Stoning Rebellious Children? A Look At Dominionism

There’s a story going around the internet about a candidate for state office in Arkansas who wrote a book that argues, among other things, that parents should be able to have rebellious children executed. Here’s more:

Charlie Fuqua, the Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives who called forexpelling Muslims from the United States in his book, also wrote in support for instituting the death penalty for “rebellious children.”

In “God’s Law,” Fuqua’s 2012 book, the candidate wrote that while parents love their children, a process could be set up to allow for the institution of the death penalty for “rebellious children,” according to the Arkansas Times. Fuqua, who is anti-abortion, points out that the course of action involved in sentencing a child to death is described in the Bible and would involve judicial approval. While it is unlikely that many parents would seek to have their children killed by the government, Fuqua wrote, such power would serve as a way to stop rebellious children.

Here’s a longer quote as well:

The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children. I cannot think of one instance in the Scripture where parents had their child put to death. Why is this so? Other than the love Christ has for us, there is no greater love then that of a parent for their child. The last people who would want to see a child put to death would be the parents of the child. Even so, the Scripture provides a safe guard to protect children from parents who would wrongly exercise the death penalty against them. Parents are required to bring their children to the gate of the city. The gate of the city was the place where the elders of the city met and made judicial pronouncements. In other words, the parents were required to take their children to a court of law and lay out their case before the proper judicial authority, and let the judicial authority determine if the child should be put to death. I know of many cases of rebellious children, however, I cannot think of one case where I believe that a parent had given up on their child to the point that they would have taken their child to a court of law and asked the court to rule that the child be put to death. Even though this procedure would rarely be used, if it were the law of land, it would give parents authority. Children would know that their parents had authority and it would be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.

In other words, Fuqua has gleaned his ideas about stoning rebellious children from his reading of the Bible or, more particularly, the Old Testament. And this is where my commentary comes in.

I’ve written a bit before about Dominionism and Reconstructionism. I think a distinction between the two is in order, because I think the two are too often elided. To put it simply, Dominionism is the wider category, including Christians whose ideas about the role of religion in government range from innocuous to extreme, and Reconstructionism is a subset within it.

Dominionism is the idea that God has commanded Christians to “take dominion” over the earth. Many other religions have a similar mandate. Dominionists believe they are to work to create a society that reflects their religious ideals. They want to create a Christian society. However, it’s important to remember that most dominionists don’t actually want a theocracy, and most don’t condone the use of force. While dominionism forms the foundation of the Christian Right, most dominionists don’t see changing society as primarily about a top-down political change. Many dominionists see winning converts through evangelism and thus spreading Christianity and Christian values as the most important aspect of taking dominion. This is why many dominionists see cultural arenas like television and the arts as critically important areas of focus. In general, dominionists’ ideal society is very like a highly idealized version of the 1950s where families stay together, mothers are happy homemakers, everyone has a job (all the males, that is), and people dress like they do in Mad Men.

Christian Reconstructionism is a subset of dominionism that has as its goal a society based on Old Testament law. See the difference? It’s a pretty big difference. Reconstructionists want to return to a world where rebellious children are stoned, gay people are stoned, adulterers are stoned, and, well, you’re starting to get the idea. They take a literal interpretation of Old Testament law and make that their guidebook. The majority of America’s evangelicals and fundamentalists absolutely object to this kind of thing. Why? Because they believe that Jesus overturned Old Testament law, meaning that it is no longer valid. In contrast, some Reconstructionists argue that Old Testament law is still in effect while others say that though it’s not mandatory anymore it’s still God’s ideal.

While there are lots of dominionists there are very few Reconstructionists. Charlie Fuqua, however, is clearly one of them.

Rousas Rushdoony is widely regarded as the founder of Reconstructionism (For more on Rushdoony, see this wiki article). He and his son-in-law Gary North have been some of its strongest proponents. North is the author of this little nugget:

Why stoning? There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost…executions are community projects–not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do `his’ duty, but rather with actual participants…That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the reintroduction of stoning for capital crimes indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians.

There are also ties between Reconstructionism and the Christian homeschool movement, most especially the Christian Patriarchy segment. For one thing, most Reconstructionists argue that homeschooling is a divine mandate. For another thing, Rushdoony has been a key influence on a lot of Christian homeschool curriculum. The Christian Patriarchy movement has strong ties with Reconstructionism. Bill Gothard, for instance, argues that while Old Testament law is no longer in effect it’s still the best way to do things, or else God wouldn’t have given it in the first place. He even advocates returning to Old Testament purity standards regarding menstruation and how long to wait after birth before sex can take place. Doug Phillips of Vision Forum sells Rousas Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law with a ringing endorsement.

Of course, the ties between homeschooling and dominionism are even stronger, especially through institutions like Home School Legal Defense, Teen Pact, and Generation Joshua. Indeed, the most prominent Christian homeschool leader, Michael Farris, is very open about his dominionism. He frequently tells homeschool parents that they are the Moses generation, taking their children out of Egypt and educating them in the wilderness, and that their children are the Joshua generation who will retake the land for God. Farris founded Patrick Henry University for just this purpose: training homeschool graduates in government, education, and film so that they can go forth and take dominion, spreading a Christian influence through all segments of society. Of course, unlike Rushdoony or North, Farris does not believe in re-instituting Old Testament law.

While dominionism generally involves a troubling and often problematic mixture of politics and religion, Reconstructionism is, quite simply, breathtakingly frightening.

So there you have it. Hopefully this brief introduction to dominionism and Reconstructionism provides some helpful background to Charlie Fuqua, his book, and his candidacy.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.