Sunday, February 10, 2013

Patriarchy, Christian Reconstructionsim, and White Supremacy

Notes on this post: First, I apologize for its length. It is far longer than any other post I have ever made. It represents the result of three months of research, writing, and rewriting. However, I felt it was necessary to lay out all of the important information, quotes, and links. For those who care about the issues currently dividing conservative Christianity, I think this information is important. I would urge my readers to follow the links as well. These are ideas that are being flaunted publicly and proudly, not hidden. 

It is fitting, though, that I would finish this during Black History Month. 

Second, for those of my readers who do not share my faith, I understand if you find this post tedious. I do want to say that the Patriarchy movement is a fringe group within the conservative wing of American Christianity - although I believe it is gaining influence. It is no more representative of the majority of American Christians than terrorists are representative of American Muslims. Please do not lump me or the others of my faith in with this group.

Third, I have chosen to use the terms “black” and “white” to refer to African Americans and persons of pale, European descent, respectively. I realize that these terms are not particularly accurate, and that different people prefer different terms. I use them as they are commonly used and understood in general discourse. In keeping with the recommendations of The Chicago Manual of Style, I have used lowercase for these terms, except when referring to the White Supremacy movement. In quoting directly from others, I use their language, even if it is highly offensive. I prefer not to bowdlerize.
 
This post is a follow-up to my discussion of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Although I had already uncovered some disturbing writings by a major figure in the modern “Christian Patriarchy” movement, Douglas Wilson, I continued to research the issue, because I felt that I was still missing a piece somewhere.
 
First, let me back up a bit. Recall that I spent some time as a teen in a group affiliated with the Christian Patriarchy Movement (although not directly - the link was more in the ideas and in the fact that they shared a good number of followers). That group was and is led by a man named Bill Gothard. (This is the group made most famous by the Duggars of "19 and Counting." Without getting into it too much, Gothard presents a legalistic, checklist based approach to Christianity; advocates a hierarchical system of authority with elements of Patriarchy; and has quite the lucrative empire of programs for teens and adults.) My wife’s family was involved with a much more restrictive, and I would say, utterly insane group. (Bold Christian Living - Jonathan Lindvall.) Poke around on the website a bit. Again, a system of authority, Patriarchy, and lots of stuff to buy. (Notice the trend...) This group holds ideas that are virtually identical to those of Douglas Phillips (Vision Forum), another major figure in the Christian Patriarchy movement. (Yet again, a system of authority, Patriarch, and stuff to buy.)

 
It was during my Gothard years that I first noted a racist edge to this segment of ultra-conservative Christianity. Gothard, who began his programs in the 1960s, blames most, or perhaps all spiritual problems on exposure to “rock music.” “Rock music” (which turned out to include jazz as well) was deemed evil, regardless of content, due in large part to its alleged origin in pagan Africa. “Godly” music came from Christian Europe, and was exemplified by military marching music. (There were also musical claims, which I discuss below in my note.)

I also noticed that the vision of “ideal” Christianity presented looked much like an upper-middle-class, white society of the past. Perhaps the 1950s, or the Victorian period. There didn’t seem to be any chance of attaining “God’s best” unless one was reasonably well off, certainly; and all vestiges of non-European or non-white American cultures were looked on with suspicion. 

Eventually, my wife and I grew up and moved out, and got married. We decided that we did not agree with Gothard and Lindvall, and that we would make a clean break with what we saw as legalistic, authoritarian, and somewhat nutty systems. Our parents, too, eventually moved on. 

Over the last couple of years, aided by the internet, I have been in better touch with the friends I made during those years. I was intrigued by a pattern of difficulties that they had and were having as a result of their experiences. Many had great difficulty in their relationships with their parents, including some where the parents attempted to torpedo their marriage. Others were struggling with the effects of the legalism, and so on. This led me to start keeping an eye on developments involving the major figures in the Patriarchy movement. 

Not long ago, Douglas Wilson made headlines with a statement he made about marital sexual relations, which he said were ungodly if they were done for mutual pleasure. Rather, he said, they should reflect the dominance of the man (Patriarchy), who plants and colonizes. (The woman receives.) The part that caught the eye of those outside of the ultra-conservative circles was his claim that the rape fantasy was a  longing for the “godly” form of sex, where there is “true authority and true submission” (his words). (See note below for more on this issue.) 

Still, I felt like there was a link that I was missing. It seemed unlikely that Wilson used White Supremacist arguments by accident. True, Patriarchy and White Supremacism are both based on a belief that a portion of humanity is inherently, congenitally, inferior; but, it seemed to me that there had to be a more solid connection. Otherwise, why would Wilson risk tainting his reputation by taking a controversial position on an issue seemingly unrelated to his main focus?
 
The final piece fell into place for me with a link provided by my friend and fellow blogger at thatmom.com. She linked to a Wade Burleson post on Patriarchy that mentioned a Civil War theologian named Robert Lewis Dabney. A quick internet search, and the light came on for me.

R. L. Dabney was Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson’s chaplain, and he went on to a career as a preacher, writer, and theologian after the war ended.


Dabney also happens to be a revered hero of the leaders of the Patriarchy movement.

I previously mentioned Wilson’s pamphlet, Slavery as it Was. It turns out that some bookstores refused to carry it, not because of its racism, but because it was wholesale plagiarized from a book by Dabney. Also notable: Steve Wilkins, who co-wrote the pamphlet with Wilson, is a professor with his “chair” named in honor of - wait for it - R. L. Dabney. (I noted previously that Wilkins is a former leader of The League of the South, a secessionist and White Supremacist organization. In addition to advocating for a re-establishment of the Confederacy, they condemn interracial marriage and adoption, and support the repeal of civil rights laws.)

Wilson isn’t the only leader in the Patriarchy movement with a thing for Dabney, however. Douglas Phillips, who is probably the “godfather” of the movement (and also the son of extreme-right-wing presidential candidate Howard Phillips), wrote an awed biography of Dabney, Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet Speaks, and even composed a poem, an ode, really, to his greatness.

One cannot search Dabney’s name without finding a myriad of White Supremacist websites. He is equally revered in those circles. 
 
So what did Dabney preach?


I do want to be fair, and admit that Dabney’s work on systematic theology (which is available for free online) is pretty much within the pell of orthodoxy. Most of it is pretty uncontroversial, and he lays it out in a useful, systematic format.

It is his views about the South, race, class, and gender, that are more controversial.

But again, one must go back before the Civil War to find the connection.
           
"For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution."
~ Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
       
Dabney too believed that the error of the French Revolution was that of equality. Men were decidedly not equal, in his view. The man was superior to the woman, the aristocrat was superior to the commoner, and the white man was superior to the black man.

Again: are all men naturally equal in strength, in virtue, in capacity, or in rights? The thought is preposterous. The same man does not even continue to have the same natural rights all the time. The female child is born with a different set of rights in part, from the male child of the same parents; because born to different native capacities and natural relations and duties. In what then are men naturally equal? I answer, first: in their common title to the several quantums of liberty appropriate to each, differing as they do in different men; second, they are equal in their common humanity, and their common share in the obligations and benefits of the golden rule.

Hence, the general equality of nature will by no means produce a literal and universal equality of civil condition; for the simple reason that the different classes of citizens have very different specific rights; and this grows out of their differences of sex, virtue, intelligence, civilization, etc., and the demands of the common welfare. Thus, if the low grade of intelligence, virtue and civilization of the African in America, disqualified him for being his own guardian, and if his own true welfare (taking the "general run" of cases) and that of the community, would be plainly marred by this freedom; then the law decided correctly, that the African here has no natural right to his self–control, as to his own labour and locomotion. Hence, his natural liberty is only that which remains after that privilege is retrenched. (From Systematic Theology)


Dabney wasn’t the only person of his era with these views, of course. Even such a luminary as Edmund Burke, who held many admirable views, opposed the idea of equality.
           
