In extremis - Rousas Rushdoony and his connections
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That unalterable rule applies both to God and man." ― John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (Lord Acton) in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5,1887
What you will find in this section is just how violently inclined and dictatorial the extremes of the fundamentalist movement are. 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.
The US fundamentalists often claim that the theory of evolution, or atheism, or whatever bee they have in their bonnet, resulted in Hitler and Stalin. Most of them are utterly clueless about European history and would do better to look at their own, more recent monsters, not least because their influence runs so deep in American society.
Researching Rushdoony threw up a whole pile of links to other organisations and the political right in the USA.
A number of people have objected to this section of our wiki. However, we believe that the evidence stands for itself and we have no intention of removing it because it upsets some peoples’ sensibilities. Rousas Rushdoony has been highly influential in the American fundamentalist movement. The article also shows the connections between Rushdoony’s friend Howard Ahmanson, the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design.
It appears that one of the major objections to the report is that it associates believers in young earth creationism, and Intelligent Design with extreme fundamentalism. However, that is precisely the point of the article – to show the connections. They exist and we have no intention of censoring the article because it offends some supporters of creationism and Intelligent Design. If they wish to disassociate themselves, they are perfectly free to do so on their own web sites, blogs or whatever.
We do not accept that an individual’s religious beliefs about young earth creationism or Intelligent Design automatically places them or people in their movement, or their views or actions, above public scrutiny.
There also appear to be a more general set of criticisms in that the article shows the evangelical movement in a bad light. Whilst we recognise (and, indeed, point out) that most evangelicals are not extremists, unfortunately Rushdoony, Reconstructionism, Dominionism, young earth creationism, Intelligent Design and fundamentalist movements are all products of the evangelical movement.
That is their problem to address and, indeed, many do so. Evangelicals have repeatedly expressed within the framework of the BCSE their deep concerns about the damage young earth creationism and Intelligent Design are doing to their movements.
However, none of the criticisms of this article have specifically pointed to any error of fact we have written or to any specific element of the article.
What deeply concerns us is that creationists poorly equipped to understand science or the arguments put forward by “creation science” or Intelligent Design, see any and all criticisms of both as a general attack on their religion. All we can say in response is that hard facts can, indeed, be very unpleasant to swallow.
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this article shows just how extreme parts of the fundamentalist religious movement, and its apologists and front men in Intelligent Design, are. We make no apologies for bring this to the public attention.
BCSE has a public forum at www.bcseweb.org.uk/forum where readers of this article are invited to express their opinions and debate the issues.
One of the reasons we have gone into Rushdoony and his background is that the fundamentalists have been shouting that he was not as bad as we initially portrayed him. We were told that our work was based on hearsay and that our claims were inaccurate. We were told that we had made no direct reference to Rushdoony’s work.
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.
Who was Rousas Rushdoony?
Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001) is generally considered to have been the leading proponent in the USA of reconstructionism and to have substantially influenced the Christian right in the USA, including the likes of Pat Robertson. Rushdoony appears to have been a deeply authoritarian character with a long and consistent track record of falling out with those he disagreed with.
In general, he is widely perceived as having been amongst the most extreme of the religious right in the USA in the last thirty years of the 20th century. Rushdoony was a complete fundamentalist who had no belief in democracy and wanted to turn the USA into a theocracy (with himself and his fellow believers in charge). His ambitions involved staggering levels of violence.
Rushdoony is also widely regarded as the founder of the religious home schooling movement in the USA.
Rushdoony was born in 1916 in New York, of recently arrived Armenian parents. It is understood that his parents had fled the 1915-1917 genocide of Armenians by Turks.
That event may well have been an important factor in determining Rushdoony’s later extremism. In particular, the failure of the relatively liberal Young Turks to prevent the rise of extremism, may have been central to his views.
However, it appears that Rushdoony came from a long line of clerics dating back to the 4th century AD. The Chalcedon Report is reported to have stated that since the year 320, every generation of the Rushdoony family has produced a Christian priest or minister. "There was Armenian royalty in the Rushdoony blood, and a heritage of defending the faith, often by sword and gun, against Godless foes bent on destroying a people of faith and works."
This didn’t seem, though, to stop Rushdoony’s father from changing from the Armenian Apostolic Church to the Calvinistic Presbyterian movement where he was eventually ordained. Mind you, the undercurrent of extreme violence seems to have passed down through the family to Rousas Rushdoony.
Whether this had anything to do with his family moving to Kingsburg, Central California, soon after his birth isn’t clear but Californians are well known for their diverse attitudes towards religion. California sometimes attracts radical and even extreme views, and as such, it is not surprising that it is the home of one of the man's centres of religious nuttiness in the USA.
Rushdoony’s father founded an Armenian-speaking church in Kingsburg and was at one stage a pastor in Detroit. However Rushdoony Jnr. spent most of his childhood in California.
Within weeks his parents moved to Kingsburg, California, where his father founded an Armenian-speaking Presbyterian church. He spent his boyhood, save for a time when his father was a pastor in Detroit, Michigan, on the family farm in Kingsburg.
Rushdoony Jnr eventually became an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, after having spent some years as a minister with the Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA). He joined the Orthodox sect in 1958 but his first ministry was with the PCUSA in Santa Cruz.
It was there that he wrote the first of many religious books – ‘By What Standard?’
However, Rushdoony was not all about religion. His first degree (1938), from University of California at Berkeley, was in English and he was also awarded an MA in Education in 1940.
He then attended the Pacific School of Religion, a Congregational and Methodist seminary near the Berkeley campus, and graduated in 1944. He was ordained that year by the Presbyterian Church, USA and was a missionary to the Piute and Shoshone Indians on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in a remote area of Nevada for eight and a half years.
