Mithra

Religious Freedom Coalition presents Christian Reconstructionists

Could there be a theocracy in America's future?

Mithra
 

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Senator John Barrasso

Presented by: The Religious Freedom Coalition of the SouthEast

Senator John Barrasso

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Dominating the headlines during the spring of 1993 was an unfolding drama involving a millennialist cult in Waco and the United States government. Was this an isolated incident perpetrated by an over-reactive ATF against a misguided zealot? Or was it an exaggerated manifestation of a deeper undercurrent: a religious revivalist movement involving philosophies ranging from the plausible to the extreme? Doctors and clinic defenders are gunned down in Florida by anti-abortion activists. Where does one draw the line between sincere desire to influence elected officials to uphold traditional Christian values and those who wish to institute a Bible-based theocracy? We will try to shed some light on what, to most of us, is a very confusing state of affairs in the world today, particularly in the political
arena.

Early in the 19th century, a movement later called the Plymouth Brethren began in Ireland and spread to England and the United States. That movement has since developed into what is today called Dispensationalism. Through C. I. Scofield and the Scofield Reference Bible, this premise has found its way into the majority of evangelical circles.(1) Because dispensationalism is a multifaceted philosophy, we cannot fully define that belief system in this essay. We mention it to illustrate that it has been a major factor in the present interest of evangelical groups in millennialism or eschatology. Some well-known dispensational Pre-millennialists are Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham.

Dispensationalists believe history is divided into several eras or dispensations, the last of which will be the millennium followed by the coming of the Kingdom of God. This approach encourages a literal, prophetic interpretation of the Book of Revelation, which predicts there will be a physical Armageddon, tribulation and union of all true believers with God. Pre-milllennialism is a belief that Christ will return to the earth prior to the Millennium to
rapture away the Church (true believers) and resurrect the dead saints.

On the other hand, Post-millennialists believe Christ will not return until after the Millennium. Reconstructionists take one step further in that they believe Christ will not return until the faithful have taken dominion in all areas of society throughout the world. To accomplish this, a doctrine based on their interpretation of Mosaic law we be incorporated in every phase of life, including public policy and the legal system. They call this theonomy or "God's Law."

Reconstructionists’ insistance on incorporating dominion over all mankind in order to initiate the "second coming" should be of concern to us all. The presence of influencial  Reconstructionists in areas of public policy, education and politics is definitely an alert to the wise. In order to challenge a movement that would change our form of government to a Christian-based theocracy, we must be knowledgeable of who these people are. They are already at work behind the scenes to change our government through the passage of laws, court rulings and the election of public officials who have accepted the support of those
in this movement in return for votes. It is imperative that we do not accept these changes as benign through ignorance of the real motives. These "Christian Elites" will call the shots once they have accomplished their political goals.

The beliefs of reconstructionists are described in a document called A Manifesto for the Christian Church. Signers of the Manifesto include:

Dennis Peacocke, Strategic Christian Services;
Dr. Ted Baehr, Good News Communications;
Dr. Gary Amos, Regent University, Law & Public Policy;
Gary DeMar, American Vision and Worldview Magazine;
Ted DeMoss, Christian Business Men's Committee;
Dr. Jay Grimstead, Coalition on Revival;
Dr. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church;
Dr. Tim LaHaye, American Coalition for Traditional Values;
Mrs. Connie Marshner, Free Congress Foundation;
Dr. Gary North, Institute for Christian Economics;
Dr. R. J. Rushdoony, Chalcedon Institute;
Mark Siljander, Global Strategics, Inc.;
Dr. Robert Simonds, Citizens for Excellence in Education;
Rev. Donald Wildmon, American Family Association;
David Chilton, Pastor, Church of the Redeemer;
Dr. Steven Hotze, political activist, Houston, Texas.

Other public figures who, although they are not listed as signers of the Manifesto, adhere to its mandates, are:

William Dannemeyer, former Member, U. S. Congress;
Dennis Peterson, Creation Resource Foundation;
Randall Terry, Operation Rescue and U. S. Taxpayers Party;
Cyrus Zal, Rutherford Institute.

These signers network with many organizations across the nation to implement Reconstructionism into every facet of our lives. R. J. Rushdoony is considered to be the modern day father of Christian Reconstruction. His son-in-law is Gary North, who heads the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas.  Jay Grimstead, who heads the Coalition
on Revival (COR), has been very active in the movement but declines to refer to himself as a Reconstructionist.

