Cover Story: America the theocracy 2004
A band of influential preachers is praying for the power to rule America. For those who disagree, they have a solution — stoning.
It’s a Wednesday night in February and about 40 Midway parishioners are gathered for a class. They’re bedrock, anytown Americans — other than their monochrome white complexion.
DeMar is talking to a teenage boy about an assignment for a high school course. Well, not exactly a traditional high school. The lad is being home-schooled, as are many of Midway’s young members. The youth says he is trying to prove an issue of “family government.”
“You don’t have to prove that,” DeMar gently chides. “That’s established — established by God!”
A little earlier, DeMar had lectured the group on three “governments” created, he says, by God: the family, the state and the church. But this is more than just a pep talk on a trinity of subjects dear to most Americans.
Rather, DeMar, a relentlessly logical (if you accept his assumptions) speaker, excitedly describes a new order, one in which God’s trusted servants reign supreme over the three governments. It’s a society in which only the faithful are citizens, democracy is a distasteful memory, and the state’s primary purpose is assisting in the conquest of the Planet Earth for Christ.
This is more than one man’s radical dreaming. It’s the core belief of a movement called Christian Reconstruction, and DeMar is its Tom Paine. Many followers accord him the status of transforming an arcane offshoot of Calvinism into a political dreadnought — and of launching that theological warship at a speech 20 years ago.
The movement, also dubbed “dominion theology” and “theonomy,” has spread far beyond the right wing of Presbyterian and Reformed churches. It has penetrated, to some degree, most conservative denominations, including Southern Baptist.
Not all in the movement agree on every point; theology wouldn’t be theology without endless schisms, after all. Nor would all people who advance Reconstruction’s goals agree that they’re part of the movement. But as St. Matthew wrote, “By their works shall you know them.”
The Reconstruction movement has burrowed deep into the religious right. Its architects have gained strength via a broad alliance with other religious advocates who seek a radical restructuring of America. Reconstruction and dominion theology certainly set much of the agenda for conservative Christianity’s political activism.
Is DeMar championing a theocracy? With the rueful smile of one who has been hit with this one before, he retorts: “All governments are theocracies. We now live in a secular, humanist theocracy. Yes, I want to change that to a government with God at its head.”
Resurgent religion has been prophesized ever since Mephistophelean secularism reared up in the wake of the 1925 Scopes evolution trial in Tennessee. The God-fearing suffered a media mocking that left scars that still inflame debate today. Humanism proclaimed temporary victory on April 8, 1966, when Time magazine asked on its cover: “Is God Dead?”
While he personally hasn’t answered the question, his followers have roared, no!
Like ancient Christians, today’s ardent believers feel they’ve been fed to the lions. In the years just prior to the Time apostasy, the U.S. Supreme Court had ripped prayer and the Bible from public schools. Then, in 1973 came the galvanizing abortion decision of Roe v. Wade. Five years later, then-President and staunch Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter demanded that private religious schools, often the segregation academies of white flight, prove they did not racially discriminate — an intrusion, many Southern preachers fumed, onto their turf. Throughout this time, gays at first tiptoed, then charged out of the closet; and women demanded equal rights, upsetting the biblical order of families, as interpreted by religious conservatives.
Secular America fooled itself by assuming it had won. “The media subjected the fundamentalists to such ridicule that they slunk away,” says Karen Armstrong, author of The History of God. “But these fundamentalists were simply withdrawing in the time-honored way, leaving the mainstream denominations and founding their own churches, Bible colleges, broadcasting stations and publishing houses.”
Today, a new cultural civil war rages, with political skirmishes as far flung as Massachusetts and San Francisco, but with most of the major battlefields in the South. For Southerners aggrieved at what they see as Northern liberalism, the New Cause is just one more campaign for the Lost Cause.
The fields of honor: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is “martyred” for planting the Ten Commandments on public soil. President George Bush charges to the right in a flanking maneuver on Democratic rivals by embracing a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Southern states, led by Florida’s Gov. Jeb Bush, attempt to open prisons and social service agencies to proselytizing disguised as privatization. Georgia School Superintendent Kathy Cox snips mentions of evolution and the big-bang theory from school curriculum guidelines. Abortion is supplanted by anti-gay “defense of marriage” legislation as the cudgel-of-choice swung by state GOP legislators.