(He later received an honorary Doctorate from Valley Christian University for his book, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum.)
Rushdoony was deeply influenced by Cornelius Van Til, who argued that the Christian must not base his thinking on autonomous human reason, but rather on self-consciously Scriptural grounds. Van Til was a professor of religion at the Westminster Theological Seminary, but Rushdoony expanded Van Til's "presuppositional" thinking to all of life and thought.
Van Til was a Dutch theologian who emphasised the inerrant authority of the Bible and the irreconcilability between believers and unbelievers.
Rushdoony's work covers all areas in terms of the “Word of God”. These areas included theological and Biblical studies as well as history, education, law, science, philosophy, psychology, economics, and epistemology. By all accounts they are generally extremely turgid as well. Rushdoony never attended the Westminster Theological Seminary and, indeed, was arguably, never a real scholar.
Instead Rushdoony ploughed his own furrow with the Chalcedon Foundation (see www.chalcedon.edu), a name which became a byword for religious extremism. The purpose of the Chalcedon Foundation was to further the concept of reconstructionism. It particular, this involves the creation of a theocracy (called a theonomy by Rushdoony) ruled by the literal interpretation of the bible. Its basic view is that Christ will only return to earth when biblical law rules everywhere.
Since Rushdoony’s death the Chalcedon Foundation appears to have moderated its rhetoric a bit. Howard Ahmanson also appears to have tried to distance himself a bit from the extremism of the organisation. The organisation is now headed by Rushdoony’s only son, Mark, but there is a spin off within the family – Gary North.
Also known as Scary Gary, North is, like Rushdoony, an authoritarian one-man band. North is Rushdoony’s son in law, but they fell out years back over obscure details of doctrine and North went on to set up the Institute for Christian Economics.
North is notorious for using insulting invective to attack his critics. North does not believe in turning the other cheek. According to North, this and Christ’s other teachings in the Sermon on the Mount were merely “recommendations for the ethical conduct of a captive people." In a future theocracy, when the roles have been reversed, North has told his followers to react with violence to an “oppressor” - “Either bust him in the chops or haul him before the magistrate, and possibly both" (Gary North, essay: “In Defence of Biblical Bribery,” in Rousas John Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law [Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press, 1973], page 846).
This, indeed, is a novel interpretation of Christian meekness.
Still, the utter nasty meanness of 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.
And, yes, as you have probably guessed the reconstructionists like Rushdoony are basically dour bible tub-thumpers (usually associated with the Presbyterian movement) and extreme right wingers. According to Frederick Clarkson (see http://olm.blythe-systems.com/pipermail/nytr/Week-of-Mon-20050627/019312.html)….they are commonly associated with the John Birch Society. They are also almost exclusively white. You don’t thus have to look far for conspiracy theories, paranoia and political fruitcakes amongst Rushdoony’s followers. Rushdoony himself was a member of the society and enjoyed a long friendship with Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society and the man who accused President Dwight Eisenhower of being a knowing Communist agent.
As Clarkson has pointed out, Rushdoony has stated that "The view of history as conspiracy...is a basic aspect of the perspective of orthodox Christianity. A conspiratorial view of history is a consistent ingredient of Christian Right ideology in the United States, and is often used to explain the failure of conservative Christian denominations with millennial ambitions to achieve or sustain political power. The blame for this is most often assigned to the Masons, particularly an 18th-century Masonic group called the Illuminati, and, ultimately, to Satan."
Rushdoony was one of the first members of the secretive Council for National Policy, which the Rev. Tim LaHaye and others started to bring right-wing Christians, other conservative activists, and John Birchers together with wealthy patrons willing to fund them. He also served on the board of Dr. Jay Grimstead's Coalition on Revival (COR), an umbrella group that attempted to bridge the theological differences of competing sects within an increasing emphasis on dominating secular institutions.
There are a lot of others connected with creationism and the fundamentalist movement who are believed to have been members of the CNP plus a few other controversial names known even this side of the pond - Howard Ahmanson, John Ashcroft (former US Attorney General), Jerry Falwell (leading televangelist and creationist), George Gilder (Discovery Institute founder), Ted Haggard (a Richard Dawkins bete noir), Nelson Bunker Hunt, Trent Lott (Bill Clinton impeacher), Oliver North (corrupt public official), Pat Robertson (leading televangelist and creationist), Richard Mellon Scaiffe (misanthropist), Kenneth Starr (of the Monika Lewinsky business), John Templeton (John Templeton Foundation).
(Note that a lot of these people were not, and are not, followers of Rushdoony's peculiar theology.)
The Chalcedon Foundation publishes the writings of several white supremacists. One of those authors is Larry Pratt. He is head of Gun Owners of America, a pro-gun lobby that makes the extremist National Rifle Association look tame. Pratt was involved in the 1996 Presidential bid by Pat Buchanan. Pratt is an advocate of paramilitary organisations (known as militia by some in the USA.) Pratt also founded English First, a group opposed to non-English speaking immigrants. And, of course, Pratt is also involved with the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Larry Pratt is a friend of former attorney general John Ashcroft.
Tim LaHaye is co-author of the Left Behind series of post-rapture, all-non-evangelical-Christians-are-going to get it novels that also resulted in a series of films produced by and often starring 80’s teen idol Kirk Cameron, who now runs Way of the Master ministries with Ray Comfort. The books sell like hot cakes in the USA but, as far as we can make out, are basically unknown in the UK. Tim LaHaye was on the original board of directors of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.
