Rushdoony's Theocratic Libertarianism at Work in the Nation's Statehouses
Franklin was recently quoted in the Marietta Daily Journal as equating allowing homosexuals to serve in the military to allowing unrepentant drug dealers in the military. Franklin is author of the "Georgia Food Freedom Act" and "Georgia Right to Grow Act." In the Marietta Daily Journal article titled "East Cobb Rep Franklin takes on gays gold goats and God," Franklin states,
"Cobb County, in its Soviet style central planning, has deemed that you have to have two acres just to have a chicken."
"We've really adopted all 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto in one form or another in this country."
Franklin's "Right to Grow Act' would not allow government restrictions on raising farm animals on suburban lots.
Talking Points Memo outlines Rep. Franklin's "Life, Liberty, and Property Restoration Act" in which he describes four spheres of government - self-government, family government, church government, and civil government. The bill would create a six person legal repeals committee to undo the incursion of civil government into the other three spheres. The guidelines for qualifying for the committee are somewhat unusual.
"None of the members shall have graduated from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association or have ever been admitted to the practice of law in any state."
Franklin's "Freedom of Choice and Security Act" states,
"The mere potential to deprive someone of life, liberty, or property should never be considered a crime in a free and just society."
"He [Franklin] has suggested amending Georgia law to remove Georgia's governor's power to suspend gun and firearm sales in emergency situations, and another bill would make it legal for "church carry" or carrying firearms in houses of worship.
Rev. Morecraft is actively promoting (video) the "church carry" bill which has gained momentum since the shooting of Rep. Gabriel Giffords and 18 others in Tucson.
The Atlanta area is headquarters for a number of major Reconstructionist ministries including Gary DeMar's American Vision. I've noticed in recent years that Reconstructionist leaders are using Southern Baptist Convention facilities for seminars and conferences. John Sugg wrote in Alternet about the Worldview Superconference 2006, sponsored by American Vision and held at the Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa, a facility which I remember fondly from having attended music camp there many years ago. (To give you an idea of how long ago, I remember that we stopped to watch President Richard Nixon's resignation speech during camp.) Since that time the Southern Baptist Convention has abandoned its position as a staunch supporter of separation of church and state.
Reconstructionist activity in these areas has also resulted in a backlash as seen in an extensive cover article by John Sugg in the 2004 issue of Creative Loafing published in cities including Atlanta,Tampa, and Charlotte. Sugg states,
"It may sound like anarchism, but this is `theocratic libertarianism' as promoted in the school of thought called Christian Reconstructionism."
As Sugg describes, Reconstructionists talk openly about the need to expand capital punishment and shift to the biblical (and cheaper) method of stoning. However, the attention given to the Reconstructionist interest in stoning has perhaps overshadowed the fact that the rest of their agenda has made significant progress in recent years.
Background of Christian Reconstructionism
The foundations of Christian Reconstructionism were laid by the late Rousas J. Rushdoony in his prolific writing including his major tome, Institutes of Biblical Law and promoted through his Chalcedon Foundation. Reconstructionism teaches that all institutions of society and government must be reclaimed from "humanists" and reconstructed on the basis of biblical law. Reconstructionists claim that the unfettered free markets are biblically mandated. In other words, God is the invisible hand behind laissez-faire capitalism and government intervention is putting faith in man instead of God. Reconstructionist leaders have overlapped significantly with two other organizations that have sacralized radical free markets - Lew Rockwell's Ludwig von Mises Institute, which promotes Austrian School economics, and the John Birch Society.
In 2006, the Chalcedon Magazine featured an article by Chad Bull celebrating the John Birch Society and including an interview with JBS Chairman John McManus. The text can be viewed at the Facebook page for JBS Nassau and Queens, New York:
"For forty-eight years a single organization has led the way in preserving America's national sovereignty while helping to fortify the moral blockade on our failing culture...
Rev. Joseph Morecraft
Morecraft's Chalcedon Presbyterian Church left the Presbyterian Church of America to form its own organization, Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States or RPCUS, founded in 1983. It currently includes about ten churches in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennesee, Texas, and Ecuador. RPCUS claims close identity with Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida and publishes a magazine The Counsel of Chalcedon. The RPCUS website states, "Our influence far exceeds our numbers," which may indeed be the case.
In Part 3 of Frederick Clarkson's article on Reconstructionism, he writes,
"Rev. Joseph Morecraft, whose very energetic and politically active Reconstructionist Chalcedon Presbyterian Church draws most members from Marietta, Georgia, the Cobb County seat, provided a clear Reconstructionist view of these events. Asked at the time where he saw Biblical law advancing, he cited `the county where I live,' where `they passed a law. . .that homosexuals are not welcome in that county, because homosexuality was against the community standards.'"
