Christian Dominionism ~ Part 2: R.J. Rushdoony and The Ties that Bind Extremist Politics to Christian Patriarchy

by km

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Born in 1916 to Armenian immigrants in the United States, Rousas John Rushdoony was a Calvinist theologian whose fundamentalist teachings would provide the intellectual foundations for Christian Dominionism—or Christian Reconstructionism—in North America.  In his writings, Rushdoony laid the groundwork for the establishment of a Christian theocracy not unlike Calvin’s Geneva in the contemporary United States. Rushdoony’s multi-volume opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law, has provided much of the movement’s political framework.

Within these works, Rushdoony famously called for the executions of “homosexuals and unchaste women” as punishment for their alleged attempts to “subvert others and to subvert the social order by enticing others to idolatry.”  A well-known racist and anti-Semite, Rushdoony also stated that “all men are not created equal before God.”  Citing the controversial Biblical injunction against believers becoming “unequally yoked,” Rushdoony argued that interracial marriages should be banned under the law.  Moreover, he suggested that employers ought legally to be protected for religious discrimination against non-Christians.  Women do not even figure into Rushdoony’s injunctions for “Biblical employment,” for he felt that they should be legally barred from working and tasked with serving as “helpmeets” to their all-powerful husbands. 

Rushdoony today remains a popular figure among fundamentalist Quiverfull families.  He was an early proponent of the view that Christian families should homeschool their children in order to shelter them from secular schools in the United States.  Among other works, his Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum was heard as a rallying cry for parents who shared Rushdoony’s disdain for the evils of secular humanism.  For Rushdoony, the Christian homeschool was seen—almost literally—as a military training ground for the children who would become the foot soldiers in this war to replace the secular government of the United States with a fundamentalist one.  In defense of these goals, Rushdoony famously wrote that “Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.”

Today, most Christian homeschoolers have at some level been influenced by Rushdoony’s teachings.  Michael Farris’ Patrick Henry College for homeschoolers is a contemporary attempt to extend Rushdoony’s vision for Christian home education beyond the home—and into the realms of higher education.  It is a training ground designed to give students with homeschooling backgrounds the tools to achieve Rushdoony’s goals of extinguishing secular governance.  Despite its small numbers, Patrick Henry today fuels a higher percentage of graduates into federal internships and positions than any other university in the United States.   

Hardly the socially inept, awkward teenagers of common stereotype, these young people are armed with the intellectual tools to fight Rushdoony’s battle at the level of the federal government, and they have no intention of slowing down.  Indeed, today’s Christian Reconstructionists share a vision of state-sanctioned Christian patriarchy not unlike that evoked in Margaret Atwood’s now classic work, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Those of us with a commitment to democracy—and a will to subvert theirs—must familiarize ourselves with this belief system if we’re to have any hope of fighting it. 

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Biography: NLQ forum member, ”km” is a graduate student and activist who knew lots of Quiverfull families while growing up in the American South.   Having flirted with the movement as a young adolescent, she is now a little bit obsessed with unrooting its stranglehold on the American political system and keeping what remains of church/state separation intact.

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