The "Foundation Documents" are the heart of Reconstructionist religious philosophy.  They include: A Manifesto for the Christian Church, 42 Articles on Historic Christian Doctrine and the Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  Included in the Manifesto is A Statement of Essential Truths and A Call to Action.  Numbers one and two of this document assert the inerrancy of the Bible based on The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.(2)

Number three states:

"The Bible States Reality for All Areas of Life and Thought.

"We affirm that the Bible is not only God's statements to us regarding religion, salvation, eternity, and righteousness, but also the final measurement and depository of certain fundamental facts of reality and basic principles that God wants all mankind to know in the spheres of law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communication, medicine, psychology, and science.  All theories and practices of these spheres of life are
only true, right, and realistic to the degree that they agree with the Bible.  The Bible furnishes mankind with the only logical and verbal connection between time and eternity, religion and science, the visible and invisible worlds." 

In the Christian World View Documents, it is explained exactly in what way this world view will effect "every sphere of life and thought."

The National Coordinating Council is made up of Christian leaders from the ranks of COR and other reformation/activist groups.  Fifty national leaders working in 24 different ministries and professions have developed a five-year plan "to return America and Canada to the Biblical foundations which made North America a great, and one time, Christianized society."  In 60 major cities, "Gideon's Warrior elders" will be identified who are "willing to
die for Christ."  A "single, coordinated, interdependent spiritual army" will create a "Ministry Merge Network."  Here are three goals of this effort:

"Education: Work towards replacing all local public schools with private schools by 2000 A.D.; (They have missed this one!

"Tax Reform: Work towards dismantling the IRS by 2000 A.D.;  (They missed this one too)

"Kingdom Banks, Trusts, Investment & Insurance Companies: Work towards dismantling the Federal Reserve System by 2000 A.D."   (They are batting 1000!)

These goals purport to be highly revolutionary, thus it appears that, as much as possible, we should educate ourselves about this movement.  In Texas, the influence of two of these leaders has been seen in the arena of public school board elections and the Harris County (Houston) Republican Party.  Bob Simonds, founder of the National Association of Christian Educators and Citizens for Excellence in Education, and Steven Hotze, founder of Citizens
for American Restoration, are serious players in this game plan on both a local and national level.  Both are signers of the Christian Manifesto and are on the steering committee of the Coalition on Revival.  Hotze has a close association with Gary DeMar, a Christian revisionist historian.  He also serves on the board of DeMar's Worldview magazine.  DeMar, an avowed Reconstructionist, rails against those too timid to call themselves "Reconstructionists."  Hotze, who has a medical practice in the Houston, Texas area, has been very successful in taking over the Harris County Republican Party.

Wayne House and Thomas Ice have studied the Reconstructionist movement from the inside.   Ice is a former Reconstructionist and a graduate of the Dallas Theological Seminary. H. Wayne House is assistant professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and a graduate of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Concordia Seminary and O. W. Coburn School of Law.  In their book, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?, they ask the question,"Should Christians do away with Democracy?" They note that Rushdoony has "often stated that democracy is unacceptable to a proper view of biblical law."  This movement is clearly anti-democratic and revolutionary to the degree that, if they succeed, personal civil rights will cease to exist.  The book is an excellent source of information on the Reconstructionist movement.

During the past three years, a number of these same leaders have been involved in an ongoing theological debate about the Kingdom of God.  They have produced what they call the 25 Articles of Affirmation and Denial on the Kingdom of God.  They invite anyone to present their arguments and criticisms to Crosswinds, the magazine of COR.    COR was to have co-sponsed The North American Protestant Church Council in Washington, D.C., July 25-30, 1994.   Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior minister of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was scheduled to be the moderator of that event. Kennedy, very influencial in evangelical circles, won the George Washington honor medal award from the Freedoms Foundation in 1971 for his sermon, "What You Can Do About
Communism."  Leaders feel there is a need for the North American Protestant Church Council to establish a consensus on ". . .what is the true Biblical doctrine and what is error on a number of issues now dividing the greater Body of Christ."   This is described as an attempt to create a 1990s version of the first seven great Ecumenical Councils beginning with the First Nicene Council in A.D. 325.  Although the 1994 council was postponed, councils are planned for 1995 and 1996.

The Founding Fathers of the United States envisioned a model government formed "in order to establish a more perfect union." A country free of the religious persecutions of the past. They built into the Constitution a protection against the establishment of a state religion in the First Amendment. This was, for the 18th century, unique. The success of this unique experiment is reflected in the endurance of the nation.

Religion as a subject has caused much dissension throughout history. Keenly aware of the religious wars which had taken place in England and on the continent in the previous two hundred years, the Founders’ intent was to protect this country from just such disasters.

