I was associated with a Christian Reconstructionist church for a short time in the early 80s, and while this article is written from a fairly doctrinaire liberal-left perspective, I’d argue that it’s a fairly accurate representation of the movement’s philosophy and ideology. This is probably the closest thing the United States has to something like Wahhabism. I do not consider this movement to be a political threat, in terms of actually being able to turn the U.S.A. into a Christian version of Saudi Arabia. In fact, it’s decentralist inclinations and vehement hostility to the mainstream society make it into yet another stitch in the patchwork of “System resisters” that represents the entire body of alternative political philosophies, alternative economics, and oppositional subcultures.
As an unprecedented shift in public opinion brought about the legalization of gay marriage, a vigorous counter-current has been intensifying under the banner of “religious freedom”—an incredibly slippery term. Perhaps the most radical definition of such freedom comes out of the relatively obscure tradition of Christian Reconstructionism, the subject of a new book by religious studies scholar Julie Ingersoll, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism. As Ingersoll explains, Reconstructionists basically reject the entire framework of secular political thought in which individual rights have meaning, so “freedom” as most Americans understand the term is not the issue at all. Indeed, they argue that such “freedom” is actually slavery—slavery to sin, that is. Reconstructionists aim to establish a theocracy, though most would no doubt bristle at that description. They do not want to “take over the government” so much as they want to dismantle it. But the end result would be a social order based on biblical law—including all those Old Testament goodies like stoning gay people to death, while at the same time justifying “biblical slavery.” These extreme views are accurate, Ingersoll explained, but at the same time quite misleading in suggesting that Reconstructionism is a fringe movement with little influence on the culture. ‘If someone wants to understand these people, I think the smart thing to do is to take those really inflammatory things, acknowledge that they are there, and set them aside,” Ingersoll advised. “And then look at the stuff that’s less inflammatory, but therefore, I think, more important. I think the Christian schooling, homeschooling, creationism, the approach to economics, I think those kinds of things are far more important.
Categories: Religion and Philosophy