Christian Reconstruction

Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism

Michael J. McVicar
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 326
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469622750_mcvicar
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  • Book Info
    Christian Reconstruction
    Book Description:

    This is the first critical history of Christian Reconstruction and its founder and champion, theologian and activist Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001). Drawing on exclusive access to Rushdoony's personal papers and extensive correspondence, Michael J. McVicar demonstrates the considerable role Reconstructionism played in the development of the radical Christian Right and an American theocratic agenda. As a religious movement, Reconstructionism aims at nothing less than "reconstructing" individuals through a form of Christian governance that, if implemented in the lives of U.S. citizens, would fundamentally alter the shape of American society.McVicar examines Rushdoony's career and traces Reconstructionism as it grew from a grassroots, populist movement in the 1960s to its height of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. He reveals the movement's galvanizing role in the development of political conspiracy theories and survivalism, libertarianism and antistatism, and educational reform and homeschooling. The book demonstrates how these issues have retained and in many cases gained potency for conservative Christians to the present day, despite the decline of the movement itself beginning in the 1990s. McVicar contends that Christian Reconstruction has contributed significantly to how certain forms of religiosity have become central, and now familiar, aspects of an often controversial conservative revolution in America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2276-7
    Subjects: Religion, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION Children of Moloch: Christian Reconstruction, the State, and the Conservative Milieu
    (pp. 1-17)

    In 1945, on the isolated Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada, a young Presbyterian missionary named Rousas John Rushdoony had an idea. He believed that the troubles of the reservation’s Paiute and Shoshone inhabitants were directly linked to the poor education they received in the reservation schools. He called his flock together to discuss the matter. During the meeting, “[i]t was decided that the present government-controlled school board was highly unsatisfactory.”¹ One of the church’s elders was “the sole Indian on the Board,” so Rushdoony suggested that another tribal elder should run. But the reverend’s goals were more ambitious than...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Glory Is Departed: Political Theology, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the Early Ministry of Rousas John Rushdoony
    (pp. 18-45)

    “Only a lazy son-of-a-bitch wants rights,” Pete, a twenty-eight-year-old Paiute Indian, declared to Presbyterian missionary Rousas John Rushdoony. “A man wants freedom and justice, and he can take care of himself,” Pete angrily concluded.¹ On New Year’s Day 1946, Reverend Rushdoony had accepted a dinner invitation from Pete and his younger sister and brother. The small, parentless family lived in a humble two-room adobe and log cabin on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation near Owyhee, Nevada.

    After dinner, Pete and Rushdoony talked long into the night about the problems facing Native Americans on the reservation. As the night wore on,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Anti-Everything Agenda: Sectarianism, Remnants, and the Early American Conservative Movement
    (pp. 46-78)

    On August 10, 1964, a staffer at the William Volker Company handed Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Warren W. Richmond a copy of Rousas John Rushdoony’s personnel file. The FBI had taken a keen interest in Rushdoony. He was ethnically Armenian, and his family—displaced by World War I—had escaped through Czarist Russia and sought refuge in the United States. Rushdoony subscribed toPeople’s World, a communist daily. He received mailings from the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.¹ He claimed to be a preacher and public lecturer.

    The FBI liked keeping tabs on figures like Rushdoony...

  7. CHAPTER THREE A Christian Renaissance: The Chalcedon Foundation, Families, and the War against the State
    (pp. 79-105)

    Shortly after being fired from the Center for American Studies, Rushdoony asked Gary North, a college intern at the center and Rushdoony’s future son-in-law, to pray for Harold Luhnow, the center’s ailing chief. “Confidentially,” Rushdoony wrote North, “be in prayer with respect to the Center. Mr. Luhnow has been seriously ill, enough to endanger the future of the Center, and has been turning his thoughts towards orthodox Christianity more and more. I believe that if he truly accepts the faith, great changes may ensue. His illness is more or less a secret.”¹ But Rushdoony did not wait for prayer—or...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Lex Rex: Neoevangelicalism, Biblical Law, Dominion
    (pp. 106-141)

    In the spring of 1967, as he built the infrastructure for the Chalcedon Foundation, R. J. Rushdoony had a conversation with an incarcerated gang leader. An earlyNewsletterrecorded Rushdoony’s characterization of the criminal as a “very brilliant young college student” who drank deeply from the fetid springs of modern, humanistic education. In college, the student learned evolutionary theory and theoretical physics. He read existential philosophy. After some reflection, the young man, having “more epistemological self-consciousness” than his wealthy, prominent parents, concluded that the universe is the product of random contingency and, therefore, bound by “no absolute law.”¹ Further, philosophical...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Dominion Men: The New Christian Right, Christian Activism, Theology, and the Law
    (pp. 142-177)

    With the publication ofThe Institutes of Biblical Lawin 1973, R. J. Rushdoony emerged as a national figure among theologically and socially conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists. In a March 1974Christianity Todayreview, theologian Harold O. J. Brown declared, “Without a doubt, the most impressive theological work of 1973 is Rousas J. Rushdoony’sInstitutes of Biblical Law, a compendious treatment of a whole gamut of questions in governmental, social, and personal ethics from the perspective of the principle of law and the purpose of restoration of divine order in a fallen world.”¹ This acknowledgement of Rushdoony’s mammoth theological work...

  10. CHAPTER SIX American Heretics: Democracy, the Limits of Religion, and the End of Reconstruction
    (pp. 178-216)

    On October 4, 1982, the U.S. Congress “authorized and requested” President Ronald Reagan “to designate 1983 as a national ‘Year of the Bible.’” Public Law 97-280 resolved that “our nation” needed “to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures” to the problems of the new decade. Fittingly, Reagan publicly fulfilled Congress’s request at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on February 3, 1983. In the official statement, Proclamation 5018, Reagan declared: “The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis for the Founding Fathers’ abiding belief in the inalienable rights of the individual, rights which they found...

  11. CONCLUSION To a Thousand Generations: Governance and Reconstruction
    (pp. 217-232)

    During the 1990s, R. J. Rushdoony’s health rapidly deteriorated. His hearing and eyesight began to fail. In a visit to his doctor in 1986, he learned that an ear infection would likely leave him mostly deaf.¹ Further treatment revealed that his lifelong habit of sleeping “2½–4 hours only” a night was related to chronic infections and other ear disorders he had experienced since he was three years old.² Tests run in 1990 indicated that Rushdoony was suffering from high cholesterol and had developed type-2 diabetes.³ He continued to testify in court cases after the diagnosis, but his appearances became...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 233-276)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 277-296)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 297-309)