Clarkson describes Morecraft's enthusiasm for using police power to punish what he views as evil, and his statement that the role of civil government is to "terrorize evil doers... to be an avenger!"
"And how do you terrorize an evil doer?" he asked. "You enforce Biblical law!" The purpose of government, he said, is "to protect the church of Jesus Christ," and, "Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody's pseudo-right to worship an idol!" "There ain't no such thing" as religious pluralism, he declared.
Morecraft is also an advocate for a gold and/or silver standard as promoted by Rep. Bobby Franklin. Note that Reconstructionists, the John Birch Society, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute all share the belief that the Federal Reserve System was a conspiratorial plot to deflate the American dollar and claim that the Federal Reserve caused the Great Depression. Morecraft stated in a sermon,
"The Lord loves pre-1965 American dimes. When a nation debases its money, God considers it harlotry against him. God will condemn a nation that is not on the gold and silver standard."
In a series of sermons on AIDS, Morecraft advised his congregation not to be discouraged but to view the disease as part of God's plan to "burn the dross" from society so that the nation can experience a more glorious future.
"Do you believe someday the Atlanta Constitution is gonna be based on the principle that all truth must be seen in terms of the word of God. I guarantee you brothers, if the Atlanta Constitution does not come to that realization, God will burn it down...
Gary North, son-in-law of the late Rousas Rushdoony and one of the leading thinkers of Reconstructionism has also described AIDS as "God's eloquent response to the myth of moral neutrality." North is well known for his prolific writing on Biblical Capitalism .
Constitutional Conservatives or Theocratic Libertarians
The Institute on the Constitution is an organization offering classes on teaching a Christian nationalist view of the Constitution around the country and marketing products by the Constitution Party's presidential candidate Michael Peroutka and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. The institute featured Rev. Morecraft at an event in September where he spoke on God and Politics. Rev. Morecraft also spoke to the Carroll County (Georgia) Tea Party on Tax Day in 2010. Morecraft is introduced by Steve Graddick, who worked for the late Rep. Larry McDonald, former president of the John Birch Society. (Video)
Rep. Franklin efforts go to far even for Georgia Republicans who have given him the nickname "Lone Ranger." However, Franklin's Reconstructionism is the foundation for the "theocratic libertarian" narratives taught in fundamentalist texts over the last two decades and seen in the ideology and narratives of the interconnected trio mentioned above: Reconstructionism or Dominion Theology; Austrian School economics as taught through the Lew Rockwell's Lusdwig von Mises Institute; and the John Birch Society. The audience receiving exposure to these interrelated Christian nationalist narratives and economic philosophies has been greatly expanded through the Tea Party movement.
This worldview advocates the abolition of much of the federal government, regulatory structures, social safety nets, and unions. Adherence to biblical law then becomes the method of control over society once government is dramatically decreased. Perhaps it is unclear to many Tea Party enthusiasts that theocracy or adherence to biblical law is required to make this agenda viable.
This ideology has been promoted in the past through Howard Phillip's United States Taxpayers' Alliance, renamed the Constitution Party. Back in 1991, during the administration of George H. W. Bush, Sarah Diamond wrote about Howard Phillip's effort to promote the Unites States Taxpayer Alliance (USTA) as a third party.
"Howard Phillips correctly sees third party building as a long-term proposition, and he's banking on the kind of economic downturns that will give his message greater resonance. `My hope is that there are circumstances in which people are so upset at the way things are going that without even necessarily knowing or buying into all of the things that we advocate or believe, they will support us in protest against the things they disapprove,' Phillips said in an audio tape circulated to USTA supporters. `The medicine we're prescribing doesn't taste good and people are only going to take it when they have no choice.'
One could make a good argument that Phillips' vision from two decades ago is now being fulfilled in the Tea Party movement. Certainly Tea Partiers know what they are against, but do they understand that in the narratives popularized throughout the movement, it is ultimately adherence to biblical law which will fill the gap left by the dramatic reduction of the federal government, the removal of the social safety net, and the eradication of unions?
The War on Unions
A primary target for Reconstructionists, the John Birch Society, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute has been labor unions, with the war waging for decades. An example of the rhetoric can be seen in Gary North's 1978 Biblical Economics Today article titled A Christian View of Labor Unions. The holy war against unions has clearly spread and recently Gary North concluded,
The unions are as good as busted. It's PATCO all over again. Other governors are already on board the union-busting train. Walker set the pattern.
