Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 26, 1996 (Evening Edition Part Two) Date: Fri, 26 Jul 1

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 26, 1996 (Evening Edition~ Part Two) Date: Fri, 26 Jul 1996 17:06:25 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #111 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/26/96 (Evening Edition~Part Two) * More on... CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONIST MOVEMENT Along with the emphasis on religion-based church schools, or home schooling, Reconstructionists often believe that America is a "Christian nation" serving a divine purpose. R.J. Rushdoony's 1963 book "The Nature of the American System", declares that "The Constitution was design to perpetuate a Christian order." Another Reconstructionist author, Gary DeMarr, praises the churches of pre-revolutionary times, and describes the the colonies as "Christian states." This all but ignores the fact that the official churches of each of the states were disestablished by the American Revolution. Some consider the First Amendment with its secularist Establishment clause, or Article VI which prevents the use of a "religious test" as "mistakes." But some Reconstructionists, like Gary North, are adament in recognizing these strictures on behalf of state-church separation as what they are -- "a legal barrier to Christian theocracy," leading "directly to the rise of religious pluralism." For these "out of the closet", hard-line Reconstructionists, the "Christian theocracy" will mandate an end to even constitutional protections. A Movement of Ideas Reconstructionism has benefitted from the explosive growth of religious conservative movements throughout the 1980's and 1990's, but it still retains a loose, even de-centralized character. Frederick Clarkson, an author and lecturer who has tracked fundamentalist and evangelical religious movements, wrote about Reconstructionism for the March and June 1994 issues of Public Eye Magazine. He noted that "As a movement primarily of ideas, Reconstructionism has no single denominational or institutional home. Nor is it totally defined by a single charismatic leader, nor even a single text. Rather, it is defined by a small group of scholars who are identified with Reformed or Orthodox Presbyterianism. The movement networks primarilly through magazines, conferences, publishing houses, think tanks, and books stores. As a matter of strategy, it is a self-consciously decentralized and publicity-shy movement." The closest Reconstructionism comes to having an "official center" is R.J. Rushdoony's Chalcedon ministry, which describes itself as a "Christian educational organization devoted exclusively to research, publishing, and to cogent communication of a distinctly Christian scholarship to the world at large." Its publication, Chalcedon Report, covers topics like "Family Government," "Natural Law and Theonomy,"Why Home Schooling is Important for America," and "Debt, Enemy of Dominion." But the staid, even theologically complex messages of Reconstructionism have struck a cord with many religious leaders, including Christian political activists. Clarkson notes that "Many Christian Right thinkers and activists have been profoundly influenced by Reconstructionism," including the late Francis Schaeffer whose book "A Christian Manifesto" sold over 2,000,000 copies through religious bookstores and meetings. Another has been Randall Terry, the founder of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, who said: "You have to read Schaeffer's Chjristian Manifesto if you want to understand" what his movement was based upon. Still another individual who has come under the influence of Reconstructionist ideology is John Whitehead, President and founder of the Rutherford Institute. Founded in 1982, the Institute is a Christian educational and legal organization which litigates dozens of "religious liberty" cases throughout the country, often opposing any state-church separation strictures. Rutherford represented a Columbus, Ohio postal worker who was fired for refusing to work on the sabbath, and a member of a Greek Orthodox Monastery who was fired by Blockbuster video for failing to comply with the corporate dress code. Active Within Theopolitical Groups Reconstructionist members and groups are active in a number of religious political coalitions, icnluding the influential Coalition on Revival (COR), which Clarkson describes as "an umbrella organization which has brokered a series of theological compromises among differing, competing conservative evangelical leaders." COR has produced a number of transdenominational statements, including the "Manifesto of the Christian Church." It's membership roster reads like a whose-who of fundamentalist-evangelical political organizations, and includes Donald Wildmon (American Family Association), Randall Terry (Operation Rescue), Robert Dugan (National Association of Evangelicals), Rus Walton (Plymouth Rock Foundation), Congressmen Bill Dannemeyer (R-CA.) and Mark Siljander (R.