A dangerous ménage à trois
You may never have heard of Rousas John Rushdoony or Francis August Schaeffer, but their profound influence on religion and politics could determine whether you and your children will continue to live in a democratic republic.
Adherents of Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionist movement are working doggedly to create conditions conducive to establishment of a theocracy based on Old Testament law. Under that law, you could be sentenced to death for any of the following offenses:
Kidnapping, rape, incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry, apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, bearing false witness in a capital case, or lying about your virginity.
Schaeffer was influential with the politically active leaders of the Christian Right, including Randall Terry (Operation Rescue), James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Pat Robertson (the 700 Club), Charles Colson (Prison Fellowship), Tim LaHaye (Left Behind) and Jerry Falwell (Moral Majority). It is to Schaeffer, primarily, that we owe the current fundamentalist obsession with abortion.
Both Rushdoony and Schaeffer studied under the Calvinist theologian Cornelius Van Til. They differed on some theological points, but both endorsed biblical inerrancy, as did founders of the Dominionist movement, whom they influenced.
Dominionists, according to sociologist Sara Diamond, believe the Bible requires them to “occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns”.
Democracy, for Rushdoony, was “heresy”. He characterized it as “the great love of the failures and cowards of life”’. Christianity, he insisted, is committed to “spiritual aristocracy”. He maintained that Christianity and democracy are “inevitably enemies”, because democracy “puts the will of the majority before the will of God”.
Some amalgam of Rushdoony, Schaeffer, Dominionist ideas now seem to dominate and define the religious Right in the US. These include biblical inerrancy, opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and establishment of a “Christian nation”.
Here are some reasons why they might succeed:
- Their movement has been gaining strength and momentum for almost 50 years. It began with the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1960s.
- Preachers from small rural churches to urban mega-churches now promote the idea of “Christians first, citizens second” and teach the “inerrancy” of the Bible, “theologically, historically and scientifically”.
- Teachers in the burgeoning homeschool movement once promoted by Rushdoony indoctrinate students with the same ideas.
- Reconstructionist/Dominionist ideas now permeate the Republican Party base, some of the Republican members of Congress, and Republican candidates for offices ranging from school boards to the US presidency. Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum all led during some part of the 2008 or 2012 races for the Republican presidential nomination. Sarah Palin was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008.
- The economic program advocated by the Reconstructionists aligns with the extreme libertarian ideology and the economic interests of far-right billionaires, such as Charles and David Koch, who have shown themselves willing to spend whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Rushdoony even called himself a “Christian libertarian”. He also was an admiring student of Ludwig von Mises who, along with Friedrich August Hayek, are the economic philosophers of the far right.
- Representatives of the Religious right, such as the Rev. Richard Lee, founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in Atlanta, serve alongside politico-economic ideologues on the secretive Council for National Policy, which influences Congress, vets high-level GOP candidates, and – individually, if not collectively – contributes to their campaigns and PACS.
- They have a television network, radio hosts and multiple right-wing publications to disseminate their ideas.
- The rest of the corporate media tend to ignore the situation, lest controversy lessen the bottom line.
That leaves it up to the rest of us to choose.
Do we want to remain a democratic nation? A secular nation with a clear separation of church and state?
Do we want it badly enough to become informed and politically active? To speak out? To demand public discussion of religious issues that affect politics and government?
If it isn’t too late already, our time to reach a decision is growing short. The Republican Party, Ayn Randian libertarians and theocratic Calvinists are on the march. And they’ll be voting for Mitt Romney in November.