The faithful, as seldom before, are mobilized and militant, protesting the removal of the Ten Commandments, and urging in strong 55 percent-plus majority numbers that governments erect an impenetrable barrier between gays and the marriage altar.
There is a clear direction to the movement — a government more in tune with religion. Beyond that, but not far, awaits the grail for Christian Reconstruction and its allies: a theocracy ruling America.
About 300 members of Heritage Baptist Church in Zebulon, N.C., are gathered two evenings before Valentine’s Day to hear a traveling superstar of their creed, the Rev. Don Boys, tell them how to make marriage work. Before the sermon, he’s out in a hallway staffing a table displaying his 13 books (special deal: Get them all for $67). And, he’s very excited.
“I heard it on the way in,” Boys says with evident glee. “(Sen. John) Kerry got caught having sex with an intern. It’s all over Europe today, and will be in our papers by tomorrow. He’s a goner. We got him!”
The story would turn out to be bogus, a fiction spread by Washington, D.C., scandalmonger Matt Drudge. But for that night, it was milk and honey for Boys.
A little later, he talks to the church audience about building the family. Zebulon, about 40 miles from Raleigh, is a good place to preach on the subject. With its attractive 1920s and 1930s homes, the town is anchored by a family restaurant and a few churches. Urban problems seem a century away from this Norman Rockwell village.
Boys’ story and that of his wife, Ellen, who punctuates her recollections with gently powerful singing, are ones of painful loss and redemption. The audience is moved. Even the journalist/Doubting Thomas in the audience is choked up.
The culture/political wars are never far away, however. The audience laughs when Boys recounts that when courting Ellen — a recent marriage after both lost spouses to illnesses — he sent her a copy of his AIDS: Silent Killer, a denunciation of the gay lifestyle. “A lot of people wouldn’t call that real romantic,” Boys quips.
Boys runs his publishing house, Common Sense Today, from Ringgold. Along with his books, he churns out newspaper columns (he’s a former USA Today regular), videos and tapes. The titles are potboilers: Liberalism: A Rope of Sand, Homosexuality: The High Cost of Low Living and Is God a Right-Winger? (The answer, you might guess, is “yes,” according to the book.)
Denying that he’s a Reconstructionist (“They’re mostly Presbyterians,” he says), Boys nonetheless told me last fall, “I agree with just about all they say.” Boys, when asked who would get his vote for president, mentioned two names: U.S. Sen. Zell Miller (who isn’t running) and Howard Phillips, candidate of the Constitution Party, a group founded by Reconstructionists.
And, Boys takes his pro-Reconstruction message on the road. For four decades, he has been on the revival circuit, speaking mostly to scores of smaller, independent Baptist churches across the South and Midwest.
On issues of church and state, Boys is succinct. “What we are saying is, God is over government.”
Most churchgoers have never heard of Christian Reconstruction or theonomy. Believers would be hard-pressed to define “dominion theology,” “covenant theology,” “pre-millennial,” “post-millennial” or, for the wishy-washy, the neither pre nor post “a-millennial.”
Nor would most Americans reflexively embrace a “theology” that denounced all government social programs, public schools, environmental protections — a religion that promoted mass executions for sins as minor as swearing at parents, decried democracy as heretical, relegated women to subservience, or that endorsed segregation and even the return of slavery to the United States.
And, Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, his son Mark, Gary North and Gary DeMar are names unlikely to spark widespread recognition.
Yet, these men, their theology and the secretive groups they have founded are like an invisible black hole whose gravity inexorably pulls the religious debate toward a theocracy with its closest parallel in Iran’s government-by-mullahs.
Reconstructionists, who don’t hesitate at casting the first stone, are behind-the-scenes strategists for much of the religious right. They and their fellow travelers established a beachhead in the White House (although the Bush administration is rapidly falling from grace because of its failure to unequivocally condemn Islam as a religion of the devil). Many in Congress pay tribute, and they’re backing Reconstruction-inspired legislation.