-MI), televangelist Tim LaHaye (one of the founders of the old Moral Majority and husband of Beverly LaHaye, Concerned Women for America). Also serving as COR members are Reconstructions including Rushdoony, Gary North, Joseph Morecraft and Gary Chilton. COR is not strictly Reconstructionists, but it has adopted the Rushdoony notion of "Dominionism" of "17 spheres of life." Clarkson notes that Reconstructionist overtones within the Coalition drove away some individuals, including one evangelical critic who claimed that those who signed COR "covenants" had to be "willing to die in the attempt to establish a theonomic political state. This statement makes the COR Manifesto Covenant more than just a covenant; it is a blood covenant, sworn on the life of the signers." A recent convert to the Reconstructionist creed is Washington powerbroker and strategist Howard Phillips, who has moved from traditional political conservatism into a more extreme theopolitical position. In the 1970's, Phillips was instrumental in forming powerful groups like the Conservative Caucus; in 1979, he was working with men like Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Coalition, mailing-list king Richard Viguerie and millionaire Ed McAteer. They founded the Religious Roundtable, a small but strategically placed group of religious right activists, who then approached Jerry Falwell with the idea of forming what soon became the Moral Majority. With time, Phillips has moved further along the ideological spectrum and today heads the US Taxpayers Party. His political agenda strongly reflect the Reconstructionist mandate of "Dominionism," and he is currently attempting to persuade Pat Buchanan to be the USTP standardbearer in the upcoming presidential election. The USTP is one of the few minority parties which has made it onto the ballot in all fifty states. Long Term Plans, Long Term Threat Not everyone associated with religious right movements agrees with Reconstructionist theology and postmillennialist visions of doomsday. But increasingly, these groups have become increasingly captivated by the Reconstructionist teaching of "Dominionism," the notion of a theological mandate from god whereby biblical lore is to govern all aspects of human life and society. The Dominionist impulse is clearly opposed to ideas such as pluralism, tolerance, acceptance of the need for free and varied speech, and the separation of government and religion. For the Dominionist, ONLY "god's law" is the proper law. Reconstructionist teachings about women have also resonated with wider cultural trends, including movements like the Promise Keepers which seek to "restore" men to their tradition role as "head of the household." In the Reconstructionist universe, women should be barred from holding any civic or magistrate post; in the home, "direction" is to be given by men, who are "head of the household" as "Christ is the head of the church." To a large extent, many fundamentalist and evangelical movements have accepted a Dominionist paradigm, especially as they attempt to legislate in areas of personal life including abortion, sexuality and lifestyle. It may even be argued that perhaps the only thing separating much of the religious right today from hard-core Reconstructionist doctrine is the issue of how far they would go to punish "sinners" and "enemies." Rushdoony and his followers are quite serious in wanting to prescribe the death penalty for a wide range of transgressions, some of them serious (murder, rape), some of them simply matters of personal choice (sexual behavior), or even relatively insignificant problems such as obstreperous children. Gary North advocates stoning victims to death as depicted in the bible; besides, he says, stones are plentiful and cheap. Some of this is too strident for even religious conservatives. But increasingly, these movements are fixated on demonizing a long list of "enemies" -- everyone from secular humanists and atheists to gays. After learning to hate so deeply, it isn't that big a step to assume that in stoning one's enemies, one is executing not only a sinner but the mandate of God as well. ********************* For more on Christian Reconstructionism, check out the Public Eye website at: We also recommendf Sarah Diamond's book "Spiritual Warfare" published by South End Press, Boston. They may sound cranky (they are!), but old-fashioned, the Reconstructions are not. They''ve got a web site at **** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information on American Atheists, send e-mail to, and include your name and postal address. Check out our cool new web site at You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that credit is given to American Atheists and the aanews. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to: and put "info aanews" (Minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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