R. J. Rushdoony, Reconstructionist and Racist Bigot

R. J. Rushdoony, Reconstructionist and Racist Bigot May 1, 2009

by Lorette C. Luzajic

Part 4 of the Pillars of Faith series.

The name of this theologian may be unfamiliar, but most men of God are his heirs.

Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Howard Ahmanson, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy — almost every fundamentalist follows Rousas John Rushdoony, 1916-2001. Newsweek once referred to Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation as the think tank of the religious right.

But what you won’t hear in Sunday school is that Rushdoony is a racist, sexist, Jew-hating bigot who denies the holocaust. Don’t take it from me: The British Centre for Science Education refers to him as “a man every bit as potentially murderous as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or anyone else you may want to name amongst the annals of evil.”

Democracy Is of the Devil

Pullquote: To keep the secular indoctrination of sciences, arts, and feminism from poisoning society, Rushdoony advocated the death penalty according to Leviticus laws.

R.J.’s basic philosophy was that the Old Testament gave white man dominion over the earth, the animals, women, and heathen nations. Theocracy is God’s will, and democracy is apostasy — only Christians should be able to vote.

To keep the secular indoctrination of sciences, arts, and feminism from poisoning society, Rushdoony advocated the death penalty according to Leviticus laws. Among the 18 capital crimes were of course, adultery, witchcraft, homosexuality, and blasphemy.

Rushdoony is the driving backbone behind the home schooling movement, to guarantee kids would be brainwashed by the O.T. and not by history and literature.

Because R.J. sought to reconstruct the O.T. laws and overturn the apostate civic society, his work is called the Reconstructionist Movement.

Dominion and Stoning

R.J.’s foundation is a web ministry and magazine espousing Reconstructionist theology, promoting home schooling as defense against secularism. “The state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere [is] to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion.”

The magazine publishes thought provoking articles like W. Einwechter’s on stoning the rebellious child. “It displays the wisdom and mercy of God in restraining wickedness so that the righteous might flourish in peace.” (Jan. 99)

Slavery was Awesome for the Negro

Pullquote: “The move from Africa to America was a vast increase of freedom for the Negro, materially and spiritually.”

R.J. is best known for Institutes of Biblical Law, an 800 page opus on “the heresy of democracy.”

Here are a few interesting statements from the book:

“The move from Africa to America was a vast increase of freedom for the Negro, materially and spiritually.”

Lazy slaves were “an albatross that hung the South, that bled it.”

“The University of Timbuktu never existed. The only thing that existed in Timbuktu was a small mud hut.”

“Some people are by nature slaves and will always be so.”

“The urge to dominion is God-given and is basic to the nature of man. An aspect of this dominion is property.”

“The false witness borne during World War II with respect to Germany (i.e., the death camps) is especially notable and revealing…. the number of Jews who died after deportation is approximately 1,200,000 … very many of these people died of epidemics.”

“All men are NOT created equal before God.”

“The matriarchal society is thus decadent and broken… matriarchal character of Negro life is due to the moral failure of Negro men, their failure …to provide authority. The same is true of American Indian tribes which are also matriarchal.”

And here are some quotes from Foundations of Social Order:

“An employer therefore has a property right to prefer whom he will, and he can prefer whom he will in terms of color, creed, race, or national origin.”

“Selective breeding in Christian countries has led to … the progressive elimination of defective persons.”

“A ‘Litany’ popular in these circles identifies ‘God’ with the city, with the ’spick, black nigger, bastard, Buddhahead, and kike,’ with ‘all men,this concept runs deeply through the so-called Civil Rights Revolution… But …no society has ever existed without class and caste lines.”

The True Agenda of the Christian Right

But what about Christ’s softer love thy neighbour touch?

His son-in-law, North, explains for him that the Sermon on the Mount was clearly an ethical guide for slaves only!

Most of R.J.’s followers wisely keep his name out of their sermons. But careful examination of the Institutes on which their work is based reveals the truth: power and privilege for white men — God’s only true incarnation — is indeed the true agenda of the Christian right.

Lorette C. Luzajic writes about all kinds of interesting people at Fascinating People.

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  • Custador

    Waaaaiiit for it…. Waaaaiiiit for it…. “He wasn’t a true Christian, though!”

    Uhu. Really. Hmmm.

  • Jeremy

    I’m no fan of religious right leaders like Falwell and Dobson, but you linked them–and most other Christians–to this Rushdoony nut without any explanation or justification. Every Christian I’ve ever known would despise the teachings of Rushdoony that you’ve described here (assuming your descriptions are accurate).

    I can imagine a church pulpit where the minister is describing the crimes of the Khmer Rouge and then concluding that all atheists are followers of this philosophy. We’d object, but after reading this article, perhaps we aren’t much different from those fear-mongering Christians after all.