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans, who had fled England to avoid religious persecution, set up a theocracy which resulted in witch trials and other excesses of religious fervor.

Roger Williams was driven out of Massachusetts because he called for greater religious freedom and tolerance. He founded the colony of Rhode Island and established a policy of religious and political freedom. Even so, with the establishment of other settlements, disagreements over religion and politics weakened them. Williams proposed that the settlements unite for protection and a charter was formed under English law. The Founders certainly had recent history in mind when they framed the Constitution.

Certainly, this is not to say the country does not reflect its religious heritage and Western based culture. Moral principles are indeed a major part of government policy, as seen in laws dealing with concern for the less fortunate and a general spirit of inclusiveness. As a free society with pluralistic elements, we continually expand our personal ideologies. In a democratic political arena, this is exhibited by changes in the laws and social structure of the society, as illustrated in the civil rights legislation of the l960s. Many of these concerns are now being threatened by the militant Christian agenda.

Change can be threatening. It is more assuring to be able to count on absolutes that remain constant. However, the only constant in life is change.

A return to the memories of a simpler time when things were not so subjective is an appealing premise - a return to Paradise.

Hence, the appeal of the Religious Right and the Reconstructionist Movement.

The reconstructionist belief system has moved into the political process because of an imperative to return America to a mythical "Golden Age" when people worked hard, went to church, respected their parents, took pride in their jobs and led upstanding moral lives. Reconstructionists feel that in order to save America, they must restore America to a Christian nation.

A nation where public assistance is seen as something better handled by the church. Where income tax is abolished and replaced by tithes to the church. Where the Federal Reserve should be abolished as a tool of "international financiers." Where the United Nations is dismantled because of its part in "One Worldism." Views of this mythic world can be examined more fully in Pat Robertson's New World Order.

Religious revivalist movements are as old as history itself. Examples are seen throughout history during periods of upheaval and radical change, such as the Thirty Years' War which broke out after Reformation; the Ghost Dance movement of the Sioux Indians and the Battle of Wounded Knee; and the fundamentalist movement in Iran with the overthrow of the Shah and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

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In the United States in the early decades of the twentieth century, evangelicals actively opposed alcohol, the teaching of evolution, communism and modernism. Prohibition was experimented with and the teaching of "Darwinism" was challenged in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Having won a roundabout victory in the Scopes trial, fundamentalists felt secure that the educational system in the U.S. would be relatively free of experimental social influences. In the l960s, new programs and thinking ushered in a liberal agenda. Prayer in public schools was challenged, evolution was taught in science classes, and abortion laws were overturned with Roe vs. Wade. To traditionalists, society seemed to be falling apart at the seams.

More recently concerns about the spread of communism, overt homosexuality, "free love," the women's movement, pornography, as well as many other signs of the nation moving away from its conservative past into a more liberal era, galvanized traditionalists into a formidable voting bloc. This group has been called the New Right, of which the Religious Right is one component.

Leaders of the New Right include religious activists, such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Randall Terry. Gary DeMar believes there is biblical justification to execute homosexuals and that these deaths should be carried out in some instances by stoning, because this is not only biblically mandated but ecologically correct as well. Social
activists, such as Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, and Bob Simonds of Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE) and political activists, such as Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and the Council for National Policy, who has ties to Joseph Coors of the Heritage Foundation, and Richard Viguerie, Free Congress Foundation, have dedicated their lives to changing the face of politics and public policy.

Early in the 1970s, Paul Weyrich and Joseph Coors joined forces to influence government policies toward a radical right position. Toward this end, they established the Heritage Foundation in 1973. In 1977, they set up the Free Congress Foundation, which is the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. The Council for National Policy was established in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, Nelson Bunker Hunt and Cullen Davis. These three groups work very closely
with each other and many of the same people hold positions of importance in each group. They have had great influence in the Reagan/Bush administrations. Many of these people are former John Birch Society members or fellow travelers. The Coalition on Revival figures prominently in each group.

These groups network with other groups around the nation to affect national policy. Richard Viguerie with his skills as a fund-raiser has used the power of direct mail to mobilize voters and raise capital. Paul Weyrich's genius for political strategy has brought together many factions not usually aligned. Weyrich first saw the power of abortion as a divisive, emotional political tool. Howard Phillips coined the term "Moral Majority," and Weyrich suggested its use to Jerry Falwell.

