The Daily Beast examines Ron Paul’s Reconstructionist roots

Last week, I reported that Ron Paul hired Mike Heath (is he still AFTAH board chair?), and that Ron Paul touted an endorsement from an Omaha pastor who wants to implement Mosaic law, complete with executions for gays, adulterers and delinquent children.

Today, the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg examines the topic and notes that many evangelicals who are coming Paul’s way today in Iowa lean toward the Reconstructionist side of the evangelical world.  The other interesting aspect of her article is the brief examination of the difference between dispensational and covenant theologies. The covenant folks believe that the Church is a replacement of sorts for Israel and that the Church will bring back the Kingdom of God on Earth. Dispensationalists believe that God will keep his promises to Israel and will remove the Church from the Earth during the “rapture” thus setting the stage for the coming Kingdom of God.

Often dispensationalists think political action is pointless since the world is coming to a bad end. Covenant adherents, among which are Reconstructionists, think that political takeover is necessary. One can see how the New Apostolic Reformation can work with the Christian Reconstructionists. However, as I pointed out last week, they part company over political ends. Reconstructionists favor a decentralized central government which would allow them to set up enclaves where Christian law dominates. New Apostolic Reformationists (e.g., Lou Engle, Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs) want the law at the Federal level to reflect Christian teaching in order to offset the judgment of God on the nation.

Does it seem odd and perhaps disconcerting that one must understand the nuances of Christian eschatology in order to understand what is happening in the GOP race for the nomination? Some reporters, like Goldberg, Pema Levy and Benjy Sarlin at TPM are getting it. I know Sarah Posner with Religion Dispatches is in Iowa today and she gets it. The gentlemen over at Right Wing Watch get it.

Do evangelical writers get it? Gentle reader, please enlighten me if I have missed it, but I cannot recall an evangelical writer or news source examining end times theology (and all it involves) as an influence on political theory.

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  • Kyle

    Maybe they get it, but eschatological frameworks are so ensconced in their thinking about politics that they don’t see it as noticeable or significant?

  • Lynn David

    Gentle? At least since the 2000 elections (perhaps before) it has been clear to me that what is nothing better than a delusion (my apologies to the APA guidelines) is driving the thought of some of the more overtly-fanatical Christians in American politics.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    Warren, thanks for the handy summary of the terminology (Dispensationalist, Reconstructionist, Reformationist) that can be perplexing to those of us who have never been affiliated with Evangelical Protestant Christianity in its myriad forms!

    Two questions for Warren or anyone else from an Evangelical background (assuming the questions can be answered in 50 words or less without opening a huge can of worms):

    (1) How do the terms “pre-millennialist” and “post-millennialist” map onto all of the above? I mean, I understand that these terms relate to End Times chronology and the anticipated order in which the Second Coming of Christ, the Rapture, and the 1000-year earthly kingdom of Christ are supposed to occur. And from what you wrote above, it appears that Dispensationalists believe in a pre-millennial Rapture. But does this mean that Covenant folks are post-millennialists?

    (2) What about “Dominionism” — is it best understood as a separate category from Reconstructionist, Reformationist, etc., or is it more of a catch-all term? (I’m mentally drawing Venn diagrams and trying to figure out if it’s the case that “All Reconstructionists are Dominionists, but not all Dominionists are Reconstructionists,” or whatever.)

    Sign me, Flummoxed in Fairfax

  • Patrocles

    Every Christian – if he is a Christian at all – has a standpoint in matters of eschatalogy. It’s hardly a specialty of evangelicals.

    A lot of Christians will sympathize with the idea that Christians are to build Christian enclaves (take Stanley Hauerwas for example). Only they would not underwrite that those enclaves are to spread and to become a big nation.

    This is not a blog for atheists only, and I resent that eschatological matters are presented here as if they were absurd.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Patrocles – The blog is mine. I am not an atheist. I did not present anything as though it was absurd. But I will critique ideas that would support executions of people simply for exercising their personal freedom with no cost to anyone else’s freedom.

  • http://www.talk2action.org Bruce Wilson

    Hi Warren – I’d note that the website I co-founded with Frederick Clarkson, Talk To Action ( http://www.talk2action.org ) has featured writing on eschatology and politics since its inception in late 2005. Best, BruceW

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Bruce – That was a significant omission for sure. Sorry about that.

  • Teresa

    Patrocles said:

    This is not a blog for atheists only, and I resent that eschatological matters are presented here as if they were absurd.

