U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (center) raises the hand of his right wing preacher father, Rafael Cruz (right).
It’s no coincidence that in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” that I have my character “Billy” masturbating while he listens to his godly wife read out loud from a book by the guru of all evangelical Dominionist/Reconstructionists– Rousas Rushdoony. The evangelical world has been metaphorically jacking off to the Rushdoony/Ted Cruz/Koch brothers’ political God-hates-everybody-but-us-chosen-few porn for over forty years. Now with the government shutdown they have finally achieved political orgasm.
Ted Cruz father has called President Obama out for “siding with Muslims” and claimed heath care reform would lead to death panels. Chris Hedges writing in Truthdig, explores the connection between the religious right, the Dominionist/Reconstructionists and the Tea Party that’s brought us the shutdown. He writes: “There is a desire felt by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, to… radically diminish the role of government to create a theocratic state based on ‘biblical law’… Its public face is on display in the House of Representatives.”
This ideology, which is the driving force behind the shutdown of the government, calls for the eradication of social “deviants,” beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these “deviants” are removed, other “deviants,” including Muslims, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as “nominal Christians” — meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible — will also be ruthlessly repressed.
The “deviant” government bureaucrats, the “deviant” media, the “deviant” schools and the “deviant” churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these “deviants” will be annulled. “Christian values” and “family values” will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions. Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church. Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz—whose father is Rafael Cruz, a rabid right-wing Christian preacher and the director of the Purifying Fire International ministry—and legions of the senator’s wealthy supporters, some of whom orchestrated the shutdown, are rooted in a radical Christian ideology known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism. This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.” It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism.
The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it — its leaders champion small government and a large military, as if the military is not part of government — and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.
The cult of masculinity, as in all fascist movements, pervades the ideology of the Christian right. The movement uses religion to sanctify military and heroic “virtues,” glorify blind obedience and order over reason and conscience, and pander to the euphoria of collective emotions. Feminism and homosexuality, believers are told, have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Antichrist, attacking hypocrites and ultimately slaying nonbelievers.
This cult of masculinity, with its glorification of violence, is appealing to the powerless. It stokes the anger of many Americans, mostly white and economically disadvantaged, and encourages them to lash back at those who, they are told, seek to destroy them. The paranoia about the outside world is fostered by bizarre conspiracy theories, many of which are prominent in the rhetoric of those leading the government shutdown. Believers, especially now, are called to a perpetual state of war with the “secular humanist” state. The march, they believe, is irreversible. Global war, even nuclear war, is the joyful harbinger of the Second Coming. And leading the avenging armies is an angry, violent Messiah who dooms billions of apostates to death.
Dominionists believe they are engaged in an epic battle against the forces of Satan. They live in a binary world of black and white. They feel they are victims, surrounded by sinister groups bent on their destruction. They have anointed themselves as agents of God who alone know God’s will. They sanctify their rage. This rage lies at the center of the ideology.
It leaves them sputtering inanities about Barack Obama, his corporate-sponsored health care reform bill, his alleged mandated suicide counseling or “death panels” for seniors under the bill, his supposed secret alliance with radical Muslims, and “creeping socialism.” They see the government bureaucracy as being controlled by “secular humanists” who want to destroy the family and make war against the purity of their belief system. They seek total cultural and political domination.
All ideological, theological and political debates with the radical Christian right are useless. It cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. Its adherents are using the space within the open society to destroy the open society itself. Our naive attempts to placate a movement bent on our destruction, to prove to it that we too have “values,” only strengthen its supposed legitimacy and increase our own weakness.
Dominionists have to operate, for now, in what they see as the contaminated environment of the secular, liberal state. They work with the rest of us only because they must. Given enough power—and they are working hard to get it—any such cooperation will vanish. They are no different from the vanguard described by Lenin or the Islamic terrorists who shaved off their beards, adopted Western dress and watched pay-for-view pornography in their hotel rooms the night before hijacking a plane for a suicide attack. The elect alone, like the Grand Inquisitor, are sanctioned to know the truth. And in the pursuit of their truth, they have no moral constraints.
….The rise of Christian fascism is aided by our complacency. The longer we fail to openly denounce and defy bankrupt liberalism, the longer we permit corporate power to plunder the nation and destroy the ecosystem, the longer we stand slack-jawed before the open gates of the city waiting meekly for the barbarians, the more we ensure their arrival.
Most Evangelicals are positively moderate by comparison to the Dominionist/Reconstructionists. But the Reconstructionist movement is a distilled essence of the more mainstream Evangelical version of an exclusionary theology that divides America into the “Real America” (as the Far Right claims only it is) and the rest of us “Sinners.” It also is the base of the Koch brothers financed war on our democracy.