"Political equality is against nature. Social equality is against nature. Economic equality is against nature. The idea of equality is subversive of order".
~ Edmund Burke.

From the above, one can guess a bit about Dabney’s views on race and slavery. It is his book, A Defense of Virginia and the South, (available in full for free online) that Dabney expounded his most racist views. (In fact, this book, written soon after the Civil War, was considered racist in its time.) Dabney defends slavery as a noble institution, and in fact, “the righteous, the best, yea, the only tolerable relation” between blacks and whites. It is this quote that Wilson “softens” in Slavery as it Was. 
 
"Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since...Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."

Perhaps slavery is no longer the “righteous” relationship, or the “only tolerable” relationship between blacks and whites, but it is still the “best” in the history of the world.

Some other choice quotes from A Defense of Virginia and other minor writings on slavery: 

It is well known, that, as a general rule, they [Negroes] are a graceless, vagabondish set, and contribute very little to the support of the State by which they are protected. They are not citizens, never can become citizens, and wherever found in large numbers they are an expense and a source of trouble…

The black race is an alien one on our soil; and nothing except his amalgamation with ours, or his subordination to ours, can prevent the rise of that instinctive antipathy of race, which, history shows, always arises between opposite races in proximity…

The offspring of an amalgamation must be a hybrid race incapable of the career of civilization and glory as an independent race. And this apparently is the destiny which our conquerors have in view. If indeed they can mix the blood of the heroes of Manassas with this vile stream from the fens of Africa, then they will never again have occasion to tremble before the righteous resistance of Virginia freemen; but will have a race supple and vile enough to fill that position of political subjugation, which they desire to fix on the South.    (From A Defense of Virginia and the South)   

Dabney also opposed the education of blacks. (He opposed all public schools, as well as any secular education - which is another reason he appeals to the leaders of the Patriarchy movement.)
 
But, you asked for my opinion of this fearful question of the negro in our common schools. It is not necessary for me to repeat the points so strongly put by “Civis.” To one of them only, I would add my voice: the unrighteousness of expending vast sums, wrung by a grinding taxation from our oppressed people, upon a pretended education of freed slaves; when the State can neither pay its debts, nor attend to its own legitimate interests. Law and common honesty both endorse the maxim: “A man must be just before he is generous.” The action of the State, in wasting this money thus, which is due to her creditors, is as inexcusable as it is fantastical. I do know that not a few of our white brethren, before the war, independent and intelli­gent, are now prevented from educating their own children, because they are compelled to keep them in the cornfield, labor­ing from year’s end to year’s end, to raise these taxes to give a pretended education to the brats of the black paupers, who are loafing around their plantations, stealing a part of the scanty crops and stock their poor, struggling boys are able to raise. Not seldom has this pitiful sight made my blood boil with in­dignation, and then made my heart bleed with the thought. (From The Negro and the Common School)
There is much more to be found, all in the public domain online.

Douglas Phillips, who has stated that Dabney was foundational to his thinking, in his poem to Dabney, specifically praises A Defense of Virginia:

We must remember Thornwell, Palmer, Girardeau —
All Southern men who preached with power, unity, and flow;
But when it comes to logic pure there’s one that tops our list:
Hail Dabney, prophet of the South, our great apologist.

Geneva had its Calvin, Rome its Augustine,
England had is Cromwell to fight the libertine;
But in our land there was but one who dared to turn the tide
Of reconstructionistic zeal and yankeedom’s foul pride.

The feminist, the plutocrat, the wiley carpetbagger,
The Darwinist, the bureaucrat, and transcendental braggart;
The scalawag, the suffragette, the surly Statist simp
Were by your pen defrocked, exposed, and wounded, left to limp.

The solomonic wisdom from your pugilistic pen
Has rendered impotent the creeds of far less noble men;
And with a keen, perceptive flair that exceeds Nostradamus,
Your prophesies have proven wrong each foolish doubting Thomas.

You make us leave our comfort zone and re-engage the battle,
Content no more to tolerate the sophomoric prattle
Of Socialists, Republicrats, and those who compromise;
No longer may we coddle them or listen to their lies.

And so with joy we doff our hats and shout from every mouth:
Hail Dabney, wise apologist, defender of the South!

Phillips, in particular, considers Dabney to be a true prophet, speaking the uncomfortable truth. As I will note, this love of Dabney’s vision of the Confederate South will tie in with the goals of Christian Reconstructionism, which I discuss below.

The second thread connecting Dabney with the patriarchy movement is a view of the subordination of women to men. Again, Dabney is of the belief that it is equality which is responsible for the decay of morals and society. Dabney believed that neither blacks nor women should have the right to vote. As for women’s sufferage, he said, “The obvious answer is, that it will destroy Christianity and civilization in America.” One suspects that, since Dabney referred to the women’s rights movement as being a cause of abolitionism, he was not happy about Harriet Beecher Stowe in particular.

Some other choice words: 
 
How utterly opposed is all this to the leveling doctrine of your Radical. Women are here consigned to a social subordination, and expressly excluded from ruling offices, on grounds of their sex, and a divine ordination based by God upon a transaction which happened nearly six thousand years ago! The woman's sphere is expressly assigned her within her home, and she is taught that the assumption of publicity is an outrage against that nature with which she is endowed.

Political excitements will corrupt women tenfold more than men; and this, not because women are naturally inferior to men, but because they are naturally adapted to a wholly different sphere. When we point to the fact that they are naturally more emotional and less calculating, more impulsive and less self-contained, that they have a quicker tact but less logic, that their social nature makes them more liable to the contagion of epidemic passions, and that the duties of their sex make it physically impossible for them to acquire the knowledge in a foreign sphere necessary for political duties, we do not depreciate woman; we only say that nature has adapted her to one thing and disqualified her for the other. The violet would wither in that full glare of midsummer in which the sunflower thrives: this does not argue that the violet is the meaner flower. The vine, left to stand alone, would be hurled prone in the mire by the first blasts of that history...But the vine cannot be an oak; it must be itself, dependent, clinging, but more precious than that on which it leans or it must perish. When anything, animate or inanimate, is used for a function to which it is not adapted, that foreign use must endamage it, and the more the farther that function is from its own sphere. So it will be found (and it is no disparagement to woman to say it) that the very traits which fit her to be the angel of a virtuous home unfit her to meet the agitations of political life, even as safely as does the more rugged man. The hot glare of publicity and .passion will speedily deflower her delicacy and sweetness. Those temptations, which her Maker did not form her to bear, will debauch her heart, developing a character as much more repulsive than that of the debauched man as the fall has been greater. (From Women’s Rights Women.)

These views sound eerily similar to the "Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy", as found on Phillips’ website.

Again, the view is one of hierarchy: the man rules the woman, the white man rules the black man, the aristocrat rules the commoner.

The third thread is, in my view, the one that ties together the patriarchy movement and the white supremacist movement. The important term here is Christian Reconstructionism. Organizations like the League of the South advocate the secession of the South, and the reestablishment of Antebellum society. Christian Reconstructionists advocate the establishment of a society ruled by “Biblical” principles (as defined by them, of course). Wikipedia’s description is informative.

In a later post, I want to address the issue of “Theonomy,” which I believe is the fundamental error at the root of the patriarchy and reconstructionist movements.

How does this relate to Dabney? In A Defense of Virginia, he argues that that the Antebellum South was the last true “Christian” society. Furthermore, this “godly” society did not end as a result of its own failure, but rather because it was violently destroyed by the “heretical” North.

Thus, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, nor was it a secular conflict. In Dabney’s view it was, quite literally, good versus evil, right versus wrong. The North, with its ideals of equality, was inherently evil, along with its ideas. 