    • Daniel Florien

      1) Rushdoony is quite popular in Christian theological circles (not to laymen), especially Reformed/Calvinistic. Lorrette is picking on his “evil” teachings, but most ignore them or don’t know about them.

      2) I actually disagree with Lorette’s conclusion. I agree with you that you can’t link the religious right to white supremacy through a common theological ancestor and that we wouldn’t want them to use the same logic with us. That’s what they attempted to do in Expelled — they said Darwin supported slavery, thus evolutionists all support slavery! Or some nonsense like that.

      • Custador

        Actually Darwin was a major anti-slavery campaigner. He got it from his grandfather, Josiah Wedgewood (the famous porcelain maker), who left most of his fortune to anti-slavery charities.

      • Question-I-thority

        The True Agenda of the Christian Right

        This header followed by comments about conspiracy and concluding that white male supremacy is the true agenda of the Christian right wing is over stated in my (former) experience as an Evangelical. The above conclusion can only be sustained if one believes that hard line Dominionists are the predominant right wing of Christianity which is a very narrow and unrealistic interpretation. It’s somewhat akin to saying that racial supremacy is the true agenda of the political right.

        Also, correlation is not causation. If the broad right wing of Christianity shares some characteristics to some more or less extent, that is not an indication in itself of Rushdoony’s influence.

    • BurnSpeed

      Great the pol pot/stalin/mao was an atheist argument. The khmer rouge did not derive their philosophy or morality from atheism. This man derived his morality straight from the Bible, and he wasn’t misinterpreting either this is where the bible leads you if you are honest with yourself and applying what is writen.

    • The Wrath of Oliver Khan

      You sound so … what is the word? Oh yeah … concerned.

      And yeah, there is a major difference between Lorrette’s argument and the tired old canard about Stalin/ Mao/ Pol Pot, as BurnSpeed pointed out. Communism does not derive from a lack of belief in a god or gods. On the other hand, you can draw some direct linkages between Rushdoony’s work and crap like the Left Behind series – his ideas have passed through filters like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins to be softened up a bit for wider consumption. Obviously there are many Christians (perhaps most Christians) who would be appalled at the racist aspect of Rushdoony’s work – but I suspect there are a lot more than you realize who would agree that only Christians should be able to vote, for example, or that we should return to some form of biblical law.

      • Jeremy

        If I’m “concerned” it’s because I wish the level of discourse would rise above that of the Jerry Falwells and Rush Limbaughs of the world, but this writer is spewing the same nonsense, just from the other side of the coin. Linking “almost every fundamentalist” to one guy who most of them have never heard of is absurd.

        It’s sensationalist, finger-pointing fear-mongering, as bad as the “Storm is Gathering” ad on TV. We can’t legitimately criticize the religious right for perpetuating ridiculous stereotypes and paranoia if we commit the same.

        • Audrey

          I somewhat agree with Jeremy’ position. But… Let’s point out how another historical religious figure may have influenced future events and perhaps discuss if there are similarities.

          Martin Luther was outspokenly anti-semitic. This is fact and documented in his writings. I was raised as a Lutheran and wasn’t even aware of this aspect of his beliefs. I don’t think most Lutherans do nor do I think most Lutherans are anti-semites either.

          On the other hand, his teachings were a lot more widely known in Germany and probably significantly more influential on later people’s behavior. I am not stating that Martin Luther’s beliefs and teachings directly contributed to the holocaust, but I do believe they set a tone for people’s belief systems.

          Couldn’t this apply to RushLoony’s impact on the the belief systems of today’s fundies?

  • Dr. Karl E. Taylor

    R.J.’s best bud, Garry North, was one of the loud paranoiacs that worked people into a froth over the Y2K bug. Reading his essays on it, you could almost see the giant woody in his pants at the mere thought of economic collapse and total world anarchy. (North is an economist by profession, and not a very good one)

    Strangely enough, all of his writings on Y2K vanished, by August of that year. North has made a number of failed predictions in the past. Most of them have led to failed financial endeavors that have cost investors millions. Give Garry North a Google and get ready from a trip down Woo Woo Lane.

  • Baconsbud

    I have known a few christians that I would say follow these types of doctrine. There are few christians I actually fear but they are the ones. I figure given the right leader, they would be willing to commit acts just like any extreme religious group.

  • Sadly, I used to own a copy of Rushdoony’s “Institutes”, as well as a large tome North wrote that I’m drawing a blank on right now. In some homeschool circles, these are used as part of the curriculum, but in my experience, those circles are relatively small and usually don’t mesh well with the general homeschool population. Another author to watch out for is Greg Bahnsen, who, along with Rushdoony, was a disciple of Cornelius van Til’s special “presuppositional apologetic”, in which god is the necessary assumption for any logical statement. I have read several of Bahnsen’s works as well. These authors are very much tied to the Reformed/Calvinist branch of theology, which basically asserts that god is the grand puppet master who “wills” everything that happens “for his own glory”.