The goal, one Reconstructionists feel is now within reach, is a transformation of America into a religious state whose mission is to spread the Gospel (as they interpret it). Violence isn’t shunned. As Gary North, the current grand man of the movement, wrote, “In winning a nation to the Gospel, the sword as well as the pen must be used.” Those who don’t buy the plan could flee, or face unbending Mosaic “justice.”
In the beginning, 1981, a radical Calvinist named Francis Schaeffer published a book, The Christian Manifesto, which depicts America sliding down the slope of humanistic secularism. Schaeffer called for action to restore biblical principles. And he mapped out a battle campaign to ignite the movement: Stop abortions.
Thus was born dominion theology, sometimes dubbed covenant or kingdom theology. From this theology comes the concept of theonomy, literally “God’s law,” which advocates define as application of the 600-plus Old Testament proscriptions to today’s society. Theonomy would be the law of the land in the future that the dominionists want to construct.
“Schaeffer made abortion an issue for Christians more than anyone else, and he commanded Christian soldiers to start marching,” said Ed Larson, a University of Georgia professor of history and religion. “Before The Christian Manifesto, most Protestants were indifferent to abortion because it was seen as a Catholic issue.”
Manifesto sold almost 300,000 copies the year that Ronald Reagan became president — a period when the nation was veering to the right after becoming exhausted from the social movements of the previous two decades.
More importantly, the concept of dominion found spiritual and political brothers.
R.J. Rushdoony, born in 1916 to Armenian immigrants, is the Peter, the rock on which the Christian Reconstruction movement is built. He honed an even more extreme Calvinist theology than Schaeffer’s, one based on biblical literalness and inerrancy, and on the assertion of irreconcilable conflict between believers and non-Christians — including many people who consider themselves Christian but don’t measure up to Reconstruction orthodoxy. And, Rushdoony, who died in 2001, thundered a doctrine called “presuppositionalism”: All issues are religious in nature, and people don’t have the right or ability to define for themselves what’s true.
That belief stemmed from an earlier theologian, Princeton University’s Cornelius Van Til, who had inspired Rushdoony and his confederate, Greg Bahnsen, with writings that opined: “By what standard can man know anything truly? By the Bible, and only the Bible.”
Rushdoony’s defining tome, the 800-page Institutes of Biblical Law, was published in 1973. But because of his extremism and overt racism — he defended segregation and slavery — Institutes and its author were largely ignored in mainstream circles until the movement launched by Schaeffer found intellectual grounding in Rushdoony’s voluminous writings.
Meanwhile, the more traditional Christian right — Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Tim LaHaye, for example — had a problem. They were “pre-millennial,” meaning they believed history was going to hell. Indeed, adapting the Revelation to the modern era, they prophesized that Armageddon would likely arrive with a nuclear blast.
“The debate was over whether Leonid Brezhnev was the Antichrist,” professor Larson says.
According to this interpretation, Christ would arrive for the Second Coming and set things right.
“If you’re trying to build a political movement, but your theology is that whatever you do, things are going to deteriorate, well, it doesn’t compute,” says Fred Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.
The Reconstruction and dominion theologians had a solution to the dilemma. They preached the gospel of “post-millennialism,” meaning that it was Christians’ job to take over the world and impose biblical rule. Christ would not return, they said, until the church had claimed dominion over all of the world’s governments and institutions, and most of the world’s population had accepted the Reconstruction brand of Christianity.
The post-millennial twist offered hope to the pious that they could change things; it was a trumpet call to action.
That it was at odds with the great mass of Christian teachings was a matter of little concern for the Reconstructionists, who saw their heady mission as leading the new nation of God, and eventually presiding over all of the world’s affairs.
For pre-millennialists, the revolutionaries offered an opportunity to turbo-charge the traditional religious right.
Where many Christian churches were vocal in opposition to abortion, for example, Reconstruction-allied groups such as Operation Rescue were willing to field troops and attack the enemy. This not only emboldened conservative Christian activists, but it gave the Reconstructionists a chance to tell people: If you want to do God’s work, this needs to be God’s nation.