Ray Comfort is almost a walking parody of American evangelical fundamentalist nutttiness (although he originates from New Zealand). He has no theological training whatsoever, is obsessed with the idea that bananas disprove the theory of evolution and is not noted for any great intellect. Many who have seen his video on the banana thought at first it was a joke, taking the mickey out of fundamentalists. Others have commented that it looks like a homo-erotic obsession. The video was widely distributed on the Internet – see http://www.poetv.com/video.php?vid=2499 to view it.
How murderous was Rushdoony?
"A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider godfearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side." - Aristotle, Politics
Even the very name of Chalcedon has a spin-chilling ring about it. Rushdoony established the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965, naming it after Council of Chalcedon, which in 451 AD proclaimed the state's subservience to God. (Chalcedon, nowadays is part of Istanbul in Turkey and known as Kadiky.)
"The significance of Jesus Christ as the "faithful and true witness" is that He not only witnesses against those who are at war against God, but He also executes them." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 574).
This looks like nothing more than calling for the killing of those that stand in the way of Rushdoony’s religious opinions.
The main source of Rousas Rushdoony’s criminally minded plans and intentions were in his 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ, Craig press 1973). This was Rushdoony’s attempt to lay down future laws. The book is a massive, two–volume work that includes a study of the Ten Commandments followed by detailed treatments of taxation, government, virtue, oaths, penal sanctions, property, and nearly every domain of jurisprudence.
You can read the introduction at http://www.the-dominion.org/articles.asp?sec=display&article=IIBL_RJR. It does not make for easy reading. It is turgid in the extreme. The full publication runs in total to three volumes of 1,894 pages.
The book opens, tellingly, with a quote from John Wycliffe -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wycliffe]] about his translation of the Bible: "This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Also revealing is the fact that Rushdoony’s Institutes — despite the reference to Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion in its title - reproaches the reformer for refusing to advocate the complete submission of the state to the Mosaic law.”
There you have it – complete submission to the religious opinions of Rousas Rushdoony, a dead buffoon.
Even without being corrupted by power, Rushdoony’s political intentions looked to be far more extreme that those of Adolf Hitler, Stalin. Chairman Mao or Pol Pot. He appears to have had no respect whatsoever for democracy – "The church today has fallen prey to the heresy of democracy." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 747.)
Like all would-be dictators, 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, page113) 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).
This looks to be a call for violence against democratically elected governments and those that support them. Indeed, it looks to be a call for war against all governments and their supporters that are in the way of Rushdoony’s murderous ambitions.
It should not be surprising to learn that Rushdoony had an intense dislike for toleration of other peoples’ opinions. Indeed, a central belief in his fantasy world was of segregation and/or separation according to religion and morality. The use of the term segregation also implies an underlying racism which we will see more of in this report.
Rushdoony believed that every attempt to destroy the principle of toleration (except toleration of himself and his murderous views) is an effort to reduce society to its lowest common denominator. Toleration is the excuse under which this levelling is undertaken, but the concept of toleration conceals a radical intolerance. "In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions as though no differences existed." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 294.)
To put it simply, those that disagree with Rushdoony are the same as perverts and criminals.
Let’s have a look at some other of Rushdoony’s democratic credentials:
"The goal is the developed Kingdom of god, the New Jerusalem, a world order under god's law." (The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 357)
"One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state . . . Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 100)
"Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristocracy." (Rushdoony quoted in Anti-Defamation League book -The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism In America, David Cantor and Alan M. Schwartz, 1995 ISBN: 0385478410)
"The state is a bankrupt institution. The only alternative to this bankrupt 'humanistic' system is a God-centered government." (See the Anti-Defamation League book -The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism In America, David Cantor and Alan M. Schwartz, 1995 ISBN: 0385478410)
"Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life." (Thy Kingdom Come, Studies in Daniel and Revelation, Rousas Rushdoony, 1970, page 39.)
Note the fundamentalist smearing of opponents – not only are they criminals and perverts but failures and cowards. Moreover, it is no good his apologists arguing that he didn’t really mean this. He went on the use the exact same phrase 17 years later in an interview with Bill Moyers for Public Service Broadcasting Television in the USA.
Let’s have another look at precisely what Rushdoony has said - "All who are content with a humanistic law system...are guilty of idolatry...they are asking us to serve other gods." (Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law, page 468).
One of the most disturbing aspects of Reconstructionism is its stated goal to reinstate the penal sanctions of the Mosaic law. Under the Mosaic system, the list of civil crimes which carried a death sentence went beyond murder to include homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), incest (Leviticus 20:11, 14), lying about one’s virginity (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), bestiality (Leviticus 20:15-16), witchcraft (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27), idolatry or apostasy (Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 13:6-17), public blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-16), false prophesying (Deuteronomy 13:5), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), rape (Deuteronomy 22:25), and bearing false witness in a capital case (Deuteronomy 19:16-19). In each of these cases, the civil magistrate of the commonwealth was given the very same prohibition (either expressly or implicitly): “Thine eye shall not pity him” (Deuteronomy 19:13, 21).
Well, it seems that Rushdoony not only wanted the death penalty for idolatry but defined it in such a way that it included heresy – heresy also being the contradicting of Rushdoony’s own religious opinions for example.
To quote from the Institutes of Biblical Law: "Deuteronomy 13 cites three cases of instigation to idolatry, first, in vv. 1-5, by the false prophet; second, in vv. 6-11, by a private individual; and, third, by a city, vv. 12-18. The penalty in every case is death without mercy. To the modern mind, this seems drastic. Why death for idolatry?... The death penalty is not required here for private belief: it is for attempts to subvert others and to subvert the social order by enticing others to idolatry. Because for Biblical law the foundation is the one true God, the central offence is therefore treason to that God by idolatry. Every law-order has its concept of treason. No law-order can permit an attack on its foundations without committing suicide...."