Douglas Wilson expressly agrees with this statement, writing:

“You’re not going to scare me away from the word Confederate.” Wilson identifies as a “paleo-confederate.” “We’re fighting in a long war, and that [the Civil War] was one battle that we lost.” (Christianity Today, April 17, 2009)


Dabney went further, to predict that racial integration, social equality, and “feminism” would lead to a whole host of social evils. He claimed that the freeing of the slaves, with its implication of equality, would naturally lead to the breakdown of society. Human nature being what it is, many of these predicted ills have come to pass in the last 150 years. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the arc of a civilization from its rise to its death. However, Dabney, like many before and since, was sure he knew both the cause and the cure. Society would be destroyed by equality (women and blacks are getting uppity!), and the cure was the re-establishment of the “natural order,” slavery and all. (Women and blacks should know their place!)

Let’s try this with another historical visionary believed to be a prophet. The prediction in Mein Kampf: Germany was losing its character and morale. The cause: The Jews! The solution: Nazism and the Final Solution!

Let’s also try this with Marx, who accurately predicted the results of greed in a capitalist society. He blamed it on religion and capitalism (the bourgeoisie is oppressing you, and the priests defend them!), and advocated atheism and communism (as applied by Lenin, Stalin, and others: kill the priests and plunder the people richer than you!)

Or how about this one? Many predicted that the Roman Empire would decay because the traditional polytheism was no longer practiced. Surely this was due to those Christians infesting the Empire! Say, those lions look hungry...See how easy this is? Try it for yourself!

This is why patriarchs like Douglas Phillips consider Dabney to be a prophet. They see problems in our society which were predicted by Dabney, accept his explanation, and attempt to establish a society based on his prescription - perhaps minus the slavery thing - but with the rest. Thus, they advocate for subordinate gender roles, avoidance of interracial marriage, home schooling as the only “godly” choice, and so on. 
A page from Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom, by Abel Thomas, published in 1864. The terms “patriarchal” and “gospel” were commonly used by the defenders of slavery to describe the institution. Dabney was one of these, of course, and his ideas were already well known to the abolitionists. I was more surprised to find that Douglas Wilson would so unashamedly describe slavery as “patriarchal,” considering its connection to his own philosophy.
 
There is a solid link between Dabney and the modern White Supremacy movement. He is spoken of with awe, and is commonly cited in support of their positions against integration and interracial marriage. I hate to dignify bigotry with a link, but I believe the information is important in this case. This site also unabashedly claims an increasing collaboration between the Christian Reconstructionist movement and the League of the South and other White Supremacist organizations.

Likewise, there is an historical connection from Dabney to the modern Patriarchy movement. In rough historical order, these are the names that took the proto-reconstructionist ideas from Dabney to the present: Richard M. Weaver (“Southern people reached the eve of the Civil War one of the few religious people left in the Western World.”), C. Gregg Singer (“[the US Civil War] as a humanistic revolt against Christianity and the world and life view of the Scriptures … Thornwell, Dabney, and their contemporaries … properly read abolitionism as a revolt against the biblical conception of society and a revolt against the doctrine of divine sovereignty in human affairs.”), and Rousas Rushdoony. Now there is an interesting name I recall vaguely from my childhood, although I think it was in the context of him being a little nutty.
 

“A little nutty” is a vast understatement. Rushdoony (who wrote much of his output during the ferment of the Civil Rights Movement)  is considered the founder of the modern Reconstructionist movement. He is also loved by Douglas Wilson and Douglas Phillips. Unsurprisingly, at least by this time, he is another revered figure of the White Supremacy movement. As a matter of fact, my best source for information about the connections from Dabney to Rushdoony was a White Supremacist website. The white supremacists make no secret of all of this: they are proud of the racist views of Dabney, Rushdoony, and others.

Likewise, Douglas Phillips makes no secret of his love for Rushdoony.

“Especially fond to me are the memories of old days when I could visit in person or listen on tape to Mr. [Otto] Scott and Dr. R.J. Rushdoony (now with the Lord) as they would wax eloquent on subjects as diverse as the moral inadequacies of jazz...” Douglas Phillips on Rushdoony

 Phillips said that he took three books to his law school classes: “the textbook, a copy of The Institutes of Biblical Law, and my Bible.”

What does Rushdoony say in The Institutes of Biblical Law?

The white man has behind him centuries of Christian culture and the discipline and the selective breeding this faith requires… The Negro is a product of a radically different past, and his [genetic] heredity has been governed by radically different considerations.
Unequal yoking plainly means mixed marriages between believers and unbelievers is clearly forbidden. But Deuteronomy 22:10 not only forbids unequal yoking by inference, and as a case law, but also unequal yoking generally. This means that an unequal marriage between believers or between unbelievers is wrong… The burden of the law is thus against inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish.
Hybridization seeks to improve on God’s work by attempting to gain the best qualities of two diverse things; there is no question that some hybrids do show certain advantageous qualities, but there is also no question that it comes at a price, bringing some serious disadvantages.
Every social order institutes its own program of separation or segregation… Segregation, separation, or quarantine, whichever name is used, is inescapable in any society.

Rushdoony was also a holocaust denialist, claiming that the “lies” about it were worse than any atrocities committed.

I also found it interesting that Rushdoony opposed democracy, saying that “Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies,” and that “Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life.” Why would this be? Rushdoony believed in the concept of a “spiritual aristocracy,” the rule by those naturally fit to rule. As he put it, “The goal is the developed Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, a world order under God's law.”

Boy, this is starting to sound familiar!

(Rushdoony would take Reconstruction further than Dabney. While Dabney advocated for the restoration of the Antebellum South, Rushdoony advocated for the reestablishment of the government of the Old Testament Kingdom of Israel, along with all of Old Testament law and penalties. Yes, that includes the stoning to death of women who lie about their virginity.)

Douglas Wilson mentions Rushdoony on his blog extensively, although he appears to have at least nominally rejected Reconstructionism. (I think that his ideas amount to Reconstructionism without the name.)  This post in particular discusses the influence of Dabney and Rushdoony.  
 
Circling back to the Douglas Phillips quote above, notice the mention of the evils of jazz. Here we come full circle to the beginning of my discussion. Bill Gothard plagiarized most of his writings on the evils of “rock music” from Rushdoony. Also, in his home school curriculum, Gothard advocates for a world order which is essentially Reconstructionism: the establishment of a society governed by a spiritual aristocracy in line with Old Testament laws. Characteristically, Gothard does not attribute in his publications, which makes it harder to draw the direct connection. However, the ideas are copied nearly word-for-word from Rushdoony and others. The essential views on gender roles, clothing, authority, and many others are substantially similar to the teachings by Douglas Phillips. Thus, while Gothard never makes the connection explicit like Phillips and Wilson do, there is too much similarity in the teachings and worldview to be a coincidence.

Once I discovered all of these explicit links, much of what puzzled me about Gothardism and the modern Patriarchy movement became much clearer. Once I understood that underlying all of the rules and authoritarianism was a belief that a truly “godly” society had once existed, and that it was destroyed by the forces of evil embodied in the North, it became clear why these groups focus on hierarchies, authority, and conformity to a rigid cultural expectation. Also, certain views of specific issues that had seemed odd to me suddenly fit into the greater worldview inspired by Dabney and Rushdoony.