While mainstream pre-millennial churches recoil from the word “theocracy,” with its echoes of Islamic fundamentalism, conservative clergy are quite willing to advance programs that in incremental stages can lead to a religious dictatorship.
Rushdoony claimed to have 20 million followers — but Reconstructionists say many of their followers don’t know they’ve enlisted.
Although a nationwide movement with its nominal base in California, many of Reconstruction’s early adherents were based in affluent Atlanta suburbs. Pastor Joe Morecraft for three decades has led the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Cumming. (“Chalcedon,” which stems from an ecclesiastical council held in 451 A.D., is synonymous with the movement. The Rushdoony-founded Chalcedon Foundation in Vallecito, Calif., is the Holy See for Reconstruction.)
As a political movement, Reconstructionists often cite as their starting date a 1984 speech by DeMar. Others claim Aug. 10, 1993, as the day the movement kicked off. That’s when the Cobb County Commission voted to condemn homosexuals — and made itself an international pariah during Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic Games.
Also, one of the most prominent early Reconstructionists — and its first martyr — was Larry McDonald, the hyper-conservative Marietta congressman who was killed in 1983 by trigger-happy Russians who downed a commercial jetliner.
The core faith of Reconstruction is Calvinism — which during its early European history and in America’s Puritan colony, had got a taste of governing. Two conservative denominations, the Presbyterian Church in America (both the Midway and Chalcedon churches in Cobb County are affiliates) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are Reconstruction-occupied territory.
Those denominations deny that they foster extremists, and they say they abhor violence. It’s a matter of interpretation. North, for example, has vented, “How long do we expect God to withhold His wrath, if by crushing the humanists who promote mass abortion ... He might spare the lives of literally millions of innocents?” From there, it’s not a great distance to Paul Hill, executed last September for the 1994 murders of abortion clinic workers in Pensacola, Fla. Hill had been a minister for both ultra-Calvinist Presbyterian sects. (The Reconstruction movement shouldn’t be confused with mainstream Calvinist groups, such as the Presbyterian Church USA.)
A number of cross-denominational groups, including the Promise Keepers men’s movement and the militantly anti-abortion Operation Rescue (now called Operation Save America), were founded by Reconstruction disciples, although the groups seldom identified themselves as such.
Reconstruction isn’t shy about its motives and beliefs. But its tactics for growth are stealthy — aligning with and then recruiting people and groups who share concerns over, say, abortion or evolution.
How far has the doctrine spread? “The Reconstructionists have taken over the Southern Baptist Convention’s national leadership,” says Eternal Hostility author Clarkson. “And they’ve made great inroads into denominations such as the Assemblies of God, which in the past have been radically apolitical.”
Southern Baptist spokesman John Revell acknowledged that Reconstructionists and Baptists agree on many issues — from biblical infallibility to abortion to the primacy of men in the family and in church governance. But he denied the denomination is hell-bent on a dictatorship of the preachers.
Revell said, “Christian Reconstruction would be, in practical terms, a theocracy. People who agree with that would be a small minority” in his denomination. “The church should not resort to assuming civil power.”
Clarkson commented that Revell is “technically correct, but at the same time very wrong. Groups like the Southern Baptists won’t use the word ‘theocracy.’ What they do support is religious majoritarianism. They push a religious political agenda they believe is best for everyone. And when the litmus test for political office is a list of religious issues, that’s a problem for a society organized around religious pluralism. In the end, you end up with a society that is indistinguishable from the theocracy advocated by Reconstruction.”
Recruits to Reconstruction’s adopted causes soon find the movement has a blunt distaste for pluralism and democracy. North wrote in 1982 — in an effort to reach Baptists — “We must use the doctrine of religious liberty ... until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”
Freedom, then, will be no freedom.
Charlotte, N.C., is a town that takes its godliness seriously, naming one of its main thoroughfares after native son Billy Graham, and boasting a number of giant congregations that rival many of the city’s businesses in revenues.