Below the quote is a graphic of a walker, not Gov. Scott Walker, but the kind used to aid in walking. The PATCO reference refers to Ronald Reagan's firing of striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in 1981.
[Author’s note: Also see today’s Talk2action.org article by Bill Berkowitz titled “Wisconsin is not Your Father’s Culture War.”]
Rep. Ron Paul
As noted in my Biblical Capitalism article posted last year and the this year's series, one of the most prominent politicians with long term ties to Reconstructionism and the worldview of biblical capitalism is Rep. Ron Paul (and by all indications, his son Sen. Rand Paul, as described by Talk2action's Bruce Wilson).
Tea Partiers often describe themselves as supporting libertarianism as promoted by Ron Paul. But Paul is not a libertarian in the classical sense or as defined by the Libertarian Party which calls for "maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters." Paul is from the right-libertarian spectrum and is better described as a Christian Libertarian or Theocratic Libertarian, a worldview more closely associated with the Constitution Party and Conservative Caucus, both founded by Howard Phillips, a supporter of the late Rousas J. Rushdoony and Reconstructionism, quoted above.
Paul was the keynote speaker at the 35th anniversary of the Conservative Caucus which also featured: Reconstructionist Doug Phillips, head of Vision Forum and son of Howard Phillips; John Birch Society Chairman John McManus; and Religious Right luminaries Richard Viguerie and David Noebel. Rep. Paul has been a regular contributor to LewRockwell.com as is Gary North. l Both Rockwell and North have worked for Paul. Paul has also been a regular speaker at the Worldview Superconferences held by American Vision and featuring Reconstructionist leaders including DeMar and North.
This past February Paul was the featured speaker at an event advertised by Tea Party groups as the "biggest John Birch Society event held in Pittsburgh in decades." Other speakers included JBS president John McManus, CEO Arthur Thompson and Southwest Pennsylvania JBS leader Andy Dlinn, speaking on the "Biblical Basis for Americanist Principles." In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette following the event, McManus responded to the suggestion that the JBS has a reputation of paranoid belief in radical conspiracy theories.
"`They're not conspiracy theories when they're facts,' he said. `But is it radical to stand for the Constitution and the Ten Commandments? If it is, then, yeah, we're radical.'"
McManus also described the John Birch Society's role in mentoring the Tea Party movement.
"Fortunately, the John Birch Society has been there providing the tools and ammunition to bring these newbies into the movement."
Ron Paul shares the view held by Reconstructionists, the John Birch Society, and Ludwig von Mises Institute that the Federal Reserve is a conspiracy and like Georgia's Bobby Franklin, Paul has also called for a return to a monetary standard based on precious metals. However, Paul, also once considered a "Lone Ranger," is now chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy.
The Washington Post recently featured an article about Paul's obsession with the gold standard headlined, "Ron Paul, opponent of the Fed and fan of the gold standard, lone wolf no more." The article described Paul's close ties to the Austrian School of Economics (Ludwig von Mises Institute) and inclusion of Austrian school advocates like Thomas DiLorenzo in Congressional hearings and DiLorenzo's association with the League of the South was referenced. However, this journalist, like most of the mainstream press completely overlooked the "faith" component of "Faith and Freedom" as taught by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
For a full understanding of Ron Paul's agenda, as well as that of the Tea Parties, the Christian nationalist component must be recognized as well as the foundational materials coming from Christian Reconstructionism, the John Birch Society, and Rockwell's Ludwig von Mises Institute. Ignoring the Christian nationalist background to the narratives emerging from the Tea Party movement allows it to be considered a phenomenon driven by solely by economic concerns.
The Dominion Theology of Christian Reconstructionism
An article on Reconstructionism published in The Christian Century in 1989 references Rev. Morecraft's attempts to get Georgia's Republican Party to declare the Bible as the source of civil law. The article also describes the Reconstructionist postmillennialist goal of "world transformation" through Christian "dominion" over society. In 1989 there was resistance to Dominion Theology from denominations like Assemblies of God, which pronounced the postmillennial end times beliefs of Reconstructionists to be heresy. In the more than two decades since the publishing of that article, many pastors from Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal denominations, as well as large numbers of Independent Charismatics, have embraced the politicized religious agenda of Christian Dominionism. Their ability to promote the theology is arguably greater than that of Reconstructionists, since Charismatic evangelicals are one of the largest single blocks of Protestantism and control the majority of Christian broadcasting.