  • Sunny Day

    I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

  • thegirlcanwrite

    I guess my conclusion about white supremacy was more sarcasm about the patriarchal order of the ‘biblical worldview’ than a specific kkk connection for the average evangelist- though Rushdoony’s words speak for himself.

    Those who espouse recon/dominionism do believe that old sunday school story that other nations are poor because they haven’t embraced god, or that god blessed us and not them- just like in mormonism, it used to be that black people or chines people couldn’t make it to the celestial world because they hurt god in the last world. So it’s back to the ‘heathens’ thing and that is racism in my book.

    However, Jeremy, I don’t mean to hatemonger one bit because I’m still in the road halfway between belief and unbelief. Christianity is my heritage and I happen to love my progressive church very much, we are very active in human rights. I don’t attend currently as I sort out my stuff without the emotion of ceremony to sway me.

    That said, I stand behind my research and Institutes speaks for itself. Below you can pick up on why I say that many, many groups and denominations are tied to or influenced by Rushdoony.

    sorry for the long post!!!!!!!!!

    “Card-carrying Reconstructionists are few,” wrote John Sugg in Mother Jones (Dec. 2005).

    Indeed, Falwell himself wrote an article making it clear he did not espouse their movement. Yet after 9/11 he publicly affirmed that God’s punishment for gays and feminists had begun by terror.

    Sugg writes, “Reconstruction’s major impact has been through helping to found and guide cross-denominational and secular political organ-izations. The Council for National Policy—a group that holds meetings for right-wing leaders, once dubbed “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of”—was founded in 1981 as a project of top John Birch Society figures (see “The Fountainhead”). Its members included Rushdoony, Gary North, Tim LaHaye, former Reagan aide Gary Bauer, and activist Paul Weyrich, who famously aimed to “overturn the present power structure of this country.”

    Sugg suggests that using ‘many fronts’ and indeed, using ‘foot soldiers’ who don’t even know what exactly they are working toward is key to the success of the movement. And successful it is. The power within the government and media worldwide is staggering. The ultimate goal of the Reconstruction philosophy and the Dominionists is to deny authority (judges, courts, teachers) and even citizenship to non-Christians. Using catchphrases like ‘restoring biblical law’ or ‘biblical worldview’ ‘regular’ Christians like my father support their many arms without even knowing the background.

    As Gary North wrote, “We must use the doctrine of religious liberty…until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

    Sugg writes, “Reconstruction’s major impact has been through helping to found and guide cross-denominational and secular political organizations.”

    Hence, even when some of our figureheads deny their reconstructionist roots, they are still working towards the ultimate goals.

    But many “out” reconstructionists were involved in George Bush’s advisory, headships behind ‘compassionate conservatism.’

    Some organizations or public figures with ties to and or beliefs in Reconstructionism/Dominionism include:

    The Council for National Policy
    Roy Moore
    Coalition on Revival (Sugg: “one of its founding documents is signed by 116 Christian right activists, including Rushdoony, mega-evangelist D. James Kennedy, and Roy Jones, a top staffer at the Republican Senatorial Committee.” D. James Kennedy was the evangelist of Coral Ridge Ministries, a megabucks, megawatt media and the masses enterprise)
    Feminist Majority Foundation
    Christian Coalition
    Chalcedon Foundation
    Christian Coalition of America
    Constitution Party
    Christian Dominionists
    American Vision Ministries
    Every Nation
    National Reform Association
    Center for Christian Statesmanship
    Morningstar Internation
    Institute for Canadian Values
    League of the South
    Association of Free Reform Churches
    Christian Worldview
    Joel’s Army
    Coral Ridge Presbyterian
    Christian Nation
    Christian Identity
    Christian Heritage Party of Canada
    Christian Voice (UK)
    Concerned Citizens Party
    Concerned Citizens United Against Drugs and Terrorism
    Americans for Truth about Homosexuality
    Immanuel Free Reformed
    Vision Forum Ministries
    Christian Research Network
    Coral Ridge Ministries
    Focus on the Family
    Moral Majority!
    Reclaiming America
    George Grant
    multimillionaire Steven Hotze,
    Mike Huckabee
    Evangelism Explosion
    Alliance Defense Fund
    Southern Baptist Convention
    Salt and Light Awards
    Assemblies of God
    Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act
    Kingdom Now
    Spiritual Renewal
    Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International
    Promise Keepers
    Yoido Full Gospel Church (750 thousand members in Korea)
    Freedom of Mind Institute
    Prosperity Gospel
    Stealth Evangelism
    Word Faith
    God’s Army
    Coalition for National Policy
    Traditional Values Coalition
    Foundation for Traditional Values
    Personal Freedom Outreach
    Campus Crusade for Christ
    Prison Fellowship Ministries,
    Gospel Communications
    Assemblies of God
    Elijah’s Army
    Third Wave
    Love Bombing
    Institute in Basic Life Principles

    The Ties Run Deep

    A Nation Under God

    American Fascists by Christian war/politics journalist Chris Hedges

    Reclaiming America for Christ

    • Question-I-thority

      If you are going to list signers to a “founding document” isn’t it important to establish for the reader what the founding document states? Is there definitive language in this document to support your statement that white male supremacy is the true agenda of the Christian right?