    What a leap you’ve taken, Patrocles, what judging. I am not an atheist; and, I suspect most people are not atheists on this Blog … which matters not, after all.

    Eschatology is present in all religions, not just Evangelical Christianity. The Jewish Religion has an eschatology, as does Islam; and, certainly the Catholic Church has its own version of end-times. Does the Mayan Calendar represent their own version of eschatology, end-times?

    Patrocles, are you reading another Blog, that you’re so incensed about comments here?

  • StraightGrandmother

    Bruce Wilson, I DO like the Statement of Purpose on your blog

  • Throbert McGee

    Does the Mayan Calendar represent their own version of eschatology, end-times?

    Not for actual Mayans, it doesn’t! The 21 Dec 2012 date that a lot of people are so het up about was merely the date on which year-numbering system of the Mayan calendar would “roll over”, like a car odometer that’s at 999999 and then goes back to 000000. This roll-over may have had festive significance for the Mayans (the way that 31 Dec 1999 did for us), or it may have been seen as a transition between historical eras (the way that some New Agers and enthusiasts of Western astrology find significance in the so-called* “end of the Piscean Age and the start of the Aquarian Age”).

    But for Mayans, it wasn’t eschatological in the sense marking “the end of earthly human history”.

    P.S. “So-called” because even though the Age of Aquarius jive is very loosely based on a real astronomical phenomenon called “precession of the spring equinox“, there’s no non-arbitrary border in the sky delineating where Pisces ends and Aquarius ends.

  • Throbert McGee

    Responding to Patroclus: I would agree that Warren somewhat overstated the case here:

    Does it seem odd and perhaps disconcerting that one must understand the nuances of Christian eschatology in order to understand what is happening in the GOP race for the nomination?

    I don’t think it’s really necessary to understand Christian eschatology here; though understanding it can shed some light on how some Christian voters think about politics. But it’s more revealing about these voters than it is about the candidates/politicians themselves. (In this case, it helped to clear up the seeming paradox of highly anti-libertarian Christians backing a candidate — Paul — who is frequently described as libertarian.)

    I’m reminded that in the Dubya years, and especially in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, some of the loopier leftists were claiming that Bush wanted to start WWIII in order to trigger the events of the End Times. Obviously, events have abundantly shown that Bush hoped for a short and easy war, not a gigantic history-ending one. But even though these leftists were totally wrong in their accusation — they were projecting their own biased assumptions about Evangelicals onto Bush’s personal thinking — I can certainly agree that it would seem “odd and disconcerting” to me if I sincerely believed that a President was basing foreign policy decisions on the Book of Revelation.

    (But particularly so if a President was a Left Behind reader who anticipates the “End TImes” coming in the relatively near future — after all, I want a President whose policy views are concerned with long-term thinking about where the US will be relative to China in 2100. But if a President’s eschatology assumes that the Second Coming will probably not occur for thousands of years, I’m automatically less concerned about how his theology influences his policy!)

    However, there’s nothing O&D in the fact that (some) voters would factor eschatology into their thinking when they vote. Why should they do otherwise, when — as both Patrocles and Teresa noted — eschatology is important in many highly diverse religions?

    P.S. Santorum also attacked Lawrence v. Texas and supports “states’ rights” to criminalize consensual adult sodomy — just as Reconstructionists do. But does it help you better understand Santorum’s position by examining his eschatology? I’m not sure that it does, since Roman Catholic eschatology doesn’t situate the events of Revelation in the fairly near future, “before this generation has passed,” etc.

  • Throbert McGee

    Oops:

    there’s no non-arbitrary border in the sky delineating where Pisces ends and Aquarius ends begins.

    Also, incidentally, the only non-arbitrary part — from a scientific, astronomical perspective — is that the entire precessional cycle is roughly 26,000 years long; so dividing the circle of the zodiac into 12 equal sectors of 30 degrees, each “zodiacal age” comes out to a bit over 2150 years long.

    Thus, if you arbitrarily declared that the “Age of Aquarius” began at Woodstock in 1969 AD, then the start of the “Age of Capricorn” would be (by simple and non-arbitrary arithmetic) circa 4100-4150 AD. But you could just as justifiably claim that the Aquarian Age began in 1500 AD, or 1800, or 2500, and add (roughly) 2,150 to any of these dates for the start of the Capricornian Age.

    Or, add 26,000 years to find the approximate start of the NEXT “Age of Aquarius.” (Long wait, hippies!)


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