Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Scary Tactics


John Sugg has an article at AlterNet that Edvard Munch could have used to put his models in the mood. Entitled "Public Stoning: Not Just for the Taliban Anymore," Shugg recounts his visit to the American Vision's "Worldview Super Conference 2006," and, in particular, two of the leading lights at the conference, Herb Titus and Gary North. They are leaders in the Christian Reconstructionist movement, though, at least as far as the organization of the acknowledged founder of that movement, the late R. J. Rushdoony, they do not necessarily represent the thinking of the 'mainstream' of the movement. I suppose the nuances of the taxonomy of right-wing nuts may be lost while in the midst of them and nervously looking over your shoulder on a regular basis.

You may not have heard of these two but maybe you have heard of some of the people they know well. Titus, for example, was the dean of televangelist Pat Robertson's Regent University law school and represented former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from office for refusing to abide by a decision by the Federal Courts to remove a representation of the 10 Commandments he had privately installed in the state judicial building's rotunda.

North is best known to Internet users for his prolific auguring that a Y2K computer bug would cause the calamitous end of civilization. In the days prior to the advent of this millennium, North urged subscribers to his delusional economic newsletters to go survivalist and prepare for the end. Many did so, dumping investments and life savings, a big oops.

"I lost a million and a half dollars when I sold off real estate," one of North's fans, a home-schooling advocate from Florida, told me during a lunch break between lectures touting creationism and damning secular humanism. But my lunch companion still anted more than pocket change to hear North make more prophesies in Toccoa. "I believe Gary North on Bible issues," he explained. ...

Besides being dangerous to your financial health, North is at least potentially much worse:

"I don't want to capture their (mainstream Americans') system. I want to replace it," fumed North to a cheering audience. North has called for the stoning of gays and nonbelievers (rocks are cheap and plentiful, he has observed). Both friends and foes label him "Scary Gary."

Some of those friends (or enemies . . . it is sometimes hard to tell) come from The Chalcedon Foundation, founded by Rushdoony, who was North's father-in-law. Acknowledging North's nickname, some serious spin is put on North's rhetoric in a piece by Christopher J. Ortiz, the Editor of Faith for All of Life and the Director of Communications for the Chalcedon Foundation. In response to Frederick Clarkson, a critic of Reconstructionism, who has written that it seeks to impose a theocracy with the direct rule of a "theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of 'Biblical Law'," Ortiz says:

I don’t recall ever gleaning this concept of theocracy in any systematic way. Clarkson is referring more to the sensationalism of Dr. Gary North (a.k.a. "Scary Gary") rather than any single book. North admitted to using inflammatory rhetoric intentionally as a means of drawing critics out into a direct debate with Christian Reconstructionists. It is not my intent to defend the work of Gary North, but one need only refer to the long-standing division between North and Rushdoony to understand that there is hardly a monolithic agreement between Reconstructionists. ...

Without reading the full breadth of Reconstructionist literature, such isolated citations lose their context. For example, when Gary North questions the rightness of the Constitution, he is in no way organizing a coup to overturn it. More often than not, he believes it will be a very long time before Americans would ever return to a national covenant as modeled by the early American Puritans. What is central to understand about North’s perspective is that any constitutional or institutional transition is contingent upon the vast majority of Americans embracing a Reconstructionist theology.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? But keep reading:

... What do secularists mean when they say "democracy"? ...

If by democracy the secularists mean supporting gay marriage and public schools and that politicians cannot vote their faith, then yes, we theocrats would be opposed to that hijacked version of democracy. But that is not democracy -- democracy is not socialism. ...

Secularists will often engage in revisionism by suggesting that early American morality was shaped more by the Enlightenment and Greco-Roman social theory than Biblical law. ...

Why then did all states codify sodomy laws? They did it because of the direct influence of Biblical law on early America. ... The Supreme Court is only empowered to adjudicate in cases involving public leaders, maritime jurisdiction, and controversies between the states or between citizens of each state (Article III, Section 1). These are all matters of procedural law. These are all constitutional matters.

Sodomy laws are not procedural -- or constitutional -- matters. These are issues of substantive moral law that are derived from other sources than the Constitution. In most cases, the moral laws of individual states were based upon Biblical law.

Moral civil laws can certainly change, but only by the decision of the citizens of each state and their representative leadership. The cultural battle is an ethical conflict, not a constitutional conflict. Christians have every right to elect leaders that will rule in terms of Biblical law. Secularists have equal right to elect leaders that will seek to overturn Biblically reflective laws. That is the democratic process. That is what’s being denied to contemporary conservative Christians. Any involvement in the political process to push forward a Christian moral agenda is labeled as "dominionist" and a push toward theocracy.

Besides the loopy argument that sodomy laws are somehow more important than the words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the ignoring of the extension of the Bill of Rights to the states by the 14th Amendment, note the bait and switch. They are not for a nasty theocracy that ignores rights, but they would define away the courts' duty to protect Constitutional rights. They can accuse their opponents of socialism, sodomy and hijacking democracy as part of equal access to the political process but if anyone suggests that they are "dominionist" and pushing for a theocracy, the critics are somehow denying them their rights.

And above and beyond all the slippery logic, are they simply lying through their teeth? North isn't the only one saying scary things:

George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action:

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.

We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...

And they won't either.

Comments:
It's just coincidence, but Toccoa, Georgia is the home of Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. He's kept a really, really low profile since he got body-slammed in the Republican primary race for Lieutenant Governor. I wonder if he just happened to be visiting the old hometown while the conference was under way?
 
Well, I'm not sure that the kind of place that nurtured Reed being amenable to and welcoming of the lunatic fringe of the religious right is such a coincidence. But if there is anyplace for him to lick his wounds, that would seem to be it. Unless, of course, even they are getting tired of Reed . . . oh, wait a minute . . . there was that guy who lost over $1 million from North's advice and didn't give up on him . . . never mind!
 
Those who don't think there is a Christian Taliban in America, are fooling themselves!
 
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