Theocracy in America?
Untold numbers of books and articles have been written of late concerning the threat to American life by the Religious Right and other purveyor’s of theocracy. We’ve been warned that if these groups have their way,
The popular faces of theocratic tendencies have been folk like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and the late Jerry Falwell and the equally dead James D. Kennedy. In their writings and in their pronouncements they have railed against the spread of secularism and have called forth legions of Christians to make their voices and votes felt in transforming
When it comes to theocracy, the aforementioned preachers and psychologist (Dobson is psychologist not preacher) aren’t the intellectual founders of the theocratic voice. The person often pointed to as the foundation stone of the movement is an Armenian Orthodox Presbyterian pastor named Rousas John Rushdoony. Rushdoony has since passed on, but over the years he issued a series of books, pamphlets, articles, speeches, and more that offered a vision of American life that is at points quite scary. The question is: who is he and what is his message? Beyond that, what influence does he have on American religious and political life?
I’m neither expert on Rushdoony or the movements that are linked to him – movements that go by such names as Theonomy (divine law), Christian Reconstructionism, and Dominionism – but a
What is important to note from Worthen’s interpretation is Rushdoony’s strong distrust of government. He’s a libertarian and could even be considered tribalistic (my words not hers). He believes that biblical law should be instituted, but likely by communities not by something large like the
Rushdoony’s agenda is radical – but of course he’s no longer alive. He has, according to Worthen influenced numerous movements, but they have made their own adaptations of his views. Worthen has written an excellent examination of Rushdoony, his views, and his legacy. She points out his numerous weaknesses, but tries to set him in context. What she wants us to do is look a bit deeper and see what caused this to occur. She writes:
Believing Christians and secular observers alike have the responsibility to see Christian reconstructionism for what it is: a diagnosis of an acute illness in American religious culture, a strain of virulent intolerance that has been mistaken for intellectual consistency. But we can reject Rushdoony’s proposed solution while still granting that the crisis was real. (p. 436)
She also suggests that we consider his basic premise:
“(T)hat we moderns are guilty of the heresies condemned in the fifth century at
: we blur human and divine and worship man and his creations. This argument, too often lost in the shadows of his provocative proposals for social change, is the crux of his value for today’s readers. (p. 437) Chalcedon
I found Worthen’s article provocative and thoughtful. I’m not convinced that Rushdoony or his acolytes have the right prescription for American life, but we are best served when understand where a movement is coming from.
I welcome the thoughts of others as to the essay and the movement. Do I find him problematic? Yes. Are we in danger of theocracy? Probably not.