the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote an article which criticized Christian Reconstructionism, the influential movement led by theologian Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, for advocating positions that even they as committed fundamentalists found "scary...."

On the website of the National Reform Association one can actually find an artifact, by Daniel Lance Herrick, titled Table of Death Penalty Laws in the Pentateuch which, explains the article introduction, "is a sidebar for Why Execute Murderers? which was published in the May - June, 2000 issue of The Christian Statesman."

Herrick's article contains a series of grid boxes that delineate various offenses, per the Old Testament, that are described in the Old Testament as punishable by stoning to death. the "crimes" demanding communal stoning to death according to Herrick are:

  •  Idol Worship
  •  Witchcraft
  •  Blasphemy
  •  Cursing the Lord
  •  Violating the Sabbath
  •  Enticing to Idolatry
  •  Women who marry but are not virgins
  •  Adultery

As Frederick Clarkson, in his landmark 1994 article on Christian Reconstructionism (otherwise known as Theonomy) at The Public Eye entitled Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence, gives provides a list of of capital crimes under Christian Reconstructionism, or Theonomy, and some helpful context:

Epitomizing the Reconstructionist idea of Biblical "warfare" is the centrality of capital punishment under Biblical Law. Doctrinal leaders (notably Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen) call for the death penalty for a wide range of crimes in addition to such contemporary capital crimes as rape, kidnapping, and murder. Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, "sodomy or homosexuality," incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, "unchastity before marriage."

According to Gary North, women who have abortions should be publicly executed, "along with those who advised them to abort their children." Rushdoony concludes: "God's government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them." Reconstructionists insist that "the death penalty is the maximum, not necessarily the mandatory penalty." However, such judgments may depend less on Biblical Principles than on which faction gains power in the theocratic republic. The potential for bloodthirsty episodes on the order of the Salem witchcraft trials or the Spanish Inquisition is inadvertently revealed by Reconstructionist theologian Rev. Ray Sutton, who claims that the Reconstructed Biblical theocracies would be "happy" places, to which people would flock because "capital punishment is one of the best evangelistic tools of a society."

The Biblically approved methods of execution include burning (at the stake for example), stoning, hanging, and "the sword." Gary North, the self-described economist of Reconstructionism, prefers stoning because, among other things, stones are cheap, plentiful, and convenient. Punishments for non-capital crimes generally involve whipping, restitution in the form of indentured servitude, or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks, prior to imposition of the actual sentence.

Such bloodthirsty aspects of Christian Reconstructionism rarely get publicly discussed, but one of the exceptions was during a controversy that broke out, in 1998, over an article written by William O. Einwechter entitled Stoning Disobedient Children? which provoked a deliciously sardonic response in Reason Online, a magazine that has specialized (among other things), ironically, in Global Warming denialism. Nonetheless, Walter Olson's 1998  Invitation to a Stoning: Getting cozy with theocrats managed to capture something especially characteristic of Christian Reconstructionists - they can be (and usually are) sticklers for detail:

For connoisseurs of surrealism on the American right, it's hard to beat an exchange that appeared about a decade ago in the Heritage Foundation magazine Policy Review. It started when two associates of the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote an article which criticized Christian Reconstructionism, the influential movement led by theologian Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, for advocating positions that even they as committed fundamentalists found "scary." Among Reconstructionism's highlights, the article cited support for laws "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards." The Rev. Rushdoony fired off a letter to the editor complaining that the article had got his followers' views all wrong: They didn't intend to put drunkards to death.

Ah, yes, accuracy does count.

In reaction to Olson's article, an obviously bristling Reconstructionist leader Adam Sandlin wrote in to Reason Online with the following rebuttal:

Protruding conspicuously through the facade of smirking paranoia in Walter Olson's screed against Christian Reconstruction is the outline of the ever-widening chasm between secular rationalists known as libertarians on one side and, on the other, Christians dedicated to re-establishing Christian civilization, by which alone true political freedom is possible. In what he obviously considers gleeful revelations of our dedication to taking seriously the whole Bible, Olson conveniently neglects to mention Rushdoony's conviction in Law and Society that the biblical civil codes are designed for a nation in covenant with God, not modern Western secular democracies which are at war with God.