Those mega-churches would seem fertile ground for Reconstruction and dominion theology. After all, the preachers shepherd congregations whose numbers could swing elections. But being conservative doesn’t always equate with favoring a religious dictatorship.
Dan Burrell, for example, presides over thousands of parishioners at Charlotte’s Northside Baptist Church, which sprawls across acres alongside Interstate 85 — but he has the in-touch humility of a small-congregation preacher. There is no glint of fanaticism in his eyes, but a bright sparkle of humor and intelligence. He doesn’t toss fire and brimstone, although he is unabashed in saying that a very literal — and very hot — hell awaits all who don’t accept Jesus.
His catechism: Ten Commandments in public buildings? Of course. Homosexuality? No. Abortion? Emphatically no. Public schools? Sending kids to the enemy. Evolution? The root of modern evil.
Burrell is most definitely political and conservative. He stands under the huge dome that covers his sanctuary, and says those moral issues define calling oneself a Christian. And he expects most of his parishioners will follow, in the voting booth, the direction he points his staff.
Burrell acknowledges that “Baptists were leading proponents of separation” of church and state. His interpretation of separation, however, is a “warning against the establishment of a particular denomination” as the state religion, not limiting Christian activism in the political realm.
Should the church dictate to government? The answer is surprising. “Absolutely not,” he says with unfeigned distaste. “Our job is to maintain the freedoms we have until Christ returns. But it isn’t the job of the church to replace government. That would be a theocracy.”
In 2000, the Republican Party of Texas signed onto an agenda that Reconstructionists would applaud as a critical first step toward theocracy. The GOP declared that it “affirms that the United States is a Christian nation.”
Last month, that sentiment reached the national level. The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 would acknowledge Christianity’s God as the “sovereign source” of our laws. It would reach back in history and reverse all judicial decisions that have built a wall between church and state, and it would prohibit federal judges from making such rulings in the future.
The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Zell Miller, the turncoat Georgia Democrat (and United Methodist), and several Republican colleagues, including South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham; in the House, the sponsors were all Republican, including Georgia’s Jack Kingston.
But the actual drafting was done by Herb Titus, best known recently as former Alabama Chief Justice Moore’s attorney. Titus also represents Georgia’s Barrow County in its effort to put the Ten Commandments in its courthouse. Titus has more than a little self-serving interest in the legislation. If passed, it would overturn the rulings that forced Titus’ most newsworthy client, Moore, from the bench.
Titus has an interesting pedigree. He has been the dean of the schools of law and public policy at Pat Robertson’s Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Although he says he isn’t a card-carrying Reconstructionist, his staple textbooks are tomes written by Rushdoony and North, whose Introduction to Christian Economics, for example, is touted as an academic answer to such evils as government involvement in financial affairs and long-term borrowing by consumers.
When Robertson launched his public policy school, with Titus at the helm, the televangelist proclaimed on his “700 Club” show, “What are we going to teach them? We’ll teach them the foundation of our government. We’re going to teach them how to win elections.”
At the heart of dominion beliefs — whether Boys’ gut-punching invective or Rushdoony’s and North’s complex theological contemplations — are two biblical passages. Genesis 1:28 commands men to have “dominion” over “every living thing.” Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, and Satan seized dominion. The church — the church sanctioned by the Reconstructionists, that is — claims it has a reconstituted covenant with God, and the right to a new dominion in his name.
Then, in Matthew 28:19-20, the “Great Commission,” Jesus commands his followers to proselytize to the world.
Put another way, for the dominion theologians, the motto is: We rule!
Starting from those verses, dominion theology preaches that government would be largely replaced by the church. Or, more precisely, three “governments” would emerge, according to Cobb County’s DeMar: the family, the state and the church. All three would be subject to strict religious oversight.
DeMar, North and other Reconstructionists believe the state should be limited to building and maintaining roads, enforcing land-use contracts, ensuring just weights and measures — and not much else.
Except, as DeMar writes in his book Liberty at Risk, “The State is God’s ‘minister,’ taking vengeance out on those who do evil,” a role eagerly embraced by the Bush administration. A major task for the Christian state would be to field armies to conquer in the name of Jesus.