"Basic to the health of a society is the integrity of its foundation. To allow tampering with its foundation is to allow its total subversion. Biblical law can no more permit the propagation of idolatry than Marxism can permit counter-revolution, or monarchy a move to execute the king, or a republic an attempt to destroy the republic and create a dictatorship."
"It should be noted that Deuteronomy 13:5-18 does not call for the death penalty for unbelief or for heresy. It condemns false prophets (vv. 1-5) who seek to lead the people, with signs and wonders, into idolatry. It does condemn individuals who secretly try to start a movement into idolatry (vv. 6-11). It does condemn cities which establish another religion and subvert the law-order of the nation (vv. 13-18), and this condemnation must be enforced by man to turn away the judgement of God (v. 17)."
What Rushdoony appears to be saying is that heresy is punishable by death, if defined as idolatry. And almost every act directed against Rushdoony's law-order is defined as idolatry and treason. This follows quite simply from his position that to not be under the Mosaic law is to have another god, and to therefore be in a state of idolatry.
Rushdoony adds that "This condemnation does not apply to a missionary situation, where the land is anti-God to begin with: this is a situation for conversion. It does require a nation grounded in God's law-system to preserve that order by punishing the basic treason against it. No society is without testing, and God tests man by these challenges, to see whether man will stand in terms of God's order or not (v. 3). Idolatry is thus not only punishable by law as socially detrimental, it is in fact a capital offence. It constitutes treason to the King or Sovereign, to Almighty God." (The Institutes of Biblical Law, pages 38-39 and 66.)
And this thus shows that Rushdoony claimed that believing in democracy is heresy punishable by death.
If anyone has any doubts look at this: "The purpose of regeneration is that man reconstruct all things in conformity to God's order, not in terms of man's desire for peace," Rushdoony warned in his Institutes of Biblical Law. "This purpose and mission involves law and coercion."
Let me repeat all of this in easy to understand words – Rushdoony believed that his system would be based on violence and coercion, not the ballot box.
Apparently the 1988 Bill Moyers video 'God and Politics: On Earth as it is in Heaven' states that Rushdoony believed that the bible identified 15 crimes against the family worthy of the death penalty.
In fact, we have been unable to find such as list (at least based wholly on Rushdoony’s statements alone. From what we can see with the turgid prose and mediaeval theology of The Institutes of Biblical Law, it seems highly likely that that 15 cases could be inferred from Rushdoony’s work.
The late Greg Bahnsen, an Orthodox Presbyterian minister and follower of Rushdoony, listed fifteen crimes that deserve capital punishment in the Reconstructed society. These included murder, rape, sodomy, Sabbath breaking, apostasy, witchcraft, blasphemy and incorrigibility in children.
Rushdoony told Bill Moyers in 1988 that "The Bible identifies 15 crimes against the family worthy of the death penalty. Abortion is treason against the family and deserves the death penalty. Adultery is treason to the family; adulterers should be put to death. Homosexuality is treason to the family, and it too, is worthy of death."
(R.J. Rushdoony, to Bill Moyers on television. From a PBS Home Video: God and Politics: On Earth as it is in Heaven, 1988.)
In a sense, we have thus had to partially guess precisely which 15 crimes against the family Rushdoony was advocating mass murder for. It isn’t clear to us precisely what he envisaged as the difference between crimes against the family and crimes in general.
We have thus been careful in trying to give accurate references.
Abortion: Rushdoony’s position on this is convoluted to say the least: Rushdoony states in regard to Exodus 21:22-25: "If the penalty for even an accidental case [of abortion] is so severe, it is obvious that a deliberately induced abortion is very strongly forbidden. It is not necessary to ban deliberate abortion, since it is already eliminated by this law. Second, if a man who, in the course of a fight, unintentionally bumps a pregnant woman and causes her to abort, must suffer the death penalty, how much more so any person who intentionally induces an abortion?" (The Institutes of Biblical Law pages 263-264.)
Except, as far as the author is aware, the Bible does not call for the death penalty for deliberately induced abortion.
Apostasy: – abandonment of faith (same comments as on Idolatry). Clarkson claims that Rushdoony suggested the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of "apostasy, heresy and blasphemy (blasphemy references are below), witchcraft, astrology, adultery, 'sodomy or homosexuality,' incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and in the case of women, 'unchastity before marriage.'"
Astrology: Clarkson claims that Rushdoony suggested the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of astrology. Rodney Clapp quoted Rushdoony in his 1987 essay in Christianity Today – Democracy as Heresy (Feb 20th issue): "[Christian fundamentalists must] take dominion over the US…[abolish democracy] which is actually heresy…[establish a theocratic republic] under biblical law…True to the letter of Old Testament law, homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, astrologers, [and for such offences as] abortion, heresy, apostasy…will be executed."
Bestiality: (see The Institutes of Biblical Law, pages 255-256.) – "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to liedown thereto: it is confusion (Lev.18:22, 23)."
Blasphemy: (The Institutes of Biblical Law pages 18, 27 and 106). Rodney Clapp quoted Rushdoony in his 1987 essay in Christianity Today – Democracy as Heresy (Feb 20th issue): "[Christian fundamentalists must] take dominion over the US…[abolish democracy] which is actually heresy…[establish a theocratic republic] under biblical law…True to the letter of Old Testament law, homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, astrologers, [and for such offences as] abortion, heresy, apostasy…will be executed."
Heresy: (see above) Rushdoony believes that democracy and freedom are heresy. He has claimed heresy as punishable by death (see above). However, in the broader sense, Rushdoony believed that any belief in any religion/denomination other than his own justified killing the person who held those views – see below on idolatry. Rodney Clapp quoted Rushdoony in his 1987 essay in Christianity Today – Democracy as Heresy (Feb 20th issue): "[Christian fundamentalists must] take dominion over the US…[abolish democracy] which is actually heresy…[establish a theocratic republic] under biblical law…True to the letter of Old Testament law, homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, astrologers, [and for such offences as] abortion, heresy, apostasy…will be executed."
Homosexuality: (male only) See Institutes of Biblical Law, pages 187, 430, 482, 594 and comments below)
Idolatry: (this appears to be a belief in any religion or denomination that Rushdoony did not approve of. Rushdoony believes it requires "death without mercy" (The Institutes of Biblical Law pages. 28-39 and 66). Idolatry is thus not only punishable by law as socially detrimental, it is in fact a capital offence. (R.J. Rushdoony, Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law 1982, pages 468 and 316). "It constitutes treason to the King or Sovereign, to Almighty God." (Institutes of Biblical Law, page 66)
Incorrigibility and delinquency: This is widely reported as one of Rushdoony’s reasons for killing people. Rather than repeat what he said, we refer to an article in the Chalcedon report published whilst Rushdoony was alive and still advocating mass murder: In the January 1999 issue of the Chalcedon Report, the Rev William Einwechter called for the stoning to death of disobedient children. In the article, Einwechter cites Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which advises parents to take "a stubborn and rebellious son" before city elders to be stoned to death if he will not change his ways.
Einwechter claimed that the death penalty should be applied to "a grown son (and by extension to a daughter as well) who, for whatever reason, has rebelled against the authority of his parents and will not profit from any of their discipline nor obey their voice in any thing."
He stated that "[T]he execution of the rebel in view is just, merciful, and preventive. Just, in that the transgressor deserves to die; merciful, in that his quick death prevents the destruction of the family, society, and others; preventive, in that it strikes fear in the heart of other would-be rebels and restrains them from taking a similar ruinous course."
Einwechter is VP of an organisation called the National Reform Association (NRA). It was formed in the 19th Century but was taken over by reconstructionalists some time back. Basically despite being at the absolute lunatic end of the religious spectrum, the NRA has got political. Einwechter's writings frequently appear on the group's website (www.natreformassn.org. He edits its publication, The Christian Statesman.
See also Institutes of Biblical Law, pages 185/7, 396/397, 430, 481/2 and 594.
Incest: According to Clarkson, Rushdoony suggested the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of incest.
Rape: (but not, it appears of children) See The Institutes of Biblical Law pages 396-397.
Sabbath Breaking: (see Gary North, "The Economics of Sabbath Keeping," in Rushdoony, Institutes, p. 824.) In the words of Mark Rushdoony, son of R.J. Rushdoony, "The divorce problem will be solved in a society under God's law because any spouse guilty of capital crimes (adultery, homosexuality, Sabbath desecration, etc.) would be swiftly executed, thus freeing the other part to remarry.... Parents would be required to bring their incorrigible children before the judge and, if convicted, have them stoned to death." Mark Rushdoony, The Chalcedon Report #252 (1986).
Sex before marriage: (women only) According to Clarkson, Rushdoony suggested the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of unchastity before marriage but this only applied to women.
Striking a Parent: According to Clarkson, Rushdoony suggested the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of striking a parent.
Witchcraft: (sorcery)/Fortune Telling - Clarkson claims that Rushdoony suggested the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of witchcraft.
Our list may not be perfect but it seems to cover those “crimes” against the family that are inferred by Rushdoony’s statement to Moyers. The real frightening side of it is the interpretation of heresy, apostasy and idolatry. Rushdoony’s position seems to suggest that he would have anyone killed who disagreed with his religious opinions. That represents all but a tiny minority of people. Add to that death penalties for what is quite legal, blasphemy, not getting on with parents and working on a Sunday means that it the fantasy ideal world of Rushdoony and his pals, there will be an awful lot of mass murderers and amongst a tiny population.
We have done figures for the UK which suggest that around 99% of the population would end up dead and the remainder would have each, on average, killed 500 fellow citizens.
To give some idea of the flavour of the world envisaged by Rushdoony, think a bit about divorce laws there. Let’s look at what his son, Mark, said in the Chalcedon report issue 252 (1986) - "The divorce problem will be solved in a society under God's law because any spouse guilty of capital crimes (adultery, homosexuality, Sabbath desecration, etc.) would be swiftly executed, thus freeing the other part to remarry.... Parents would be required to bring their incorrigible children before the judge and, if convicted, have them stoned to death."
Nice, isn’t it. Divorce will be solved by mass murder.
We’ve also left out other “crimes” which Rushdoony believed deserved the death penalty – Murder (he should have known about that one!), habitual and serious crime (likewise) (see Institutes for Biblical Law, pages 228, 458 and 514), kidnapping, prostitution…
A flavour of some of Rushdoony’s other moral bankruptcy can be seen, for example, on the inside cover of the November 1994 issue of the Chalcedon report – "Reconstructionist theology dictates (not the term dictates) that, among other things, women may not wear red dresses; all kitchens be Kosher; slavery be allowed; and women and children be chattel."