William O. Einwechter, who professed to be taken aback by the controversy his "Stoning Disobedient Children?" had provoked, wrote a follow up to the article entitled "Stoning Disobedient Children?" Revisited:

When I wrote the article for the Chalcedon Report on Deuteronomy 21:18-21, "Stoning Disobedient Children?", little did I anticipate the notoriety this short essay would achieve. Apparently, it caught the attention of Rev. Barry Lynn and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU), and this organization sent out a press release on February 18, 1999 with the heading, "Bible Requires Death by Stoning for 'Rebellious' Teenagers, says PA. Preacher....

AU's philosophy seems to be: Why enter into serious discussion or interact on a theological or philosophical basis with those that you disagree with if you can simply marginalize your opponent by distortion and inflammatory words?

But Lynn and AU were not finished yet with their use of the article on Deuteronomy 21:18-21. In the October 2001 issue of Church & State, the AU ran an article on the National Reform Association.3 The article, written by Rob Boston, began with this sentence: "The Rev. William Einwechter has a novel solution to the problem of incorrigible juvenile delinquents--stone them." Boston then gave his summary of the article and indicated that I serve as the vice president of the NRA....

Einwechter went on to describe how AU leveraged his "Stoning Disobedient Children?" to generate national publicity that persuaded Pennsylvania US Congressman Joe Pitts to cancel his appearance at a 2002 National Reform Association conference

...In the press release, AU made a predictable reference to the Chalcedon Report article saying, "One sponsor of this weekend's event, the Rev. William Einwechter, argued in a 1999 article that juvenile delinquents should be stoned to death." The pressure by AU and others caused the PA Congressman, Joe Pitts, to cancel his appearance (who wants to appear on the podium with a man who wants to stone disobedient children?)

Einwechter was obviously taken aback and felt unfairly attacked - in his article he had taken pains to make clear he didn't hold that children should be stoned but, rather, teenagers who were more like adults and had become truly, obnoxiously, corrupt and abusive. Had Einwechter reflected a bit, he might have seen how his position could have been misinterpreted because teenagers are quite often considerable trouble due to the hormonal vicissitudes of puberty. It's worth noting, additionally, that Einwechtwer is a leading reconstructionist thinker but not its sole spokesperson by any means.

Another major spokesperson for Reconstructionism is Andrew Sandlin who wrote, concerning slavery, in an article published on the  National Reform Association website entitled Jesus and Politics:

If  we are elected to political office, we must glorify God. We do this by obeying the Bible. And Jesus Christ himself confirms the authority of Old Testament civil law as properly enforced in the state....

Every area of life should be Christianized, including the state.

....Finally, this answers the question of whether Christianity is either a radical or a reactionary force. If we had listened to many of the "Jesus People" in 60s and 70s, we would have heard that Jesus was a revolutionary political radical... At the opposite end of the spectrum are those today who charge that Jesus Christ and his followers were politically and socially reactionary: women are held to be subordinate to men, slavery is permissible, private property is inviolable, and so forth. In other words, some leftists use the Bible to prove that the Bible supports leftism, while other leftists attack the Bible because it is anti-leftism. The former consider the message of Christ and the Bible radical, while the later consider it reactionary.

Sandlin offers the view that the Bible is neither revolutionary or reactionary in political terms. But he makes it clear that, in his view, Jesus condoned slavery.

William O. Einwechter also appears to hold a pro-slavery position and argues, in the following audio sermon A Christian Perspective on Slavery, that the issue of whether one is a slave or a master is actually irrelevant because, though slaves have the duty to honor and obey their masters, all are equal - spiritually at least - before God.

In short, Theonomy is simple - the templates for Christian governance, Christian (Biblical) Law and all manner of human behavior and societal structure can and must be derived from a close, literal reading of the Bible.

Whose Bible ? Probably the King James version.

Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy...

Ah but who decides? Some of us might think Gary North and the rest of his ilk are the heretics and start gathering our rocks up, eh?

Except for that pesky Jesus in John 8:2-11

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone .."

by ds on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 02:54:47 AM EST

Pay no mind, that's just a metaphor. And, worry not as to the consumption of shellfish....

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 06:12:27 AM EST
in colors not found in nature.

by nogodsnomasters on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 10:45:13 AM EST
All I wear are my three identical homespun Yak-wool hairshirt tunics.

They prevent excessive identification with the sins of the flesh.


by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 01:47:08 PM EST

"Ah, but the rules are for THEM, not US."

(That is what I expect to hear!)

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Jan 25, 2008 at 03:06:26 PM EST

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