Recently, Representative Todd Akin, from my home state of Missouri, made national news by expressing his views on rape and abortion. He's not alone in his views, nor are his views limited to those issues. Quite the contrary. There are many other political figures whose sound bites show up as blips on the national radar scene. In my opinion, we pay too much attention to the blips and not enough to the pattern painted by the blips.
In doing research for a recent book, I attempted to understand the ideological underpinnings of today's more prominent political factions. There are no precise boundaries for these ideological groupings, so rather than sweeping generalizations, I chose to concentrate on the beliefs of the respective thought leaders. The advantage of this approach is that thought leaders tend toward some purity of thought and have taken the time to put their arguments on paper. The weakness of the approach is that only a few actually subscribe to, or are even aware of, the full range of beliefs championed by the thought leader. Larger numbers -- in concentric circles of increasing distance from the center -- selectively adopt elements of the belief system and even reject the more extreme aspects. In the outer rings, individuals espouse some of the beliefs without knowing their source. Certainly others may arrive independently at the same beliefs.
Allow me to introduce you to Rousas John Rushdoony. Rushdoony provides a comprehensive basis for the policy preferences of the religious right under the names of Christian Reconstructionism and Christian Revisionism. Not widely known by the laity, Rushdoony's work is credited with providing a compelling rationale that has emboldened the policy elite of the movement, including Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, both of whom distanced themselves from Rushdoony's more extreme positions. Rushdoony was instrumental in establishing the homeschooling movement and the anti-abortion activist organization Operation Rescue. These policy choices aren't accidental. They are the product of a deep and integrated belief system.
Christian Reconstructionists reject both Enlightenment thinking and the notion that the Constitution is a product of Enlightenment thought. Rousas Rushdoony offers a Reconstructionist worldview in opposition to the secular humanistic worldview of the Enlightenment. The Reconstructionist worldview requires what Rushdoony calls Christian Revisionism. It is a telling of history from the creation to the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Rather than intending to establish a liberal democracy based on Enlightenment thinking, the Framers intended to establish a Christian Nation. The prohibition of an established church was a prohibition on the federal government, not on state and local governments. The narrative continues with subversion of the Framers' original intent by an activist Supreme Court and modernism.
Reconstructionists reject natural law in favor of biblical law. According to Greek philosophers, the Aquinas school of the Catholic Church, and Enlightenment thinkers, there is a natural law that can be reasoned from direct observation of nature. Reconstructionists posit that the belief in natural law rests on a fatal fallacy. Human observation is of the world fallen from grace. It is based in original sin, eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Distinguishing right from wrong himself puts man in the position of God. The doctrine of total depravity asserts a pessimistic view of man rooted in original sin. For Reconstructionists, right and wrong is inerrantly expressed in the Bible, and is not a product of human reason.
Old Testament law is the only law. Reconstructionists reject the democratic notion that the law is what the majority says it is. Rushdoony says that all law is religious in nature. Man-made law is relativistic and constitutes a secular humanism -- a false religion. The state, its courts and law, and its schools are profane. "They are outside of Christ and in contempt of Him."
The Westphalian secular state is a false god claiming sovereignty. Reconstructionists reject separate public and private spheres -- including the separation of church and state -- as a statist fabrication. Humanism is the established religion of the state and is imposed through public education. Taxation, man-made law and courts, and public education are instruments of state control. Federal government encroachment into health, education, and welfare is totalitarianism and the end of God. Democracy is a new religion to serve man, not God. "Religion, politics, economics, science, education, law and all things must be under God, or they are in revolt."
Reconstructionists are absolutists. There is but one morality, and nations are held to the same moral standards as individuals. God shows his judgment of nations by plagues (like AIDS) and natural disasters (like Hurricane Katrina).
Reconstructionists' long-term objective for the United States is replacement of democratic government ("mob rule") with governance by theocratic elites under Old Testament law in what has been called Protestant feudalism. Globally, the objective is a confederation of biblical theocratic republics governing every aspect of life. Models for emulation include Old Testament Israel, Calvin's 16th-century theocracy in Geneva, and the Calvinist Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony of the 17th century.
Governance is accomplished through a three-way division of labor under the name theonomy. All three rest on self-governance of the Christian man. The family is the basic institution of governance. The family has primary power over property, inheritance, children, welfare, and education. The church is responsible for health, education, and welfare in the larger community, typically at the town or county level. These church functions are funded by biblical tithe rather than non-biblical taxes. The state has responsibility for defense of church and family through armed force. State function is funded by minimal taxes collected primarily at the county level. As with theoretical communism, theonomy is predicted to bring minimal state (civil) government and maximal individual liberty.
Reconstructionists believe in universalism under the rubric of dominionism, the belief that properly thinking Christians have both the right and obligation to dominion over others. Adherents of this movement are justified in using the power of government to impose their religious views on the larger public that they do not accurately represent. They are in opposition to the United Nations that represents the "attempt of human statism to attain true and full universality and catholicity."
For those of you who share these convictions, you may appreciate the connection between policy positions and the underlying religious beliefs. For those of you who disagree, you may see the futility of arguing policy positions derived from non-negotiable religious beliefs. Environmental, evolutionary , and economic science, for example, must be brought into alignment with biblical truth. The empirical evidence used to test and compete scientific theories will not persuade.
And that reminds me of a statement of Barry Goldwater, once the banner carrier for libertarian conservatism, and considered an extremist by some. Goldwater referred to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as "political preachers" and the "radical right." In a 1981 Senate speech, Goldwater said, "I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism." Three years later, Goldwater said:
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise.