Christian Reconstruction influencing evangelicals

This is Wikipedia’s take on Christian Reconstruction:

The movement declined in the 1990s and was declared dead in a 2008 Church History journal article, although Christian reconstructionist organizations such as the Chalcedon Foundation and American Vision are active today.

But can’t the biased (or uninformed) editors of Wikipedia do better than that? At least (the somewhat less biased and more informed) Julie Ingersoll can do better. This is her take on the 2012 documentary Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure:

Based on prerelease film clips and interviews, many people, myself included, pointed out the ties between the people [host Kirk] Cameron was relying on as experts (especially David Barton and Herb Titus) and Christian Reconstruction. I went to see it at the theater, and I was stunned at how thoroughly the film was shaped by the worldview articulated by [Christian Reconstructionist R.J.] Rushdoony. I never expected to see “my folks” (as ethnographers often call the people we study) on the big screen in an overflow movie theater presenting R. J. Rushdoony’s worldview to evangelicals, homeschoolers, and Tea Partiers, who never heard his name nor knew that he was the source for much of what was presented in Cameron’s film…

The point is not that Kirk Cameron is secretly working toward the reestablishment of biblical law. But this illustrates nicely the gradual and subtle influence of Rushdoony’s work in the broader culture, in places where his name is completely unknown. Cameron affiliates with Christian Reconstructionists, supports their organizations, and promotes their theological framework. And he does so in a rather unidentifiable way among mainstream evangelicals and Tea Partiers.

Quote sources

  1. Wikipedia (2018). Christian reconstructionism. Available https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_reconstructionism. Last accessed 24th Sep 2018.
  2. Ingersoll, J.J. (2015). Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 208, 209, 2012

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Restoring the Old Testament to parity with the New

Dr. Michael J. McVicar has written the first major scholarly work on the history of Christian Reconstruction, unraveling the complexities of the impact made upon our culture by the work of R. J. Rushdoony…

His new book appears to make nods towards its non- and anti-Reconstructionist constituency, being marketed as a tool to warn the unwary about a shadowy figure (the terms “rogue’s gallery” and “shadowy and amorphous network” appear twice; Rushdoony is a “crafty bootstrapper” seeking to “insulate his activities from taxation”; the perversity of the modern state is essentially in the imagination of Rushdoony and other conservatives; the “notoriety” of Rushdoony and/or his writings is front-and-center, etc.)…

When Dr. McVicar refers to Rushdoony’s “emphasis on the Old Testament over the New Testament,” he fails to understand that Christian Reconstruction is restoring the Old Testament to parity with the New rather than retiring it as the Word of God Emeritus.

Quote source

Selbrede, M. (2015). First Major Book About R. J. Rushdoony. Chalcedon Foundation. Available http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/first-major-book-about-r-j-rushdoony-2/. Last accessed 24th Dec 2015.

Christian Reconstruction: taking back, not taking over

Let’s continue with a critical review of the rhetoric and reading comprehension emanating from the British Centre for Science Education:

Like all would-be dictators, [R.J.] Rushdoony had no respect for the law (that is, any law that stands in his way)—”The only true order is founded on Biblical Law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.” (Institutes of Biblical Law, page 113).

He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, “Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare. (Institutes of Biblical Law, page 93).

If that’s meant to be convincing, I’ll just say meh. I’d rather hear it from Mark Rushdoony:

Most critics of Christian reconstruction have misconstrued it as a takeover of the existing centralised state by a few Christian clerics—hence, the moniker of Christian theocrats as the “Christian Taliban”—but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Christian reconstruction is not a takeover of government, but a taking back of government by way of self-government in terms of God’s law, and this is best exemplified in what we refer to as the “quiet revolution” of Christian education.

Without violence, or protest, millions of Christian children are receiving a Christian education by way of Christian schools and homeschooling families. In this way, Christian families have taken back government from the state by the self-government of Christian education.

Quote sources

  1. British Centre for Science Education (2007). In extremis – Rousas Rushdoony and his connections. Available http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/RousasRushdoony. Last accessed 8th Aug 2015.
  2. Rushdoony, M. (2015). Unpublished letter to supporters, February 2015

Have secularists properly understood R.J. Rushdoony?

The British Centre for Science Education interprets the data on Rushdoony like this:

In detailing Rousas Rushdoony, we believe we are presenting a man every bit as potentially murderous as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or anyone else you may want to name amongst the annals of evil…

Having looked at the matter for a second time, the author has come to the conclusion that Rushdoony was a thoroughly evil man and that his pernicious influence runs deep in both the fundamentalist and the creationist movements…

He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, “Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare.” (Institutes of Biblical Law, page 93).