Just how far Rushdoony and his apologists and followers are from reality is well illustrated by the example of the November 1998 publication Reason. Apparently two associates of Jerry Falwell wrote an article critical of Reconstructionism. They pointed out that the reconstructionists supported "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards."
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.
How reasonable! It is somewhat reminiscent of Roberta Ahmanson (see this link on her husband, Howard Ahmanson for more details) saying that mandated death penalties ore not that bad because under biblical law two eye witnesses to the “crime” would be required - therefore “fewer” people would be executed.
Let’s have a look at what the Chalcedon Foundation has been saying about stoning children to death. Here is the Rev William Einwechter of the National Reform Association writing in the Chalcedon Report (January 1999) of Rushdoony’s Foundation:
Contempt for Parental Authority:
Those who consider death as a horrible punishment here must realise that in such a case as described in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, 'death' is inescapable. Contempt of parental authority, if left unchecked, is the death of the family, law, and order. The question then is: Who or what should die? The rebel, or family and society? Furthermore, the life of a rebel inevitably leads to the grave (sheol; cf.Pr. 30:17); he will die an early death, and probably take others with him. Finally, God himself declares that even if such a rebel against parental authority escapes the judgement of man, his curse is upon that man and he shall be cut off (Dt. 27:16; Pr. 30:17). Therefore, the execution of the rebel in view is just, merciful, and preventive. Just, in that the transgressor deserves to die; merciful, in that his quick death prevents the destruction of the family, society, and others; preventive, in that it strikes fear in the heart of other would-be rebels and restrains them from taking a similar ruinous course."
Rev. William Einwechter, "Modern Issues in Biblical Perspective: Stoning Disobedient Children", The Chalcedon Report, January 1999
More on Rushdoony’s totalitarianism
"If men are not regenerated by Christ, and if they will not submit to His calling, to the cultural mandate, they will be crushed by His power." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 730.)
"Peace with God means warfare with the enemies of God. Christ made clear that allegiance to Him meant a sword of division (Matt. 10:34-36). In a sinful world, some warfare is inescapable. A man must therefore pick his enemies: God or sinful man? If a man is at peace with sinful men, he is at war with God. Peace in one sector means warfare in another. God alone, however, can give inner peace now, and, finally, world peace through His sovereign law (Micah 4:2)." (The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 781)
The significance of Jesus Christ as the "faithful and true witness" is that He not only witnesses against those who are at war against God, but He also executes them.
(The Institutes of Biblical Law page 574.)
Moreover, in the world that Rushdoony wanted, the rules and laws laid down by him would constitute a state of warfare with the population at large. Rushdoony wrote, "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 for 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." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page 93)
Even without being corrupted by power, Rushdoony’s political intentions looked to be far more extreme that those of Adolf Hitler, Stalin. Chairman Mao or Pol Pot. He appears to have had no respect whatsoever for democracy – "The church today has fallen prey to the heresy of democracy." (The Institutes of Biblical Law page. 747.)
Bill Moyers is not a well known name this side of the Atlantic. He was at one stage in his career ordained as a minister but became a special assistant to Lyndon B Johnson between 1963 and 1967. By all accounts he was an influential man in that period. However, it is as a journalist and broadcaster that he is best known in America. He basically rose to the top of that profession in the 1970s and 1980s. Moyers is not basically liked by the right in the USA. He is seen as part of the liberal media establishment and, indeed, has been a voracious critic of the right.
During the 1980s Moyers produced a series of three TV programmes for the US Public Broadcast Service which investigated Rushdoony (amongst others) and the rise of right wing religious extremism. As part of his 1987-1989 "God and Politics" trilogy for PBS, newsman Bill Moyers interviewed Rushdoony, who argued that society was falling apart and called for a new justice system based on literal interpretations of the Bible. This, Rushdoony explained, would mean capital punishment for anyone guilty of adultery, sodomy or homosexuality. "This is what God requires," Rushdoony said.
Rushdoony was only repeating what he had said in the Institutes of Bible Law - "To the humanistic mind these penalties seem severe and unnecessary. In actuality, the penalties, together with the Biblical faith which motivated them, worked to reduce crime. Thus, when New England passed laws requiring the death penalty for incorrigible delinquents and for children who struck their parents, no executions were necessary: the law kept the children in line." (The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 236.)
You can actually listen to Rushdoony speaking about his political position at this link Here Bill Moyers points out that Rushdoony believes that democracy is “the great love of the failures and cowards of life”. There is another MP3 clip here by Bill Moyers
A longer clip with Rushdoony can be found here.
Rushdoony spouts off about returning to the gold standard. The discussion is about the 15 offences which Rushdoony claimed merited a death sentence, including rape, sodomy, homosexuality, adultery and incorrigibility/delinquency amongst young people. According to Rushdoony, God requires this even though he doesn’t like it. Therefore there is no choice. It doe not concern him that others have different views.
The author’s own opinion is that Rushdoony came over as a weirdo in these interviews. He seemed to be trying to put forward some aurora that he was, personally, a God-like figure whose every statement was profound. There was no spontaneity at all. The pitch of his voice appeared to be phoney.
Lenny Flank on Rushdoony
This is an overview of Rushdoony and Dominionism from Lenny Flank:
The most militant of the Ayatollah-wanna-be's are the members of the "Reconstructionist" movement. The Reconstructionists were founded by Rouas J. Rushdoony, a militant fundamentalist who was instrumental in getting Henry Morris's book The Genesis Flood published in 1961. According to Rushdoony's view, the United States should be directly transformed into a theocracy in which the fundamentalists would rule directly according to the will of God. "There can be no separation of Church and State,"
Rushdoony declares. (cited in Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed, 1991, p. 51 (1)) "Christians,"
a Reconstructionist pamphlet declares, "are called upon by God to exercise dominion."
