Friday, April 29, 2011

The Dangers of Christian Reconstructionism

For those of you who don’t know, I am a graduate of Patrick Henry College, the small Christian liberal arts school sometimes affectionately (and sometimes despairingly) referred to as God’s Harvard. At PHC we were frequently amused by the rumors claiming we were part of a conspiracy designed to “prepare the leadership of a theocratic United States,” “extinguish[] secular governance” or otherwise overthrow the Constitution, mandate church attendance, require tithing, and execute anyone who didn't follow our version of Mosaic law. But while this was grounds for amusement, Christians need to realize that there are thinkers who do advocate these sort of things - and sometimes they are closer to home than we realize.

I'm speaking of R.J. Rushdoony, his son-in-law Gary North, and their following, commonly known as the Christian Reconstructionists. Fundimentally these men err in that they cannot accept a political state with Christians and non-Christians living side by side. North, specifically, was a firm opponent of religious freedom, insisting that the nation broke its covenant with God in the Constitution by not requiring Trinitarian oaths for political officers.
There is no escape from this conclusion: the United States Constitution is an atheistic, humanistic covenant. The law governing the public oath of office reveals this. (Gary North, Political Polytheism, 403-404)
To make possible this hypothetically disinterested examination of politics, the Constitution removed Christian religious tests as the judicial requirement of the judges and officers of the new national government. That, in and of itself, delivered the republic into the hands of the humanists. Nothing else was necessary after that. From that point on, the secularization of America was a mopping-up operation. (Political Polytheism, 367)
His solution is to require not only a Trinitarian oath for every office holder…
The long-term national political goal has to be the substitution of a Trinitarian national oath for the present prohibition against religious test oaths. (Political Polytheism, 568)
What is needed is a very simple modification of the U.S. Constitution. First, the Preamble should begin:” We the people of the United States, as the lawful delegated agents of the Trinitarian God of the Bible, do ordain and establish. . . . “48 Second, Article VI, Clause 3, should state “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all the executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; and a Trinitarian religious Test shall be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (Political Polytheism, 653)
...but also church membership and orthodox Christian belief for every citizen.
The longterm goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant – baptism and holy communion – must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel. (Political Polytheism, 87)
The biblical model for a theocratic republic would restrict voting to those who are voting (i.e., tithe-paying) members of local churches, and who are also taxpaying citizens. (Political Polytheism, 597)
God wants every nation to have its political citizenship match its people’s heavenly citizenship. This goal can be achieved positively: by widespread conversions of political citizens to saving covenantal faith in Jesus Christ. This new political order can subsequently be maintained — though not without continuing widespread conversions — on a judicially negative basis: by removing legal access to the franchise and civil offices from those who refuse to become communicant members of Trinitarian churches. (Political Polytheism, 621)
And here he defines orthodox belief.
It is my view that there are three subordinate tests for orthodoxy, once a person has affirmed the obvious: the virgin birth of Jesus, the Trinity, and the bodily resurrection of Christ. These three tests are: affirming the six-day creation, affirming the worldwide Noachic flood, and affirming the doctrine of hell (lake of fire). (Political Polytheism, 642)
So, in North’s utopia, anyone who denies the worldwide flood or has a different view of creation is, on a good day, kicked out of the state-associated church and denied voting rights. On a bad day they’re stoned.
Does Schaeffer mean that, given the freedom to advocate Christianity (he means ‘proselytization), Christians should enforce their views by ‘law’ if people will not accept Christian belief and behavior by choice?” To which any Christian not paralyzed with guilt should reply: “That is what Schaeffer should have meant, even if it wasn’t what he did mean. (Political Polytheism, 190)
Why this burden? In North’s view, we need to because God is depending on our actions, and He cannot move unless we do first. North explicatively ties it in to the second coming of Christ, which, in his view, must be ushered in by this theocratic state.
Christian Reconstructionists are self-consciously attempting to lay new intellectual foundations for a comprehensive moral and therefore intellectual, social, political, and economic transformation of the world. Not until at least the preliminary steps in this theological and intellectual transformation are accomplished can we expect God to send worldwide revival. (Political Polytheism, 610-11)
The implication lurking behind all of this is that it is an illegitimate state that does not acknowledge God. Yet, in the order of creation, God has delegated political authority even to rulers who do not acknowledge Him. Christ, in saying "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" declared that the pagan Roman empire had legitimate political authority. Paul in telling the Christians to submit to authorities affirmed this. Likewise, in the Old Testament, there is no hint that Babylon or Egypt were illegitimate empires, but rather that God specifically raised up pagan rulers. (e.g. Jeremiah 27)

The Christian Reconstructionists cannot accept this. For them, the mere fact that someone is not Christian (or for some, a Christian of their specific denominational leanings), disqualifies them from holding office or (for North) voting. There is no natural law, no appeal to reason, and no common good, that the Christian can appeal to in political discussion with the non-Christian. For one to win, the other has to lose (or convert, or be publicly executed).

Fortunately, although there are some historic ties between PHC and the Reconstructionists  (PHC founder Michael Farris self-identified as a reconstructionist at one point but then left the movement), any allegiance that PHC graduates have to the movement is in spite of, not because of, their time at the school. If anything, PHC is a liberalizing and moderating force on the prevalence of Reconstructinism in the homeschool movement. And for that, it should be applauded.
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