- Belief that “rock music” and jazz were the roots of all evil. Once one accepts that those of African descent are by nature inferior and that mixing the races is evil, this one comes naturally.
- Disapproval of adoption, particularly foreign adoption. After all, it might dilute the purity of the race.
- Glorification of the culture of a particular era. Specifically, the glorification of the culture of the upper class in the Antebellum South. From this follow the imposition of a dress code based on the outfits of the era.
- Forbidding the wearing of blue jeans, even for manual labor. Jeans were marketed to factory workers (an evil Northern system, according to Dabney), although I suspect that James Dean also contributed to their “ungodly” reputation.
- A focus on the limitation of the roles of women. This particular belief, including the subservience of women to men has been raised by the Patriarchists to the level of a fundamental doctrine of the faith, equal to a belief in the deity of Christ.
- Hostility to women who exercise or play sports. This would be an encroachment on male territory, and also not the sort of thing an aristocratic woman would do.
- A corresponding focus on the alleged “feminization” of men in our society, and a quest to make men conform to a rather militaristic ideal of masculinity. This focus includes the restriction of reading material for children to those books that show properly “masculine” and “feminine” traits, and support the other elements of the Patriarchal worldview. This is amazingly similar to the restrictions imposed by the Nazis in Germany and by Stalin in the USSR.
- Advocacy for the establishment of an alternative society, rather than functioning as Christians within the present society. After all, the “Northern” society we live in is illegitimate, and should be overthrown.
- Militant Fecundity and its close relative Quiverfull, which advocate large families. (Think of the Duggars - prominent members of Gothard’s system.) Since the intent is to establish an alternative society and overthrow the “evil” one we live in, one needs lots of bodies.
- View of others that do not hold the same views as the enemy - even other Christians. All these groups advocate keeping separate from the world. The ideal is self-employment, homeschooling, and marriage only within the group. This stems from the view of the South as true Christian society and everyone else as the evil North.
-  Home schooling as the only Biblical method of education. This comes directly from Dabney and Rushdoony, of course. Lindvall has gone so far as to say that only home school parents should be permitted to have a leadership position in a church.
- Attraction to an extreme form of Calvinism. In particular, an extension of the doctrine of election to a belief that God chooses certain individuals to be damned, and that therefore they have no opportunity to repent. They were chosen for hell before the creation of the world. I believe this is attractive because it enables the “us versus them” view. The “others” can then be safely ignored. If they agree with us, then God has chosen them. If not, then, well, to hell with them anyway. (I should clarify that the vast majority of Calvinists reject both Patriarchy and Reconstructionism. Most Patriarchists are Calvinists, but few Calvinists are Patriarchists.)
- Emphasis on “authority.” In addition to the hierarchical view of society, it is important that in a military conflict that orders be obeyed without question.
- Belief that any lifestyle outside of the rigidly prescribed roles is evil. Once one believes that a particular society and culture was the last Christian society, this follows naturally.
- Stigmatization and punishment of “non-normative” individuals. See above.
- Suspicion of independent thought. In Gothardism, a particularly bad epithet is “Independent Spirit.” I know, I heard that a few times. Those who are skeptical of a particular claim are written off as rebellious, or at least “spiritually insensitive.” Again, this stems from the belief that a particular society is the only godly society combined with the authoritarian view of the world.
- “Courtship” or “betrothal” as the “godly” method for finding a spouse. Because preserving the purity of the movement is so important, marriage isn’t about the formation of a new family, or about love, or anything like that. It is about ensuring that the new spouse conforms to the expectations of the group, and furthers its goal. It also serves to prevent “hybridization” with other races, although this is more understood than stated.
- The veneration of books by G. A. Henty. (These are considered by many in the movement to be the best possible books for young boys to read, despite having some troubling racist and colonialist attitudes that are very much of their time. I’m not claiming these books are bad, but that they may be loved as much for their worldview as for their merit.)
- The corresponding veneration of the Elsie Dinsmore books for girls, which present a view of society, race, and gender roles very much in line with Patriarchal ideals. (Unlike Henty, I have nothing good to say here. My wife suffered through one of the books, and complained of poor writing, cardboard characters, and a disturbing quasi-incestuous relationship between Elsie and her father. I also note that she marries her father’s best friend, who had his eye on her since she was a small girl. Eww.)
- Real life experience, logic, and anything outside of the orthodoxy of the group are disregarded. They are trumped by the particular interpretation given to Scripture by the group leader. This too stems from the belief that a perfect society existed in the past, and that all we need to do to attain Utopia is re-create it. (Theonomy also comes in here.)
- Everything of our present culture is evil by definition, but things of the culture of the Antebellum South are good by definition.

I write this in part because I am worried that the Reconstructionist/Theonomist paradigm is gaining in popularity with conservative Christianity. These ideas have really gained popularity in certain parts of the home school movement as well, although I would hasten to add that most of us do not subscribe to these views. Also, not everyone who has a connection with the above Patriarchists or their ideas believes all of the reconstructionism or has racist ideals. However, too many of the cultural assumptions that flow out of the Reconstructionist paradigm have become as or more important than Christ himself to many conservative Christians. As my blogger friend aptly put it, it is getting extremely difficult for those of us who believe the traditional tenets of the faith to find a church that doesn’t also believe in rigid gender roles and a return to the culture of the past. I have mentioned to many of my friends and family that this new Patriarchy is not the faith I was raised in. Formerly, it was about the change in the heart as a result of redemption, not about the external appearance in line with a particular culture. Marriage was about mutual love and sacrifice, not the idea of submission and domination. Worship was about our response to God, not a fight about musical style. And “the world” wasn’t so much a malevolent force to be feared as a world in need of our compassion, care, and assistance.

I do want to clarify that my parents are not racists or Patriarchists, and they never taught us those things. Likewise, I do not believe my wife’s parents believed or taught those ideas. Our years in Patriarchal groups were spent there out of ignorance, not ill intent. Furthermore, the internet had not yet become the source of information that it is now, and many of the less savory ideas were kept hidden from neophytes, so our parents could see only the surface and not the underbelly. In a day and age when young ladies dress like Bratz dolls, and a high percentage of children are born out of wedlock, there is a certain amount of concern about our children that is both natural and legitimate. In that situation, it is very attractive to see rows of neatly dressed, polite teenagers, and hear promises of a better way. As demagogues throughout history have known, in times of cultural upheaval, it is comforting to believe that someone foresaw the problems, knows the cause, and has the solution - so much more so if the “problem” stems from the “bad” influence of people different than you. Thus good folks get sucked into a vision they do not share by the promise of one they do share.

Lest anyone think that I have exaggerated the Reconstructionist aspect of this, I hereby link to Douglas Phillips’ “200 Year Plan.” It is worth the time to peruse the PDF slides, which contain many of the elements I already cited. (The importance of a child’s spouse: she must buy into the vision and be willing to have lots of children, emphasis on patriarchy, the “vision of the father,” i.e. control of adult children, an utter lack of non-white people - particularly in leadership, military references, passing references to aristocracy.)
 

(200 year plan - Douglas Phillips)

The end goal is clear: to establish a new (or renewed) “Christian nation,” one which is governed (and governs others) in line with Phillips’ view of God’s will. The generally accepted term for this is a Theocracy. I, for one, would be vehemently opposed to this. I think the words of C. S. Lewis express my thoughts.

"I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme -- whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence -- the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication," (From Reflections on the Psalms)

Note on Music:

I think I have adequately explained the racist element in the theories of music propounded by Gothard and Rushdoony. The supposed musical explanation is this:

Emphasis on the “downbeat” is good and “godly,” while emphasis on the “back beat” is evil. I suppose one could dismiss the whole theory on the basis that neither type of beat is ever mentioned in the Bible, but Gothard in particular takes it very seriously. (Rushdoony wrote Institutes in the 1940s, before rock and roll.) To support this view, Gothard cites the “African” roots of “rock and roll” and Africa’s “pagan” culture as proof that it is evil. At best, this ignores all of the “pagan” influences in European music. In my opinion, it is more of the racism descended from Dabney. By being “white,” certain music is just inherently more holy.