[Author's note: A recent National Association of Evangelicals poll showed that a majority of leaders responding are still premillennial. However, premillennial does not necessarily mean belief in a pre-Tribulation rapture or Dispensationalism. There is no logical reason for classical Dispensationalists to work for "Christian Dominion" over society and culture since they believe that they will be raptured from the earth prior to the events of the end times. Note that the NAE article clearly states that these premillennialists disagree on whether the rapture will take place "before, during or after the tribulation period."]
Most of the Charismatic Dominionists whose work I have closely followed continue to present themselves as premillennial, but have abandoned the idea that born again Christians will be raptured before the events of the end times. This has allowed for a curious embrace of Dominion Theology by those who believe that Jesus return to earth is imminent. Reconstructionist Gary North has described this as "operational postmillennialism" and argues that what matters is what Religious Right leaders "say in fundraising letters, not in some once-a-year lecture on Bible prophecy."
Gary North wrote in Dominion Strategies 1986,
"What they are saying in their fund-raising letters is clear, and has been since 1980: `American fundamental Christianity is at last out of the pews and into the streets (Washington for Jesus), and the humanists are going to see their friendly little monopoly over America blown to kingdom-come.' Whether kingdom-come is officially premillennial or officially postmillennial isn't particularly relevant at this point. I assume that an activist, `let's get involved' Christian leader has become an operational postmillennialist and an operational Christian Reconstructionist until he writes a de- tailed book or produces a detailed tape series spelling out exactly why and in what ways he is not in deed (though not in word) on most specific issues a Christian reconstructionist and a postmillennialist. Deeds are what counts. Motivational speeches are what count. The intricate details and particular qualifications of a man's personally held (and rarely spoken) eschatology are not what count."
Since North wrote the above in 1986, there has been a flood of Independent Charismatics and others into the ranks of Dominion Theology, regardless of stated eschatology.The transition of Charismatic evangelicals to Dominionism was the topic of my article "The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism."
The Reconstructionist agenda has included the Coalition on Revival, which in the 1980s developed "17 Worldview Documents" which provided guidelines for taking dominion over 17 areas of society and government. Now the same agenda is promoted in a slick publicity campaign by the Charismatic sector titled "Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture," a blueprint for taking Christian dominion over arts, education, family, religion, entertainment, government, and business.
The self-pronounced "apostles and prophets" of this growing Charismatic branch of the Christian Dominionism have become major Religious Right leaders in the last few years, including Lou Engle, Cindy Jacobs, Ed Silvoso, and Rick Joyner. Their 50-state "prayer warrior" networks played a role in organizing Glenn Beck's August 28, 2010 "Restoring Honor Rally" as well as political organizing for the 2010 elections.
As Frederick Clarkson wrote in 1994, Reconstructionists are "no longer without sheep" and this is even more true today as Dominion Theology spreads. Between the growth of Charismatic Dominionists with their 50-state network of New Apostolic "prayer warrior" networks and the Tea Party movement, we can expect to see more politicians in the future with a Dominionist agenda like that of Rep. Bobby Franklin. Another key component of the spread of the movement, as reported in 1994 by Clarkson, has been homeschooling. (Reconstructionist founder Rousas Rushdoony is considered the father of the modern homeschooling movement.) Clarkson states,
"Joseph Morecraft, who also runs a school, said in 1987: `I believe the children in the Christian schools of America are the Army that is going to take the future. Right now. . .the Christian Reconstruction movement is made up of a few preachers, teachers, writers, scholars, publishing houses, editors of magazines, and it's growing quickly. But I expect a massive acceleration of this movement in about 25 or 30 years, when those kids that are now in Christian schools have graduated and taken their places in American society, and moved into places of influence and power.'"
The agenda Morecraft is referencing has been taught through textbooks used in homeschooling and private schools as I described in my Biblical Capitalism articles Part Two and Part Three. The Home Schoolers Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Chairman, Michael Farris, wrote about the numerous candidates that had home schooling ties, either as students or parents, in last year's election. These included Tea Party favorites Sharron Angle, and candidate for the Senate from Hawaii,Cam Cavasso, who is also active in Hawaii's Christian Dominionist movement. See links here and here. The list also includes Rep. Tim Wahlberg of Michigan who is working to slash the budget of the "job killing" Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) and stated,
"With the 9/12 movement, the Tea Party, people are standing up really for the first time in history."
The list also includes Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, who signed a Tea Party pledge to vote against any tax or fee increase, against amnesty for illegal immigrants and to overturn healthcare reform legislation.
Perhaps the future predicted by Rev. Morecraft is now.
Rushdoony's Theocratic Libertarianism at Work in the Nation's Statehouses | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)
Rushdoony's Theocratic Libertarianism at Work in the Nation's Statehouses | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)