In 1976, Weyrich, Viguerie, Phillips and William Rusher went to the American Independent Party convention to seek a spot on the national ticket for Viguerie. The AIP was formed as a vehicle for the George Wallace campaign of 1968 and was a coalition of KKK, John Birchers and the Liberty Lobby, a racist organization opposed to racial integration.

More recently Pat Robertson and Weyrich have formed a group called National Empowerment Television (NET), which sets up satellite dishes for local groups free of charge. These communication receivers are used as yet another means to organize voters. Monthly updates on the progress of NET are printed in the Free Congress Foundation's
newsletter "Empowerment." William Bennett is the chairman of NET.

The New Right, both religious and secular, is a highly organized political group with many connections and is well funded by both the wealthy and those of moderate means. With political organizers such as Paul Weyrich, they have made great strides in influencing public and foreign policy.

Yet, as demonstrated by public reaction to the harsher rhetoric that came out of the Republican Convention in 1992, the American people have an inherent distaste for exclusionary, judgmental attitudes. There is no one group or religious belief that can claim to be truly American. Absolute power wielded by one religious group has caused much
sorrow and death in the past. America has been blessed with Founders who were not only influenced by their religious beliefs but by the humanism of the Enlightenment. This enlightment is reflected in our Constitution and should beguarded most carefully.

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Today we are challenged as never before to inform ourselves about candidates for public office. We must demand that a candidate fully discloses his or her view of the role that religion should play in government. Litmus tests on narrow issues will not be good enough. Already candidates have learned how to agree with both sides through the use of euphemistic phraseology. A good example is the question on the Christian Coalition's Voter's Guide
pertaining to abortion. The question is, "Do you agree with abortion on demand?" Candidates can truthfully answer this in the negative and still present themselves as pro-choice candidates, thereby getting a 100% endorsement from the Christian Coalition and the pro-choice vote also.

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Make no mistake, homosexuals have been selected as a scapegoat group. A propaganda film was circulated by Jerry Falwell to the members of the Armed Forces Sub-Committee who were considering lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military. By Falwell's own admission, the film is so pornographic he could not show it in its entirety. It was cut to
30 minutes and shown in prime time on the Family Channel. If the film had been about Jews or African-Americans, public outcry would have been deafening. People have a lot of questions about homosexuality, and Falwell uses this to get away with demagogic rhetoric. Hitler was able to use ingrained prejudice and mistrust of Jews as a means to manipulate the German people. Should we overlook this kind of fear mongering? The Bible has been used as justification to persecute Jews and is now being used as justification to attack homosexuals. What other groups will be next?

We will have to learn to rate candidates on a wide variety of issues pertaining to inclusive civil rights rather than exclusionary agendas. We will have to always keep in mind that the bottom line of Reconstructionists and their fellow travelers is a bible based legal system which will eventually become an anti-democratic theocracy.

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We should ask ourselves what freedoms we are willing to give up to insure against the personal choices of others that may offend us. Do we truly want our freedoms "defined by the Bible" as it is interpreted by others?

(1) The Scofield Bible was published in 1909 by the Oxford University Press. It is an annotated reference Bible and has been very influencial in fundamentalist thought, setting the standard for the norm. Cyrus Scofield was influenced by John Nelson Darby, an Anglican priest who rebelled against the ecclesiastical form of thelogy. Darby was such a firm believer in the approaching millennium, he would not establish any long term institution. Rather than build church structures, his followers would meet in "assemblies" or "brotherhoods," such as the Plymouth Brethren. J. Gordon Melton in The Encyclopedia of American Religions describes Darby as the most influencial Christian thinker in the last two hundred years. (Source: Under God, Religion and American Politics, Garry Wills; Simon & Schuster; Copywrite 1990.)

(2) In October 1978 approximately 300 theologians gathered in Chicago to address the supposed need to clarify the biblical and historical view of the Bible. They felt this to be necessary due to their perception of a "growing trend toward a liberal and neo-orthodox view of the Bible" that was influencing denominations, schools and churches within evangelicalism. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was the result of this meeting. This group of theologians formed the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and met again in 1982, because the "liberalized evangelicals are once more coming out of the theological closet and teaching an entire generation of Christian college and seminary students a neo-orthodox view of the Bible." This group will meet again in the summer of 1994 (postponed to 1996). Francis Schaeffer, a member of the ICBI, claims in The Great Evangelical Disaster (p. 186), ". . .both statements are extremely valuable in setting forth first what it means to say that the Bible is without error, and second, how this applies to the understanding and interpretation of the Bible." (Source: Foundation Documents, Introduction by Jay Grimstead, Crosswinds Magazine, Winter 1992.)

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