As a musician, I have further problems with the theory. Very little music has emphasis solely on either the downbeat or the upbeat, which is a more accurate term than “back beat.” In fact, most music, particularly of a light or popular nature - including military marches - has a contrasting emphasis on both the upbeat and the downbeat. This is not a secret. Any reasonably educated musician can tell you this. Anyone who has played a second violin or viola part in a Sousa march can tell you that all they do is play off the beat. The whole time. (Personal experience here...) The general pattern in Western music is bass notes on the downbeat, treble on the upbeat. Think of the polka: oom-pah, oom-pah, etc. Likewise in the waltz: oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah. And guess what? It is the same way in “rock” music today. Ask any drummer. Bass drum on the downbeat, snare on the upbeat. This is, of course, a gross simplification of rhythm, but so was the “evil” and “good” music dichotomy. In reality, rules and expectations are broken in truly interesting music all the time. That is the whole point. A constant emphasis of one beat is boring, regardless of what beat it is. Composers and artists from the classical masters to the latest songwriters seek to create unexpected and intriguing rhythms, melodies, and harmonies.

Thus, the “musical” justification was clearly bogus to me from the beginning, and served to demonstrate Gothard’s ignorance of the basics of music. Rushdoony was more honest. Music from Europe was superior to music from Africa because the white race was, in his view, morally superior to the black race.



An example of “godly” music. Note the 2nd violins playing on the offbeat throughout, and the flutes and piccolos in many other spots. Also, note that there is often bass drum on the downbeat, and snare drum on the upbeat. Remember: Bass on the downbeat, treble on the upbeat...

   
An example of “evil” music. Once again: bass on the downbeat, treble on the upbeat. Isn’t this fun?

Note on the Douglas Wilson rape controversy:

A blogger and friend of Douglas Wilson reposed the following excerpt from Wilson’s book, Fidelity: How to be a One Woman Man as a response to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel about kinky, violent sex. All excerpts can be viewed on Amazon.com using the search within the book feature.

Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours. (Page 88. Emphasis in original.)

It is beyond the scope of this post to explain why this is offensive, and I assume most of my readers will find that point to be completely obvious. It also fits neatly with the Christian Patriarchy view that women are in fact lesser beings, and therefore must always be under the protection (and control) of a man. In fact, Wilson makes this reasonably clear in the opening of the first chapter of the book:

This book was written for men and their sons. I suggest that wives read this only when their husbands give it to them, and not the other way around. The introduction mentioned the issue of “straight talk” – and this means, in part, a rejection of euphemism. Some of what is said here may be offensive to Christian women, but the point is certainly not to give offense. The point is to provide biblically specific and pointed help to Christian males. (On page 13.)

Although, again, this discussion is beyond the scope of this one post, I may have to explore the degree to which misogyny and the control of women are a core belief of the Christian Patriarchy movement.

Suffice it to say that, like many of Wilson’s ideas, this one is not only factually false, but obviously factually false. Those places in the world where women are most likely to be raped also happen to be those places which most adhere to the Patriarchal view of male-female relations. Even worse, many of those in these areas of the world that advocate patriarchy mutilate the genitals of their females, which ensures that the sex act is not an “egalitarian pleasure fest.” That, in fact, is the point.

If Wilson were really concerned about ending rape, he might note that women are the safest in those countries that have strong rape laws, a view of women as equals, and influential feminist movements.

Update on Douglas Wilson:

After writing this, I came across a more recent book by Douglas Wilson that shows how his ideas have evolved a bit since Slavery as it Was. A few years later, he wrote Angels in the Architecture, wherein he argues that it was, not the Antebellum South, but in fact the Middle Ages that were the most “godly” age. 

He does double down on his claims about the Antebellum South, however:

The American South was the last nation of the first Christendom. … The South will rise again. (pp. 203, 205)

From the introduction, which, as above, can be viewed on Amazon.com for free:

“Christian Medievalism, however, presents us with a view of a whole life, full of truth, beauty, goodness, and all their nasty contraries. The medieval period is the closest thing we have to a maturing Christian culture.” [emphasis in the original]

I will admit to having been surprised to see a Protestant claiming that things were better before the Reformation. However, I was even more surprised to see that Wilson also dismissed the Reformation as an aberration, wholly unrelated to the Enlightenment and Modernism (both of which he condemns as the new focus of evil in the world). This seems to be yet another example of willful ignorance of history. It would take a full post to explore the connection between the Reformation and Modernism - and to refute the idea that things were in fact better in the Middle Ages. Suffice it to say that the idea that one could approach God directly without the blessing and intervention of the Mother Church was perhaps the most radical idea of the last thousand years. It lead naturally and obviously to the idea that one could think and explore the world individually, without being bound to a false orthodoxy. I also find it hard to believe that any Protestant could say with a straight face that the world was more “godly” in an era when most of humanity lacked access to the Bible in their language.

Wilson’s claim does make perfect sense, however, in light of his obsession with hierarchies and power. During the Middle Ages, the Church was at its zenith of political and economic power. It had more temporal might than any one nation, and could in fact control the everyday lives of its citizens in ways that even the Soviets struggled to duplicate. And, obviously, the rigid social structures which privileged men and the aristocracy that were so dear to Dabney and Rushdoony were still strong. One gets to avoid the racial issue presented by the glorification of the Antebellum South because Europe was fairly racially homogenous (except for those pesky Jews), and Africa was largely perceived to be the home of the Muslims, who could be seen as the enemy - crusades and all.

And, of course, women knew their place. In the final few pages (also available for viewing on Amazon.com), Wilson lists his idea of the elements of the Middle Ages that we need to revive. Among these are a distrust of science and technology, the centrality of the Church, rural living, and disappearance of the secular state. Also interesting is the claim that we should have a “predominance of poetic over rationalistic knowledge.” And, of course, the usual references to “federal headship” and “creation hierarchies,” both of which refer to the limited role of women within the Patriarchal worldview.

Clearly, Wilson disagrees with some of the basic ideas of the Reformation and the Enlightenment that many, including myself, hold dear. Separation of Church and State (a big issue since my ancestors were non-conformists), the scientific method, the worth of the individual, the technological advances which enabled people like me to survive childhood, the idea that all men are created equal, and so forth.

When I mentioned to my wife as we discussed this that Wilson doesn’t seem to be interested in imagining himself as a member of the lower classes, she noted that actually, he seems to wish that he could be Pope. I imagine that, like others, he believe the world would be a magical, poetic, marvelous place if everyone would do things his way. Sorry, I mean “God’s way.”

I would counter that, wholly apart from the record of history, Wilson’s ideal can be found in our world today. A few countries in Latin America are still dominated by the Catholic Church, live a rural life, and keep women in their place. The best example, however, is probably the Muslim world. All that is needed is to make them say, “Jesus” instead of “Mohammed,” and it would be perfect. I, for one, would rather pass on this vision, thank you very much.

Note on the South:

I do not want to create the impression that I think there was nothing good about the Antebellum South, or that I dislike the modern South. On the contrary, my friends and acquaintances - both black and white - from the South are thoroughly charming. The courtesy and hospitality is a good thing - and something worth preserving and/or restoring. Likewise, I do not believe that the North was a “godly” society either, nor do I defend our own time as the best in history. I believe that the Antebellum South - and the North - had its good and its bad, just like every time in history and place on this planet ever, including our modern times. I do not argue with the desire to make our world a kinder, more courteous place. However, as Dabney made clear, his belief was that the important facet of Southern culture was the inequality, and that the abolition of slavery would lead to the disintegration of society. And the Christian Patriarchy movement likewise wishes to establish the political forms and hierarchical vision of that time and place, rather than the inward virtues.

One further resource:

This particular paper was also of help to me in locating the primary sources for the quotes, as well as tying together the links between Christian Reconstructionism and White Supremacy.

http://www.theocracywatch.org/civil_war_canadian_review.htm

46 comments:

  1. Very good stuff. I have seen much of it elsewhere, but I really appreciate the material on the music--I had not thought of it so explicitly before, but you're absolutely right as far as the only basis Gothard gives for his claims. I'll have to defer to superior knowledge on the musical end of it--my piano teacher gave up on trying to instruct me in rhythm many times over.