As Jerry Falwell — not technically a Reconstructionist because of theological nuances, but a preacher who generally follows the movement’s tactical plan for creating a Christian government — proclaimed earlier this year, “God is pro-war.” And, Atlanta’s Rev. Charles Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and another dominion theology tagalong, was among the first in line wanting to dispatch his missionaries alongside American troops in Iraq.
Stanley wrote last year, “God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses it to accomplish His will.” That, of course, is balm to the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration.
As for the Reconstruction economy, it would be a libertarian’s dream — as long as biblical laws, such as prohibiting usury, were adhered to.
DeMar said last month, “There’s much (libertarian talk-show host) Neal Boortz and I agree on.” Primarily, government isn’t needed when it comes to economic issues.
Unions would be illegal, as would any government role in workplace safety. Employers could discriminate for any and all reasons. Minimum wage, unemployment benefits, Social Security, welfare — all history. Adios environmental protection laws, as well as regulation on who can call themselves a physician or lawyer.
Public schools are anathema. One of the great successes of Reconstruction has been promoting home-schooling programs. Home schooling is much broader than Reconstruction, of course. But Illinois Reconstructionist Paul Lindstrom has devised texts used by tens of thousands of home-schooling families.
The arena that generates the most attention — and shock — is dominion theology’s radical plans to make capital punishment part of America’s daily routine.
Ringgold’s Don Boys — who as a one-term Indiana state official in the 1970s authored legislation that restored capital punishment there — spoke cheerfully of a time when Americans will witness 10,000 executions a year. And Gary North suggests the method — stoning — because rocks are “cheap, plentiful and convenient.” Reconstructionists also favor other biblical forms of execution — burning, hanging and the sword.
Sins suitable for execution are those mentioned in the Old Testament. Interestingly, although male homosexuals would be among the first in line for the Reconstructionists’ gallows, lesbians would be exempted because no specific reference to executing them can be found in the Books of Moses.
Acts of the Apostles
Don’t dismiss the dominion theologians and their movement as fringe. Christian Reconstruction “has been the driving force behind the Christian right for some time,” says Daniel Levitas, an Atlanta author who follows extremist groups, many of whom, such as the racist “Christian Identity” sects, have found succor in the words of Rushdoony and his disciples.
The movement holds sway over a broad spectrum of conservative religion, and its power extends throughout local and federal governments. George Bush, for example, has called Reconstructionist Marvin Olasky “compassionate conservatism’s leading thinker.” Olasky, according to the New York Times, was one of Bush’s “original advisers” on the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives — but became a critic after the agency’s first director sought to rein in taxpayer-paid-for proselytizing.
Reconstruction’s spread is a classic case of “tentacle influence,” says Bill Berkowitz, a California journalist who has reported on Reconstructionists’ stealth attack on that state’s politics. One of the beneficiaries of the movement was California Sen. Tom McClintock, much of whose funding and campaign strategy came from Reconstruction heavyweights. McClintock was a moving force behind the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. The senator finished third in the election to replace Davis.
“I’m not saying everyone involved in conservative religious politics is a Reconstructionist,” Berkowitz says. “But, obviously, their ideological footprints overlap. You could argue that Rushdoony had no political following per se. But he had believers who carried his message into the political world.”
Gary North in 1989 candidly described his mission: “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit to the eternal sanctions of God ... must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”
Marietta’s Pastor Morecraft in 1993 proclaimed that the government he wants to create has this as its primary purpose: “Terrorize evil-doers. ... Bring down the wrath of God to bear on all those who practice evil.”
In America’s South, there’s fertile ground awaiting Reconstruction’s seeds. The region is deeply suspicious of the federal government, and Southerners have long had churches that defended their ideals — and prejudices. With Reconstruction, there’s a special, if ugly, attraction: overt and unapologetic racism.
Rushdoony wrote in 1973, “All men are not created equal; the facts ... make clear that they are not equal,” and “Segregation and separation is thus a basic principle of biblical law.”
