What’s Real About Reconstructionism?
By John R. Coats,
Author of Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters
Think of it as the New American Dream, a vision carried by an increasing number of our fellow citizens. Followers of “Christian Reconstructionism,” the uber-right Dominionist sect started by Rousas John Rushdoony, author of The Institutes of Biblical Law, they are quietly, though energetically, working toward an American future in which the Constitution of the United States has been replaced by “600 or so Mosaic laws . . . the inflexible guide for the society [envisioned by Rushdoony’s disciple Gary] DeMar and other Reconstructionists.”
Don’t look for them in the news. Too bright a light on their advocacy, say, of public stonings as “community projects” would, no doubt, prove awkward. (Imagine one of those oh-so-reasonable talking-head debates on the evening news: “Community Stonings: Good for America? Yes or No? With us tonight are . . . “) Mostly, though, it’s because they are simply not in a hurry. As with the Nazis, for whom they’ve expressed admiration, whose crimes, their founder said, were overstated, whose 1923 Beer Hall Putsch suggested that winning through the ballot box was the superior strategy to open revolution, Christian Reconstructionism (in sync with others on the Christian Right) has been busy with a bottom up, and quite legal, deconstruction/reconstruction of the American Republic, and at so measured a pace that we hardly notice, beginning with grassroots control at the level of school boards, city councils, and such.
A case in point is the religious-right dominated Texas Education Commission’s rewriting of the classroom texts for the teaching of Texas and American history. State legislatures, too, with Texas, again, the example. In 2005, the Republican (read “religious right”) dominated legislature gerrymandered the districts in such a way that it is a near impossibility for Democrats to gain a majority. Yes, I know, Democrats have a history of this sort of behavior, as well. Then again, their efforts were driven merely by old-timey greed and power-happy politicians. History suggests that control in the hands of religious fanatics is another matter.
Still, an American theocracy? Seriously? How? You’d be surprised how easy it can be in a culture as distracted as ours. Owning the language is a must – – that is, the steady, purposeful shifting of meaning of the words by which we, as citizens, define ourselves. In his book, American Fascists, The Christian Right And The War On America, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges writes about the control of language, what he calls “‘logocide,’ the killing of words [in which] Code words of the old [secular] belief system [freedom, patriotism, liberty] are deconstructed and assigned diametrically opposed meanings.” He goes on to quote Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister and master of the tactic: “The best propaganda is that which . . . works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.”
To be sure, Christian Reconstructionists hardly fit the cliché of backwoods religious cult. They are smart, educated, well-funded, and growing in numbers, power, and influence. What they want, and diligently are working toward, is ridding America, then the world, of “the blasphemy of democracy.” Along with replacing the Constitution of the United States with biblical law, their agenda includes the return of “biblical” slavery, the closure of public schools, and the return of women to their proper, biblical place-what Rushdoony calls the man’s “help-meet.” Among those to be stoned as “community projects” (note how the horror is hidden beneath the familiarity of the term) are disrespectful teenagers, young women who lie about their virginity, adulterers, witches, blasphemers, and gay men.
It couldn’t happen here? In 2008, one of the primary litmus tests for Republican candidates for the Presidency of The United States was a public declaration of belief in the Bible’s literal truth. We can scoff all we like, but while American progressives, disappointed by Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s record, register their protest by not voting, Christian Reconstructionists and the rest of the Christian Right plan to go on electing to local, state, and national office men and women who believe-and intend that our children and grandchildren will believe-that democracy is blasphemy, that the earth and the universe are 6,000 years old, and that human children once rode dinosaurs.
What we too readily forget is that elections rarely reflect the overall will of the people, but are, instead, the result of which supporters of this or that candidate or cause show up and vote in the greatest numbers. Which is what the advocates of that New American Vision never forget, what they have been doing for most of the past three decades, and are ready to do again, and again . . . and again.
© 2010 John R. Coats, author of Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters
John R. Coats, author of Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters, holds his master’s degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal) and Bennington College Writing Seminars. A former parish priest, he was a principal speaker and seminar leader for the More To Life training program. He lives with his wife, Pamela, in Houston, Texas.
For more information please visit www.JohnRCoats.com and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.