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    1. The thing that was so frustrating to me is that music is far too complicated to reduce to a simple "good rhythm/bad rhythm" dichotomy. Or even genuine categories of style. Music is more like the flu virus: it mutates. It borrows and steals, picking up ideas from every place, time, and source. The magic of music is that - in the hands of a master - it references and transcends its sources. It is familiar yet new. And really, nothing kills music more than "purity." Music must hybridize and change, or it becomes nothing more than a fossil in a museum. America did not find its own "sound" until the African-American styles of ragtime, jazz, and blues infiltrated both popular and classical music.

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  2. Very good post. Have you explored the writings of Gary North (Rushdooney's son in law) at all?
    http://www.yespeak.com/2011/04/dangers-of-christian-reconstructionism.html

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    1. Thanks for that link, which I had not seen. (Although I did run across North's teachings as part of my research.)

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  3. On rock music, I wonder if you've seen this link? http://www.hoyhoy.com/dawn_of_rock.htm

    Essentially, in an astonishing case of irony, "rock music" has its roots directly in African American gospel music. The first recorded song using the phrase "rock and roll" was a 1916 (!) recording of a camp meeting song, "Rockin' and rollin' in the arms of Moses." "Rocking" was originally a phrase describing expressive movements in worship. That influenced pretty much all African American music (since their culture is very strongly Christian), and eventually white performers picked up on it (i.e., stole it) and the rest is history.

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    1. Very interesting. I had not seen that. I probably should have mentioned the origin of rock in gospel. It makes it even more clear that the issue for Rushdoony and his followers really is race.

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  4. May I direct your readers to my 16 page essay on Vision Forum's Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy for additional material.

    http://dividingtheword.wordpress.com/essay-on-tenets-22-23/

    My thanks to Karen Campbell (thatmom.com) for altering me to your article.

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    1. I read the first of the articles when it came out and enjoyed it, but never got back to finish it. I will do so forthwith.

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  5. Also here via thatmom.com. Thanks for the very clear article, laying out nicely things that have niggled in the back of my mind while studying this whole issue. It's boggled me how so many seemingly intelligent people could be lured into such a whackadoodle system; this really does help explain it. Any time you can set up a category of people as responsible for what's wrong in your life and promise a system to fix it, it's powerfully attractive.

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    1. Headless Unicorn GuyApril 3, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Since the counterculture reached critical mass around 1968, we've been living in a time of rapid change, mass disorientation, and general Future Shock. And going back to even "a whackadoodle system" counters the Future Shock.

      When a society is reeling from Future Shock, its religious beliefs go in one of three ways (depending on the individual and/or tribal grouping):
      1) Practical Atheism ("Secular Humanism" in Chrsitianese) -- maybe go through the motions, but don't actually believe any of it. Maybe keep some extreme superstitions associated with the religion, but not much more than that.
      2) Imported Foreign Religions ("Eastern Mysticism" in Christianese) -- skip out on the culture's traditional religion to some foreign spiritual tradition, the more exotic the better. (This was one reason Christianity got a foothold in the Roman Empire, though it had LOTS of competition in this area.)
      3) Fundamentalism ("Born-Again Bible-Believing" in Christianese) -- dive into the culture's traditional religion and purify/firewall it as far as you can.

      And Christian Reconstructionism is a specific variant of (3) above: A Grievance Culture, a culture whose entire reason for living is Revenge on the Other. (Historical examples include the original Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis, al-Qaeda, Raza Boys, Afrocentrists, and various others. Even the new Gospel of Atlas Shrugged follows its axioms.) The core of a Grievance Culture' tribal-identity mythology are three axioms:
      1) Once WE were Lords of All Creation, and Everything Was Perfect.
      2) Then THEY came and took it all away from us.
      3) IT'S PAYBACK TIME!

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  6. Also visiting via That Mom. Excellent work! Thank you for taking the time to research so well and share clearly. Susan T

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  7. Loved reading the thoughts in the comments on music history. A number of years ago we went through the Mississippi River Museum in Moline, Il. and really enjoyed seeing how so much of American music history came from the variety of people and ethnic backgrounds that came up the river and spread out across the continent both east and west. It did "mutate" as it were and has given us a rich history just in this country. Maybe Bill Gothard et al would like to take that same tour some time!

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    1. It's fascinating that most of the classical composers from the Nineteenth Century drew on folk music (that is, music from the lower classes...) for inspiration. From Brahms' brilliant use of college drinking songs in the Academic Festival Overture, to Beethoven's witty parody of a peasant village band in the Sixth Symphony to Dvorak's paraphrase of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" in the New World Symphony. Stravinsky, Bartok, and Copland would each in turn borrow for their masterpieces in the Twentieth Century.

      Alas, I suspect that most of the Patriarchists are in deep denial of actual history, musical and otherwise.

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  8. http://www.rivermusicexperience.org/About-Us.aspx

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  9. Thank you for making this connection so clear.

    I grew up in the Deep South, and I heard Reconstructionism preached from the pulpit. I attended a Revival service where a black family entered and the pastor stood up to tell them to leave. An evangelist that came to our church had the Battle Flag sewn onto every suit jacket, and my best friend believed the South would "rise again." I heard one pastor explain how segregation was biblical . . . I could go on.

    Racism isn't just a rhetorical connection. It's alive and well and being taught as "biblical" in many churches in the South.

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    1. That just makes me sad. My family never really got into that side of things. I grew up in a predominantly minority neighborhood in north Los Angeles, and one of my best church experiences was a church in that neighborhood, that drew on the community for its members. There was a sense of community there that I have seen few other places, unfortunately. It is so terribly sad.

      My hope is that someday, we can fulfill Galatians 3:28

      There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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    2. I also grew up in the south - New Orleans - and spent many summers with my grandparents in Mississippi. Never once did I hear racism preached from the pulpit in the conservative churches (typically KJV-only, dresses on ladies, etc.) we attended... from New Orleans to Georgia. In fact, the most ultra-conservative church we attended was in small-town south Georgia, where the aged pastor and his wife had been missionaries to Brazil and their daughter had gone on to marry a man with whom she started a missions program to plant native-run churches in Portuguese-speaking countries of west Africa. That little country church was fully integrated - including mixed-marriage couples. Jennifer, Washington

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    3. I'm glad to hear of other positive experiences, Anonymous. It's easy to forget sometimes that Abolition grew out of Evangelical conviction (as did first-wave feminism...).

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  10. One more thing . . . did you study, during OBCL, from a text called, *God, Man, and Law: The Biblical Principles*? As I recall, that drew explicitly from Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism, and that might perhaps provide a yet more explicit tie for Gothard (who, as you note, is maddeningly obtuse about his sources). Unfortunately, I pitched mine long ago.

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    1. I owned, but never really read that book. I too tossed it. It's probably just as well, as I am not sure that I need the increase in blood pressure.

      Thanks for noting this, though, and let me know if you do come across a copy. Actually, if you need a research project, I would love a guest blog on the Rushdoony/Gothard ties.

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  11. This is why I do not support Vision Forum with my dollars, despite the many great products they carry. I can find most of those products else where. Thanks for giving the "why" behind so many of the issues I've noticed with this movement. I've not really studied it, so the fact that they actually believe in inequality explains a lot. Although, I still can't fathom how they can look at ANY time period in history and say it was the most mature culturally in terms of Christianity. It seems to me they're looking at the wrong person. The Patriarchs are not our model for Christian life. They got a lot of things wrong, despite their faith. I don't hear much talk about the personhood of Jesus in their writings. It's sad to have such a man-centered view of things. I came her via Sara Jones' FB post.

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    1. I have heard Vision Forum in particular referred to as the "Christian Taliban," and I think it fits. I also was influenced to write this when I saw (I forget where - I should have written it down) that you could remove every reference to Jesus from Vision Forum's teachings, and it would still look pretty much the same. You could substitute Mohammed - or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster - and little if anything would change. However, if you removed the Patriarchy, nothing would be left.

