Friday, October 31, 2014

A Ride in the Reconstruction Zone, part 3

From the September 2011 E-Block.

As in our last installment, my reading of the second half of Rushdoony's Roots of Reconstruction has produced none of the controversy that I would have expected from all the naughty things I have read about him from certain disgruntled sources. There is still no promise to reinstitute stoning as a penalty if Christians get in charge. Nor is there yet anything objectionable in moral terms. 

There is also, as yet, still very little in terms of specifics of how Rushdoony sees Christians taking dominion over all aspects of life. He tells us (552), "Christainity has an obligation to train people in the fundamentals of God's grace and law, and to make them active and able champions of true political liberty and order." All right -- how? We're not told; all we have in RR is a strong emphasis on construction of Christian schools, but the means of instruction for "people" at large is not specified. We are told that we should tithe to support reconstruction (608) but other than for schools, if you're looking to be told how to spend it, you won't find it here. We are told we ought to make television a Christian domain (1102) but not told how either. Buy all the stations with tithe money and replace the programming? Take over the FCC? "The state cannot be neutral towards God." (907), we are told. All right -- so must it be a theocracy? Must all politicians be Christians? I don't wish to seem facetious, but the weight of "do this" that is unbalanced by the lack of a "tell me how" becomes disgruntling after a while, as it leaves far too much to the imagination. 

There are also some interesting parallels to today's problems of the church; again I can only imagine how much worse Rushdoony would say things are now. At one point he appears to be taking on (564) an earlier version of the emergent church. Later (582) he refers to churchgoers who "sit under pastors who know less Bible and doctrine than they do" (ouch -- how well I know that). And it is not only pastors (755): he has a few words for Christians who substitute "emotionalism and enthusiasm for discipline and work." He minces no words even for the greatest names; he refers to Billy Graham as a compromiser and charges him (689) with adhering to "basic humanism". How can I of all people dislike someone for being this straightforward? 

So are there any problems to report? Well, yes. I have noted Rushdoony's sparse documentation at times, and I selected three claims at random to check for validity. 

(570) He reports that two Nigerian personalities, Sir Ahmado Bello and Sir Abubaker, on January 15, 1965, were eaten by cannibals at a state dinner. This doesn't check out at all; Bello's death was one year later (January 15, 1966) and he was murdered in a coup. I can find no indication that his body was consumed by cannibals. Abubaker was killed in the same coup, and it appears that his corpse was found by a roadside and put in a tomb, not eaten. 

(589) He reports that on January 31, 1967, Lois Murgenstrumm was used as a living altar in a Satanist wedding. This claim is repeated without documentation in some sources of questionable reliability. Perhaps it simply is too old to be on the radar today, but it smells suspicious. 

(1021) He says that a Declaration of Mental Independence was delivered in 1825, by one Robert Owen, founder of a sort of humanist colony. He also reports a visitor to the colony, Gabriel Rey, who saw a mired horse that was left to die. On this one the year is repeated differently in different sources (one said 1826, another 1829) but it does appear that Owen did deliver such an address. On the other hand, I cannot find any confirmation of the Rey aspect of the story. 

So what does that leave us? It's not certain, especially since the book gives no source for these claims. They may seem trivial as claims, but they do raise questions in my mind about how reliable Rushdoony's research may be. 

Next up, we'll start looking at his Institutes of Biblical Law.

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