And it was those “Real Americans” who were Bush’s base and are now the Koch brothers-financed Tea Party base empowering Ted Cruz as he carries out his father’s dream of destroying the government in order to put God in charge of America. I explore Cruz-style religious delusion in my new book And God Said, “Billy!”. Since religious delusion is at the heart of the American crisis, and since Billy! is the most thorough exploration of right wing religious delusion that’s been written – at least by a former religious right insider who can also write a funny book – it’s a good answer to this question: “Who ARE these people?”
If you don’t understand the Reconstructionist worldview you will never understand what Ted Cruz and the other American Taliban fanatics are or what animates them. The leaders of the Reconstructionist movement included the late Rousas Rushdoony (Calvinist theologian, father of modern-era Christian Reconstructionism, patron saint to gold-hoarding haters of the Federal Reserve, and creator of the modern Evangelical homeschool movement), his son-in-law Gary North (an economist and publisher), and David Chilton (Calvinist pastor and author). I knew and worked with these men. No, the Reconstructionists are not about to take over America, the world, or even most American Evangelical institutions. They had their day, and it has passed. Ted Cruz will fail. But he’ll hurt us all as he passes off the stage.
The Reconstructionists will fail but their influence has not abated, however. It’s just taken new forms in the Koch brother attempt to hijack America for Ayn Rand. The Reconstructionists have been like a drop of radicalizing flavoring added to a bottle of water: They’ve subtly changed the water’s flavor and — like John the Baptist — prepared the way for the true masters of the universe like the Koch brothers. And even though most Evangelicals, let alone the general public, don’t know the names of the leading Reconstructionist thinkers, the world we live in—where a radicalized, angry Religious Right has changed the face of American politics and spun off into movements such as the Tea Party—is a direct result of that “flavoring.” Anyone who wants to understand American politics, not to mention North American religion, had better get acquainted with the Reconstructionists.
Until Rushdoony, founder and late president of the Chalcedon Foundation, began writing in the 1960s, most American fundamentalists (including my parents Francis and Edith Schaeffer) didn’t try to apply biblical laws about capital punishment for homosexuality to the United States. Even the most conservative Evangelicals said they were “New Testament Christians.” In other words, they believed that after the coming of Jesus, the harsher bits of the Bible had been (at least to some extent) transformed by the “New Covenant” of Jesus’ “Law of Love.” By contrast, the leaders of Reconstructionism believed that Old Testament teachings—on everything from capital punishment for gays to the virtues of child-beating—were still valid because they were the inerrant Word and Will of God and therefore should be enforced. Not only that, they said that biblical law should be imposed even on nonbelievers. This theology was the American version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.The impact of Reconstructionism (often under other names) has grown even though Rushdoony has largely been forgotten even in Evangelical circles, let alone the wider world. He made the Evangelical world more susceptible to being politicized—and manipulated by some very smart people like the Koch brothers. Religious leaders like Jerry Falwell who once had nothing to do with politics per se were influenced by the Reconstructionists. That in turn moved the whole Evangelical movement to the right and then into the political arena, where it became “normal” for Evangelical leaders to jump head first into politics with little-to-no regard for the separation of church and state.
Non-Evangelicals with political agendas have cashed in on the Evangelicals’ willingness to lend their numbers and influence to one moral crusade after another, or rather I should say, to one political crusade after another masquerading as moral crusades. For instance, Princeton University Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George is an antiabortion, anti-Obama, anti-gay-rights, and anti-stem-cell-research “profamily” activist, and he has found ways to effectively carry on the Reconstructionist agenda while truthfully denying any formal connection to people like Rushdoony. Take George’s brainchild: the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” This was published in 2009 as an anti-Obama manifesto, and many Evangelical leaders signed on. George may not have been consciously following Rushdoony or have even ever read his work, but the Evangelicals who signed on to his agenda would never have done so if not for the influence of Reconstructionism on American Evangelicals decades before.
Robert George with W
The “Manhattan Declaration” reads:
We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act<el>nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
The “logic” of the shutdown was written by George. “We will not comply…” This is the language of libertarian anarchy. In case you’ve never heard of George, he’s been a one-man “brain trust” for the Religious Right and the Far Right of the Republican Party as well as for the ultraconservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Here’s how the New York Times introduced him to its readers:
[Robert George] has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy [the natural law theory] into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as “one of the biggest brains in America,” or, on one broadcast, “Superman of the Earth.” Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research.<el>Newt Gingrich called him “an important and growing influence” on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage. “If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy,” the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, “its leaders probably meet in George’s kitchen.”
Scalia with his mentor Robert George
I confronted George on a panel discussion entitled “Campaign ‘08: Race, Gender, and Religion” at Princeton University. We butted heads over what he’d been mischaracterizing as presidential candidate Obama’s “proabortion” position. At the time we met on that (six-person) panel, George was one of McCain’s key advisers and I (a former Republican) was blasting George’s man for having sold out to the Religious Right, which McCain had once called “agents of intolerance.” In introducing myself to the Princeton audience, I mentioned that McCain had written a glowing endorsement for one of my several books on military-civilian relations. I also admitted that I’d actively worked for McCain in the 2000 presidential primaries against W. Bush by appearing—at McCain adviser Mark Salter’s oft-repeated urgent request—on several religious and other conservative talk shows (for instance, on Ollie North’s top-rated talk show) on McCain’s behalf. (In those days McCain was being attacked by the likes of Religious Right leader James Dobson for not being “pro-life” enough.)
