News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: American Theocracy

Monday, November 28, 2005

American Theocracy

People in my Religion After 911 class must have thought I was insane or a conspiracy nut when I'd claim that there is a form of American jihadism that calls for Christian theocracy in the US. Called Christian Reconstructionism (aka Theocratic Dominionism), it is a very stealthy, behind the scenes movement that is very good at hiding its intentions and politico-religious agenda. Indeed, I had read a review of a Pat Robertson book, in which he was reported to have advocated a form of stealth campaign to gain control of the government by Chrisitan fundamentalists.

I first read about the movement in Mark Juergensmeyer's book, Terror in the Mind of God. I did some googling and web searching on the movement and found precious little. The websites that espouse this view seemed conservative but relatively innocuous. You don't read anything in there that espouses the takeover of the govt and the institution of the Old Testament as the basis for law and order in the US. And some of the articles that purport to expose the evil dimensions of the movement seem somehwat overblown and short on substance and long on hysteria.

Yet, the fact that Juuegensmyer, a resepcted scholar, had covered it left me with some suspicions about the true tactics and goals of this movement. Recently, an article appeared in Mother Jones magazine about Roy Moore who is running for governor in Alabama. According to this artilce, Moore could well win that state. This would result in the first known candidate with direct ties to the Christian Reconstructionist's agenda.

Yet, this candidate's run for governor does not mark the suddent appearance of Chrisitan Reconstructionism on the political scene. As the article notes, there are many politicians in Washington, as well as other religious denominations who buy into the Reconstructionist ideology:

Reconstruction is the spark plug behind much of the battle over religion in politics today. The movement’s founder, theologian Rousas John Rushdoony, claimed 20 million followers—a number that includes many who embrace the Reconstruction tenets without having joined any organization. Card-carrying Reconstructionists are few, but their influence is magnified by their leadership in Christian right crusades, from abortion to homeschooling.

Reconstructionists also exert significant clout through front organizations and coalitions with other religious fundamentalists; Baptists, Anglicans, and others have deep theological differences with the movement, but they have made common cause with its leaders in groups such as the National Coalition for Revival. Reconstruction has slowly absorbed, congregation by congregation, the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (not to be confused with the progressive Presbyterian Church [USA]) and has heavily influenced others, notably the Southern Baptists.

George W. Bush has called Reconstruction-influenced theoretician Marvin Olasky “compassionate conservatism’s leading thinker,” and Olasky served as one of the president’s key advisers on the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bush also invited Reconstructionist Jack Hayford, a key figure in the Promise Keepers men’s group, to give the benediction at his first inaugural. Deposed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, though his office won’t comment on his religious views, governs with what he calls a “biblical worldview”—one of Reconstruction’s signature phrases. And, for conspiracy buffs, two heavy contributors to the Chalcedon Foundation—Reconstruction’s main think tank—are Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt, both of whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software. Ahmanson is also a major sponsor of ultraconservative politicians, including California state legislator and 2003 gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock.
So maybe I do sound like a conspiracy nut. As the paranoid is wont to say, however, "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get me." And just because we live in America and feel that it "can't happen here," you have to realize how deeply passionate these religionists are about their belief in the moral decadence of America. A decadence, they further believe, that can only be cleansed by a Xtian theocracy.

And as at least one recent poll shows, many Americans who believe that religion is "under attack." The Reconstructionists, no doubt, can ride that belief a long way into the corridors of power in Washington.

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