Humanity in Print

1815 June 10. "I cannot live without books."(TJ to John Adams, Cappon.2.443)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Theocratic Dominionism and the Ideals of Christian Reconstructionism

Sound complicated? It kind of is. However the importance of the ideas to the movement and the ease in which they seem to be accepted is disturbing at the very least. The resilience of the movement despite the fall of Jerry Falwell’s ‘Moral Majority’ and Pat Robertson’s descent into lunacy is remarkable. After Robertson’s failed presidential bid in the 1980’s a chunk of the movement broke off and exerted itself on the grassroots level.

Many who are a part of this movement are unaware they hold Reconstructionist ideas. Reconstructionism essentially seeks to replace democracy with theocratic elite who would rule according to an individual interpretation of “Biblical Law,” that would apply to all areas of life; government, education, law, and the arts. The movement developed from conservative Presbyterianism that adheres to the application of laws in the Old Testament. When I say that they would eliminate democracy, I mean that to encompass many of the derivatives of democracy, including labor unions, civil rights laws, public education and a fair amount of the public infrastructure in general. The new society would feature minimal to no national government, social services, education or healthcare. Taxes and currency would exist essentially on the county level. Citizens would have delegated roles that if disobeyed could result in heavy punishment.

Reconstructionists believe that there are three areas of rule: family, church, and civil. Families are run like a business. The husband is the head of his family, all others are to be “in submission” to him. The husband submits only to Jesus and God’s laws (Old Testament). Civil government exists merely to implement God’s laws. The idea that all three are relegated under Biblical law is referred to as Theonomy.

When I first started reading into the movement, I thought for sure, the roots extended for generations, and that it was a consensus of many that had formed their theories. It turns out that wasn’t the case.

The defining text of Reconstructionism was a 1973 800-page explanation of the Ten Commandments by Rousas John Rushdoony. Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, wrote the appendix on the subject of “Christian Economics.” Both Rushdoony and theologian Rev. Greg Bahnsen were pupils of the labeled founder, Cornelius Van Til, though Van Til himself was never a Reconstructionist. Gary North believed that Van Til stopped short of proposing Reconstruction. Van Til wrote that man is not autonomous and that all rationality is inseparable from faith in God and the Bible, the Reconstructionists go further and set a course of world conquest or “dominion” claiming a Biblically prophesied “inevitable victory.” 1

Central to the belief that “Biblical Law” applies to civic government is capital punishment. Leaders (Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen) advocate the death penalty for many crimes. In addition to rape, murder, and kidnapping, they advocate death as punishment for apostasy, heresy, homosexuality, incest, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, striking a parent, and “incorrigible juvenile delinquency. For women, “unchastity before marriage” or having an abortion would mean death. Rev. Ray Sutton claims people would flock to these theocracies because “capital punishment is one of the best evangelistic tools of a society.” Aside from the death penalty, other punishments include burning (at the stake), stoning, hanging, or “the sword.” North Elaborates elaborates in the Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments that “The fifth and by far the most important reason is that stoning is literally a means of crushing the murderer’s head by means of a rock, which is symbolic of God. This is analogous to the crushing of the head of the serpent in Genesis 3:15. This symbolism testifies to the final victory of God over all the hosts of Satan. Stoning is therefore integral to the commandment against murder.” He goes on to elaborate that stones are plentiful, cheap and convenient. Punishments for non-capital crimes involve whipping, restitution (indentured servitude), or slavery.

You often hear Reconstructionists speak of the need for large uninhibited families “being raised for the glory of God.” You also hear parents raising “an army of Children for Christ” or similar. There is reasoning to this too. Although varied, Reconstructionists believe that a time will come when the “Kingdom” will overtake democracy or “secular rule.” They believe that the future of their movement lies with the Christian Homeschooling movement. Seeking to abolish the secular world view they believe pervades public education, they believe that a theocratic republic will not be possible until a vast majority of Christians pull their children out of public schools. However, many homeschool advocates believe in infiltrating the public schools despite their own children’s absence from them. Robert Thoburn of Fairfax Christian School (VA) advocates that parents run for school boards and city government in order to fulfill the goal of “sinking the ship.”