    • Custador

      Isn’t it funny that “Americans for Truth about Homosexuality” want to spread the exact opposite of what their name suggests?

  • thegirlcanwrite

    to Question I Thority and others interested,

    Yes, point taken, it may be important to establish to the reader what the founding document states. But I’ve already tested Daniel’s gracious space, I’m sure, by the length of the post and as I noted, I was quoting from writer Sugg, whose article is linked for further research on the reader’s part.

    I am sorry if my flippant and bitter ‘agenda’ conclusion was less than clear in the original article- my bad. Nowhere did I use the words ‘white supremacy.’ I was more sarcastically referring to the “biblical wordview” of Old Testament patriarchy as I already noted. And that includes man as headship, slavery, and the exclusion of other world views which would include religious groups. O.T. advocates all kinds of racism and sexism and ism and a whole lot of killing, and that is what Rushdoony advocated. Surely some of the organizations in affiliation or tied do not advocate white supremacy or the death penalty for every apostate, but nor do I hear them speaking against human rights abuses. They use the same Old Testament after all, and with a belief in ‘inerrancy of the Bible” there is no room for evolution or progressive religiosity.

    If you would like to know more about the founding documents and the lovely views on women, inerrancy, nonbelievers, and more of God’s truths, a quick google of Coalition on Revival will take you right to http://www.reformation.net. There are dozens of documents available to read.

    Best wishes

    • Baconsbud

      Thanks for the link and hope to be able to come back in a few days with comments about it. What little I have read of it, it scares me that so many think this is the truth.

    • Question-I-thority

      Thanks for the response Loretta. I deeply share your detestation of dominionism and encourage you to write further on the subject. That is why I take strong issue with your conclusion:

      But careful examination of the Institutes on which their work is based reveals the truth: power and privilege for white men — God’s only true incarnation — is indeed the true agenda of the Christian right.

      You did not use the words ‘white male supremacy’ but that is the meaning of your statement, is it not?

      The reference to a list of organizations with ties to dominionism reminds me of the ties Obama had with terrorists. I am a former pentecostal and as such am quite familiar with the Assembly of God denomination which happens, I believe, to be the largest pentecostal organization in the world. The idea that their agenda is power for white men or that they are dominionist is simply not believable.

      Again, I give you my support and hope that my criticisms can lead to a better dismantling of the trash that Rushdoony exemplifies. You might want to look into the views of young, post Bushco evangelicals.

      • thegirlcanwrite

        Question I Thority

        I should have written instead “power and privilege for men” instead of “for white men” which immediately created a focus away from the rest of the article, where Rushdoony’s own words would speak for themself. “white” is of course assumed to be more powerful than the others anyhow and left out would have let the onus of the Institutes on O.T. law take more of the stage than “white”.

        Live and learn, but I’m glad we’re thinking about important issues.

        I thank you for a thoughtful response. There’s an excellent article over at http://www.theocracywatch.org called What is Dominionism? Palin, the Christian Right, & Theocracy, by Chip Berlet.

        It discusses the reconstructionist slash dominionist issue, and the author explains to people like me that they are not one and the same. I already knew they aren’t one and the same, but they do believe in O.T. law, which means death penalty for just about everyone else who doesn’t, and that is my main concern. Some dominionists are now aware of this themselves – they are spreading the Lord’s dominion which sounds nice. Berlet discusses at length the subtle nuances between the terms, and several other related terms.

        His article is important and mentions the Assemblies in particular who don’t all espouse all of the doctrine.

        Yet I do believe that spending too much time extricating subtle doctrinal nuances one from another takes away from the main points that these organizations together are creating a powerful theocratic monopoly that is not exactly based on the Sermon on the Mount, and more people need to be aware that it’s not just a couple of crackpots who believe in public stonings and other pleasantries of Mosaic law.


  • But careful examination of the Institutes on which their work is based reveals the truth: power and privilege for white men

    So far so successful, at least in the Christian church, less so but still successful in the workplace.

  • freewilly

    Only Calvinists follow Rushdooney. The whole Theocrasy thing is wholly a CALVINIST idea because of their idiotic belief in Predestination they have no respect for Freedom, since they don’t think God even gave us freedom of the will!!!! THEY are dangerous to be sure! Anyone who doesn’t believe in FREE WILL is dangerous.

    • freewilly

      free willy!!!!