at Alternet, titled Michele Bachmann Was Inspired By My Dad and His Christian Reconstructionist Friends -- Here's Why That's Terrifying. It is, for an online piece, long.
But remember, Schaeffer was there at the creation of the modern religious right. His father, Francis Schaeffer, was one of its most important figures. He saw the rising influence of Rousas Rushdoony and that man's son-in-law Gary North.
(If you prefer not to page through 6 separate screens, there is a single-page version here)
Let me offer a paragraph that caught my eye:
America has a problem: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. America has a blessing: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. How does this blessing coexist with the curse derived from the same source: the Bible? The answer is that the Bible is a curse or a blessing depending on who is doing the interpreting. Sometimes belief in the Bible leads to building a hospital. Sometimes it leads to justifying perpetual war and empire building. Same book—different interpretation.
What we are seeing is that leaders of Christian Reconstructionism and its offspring the New Dominion Project are insisting upon one interpretation which their leaders will determine. This is actually a betrayal of Luther's approach, because he translated the bible into German so that the ordinary Christian could read it and interpret it for himself.
Further, the approach is rooted in the dualism of an extreme form of Calvinism.
And it ignores both the Jewish understanding of its scripture, and traditions of Bilbical understanding in the Catholic and Orthodox churches which go back to Christianity's beginnings, whereas the particular strand of Christianity represented in Reconstructionism is rooted first in early 20th Century America, then developed somewhat in the middle of the Century, and which exploded after Roe v Wade.
Schaeffer is writing in the aftermath of the Ryan Lizza New Yorker piece on Michele Bachmann (about which I wrote here on Monday) which he says gives an incomplete picture. Since one of the things Bachmann credits with making her an activist was seeing films for which he was responsible, thus he apparently feels an equal responsibility to explain what this all means.
He does not think Christian Reconstructionists will take over either the entire world or America, nor does he think Bachmann will become president. He does think they have reshaped our political landscape in a way most Americans do not understand, in fact, many Evangelical Christians who are not part of the Reconstructionist movement do not understand.
Rushdoony actually asked Frankie Schaeffer to meet with him after seeing some of his work. He was in many ways a scary man. Schaeffer went to Vallecito CA (in Calaveras County, Bret Hart territory) to meet with him. Let me share two relevant paragraphs:
When we talked, Rushdoony talked about “secular America” as if it were an enemy state, not our country. He talked about how “we” should all use cash, never credit cards, since cards would make it “easy for the government to track us.” Rushdoony spoke passionately about the virtues of gold, how very soon the conflict between the Soviet Union and America would lead to war. Rushdoony also noted that Vallecito was “well located to survive the next war” given “the prevailing wind directions” and its water supply.
The message of Rushdoony’s work is best summed up in one of his innumerable Chalcedon Foundation position papers, “The Increase of His Government and Peace.” He writes, “The ultimate and absolute government of all things shall belong to Christ.” In his book Thy Kingdom Come—using words that are similar to those the leaders of al Qaida would use decades later in reference to “true Islam”—Rushdoony argues that democracy and Christianity are incompatible: “Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life,” he writes. “One [biblical] 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.”
Schaeffer points out that even the Puritans saw a role for government in things like
“king’s highway,” a common road system protected by the crown (government) and a common law that applied to all. One’s common duty to others was accepted as the essential message of Christian civilization. Public spaces were defended by government in the early New England settlements, just as they had been in England.He notes that relatively early Christianity became a supporter of strong central governments - although in fairness, in the East it was in companionship with a Government over which it attempted to exercise a fair amount of control in a relationship the late John Meyendorff described as the Byzantine Symphony. Clearly by the high Middle Ages heading into the Renaissance Popes often though of themselves either as the superiors to secular rulers like Emperors, or as in the case of Julius II their equals in asserting power over a territory they themselves directly governed.
I will not go through the entire Schaeffer piece. It is somewhat long, but well worth the read, because of his intimate knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
Let me offer this 2-paragraph excerpt:
In the scorched-earth post-Roe era of the “health care reform debates” of 2009 and beyond, evangelicals seemed to believe that Jesus commanded that all hospitals (and everything else) should be run by corporations for profit, just because corporations weren’t the evil government. The right even decided that it was “normal” for the state to hand over its age-old public and patriotic duties to private companies—even for military operations (“contractors”), prisons, health care, public transport, and all the rest.
The religious right/far right et al. favored private “facts,” too. They claimed that global warming wasn’t real. They asserted this because scientists (those same agents of Satan who insisted that evolution was real) were the ones who said human actions were changing the climate. Worse, the government said so, too!
And we should understand what some of these people want - their version of Christianity governing. Let me offer two paragraphs about Gary North, son-in-law of Rushdoony:
Once Christians are in charge, according to Gary North, rather than turning the other cheek to our enemy, we “should either bust him in the chops or haul him before the magistrate, and possibly both.” North adds, “It is only in a period of civil impotence that Christians are under the rule to ‘resist not evil.’”
How far would the Reconstructionists go? North, writes, “The question eventually must be raised: Is it a criminal offence to take the name of the Lord in vain? When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime (Exodus. 21:17). The son or daughter is under the lawful jurisdiction of the family. The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death. Clearly, cursing God (blasphemy) is a comparable crime, and is therefore a capital crime (Leviticus. 24:16).”
These are the people who rant against Sharia Law in the US, yet what they are proposing is their own equivalent.
Ultimately they do not believe in Democracy.
They certainly do not believe in separation of church and state, they believe the state as it exists should be an arm of the church as they define that.
It becomes very easy to see how their thinking leads to a rejection of public schools - because public schools, as poor a job as they do of instructing it - do inculcate some sense of the principles of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the latter containing the no establishment and free exercise clauses that they find objectionable.
It is of course ludicrous to think that the Founders were establishing a Christian (as they understand that term) nation, especially given that any honest reading of the words of the likes of Washington, Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson would mean those men would be considered blasphemers by most of the Reconstructionists. But you cannot persuade the American people by bashing the heroes of our founding, so it becomes important to reshape the understanding of these men, by distorting history, by excluding wherever possible the access to interpretations that undercut their goal.
It becomes easy to see why some, for example in the New Apostolic Reformation so associated with Rick Perry, want to destroy artifacts of other cultures - there have been examples of destroying Native American artifacts, and one of their leaders has described the Statue of Liberty as "demonic" because it came from France. I easily find two parallels to this kind of thinking, the first in the Iconoclasts of the Eastern Church. The second is the destruction of the Buddhas in Bamiyan by the Taliban.
We need to know the shape of the enemy. We need to understand their thinking and motivation. Anyone who has ever read Sun Tzu will understand the importance of that. Given the particular strand of religion involved, Schaeffer is an essential guide - he lived it, he helped create it, and now he is doing all he can to stop it, dismantle it.
Read his piece. It will upset you, which is good, because it might help clarify your thinking.