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  12. I do believe "Christian Taliban" is fitting. I'm currently reading a fascinating book called "In the Land of Blue Burqas" and she makes the point that she finally understood that Muslim's basically take the place of the Holy Spirit as a community in each other's lives. (And I realize all Muslims are not Taliban supporters.)

    They believe they as a community of believers in Allah have the right to judge and condemn each other to keep their community "unstained." Hmmm. The person who suffers the most are not those who commit the sin, but those who tempt (unknowingly or not) a person to sin. (i.e. the man who lusts is not judged, but the woman who's voice he heard singing is the one punished.) Interesting connections for sure as far as mindset goes!

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    1. If you have looked through some of my past posts, you might note that I participate in an online book club. This month I am (re-)reading The Scarlet Letter. There is a line in there that very much illustrates what you say about keeping the community "unstained." When Hester's missing husband shows up after finally being freed from his captivity, a townsman explains about why his wife is on the pillory:

      “Truly, friend, and methinks it must gladden your heart, after your troubles and sojourn in the wilderness,” said the townsman, “to find yourself, at length, in a land where iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people; as here in our godly New England."

      All of us who are familiar with the Patriarchal teaching on "modesty" know of the connection here with the past and with the Taliban.

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    2. Headless Unicorn GuyApril 3, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      “Truly, friend, and methinks it must gladden your heart, after your troubles and sojourn in the wilderness,” said the townsman, “to find yourself, at length, in a land where iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people; as here in our godly New England."

      Don't tell me that wasn't a dig on the whole subject. I can just see Hawthorne penning that line with a grim smile on his face.

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  13. Thank you so much for this well-researched review.

    Could you also do a review of David Bercot's book, Will The Theologians Please Sit Down? While sharing many of the Patriarchists' ideas about gender roles, he comes at it from a theology is totally incompatible with anything they put out.

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    1. Bercot's books do sound interesting, particularly the idea of following Christ rather than arguing about theology. I'm not sure if I will get to it any time soon, as I have a huge list of books already on my list.

      I do intend in the future to discuss the concept of Theonomy, which may well overlap here a bit.

      I also intend at some point to address the gender role debate. I strongly disagree with the Patriarchists on this one for a few reasons. One is that I believe it is based on an attempt to re-create the culture of the time of the Bible, rather than on the actual teachings of Christ and the Apostle Paul in their actual grammatical and historical context. (Noting Plutarch's domestic codes, among others.) Also, I believe that it is based on a willful ignorance of history and present conditions outside of the developed world. Women have worked, and continue to work, often harder than the men. It is only in recent times, and in higher class households, that a strict division between bread winning and household management can even be possible. But that is for another post.

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  14. Thank you for writing this article. It is excellent. I have been following the developments of the Patriarchy movement with curiosity and saddness. I found your blog through a comment you left at Recovering Grace.

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  15. wow this is a great post. I can see it attracted a lot of attention. The odd part is I started doing research on this topic last week after a IRL friend was asking me about connections between Gothard and white nationalism. I am from the south, and my parents talk about how great the confederates are. My dad even remarked that parents should homeschooltheir kids if for no other reason that they don't inter-marry. I don't know that there is any connection between that thinking and most homeschoolers. My parents southern pride was cultivated separately. But this is really interesting to think about. I've seen some of these quotes from Doug Wilson before.

    Also, I grew up on Elsie Dinsmore. I read most of the books, and loved them as a kid. My sister has read them all. I should write more on it.

    Anyway, thanks for your research. Gives me a good start on things.

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    1. It was the Doug Wilson quotes that got me started, and I was shocked at the defensiveness I received from a few of my friends who are still of the Patriarchal mindset. I later found out that they were rather steeped in the Rushdoony mindset.

      I grew up in Los Angeles, in primarily minority neighborhoods, and my parents were missionary kids raised overseas, so I was raised completely counter to the neo-confederate mindset. I always remember having friends and neighbors that were mixed-race couples. Even now, most of my kids' friends are interracial. It's just normal here in California. That is why it was such a surprise to find all this out. It was completely different than the version of Christianity I knew from my childhood.

      I would be curious to know if the Elsie Dinsmore books would be a different experience now that you have left the mindset. My wife complained that they leave no room for healthy emotion. Everything must be happy and perfect and unquestioning at all times.

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    2. Yes, my perspective has definitely changed. I was attracted to Elsie because she was perfect in every wya. I buried myself in her because she was what I wanted to be. It wasn't a healthy fascination, but it was one of a daughter who was failing to measure up. Your wife is certainly correct. In this mindset, most emotions are bad. She wasn't allowed to be upset at her abusive father, for example. Perhaps that's putting it too simple, but I agree with your wife's perspective.

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  16. Thank you so much for posting this.

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  17. Headless Unicorn GuyApril 3, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    "Emphasis on the “downbeat” is good and “godly,” while emphasis on the “back beat” is evil. I suppose one could dismiss the whole theory on the basis that neither type of beat is ever mentioned in the Bible, but Gothard in particular takes it very seriously. (Rushdoony wrote Institutes in the 1940s, before rock and roll.) To support this view, Gothard cites the “African” roots of “rock and roll” and Africa’s “pagan” culture as proof that it is evil."

    Given this, would it not be more accurate to say that Gothard's big beef with "Rock & Roll" is that it's "N****r Music"?

    (I remember hearing that Elvis Presley caught flak for the same reason early in his career, as he was a white boy making a splash singing and dancing in what was then a non-white rhythm and style.)

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    1. That's precisely my point. And that is why Jazz is also considered "evil." (Rushdoony's claim was that it promoted "moral relativism" which is a stretch. The racial explanation makes much more sense.)

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  18. Headless Unicorn GuyApril 3, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    I do not want to create the impression that I think there was nothing good about the Antebellum South, or that I dislike the modern South. On the contrary, my friends and acquaintances - both black and white - from the South are thoroughly charming. The courtesy and hospitality is a good thing - and something worth preserving and/or restoring. Likewise, I do not believe that the North was a “godly” society either, nor do I defend our own time as the best in history. I believe that the Antebellum South - and the North - had its good and its bad, just like every time in history and place on this planet ever, including our modern times.

    Except Dabney and Gothard and their disciples have fallen madly in love with what was a large part of the Dark Side of that Antebellum South. And have made themselves capable of seeing that Dark Side only as Godly Light.

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  19. Hi, I think much of what you are asserting here is quite a leap. I can't speak to every accusation made against every person named but I can tell you that my understanding of the Christian Reconstructionism movement is much different than what you articulated here. I am not a Christian Reconstructionist. My theological views would fall much closer to that of Reformed Baptist, or Calvinistic Baptists. Anyway, here is what I can help you with concerning what I know of the movement and what I've learned from close friends who hold to the CR position.

    The movement itself, in the modern sense, as been influenced by three men who are widely considered to be the pioneers of Christian Reconstructionism. RJ Rushdooney, Greg Bahnsen, and Gary North. I'm much more familiar with Bahnsen's work than the other two, and I do believe there are some variations between the three.

    Most CR's derive their views from certain theological beliefs. They are primarily a particular variation of covenant theology, the nature of OT law, and postmillenialism.

    The argument using CT is basically that there is one overarching covenant of grace of which the Old and New covenants are just administrations of (this much I would be in agreement with), however instead of allowing the NT to define the continuity and discontinuity they define them according to theological preference (thus why MOST CR's are paedo-baptists, it flows from the same variety of CT).

    Many CR's argue that the civil case laws given to ethnic Israel in the Sinai covenant were an extension of God's moral law. The opposing and more prominent view concerning OT law is that there was a three-fold division (ceremonial, civil, and moral). CR's only see two, ceremonial and moral with the case laws being an extension of the moral law.