Women would exist in home or home education and would be banished from government. Leader Joseph Morecraft asserts that only men would hold say in government and that voting or holding office would be limited to males from Biblically correct churches. Democracy and civil rights would be replaced by a system of self-serving discrimination. He advocates, “An employer has a property right to prefer whom he will in terms of color, creed, race, or national origin.”
A Reconstructed Theonomy may never happen. More importantly I wanted to point out, in some small way the tremendous influence the ideas have, and how more often then not, adherents don’t realize the beliefs or their magnitude. What is disguised brilliantly as “biblical womanhood and manhood” has deeper roots, deeper meaning, and a history.
1 Berlet, Chip. “Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash.”
Boston, MA: South End Press, 1995.

North, Gary. “Westminster’s Confession.”
Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991.


Blogger alice_pants said...

Jess- Excellent! This is a GREAT introduction to the movement; the sort of thing I love to show people who think I'm paranoid about these people, to prove that 1) they actually do exist, and 2) they are tightening their grip on our government. People like to blame "fundies" but in reality, they have no idea *who* those fundies are... and they're always surprised when they find out.

Anyway, three things (out of many) that hit me hard:

"Rev. Ray Sutton claims people would flock to these theocracies because “capital punishment is one of the best evangelistic tools of a society.”"

What a sick man. I wish he weren't right. I'm thinking of Constantine...

"Van Til wrote that man is not autonomous and that all rationality is inseparable from faith in God and the Bible, the Reconstructionists go further and set a course of world conquest..."

This bewilders me. They honestly think that no frame of reference for anything can exist outside of the Bible. So instead of you and me merely having differing points of view, we're lost. It's the condescension that irks me.

"Leader Joseph Morecraft asserts that only men would hold say in government and that voting or holding office would be limited to males from Biblically correct churches."

*groan!* And Mr. Morecraft, who decides which churches are Biblically correct? One of my co-workers, who is Christian, is reading this over my shoulder and wants me to add, Pharisee!!! (yes, with triple exclamation poinst) These people are Pharisees.

Will you continue this expose as a series? I think it would be great to explore this group, particularly the outrageous stuff like the desire to essentially abolish the federal government. A lot of people would be interested in reading that, I think, and I'd be happy to link to it on my blog.

By the way, I've probably asked before, but have you read The Handmaid's Tale? Again, excellent post!

Friday, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Lisa of Longbourn said...

So are you saying that all these beliefs/practices/ideals are tied to the Reconstruction Movement, or is it possible that the movement hijacked some ideas? Could it be like the most believable lies, which are buried in an element of truth?

For me, I believe in biblical womanhood and in homeschooling, but I believe in biblical womanhood because it is beautiful and biblical. I believe in homeschooling because I believe in parental responsibility and that the government (by natural law and by the Constitution) has no right to educate children and because the effects of public schooling lead to disrespect, immorality, and occasional ignorance (large classes at set paces neglect individual education).

But I don't want to abolish the federal government, just drop it down closer to the size described in the law of the land: our US Constitution. I like to think that I have a common sense balanced with faith in God approach to life.

I haven't read all the writings you referenced, am myself skeptical of some of the teachers you mentioned, but I wonder if out of context their words are not misunderstood. For example, many conservative Christians want to have large families to fulfill the "Dominion mandate," which was given to all men, not to rule other men, but to rule the world - to make good use of the earth. And as far as kingdom-building, biblically, we are talking more about preaching the good news that anyone who accepts Jesus' sacrifice on the cross as payment for their sins can have relationship with God and eternal life. The kingdom is in hearts, chosen by an individual's free will, not forced by armies. The only literal kingdom that I am for is one that I cannot bring about: the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ after His return at the end of the Anti-Christ's reign and the tribulation.

So I'm saying that some of these people are extreme, take things too far, and when I was younger I was afraid to be like them in any way, but now I'm looking at each issue, not at the stereotyped movement.

I don't know much about this blog, though, having linked through CS Hayden's just tonight, so maybe you're not coming from a Christian perspective at all. I don't know. But I'm interested about what you think about my points/questions.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Wednesday, July 18, 2007  

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