Christian Reconstructionism: Threat to Liberty
After the all-too-vivid tragedy of September 11, and the further threats from anthrax, Americans now recognize that our country is under attack. Most citizens want to stand together, supporting each other regardless of differing religious or philosophical beliefs. Displaying the unity of pluralism expressed in our country's original motto, E Pluribus Unum (out of the many, one), some non-Muslim citizens of Colorado Springs went to the defense of our Muslim community against the threat of religious prejudice.
Now we need to be vigilant for another threat against our nation, coming not from overseas terrorists, but from those within who would change the basic structure of our country, modifying it to reflect one narrow religious view. For years they have opposed the constitutional principle of separating church and state, and now with a religious president and opportunistic friends in Congress, they seek to advance that agenda.
The October issue of CHURCH & STATE, a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church & State, describes this threat. It shows that many Republican members of Congress are now showing favor to Christian Reconstructionists, the most extreme wing of the Religious Right -- a group whose views would be unbelievable to most Americans. They would impose their interpretation of "biblical law" on our country, replacing democracy with a theocratic state based on a literal reading of the Old Testament's legal code. Reconstructionism would eliminate many of democracy's manifestations, such as labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools. Political leaders would look to the bible, not the Constitution, as the nation's governing document.
In the 1960's, the writings of Rousas John Rushdoony made popular some of the more extreme opinions of Reconstructionism, such as advocating the death penalty for a number of offenses, among them striking or cursing a parent, adultery, homosexuality, "unchastity," witchcraft (shades of the Middle Ages!), blasphemy and propagation of "false" religious doctrines. Some of his followers even favor stoning as the biblically preferred means of execution. All would make our country a "Christian Nation," with no allowance for other views or religions.
The Promise Keepers group follows Reconstructionist teachings in their view of the family with wife and children "in submission" to the husband. President George W. Bush's welfare guru, Marvin Olasky, was clearly influenced by this philosophy in his belief that churches, not the government, should provide for the poor.
The biggest current threat seems to be from the National Reform Association, whose president, Jeffrey Ziegler, is determined to become a political player in promoting Reconstructionism. He has met three times with members of Congress, once with staffers of my own Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. In July 2000 he met with Rep.Tom DeLay to plan an upcoming "biblical worldview" conference for congressional staff on Capitol Hill.
Ziegler feels that the Republican party is the best vehicle to accomplish his goal of establishing an officially "Christian" government, and has begun running Reconstructionist candidates. Observers note that these candidates have learned to downplay the controversial aspects of their philosophy and focus instead on more palatable pocketbook positions that appeal to voters. Thus many voters never realize their true intentions.
Reconstructionism represents a threat to each American's guarantee of individual religious liberty. Losing that would be a disaster unequaled by any other.
Read more about this in the October issue of CHURCH & STATE, available on Americans United's website, www.au.org.
For background on Christian Reconstructionism, see the article by Frederick Carlson on www.publiceye.org.
Church and State