Then, in 1970, he wrote, “The white man is being systematically indoctrinated into believing that he is guilty of enslaving and abusing the Negro.” The theologian concluded that blacks actually benefited from slavery — they were introduced to Christianity.
While gay marriage is now a hot button, Reconstruction would reopen old racial conflicts about who should be allowed at the altar. Rushdoony wrote in his Institutes that “The burden of biblical law is thus against inter-religious, inter-racial and inter-cultural marriage.”
Strong elements of anti-Semitism also are found in Reconstruction writings. North tells us that it is his movement’s “stated goal ... to preach the Gospel of salvation in Christ to the Jews, until not a trace of the traditional practices of Judaism remains.”
Even more dramatically, David Chilton, one of Reconstruction’s inner circle, has written, “The god of Judaism is the devil.”
Rushdoony opined about what he calls the “false witness” of Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust. He dismissed the accuracy of 6 million Jews being slain, suggesting it was likely only a fraction of that number, and he shrugs off Josef Mengele’s hideous human experiments as “a few sterilized women and a few castrated men.”
Down a winding, hard-to-find road near Kannapolis, N.C., is a compound. Its ostensible purpose is to house a business, Lincoln Log Homes International, but the circular huddle of buildings and the one-road access convey a feeling of, well, paranoia. Entering the office and announcing myself as a journalist, I watched as a receptionist scurried to close doors and employees found somewhere else to be other than near me.
There was a reason, as I’d find out.
The owners of Lincoln Log donate office space to one of dominion theology’s elite battalions, Operation Save America — previously known as Operation Rescue, which for decades has besieged abortion clinics around the nation. Its founder, Randall Terry, is departed — he fell into sin due to a “woman problem,” said his successor, Philip “Flip” Benham.
Many Americans have deep-rooted, sincere religious opposition to abortion, and many have been attracted to the civil disobedience of Operation Save America. Few of its grunt privates, however, understand the theology that moved Terry and is now articulated by Benham.
“There was always separation of church and state in the Bible,” says Benham, thumbing a well-worn Bible (“I go through two or three a year”). “They had different missions. But God appointed the church to be the conscience of the state, to run the state.”
Benham’s office is full of pictures of abortion protests. One photo shows him baptizing Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade who later became an ardent foe of abortion.
Outside Benham’s office, along Lincoln Log’s hallways, are more pictures. Featured prominently is former Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Checking records, it turns out that Lincoln Log’s CEO, Richard Schoff, was a true-blue supporter of Wallace, which isn’t surprising. Schoff also was once the leader of a faction of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. “I wouldn’t be today,” Schoff told me.
Schoff had other memberships, particularly with a group called the Council for National Policy. It was founded in 1981 as a project of John Birch Society leaders, including Marietta Congressman McDonald.
Other members included Rushdoony, Gary North, Tim LaHaye (now writing science-fiction/eschatology novels), Pat Robertson, Oliver North, radical right activist Paul Weyrich (who said when the group was founded that it is “working to overturn the present power structure of this country”) and Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly.
Another group was formed a year earlier — the Coalition on Revival — at the impetus of Christian Manifesto author Schaeffer. More public than the Council for National Policy, it shares many members.
Neither group is overtly Reconstructionist. But the Coalition on Revival has targeted 17 areas for Christian (as they define it) domination, including government, the economy and education.
With preachers such as Don Boys working the small churches, publishing houses such as DeMar’s cranking out scores of titles, and the Washington-based pressure groups pushing policies as diverse as the anti-gay marriage amendment and bills that would gut social and environmental programs, Christian Reconstruction has merged far-right politics and the most anti-democratic elements of the religious movement.
The University of Georgia’s Larson says it has gone unnoticed by many, perhaps the majority, of Americans for a simple reason. “A hundred years ago,” he says, “newspapers published the sermons preachers preached on Sunday. Everyone knew what the Baptists believed, or the Lutherans or the Presbyterians. That’s no longer the case. And it has worked to the benefit of Christian Reconstructionists as they doggedly pursued their goal.”
And that goal, Rushdoony wrote in 1973, “is the developed Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, a world order under God’s law.”