But Michael McVicar shows a deeper level of understanding than that:

At the heart of the secularist critique of Rushdoony, I detect a contradictory narrative that declares him to be the most relevant irrelevant Christian thinker of the twentieth century. He and his supporters—the Christian Reconstructionists and dominionists—are said to be both insignificant outsiders and the theocratic masterminds behind the rise of George W. Bush and the Christian Right. These critics blame the Reconstructionists for everything from George W. Bush’s interventionist war in Iraq to his faith-based initiatives even as they simultaneously ridicule Rushdoony for his primitive irrelevance. That neither portrayal has any basis in fact has yet to deter the purveyors of the vast theocratic conspiracy theory.

After initially buying into this conspiracy theorizing, I came to realize that it tells me more about Rushdoony’s detractors than it does about his ministry…

My peers and I had turned Rushdoony into an allegorical figure that embodies all of our uneasiness with the Bush regime and the so-called Christian Right. Thus we obsessively warn that Rushdoony’s followers will steal elections, oppress their foes, and indiscriminately murder children and homosexuals. Such presentations neglect to point out why so many Christians find Rushdoony’s work persuasive. They also neglect to point out how and why Rushdoony’s ideas are relevant to us haughty secularists.

Quote sources

  1. British Centre for Science Education (n.d.) In extremis – Rousas Rushdoony and his Connections. Available http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/RousasRushdoony. Last accessed 25th Jul 2015.
  2. McVicar, M. (2007). ‘Rushdoony Among the Academics: The Secular Relevance of the Thought of R. J. Rushdoony’ in Faith for All of Life, May/June 2007, pp. 20-21

Regeneration (not revolution) is the way forward

According to the British Centre for Science Education:

Still, the utter nasty meanness of [Christian] reconstructionism pervades the entire movement as it did the Taliban:

“The creation mandate was precisely the requirement that man subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it. There is not one word of Scripture to indicate or imply that this mandate ever was revoked. There is every word of Scripture to declare that this mandate must and shall be fulfilled. Those who attempt to break it shall themselves be broken.” (Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 1973, p.14)

Note the last sentence. This is the language of an authoritarian opinionated monster – the language of mandate, subjugation, submission, and dominion driving an ideology based on a God who will never accept compromise, moderation, or tolerance.

But the BCSE’s interpretation is biased and comes across as irritated emotional rhetoric—the kind one would expect from a left-wing politician. Absent from the BCSE’s polemic is the following quote of Rushdoony:

Because we are not God, for us the decisive power in society must be the regenerating power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. Not revolution but regeneration, not coercion but conversion, is our way of changing the world and furthering the Kingdom of God. This is the heart of Christian reconstruction. The heart of Biblical law is that it makes us the basic government of society in and through our personal and family life, through our vocations, churches, and schools. In Biblical law, civil government is a very limited and minor sphere of rule and power.

If only the British Centre for Science Education could broaden its narrow field of understanding (beyond evolution and climate science advocacy) to a half-decent grasp of theology.

Quote sources

  1. British Centre for Science Education (2007). In extremis – Rousas Rushdoony and his connections. Available http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/RousasRushdoony. Last accessed 8th Jun 2015.
  2. Rushdoony, R.J. (n.d.) The Heart of Christian Reconstruction. Chalcedon Foundation. Available http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/the-heart-of-christian-reconstruction/. Last accessed 6th Jun 2015.

The Bible is the best Constitution

The first freely elected President [of Zambia], Frederick Chiluba, promptly testified to the saving power of Christ and called for a day of prayer. At a simple ceremony in December 1991, the new President publicly confessed the national sins of witchcraft and corruption and committed Zambia to becoming a Christian nation!  When he was asked if he intended writing a new Constitution, Chiluba replied that he didn’t have to. It was already written – the Bible. He held up the Bible to the full view of the world press.

Quote source

Abshire,  B.M.  (n.d.) “Those Who Walk In Darkness, Will See A Great Light…”: The Christian Reconstruction of Zambia. Available http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/Zambia.htm. Last accessed 1st May 2015.

Christianity and Zambia’s educational reconstruction

Building a Christian school system is naturally easier said than done. All the text books in the state schools [of Zambia] were written by humanists and the teachers were trained in humanist universities. Home schools are rare and the people, subverted by almost thirty years of socialism, do not understand that the state has no business in education.

Nevertheless, pastors were invited to present Biblical teaching in various state schools. Peter [Hammond] reports that the students and teachers are exceptionally receptive to Biblical teaching and very hungry for Christian literature, films and videos.

The Minister of Education has asked for foreign missionaries and Christian school teachers to come to Zambia and help build a Christian schooling system. The Minister of Education offered schools to any Christian teachers who would be willing to run them and teach the Word of God.

Quote source

Abshire, B. (n.d) “Those Who Walk In Darkness, Will See A Great Light…”: The Christian Reconstruction of Zambia. Still Waters Revival Books. Available http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/Zambia.htm. Last accessed 2nd Apr 2015.