(cited in Marty and Appleby 1991, p. 50) The Reconstructionists propose doing away with the US Constitution and laws, and instead ruling directly according to the laws of God as set out in the Bible - they advocate a return to judicial punishment for religious crimes such as blasphemy or violating the Sabbath, as well as a return to such Biblically-approved punishments as stoning.
According to Rushdoony, the Second Coming of Christ can only happen after the "Godly"
have taken over the earth and constructed the Kingdom of Heaven here: "The dominion that Adam first received and then lost by his Fall will be restored to redeemed Man. God's People will then have a long reign over the entire earth, after which, when all enemies have been put under Christ's feet, the end shall come."
(cited in Sara Diamond Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right, South End Press (Boston, MA), 1989, p. 139 (2)) "Christian Reconstructionism,"
another pamphlet says, "is a call to the Church to awaken to its Biblical responsibility to subdue the earth for the glory of God . . . Christian Reconstructionism therefore looks for and works for the rebuilding of the institutions of society according to a Biblical blueprint."
(cited in Diamond 1989, p. 136) In the Reconstructionist view, evolution is one of the "enemies"
which must be "put under Christ's feet"
if the godly are to subdue the earth for the glory of God.
(1) In the late 20th century the most influential — and the most controversial — study of fundamentalism was The Fundamentalism Project (1991–95), a series of five volumes edited by the American scholars Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Marty and Appleby viewed fundamentalism primarily as the militant rejection of secular modernity. They argued that fundamentalism is not just traditional religiosity but an inherently political phenomenon, though this dimension may sometimes be dormant. Marty and Appleby also contended that fundamentalism is inherently totalitarian, insofar as it seeks to remake all aspects of society and government on religious principles.
Has the Chalcedon Foundation changed since Rousas Rushdoony died? It appears not. Nothing seems to have changed. We took these two statements from the web site (http://www.chalcedon.edu/vision.php) of the Chalcedon Foundation in October 2006:
“…Chalcedon is committed to recovering the intellectual foundations of Christian civilisation. We do this in two main ways, negatively, we expose the bankruptcy of all non-Christian (and alleged but compromising Christian) systems of thought and practices. Positively, we propose an explicitly Biblical system of thought and action as the exclusive basis for civilisation. Only by restoring the Christian Faith and Biblical law as the standard of all of life can Christians hope to re-establish Christian civilisations.”
It also added that “Chalcedon's activities include foundational and leadership roles in Christian reconstruction. Our emphasis on the Cultural or Dominion Mandate (Genesis 1:28) and the necessity of a return to Biblical Law has been a crucial factor in the challenge to Humanism by Christians in this country and elsewhere.”
As we will see from more specific quotes from Rushdoony, his ambitions were not confined to the USA.
Slavery and racism
Let’s have a look at what many have long suspected, the allegation that most fundamentalists are covert racists. In particular, Rushdoony’s attitude towards slavery, the ante-bellum South and inter-racial marriage.
Rushdoony’s belief that slavery should be re-introduced as an alternative to prison sentences is well known. “Punishment for non-capital crimes generally involves whipping or restitution in the form of indentured servitude or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks while prisoners awaited sentencing”. (Frederick Clarkson, The Public Eye, March and June 1994 - http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisre2.html). (see also http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v19n3/clarkson_dominionism.html for more of Clarkson’s work)
Biblical law permits voluntary slavery because it recognises that some people are not able to maintain a position of independence . . . The law is humane and also unsentimental. It recognises that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so. (The Institutes of Biblical Law, pages 286 and 251)
However, Rushdoony was also an apologist for slavery in the South of the USA prior to the civil war.
"For example, the white man is being systematically indoctrinated into believing that he is guilty of enslaving and abusing the Negro. Granted that some Negroes were mistreated as slaves, the fact still remains that nowhere in all history or in the world today has the Negro been better off. The life expectancy of the Negro increased when he was transported to America. He was not taken from freedom into slavery, but from a vicious slavery to degenerate chiefs to a generally benevolent slavery in the United States. There is not the slightest evidence that any American Negro had ever lived in a "free society" in Africa; even the idea did not exist in Africa. The move from Africa to America was a vast increase of freedom for the Negro, materially and spiritually as well as personally. The Negroes were sold from a harsh slavery into a milder one. Slavery was basic to the African way of life, to the point that slaves were the actual money of the African economy. Elsewhere, gold and silver served as money; in Africa, it was slaves...."
"The Irish moved from semi-slavery in Ireland to freedom in America only a few years before the Negro gained emancipation. After a century and a quarter, or less, the Irish are a leading power in the United States, and the Negroes remain on the lowest strata. The basic difference between the Irish and the Negro has not been color: it has been character. The Negroes demand more aid, i.e., more slavery and slave-care, and dwell on their sufferings. The Irish have instead looked to the present and future and helped shape America. It is a significant difference that cannot be explained altogether by color or environment. The Chinese also came to the United States under very difficult circumstances and similarly overcame them."
"The Negro moved from an especially harsh slavery, which included cannibalism, to a milder form. Much is said about the horrors of the slave ships, many of which were very bad, but it is important to remember that slaves were valuable cargo and hence property normally handled with consideration."
More of Rushdoony’s apparent racism can be seen in his attitude towards mixed-marriages -"inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish." (The Institutes of Biblical, page 257)
Indeed, there are elements in the reconstructionist movement that have taken this a lot further and argued that the old, ante-bellum South was the last bastion of true Christianity in the world. See, for example, this 2001 article from the Southern Poverty Law Center: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=434 which actually shows the reconstructionists defending slavery (in the late 20th century!).