George’s “Manhattan Declaration” was first co-signed by more than 150 American “mainstream” (mostly evangelical) conservative religious leaders. Since they have been joined by thousands more. They joined to “affirm support for traditional marriage” and to advocate civil disobedience against laws contradicting the signers’ religious beliefs about marriage and/or the “life issues.” The drafting committee included evangelical far right leader Charles Colson.
It was the Reconstructionists who, along with several less extreme activists like my father, created the climate in which the likes of George, Colson, and Beck were taken seriously by many Evangelicals. This is how the ground was prepared for the Koch brother-financed attempt to destroy our government. And interestingly Pope Francis has recently rebuked George and the other far right Roman Catholics by giving his interviews calling for a church no longer focused on culture war issues.
Without the work of the Reconstructionists, the next generation of religious activists like George and his henchman Scalia on the Supreme Court bench, (trying to use the courts to open the way for billionaires to control our elections in “Citizens United,” politics, and/or government shutdown to impose their narrow theology on the majority of Americans) would have been relegated to some lonely street corner where they could gather to howl at the moon. Instead, the twenty-first century’s theocrats like Cruz and George and Scalia (though they’d never so identify themselves) enjoy the backing of Fox News, are tolerated at places like Princeton University, and can be found running many Evangelical organizations.
And Now one of their very own — Ted Cruz — has just shut down the US government and threatens to destroy the faith and credit of America, and the world economy. Who says religion doesn’t matter?
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy!” exploring the roots of religious delusion is #1 on Amazon Kindle in the Political Humor category. On Kindle and NOOK for $3.99 and in paperback.
 Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, the Reformed faith, or Reformed theology) is a theological system. This branch of Christianity is named for French reformer John Calvin. According to Calvin, God is able to save every person upon whom He has mercy and His efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or the inability of humans.The system is based on Five Points: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. The doctrine of total depravity says that, as a consequence of the fall of humanity into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. The doctrine of unconditional election maintains that God chose from eternity those whom He will bring to Himself. The doctrine of limited atonement (also called particular redemption or definite atonement) asserts that Jesus’ substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its design and accomplishment. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’ death. The doctrine of irresistible grace says that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom He has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God’s timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel. The doctrine of perseverance (or preservation) of the saints asserts that since God is sovereign, His will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else.
 Greg Loren Durand, “Judicial Warfare: The Christian Reconstruction Movement and Its Blueprints for Dominion,” Crownrights.com, www.yuricareport.com/Dominionism/HistoryOfReconstructionMovement.html.
 Howard Ahmanson Jr. is heir to the Home Savings bank fortune. Howard became Rushdoony’s financier and served as a board member of Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation. In the 1970s Ahmanson started the career of Marvin Olasky, who became an important figure in Evangelical media. Howard, like me, later renounced his association with the Reconstructionists, even going so far as to quit the Republican Party in 2009 and reregister as a Democrat. He also stopped by my home in 2010, along with his charming wife, Roberta, to tell me that he liked my memoir Crazy for God (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2007).
 The Institutes of Biblical Law. Table of Contents—The Third Commandment. Swearing and Revolution. The Oath and Society. The Oath and Authority. The Fourth Commandment. The Sabbath and Work. The Sabbath and Law Appendix: The Economics of Sabbath Keeping—by Gary North V. The Fifth Commandment. The Authority of the Family. The Economics of the Family. Education and the Family. The Family and Delinquency. The Sixth Commandment. The Death Penalty. Hybridization and Law. Abortion. Restitution or Restoration. Military Laws and Production. Taxation. Quarantine Laws. Dietary Rules. Social Inheritance: Landmarks. The Seventh Commandment. Marriage. Family Law. Marriage and Monogamy. Incest. Sex and Crime. Adultery. Divorce. Homosexuality. The Transvestite. Bestiality VIII. The Eighth Commandment. Dominion. Theft. Restitution and Forgiveness. Liability of the Bystander. Money and Measure. Usury. Landmarks and Land. The Virgin Birth and Property. Fraud. Eminent Domain. Labor Laws. Prison. The Rights of Strangers, Widows, and Orphans. The Ninth Commandment. Corroboration. Perjury. False Witness. Slander Within Marriage. Slander as Theft. Judges. The Responsibility of Judges and Rulers. The Court. The Procedure of the Court. The Judgment of the Court. The Tenth Commandment. Covetousness. Special Privilege. The System. Notes on Law in Western Society<el>etc.