This is easy to dismiss as just sheer stupidity of an ignorant few but the reconstructionist movement is a key player in the US culture wars. It has been long argued that the wars reflect the still simmering resentments of the South (and the Bible Belt) about not just the Civil War but the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Lenny Flank has detailed how the resentments that arose from the later feed into the home school movement and the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by extremists in the 1970s 1980s and the subsequent fundamentalist agenda of the movement. Western Europeans often forget that a big weakness of many Americans is that they cannot stand loss of face. Moreover, outside of the North East, the progressive bits of the West Coast and the North Midwest, much of America is staggeringly socially backward.
This is what Lenny Flank has to say:
“Fundamentalist hostility was particularly marked towards a number of Supreme Court decisions during the period. The first of these was the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregated schools. Southern fundamentalists in particular viewed segregation as Biblically-approved, and bitterly fought desegregation and the civil rights movement. In response to the 1954 decision, many fundamentalist churches set up their own private schools, which were not subject to the Court's decision and were therefore free to continue to practice segregation. (The fundamentalist Bob Jones University
would later sue the Federal government in an effort to be allowed to continue to ban Black students; after losing, BJU banned inter-racial dating among its students, a policy that was only withdrawn in the face of public disapproval in the wake of a visit by President George W Bush in 2000.) In 1961, the Supreme Court dealt the fundamentalists another blow when, in the Engel v Vitale case, it outlawed government-sanctioned prayer in schools, saying, "We think that, in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government."
(US Supreme Court, Engel v Vitale, 1961) In 1968, the Court ruled, in the case of Epperson v Arkansas, that all of the various anti-evolution "monkey laws" were unconstitutional. Finally, in 1973, the Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States.”
Here are some more comments from Lenny Flank:
While some members of both the fundamentalist and creationist movements view the Reconstructionists as somewhat kooky, many of them have had nice things to say about Rushdoony and his followers. The Institute for Creation Research
has had close ties with Reconstructionists. Rushdoony was one of the financial backers for Henry Morris
's first book, "The Genesis Flood", and Morris's son Johns
was a co-signer of several documents produced by the Coalition On Revival
, a reconstructionist coalition founded in 1984. ICR star debater Duane Gish
was a member of COR's Steering Committee, as was Richard Bliss, who served as ICR's "curriculum director" until his death. Gish and Bliss were both co-signers of the COR documents "A Manifesto for the Christian Church" (COR, July 1986), and the "Forty-Two Articles of the Essentials of a Christian Worldview" (COR,1989), which declares, "We affirm that the laws of man must be based upon the laws of God. We deny that the laws of man have any inherent authority of their own or that their ultimate authority is rightly derived from or created by man." (Forty-Two Essentials, 1989, p. 8
The Coalition on Revival (founded 1982) provides a wonderful snapshot of the extent of the influence on the Christian Right, and even on the secular Right, that Reconstructionism wields at this point in time. Clarkson points out in his book, on Pages 97 and 98, who the members of the Coalition on Revival were at the time of formation. Those members included: John Whitehead (president of the Rutherford Institute (see also this link and this link), Michael Farris (founder Patrick Henry College and the Home School Legal Defence Association), Randall Terry (Operation Rescue anti-abortion group), Franky Schaeffer (Francis Schaeffer's son from Eagle Forum), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Beverly LaHaye (Concerned Women for America), Connaught Marshner (Free Congress Foundation), Dr. Stephen Hotze (Houston GOP, see http://www.talk2action.org/story/2005/11/23/85532/138), Robert Dugan (National Association of Evangelicals), former Representative Bill Dannemeyer (Republican politician from California), Timothy LaHaye (televangelist), Ron Haus (televangelist), D. James Kennedy (televangelist, Coral Ridge Ministries), and the following: R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Joseph Morecraft (Chalcedon Presbyterian Church – see also http://www.chalcedon.org/), David Chilton, Gary DeMar (American Vision, Rus Walton (deceased, Plymouth Rock Foundation) and the Reverend Raymond Joseph.
Strongly influenced by COR and its credo, Pat Robertson renamed his CBN (for Christian Broadcasting Network) University, Regent University, explaining that "a regent is one who governs in the absence of a sovereign." Someday, he said, "we will rule and reign along with our sovereign, Jesus Christ." Toward that day, Regent is training graduate students in education, religion, law and communications to build theological and political alliances of ready-to-rule folk. Robertson's more immediate goal, control of the Republican Party, is seen as a necessary step in pursuit of the ultimate prize: a "Christian" United States -- meaning his brand of Christianity.
Jerry Falwell, in a moment of remarkable candor, once remarked that "Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions." (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 17)
Democracy, then, with its messy guarantees of freedom of thought and popular control over authority, is dangerous to the fundamentalists and their world-view. Pat Robertson bluntly says, "I think 'one man, one vote', just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise". (700 Club, March 18, 1992, cited in Boston, 1996, p. 166)
"Our Founding Fathers," Falwell declares, "would not accept the tyranny of a democracy because they recognized that the only sovereign over men and nations was Almighty God." (cited in Young, 1982, p. 184)
Charles Stanley of Moral Majority made this anti- democratic attitude even more plain: "We do not want a democracy in this land because if we have a democracy a majority rules," (cited in Young 1982, p. 65) while Rich Anguin of the Minnesota Moral Majority adds, "Freedom of speech has never been right. We've never had freedom of speech in this country and we never should have." (cited in Young, 1982, p. 65)