    The argument from Post-millenialism is the idea that the gospel will have such a powerful affect that it will convert the nations in masses, leaving the governments of the world in the hands of Christians. From there, the CR asks "how does God want me to govern?" Which leads to what I believe is Greg Bahnsen's most powerful argument... Theonomy or autonomy.

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    1. He argues (like all CR's) that there are four institutions of God whereby he gives us his divine law informing us what is the right way to govern. Those institutions are the state, the church, the family, and the individual. When it comes to the state, Bahnsen argues the same he would for the other three institutions of God. His argument is that we are either governing according to God's law (theonomy) or man's law (autonomy). He says there is no alternative.

      Most CR's I know see theonomy (in the civil sense of the word) as just an extension of sola scriptura. They would also argue from a revelational epistemology. Saying we can't know what is "good" or "evil" without the revelation of God (of which all Christians should agree). When we legislate we are legislating according to what we think "should" be done, thus implying a moral imperative. Such moral imperative can only be known correctly in an absolute sense by someone who is regenerate and yielding to the source of morality, God and his law. Thus, we are either legislating according to God's law or have become a law unto ourselves.

      I hope this helps. I talked with some friends about your blog and even posted it on facebook. I was told your Rushdooney quote was taken out of context. I don't know that Doug Phillips is against interracial marriage (though I could be wrong), I don't believe that Gothard and his following are Calvinists, and you description of Calvinism was inaccurate.

      "In particular, an extension of the doctrine of election to a belief that God chooses certain individuals to be damned, and that therefore they have no opportunity to repent. They were chosen for hell before the creation of the world."

      You committed the "equal ultimacy" fallacy. Just because God chooses in his grace to regenerate some out of the same lump of fallen humanity, does not mean he actively chooses in the same manner to damn others, but rather that he passively leaves them in their rebellion of which they freely chose and are responsible for even though God was sovereign in that choice.

      I hope this was helpful and if you want to maintain contact my name is Rett Copple, I am on facebook.

      Grace and Peace,
      -Rett

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    2. Several things to tackle. It would take a blog post to go through all of my disagreements with Reconstructionism, and I don't really wish to get into a theological argument over the nuances of Theonomy and Dominionism, although I may discuss them in the future on this blog.

      First of all, your response has been typical of that of my Reconstructionist-influenced friends and acquaintances: it minimizes certain indisputable facts. Namely, that Douglas Wilson wrote a defense of slavery - and used the founder of a notorious White Supremacist group as a co-writer. To say nothing of plagiarizing it from past Supremacist writings. And also that Douglas Phillips wrote a hagiography about Dabney praising his defense of the "good" South against the "evil" North. I didn't make this up - you can find it easily. Likewise, Rushdoony's works are riddled with racism - it's not hard to find - and he publicly argued for segregation and against the civil rights laws. (I'm less familiar with Bahnson, but I do know the basic theological framework for Reconstructionism.) My point isn't that one must be a believer in the "Lost Cause" to be a Reconstructionist, but that the Reconstructionist movement was born in part out of a belief that the Confederacy was the last true "Christian" kingdom on earth - which requires some sort of explanation or excuse for slavery.

      I agree that the "equal ultimacy" fallacy does not represent mainstream Calvinism, and I tried to point out that it is an extension (however correct or incorrect) of the doctrine of election. I also am not making things up when I state that the "equal ultimacy" argument is popular in Reconstructionist circles. Again, most Calvinists are not Reconstructionists, and I have nothing against Calvinism per se, although I am not a Calvinist myself.

      Speaking of fallacies, Reconstructionism commits a couple - and at the same time. By asserting that the only two choices are Old Testament Theonomy and autonomy, it sets up a false dichotomy. I think one must ignore most of the New Testament in order to come to this conclusion. (Christ himself violated the OT law, and preached the higher law of love. St. Paul asserts that we are not under law, but we are to be led by the Holy Spirit.) This is also a straw man argument for that reason. No true Christian desires (in the inner man) to be a libertine, so it makes a scary strawman. According to the Reconstructionist worldview, unless one is willing to commit to OT Theonomy, one must be a godless libertine.

      As I said, a full response would take several extended posts, but that will at least serve as a summary.

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  20. Thank you so much for this thoughtful research! I have struggled with these issues for years because of family members who are on staff with Vision Forum. I always wondered why they have such a fascination and reverence for the Civil War era(participating in reenactments and making period costumes for dances and the like)...your post puts it all in perspective. The whole 'patriarchy'/family integrated church movement always seemed quite cultish, and your post helped me to see I was not far off. It saddens me that the focus of these groups is not the Gospel of Jesus, but their own works and pride. - Kathryn B.

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  21. Thank you for this post, a real eye-opener and positive confirmation for what I thought I was witnessing and experiencing in our former Neo-Cal church. I did not find the white vs. non-white views, but definitely, Patriarchy, Shepherding, Legalism, and most disturbing, anti-Semitism. It was wrapped in subtle, modern terminology, but was there, behind the scenes, with some in the congregation. I am concerned because our area has a high proportion of hate/racist groups for the population and locale. I have already contacted the ADL, who monitors the area, though I did not name anyone or the church.

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  22. Hiya,
    just discovered your blog via some links and thought I might share just a bit from my own perspective.

    In perhaps a similar way to your own experience with the Gothard movment, I had a fair amount of involvement with the Christian Reconstruction movement. This stemmed from a college roommate of mine who had started reading Gary North. We both ended up reading quite a bit of the movement's literature, meeting a variety of like minded people, and eventually moving on. Like with pretty much any movement, they have some smart things to say, some controversial points, and other points where they are just wrong. That would pretty much cover any of us if we were to write enough.

    Anyhow, the theonomy-racism connection is one that has long puzzled me. The shortest summary of the reconstructionist/thenomy movement that I can muster up is "we should take the Old Testament as seriously as we take the New Testament." Rushdoony was the ideological father of this movement, and literal father-in-law of Gary North, the latter named becoming the publisher and more often than not the writer of the major texts of that movement in the 80's and 90's. I had read a couple of Rushdoony's books, neither of which, to my recollection, even mentioned race. I do know that he did publish something about the holocaust death count being overstated, which I assume he just unthinkingly picked up from some other author. I'm certainly not in a position to assess whether he was a racist or not, but my impression is that race was not an especially important topic to him.

    I don't recall, honestly, anything from ANY of the writers in that movement that I read that smacked of racism in any way. There were occasional statements from Gary North about the civil war stressing the states rights issues over the racial ones, but I don't see how something like that, taken by itself, would constitute racism.

    All that said, there is no doubt that a number of racist groups and individuals have latched on to the reconstructionist movement. Exactly why they have done so, I can only imagine. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that the particular prooftexts they misuse come from the Old Testament. It perhaps has something to do with the fact that recontructionists try to imagine what a more explicitly Christian society might look like, and the imagination of racist groups runs along similar lines. I really don't know. I just wish it weren't the case.

    From my perspective, it's a bit like if a bunch of eco-terrorists started bombing assorted facilities and claiming they were inspired by Al Gore. I may dislike a number of things about Mr Gore, but I'm pretty sure he hasn't advocated violence. Sometimes the wrong sorts start following you, I suppose.

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    1. I will simply assume that your reading of Rushdoony missed a great deal of his philosophy of race, for whatever reason. I would go so far as to state that the fact that Rushdoony was a racist is beyond dispute.

      He publicly came out in favor of segregation. (The quote I used from Institutes is hardly an anomaly.) He publicly opposed interracial marriage. He publicly opposed civil rights laws and the civil rights movement.

      In my other post on the nature of women in Old Testament times, I cited Rushdoony's book, Foundations of Social Order, in which he uses several offensive slurs in a screed against "multiculturalism."

      http://fiddlrts.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-lawyers-perspective-on-legal-status_9552.html

      Again, I really hate to link to a White Supremacist website, because I hate to give them traffic, but this one collects a pretty gruesome bunch of quotes from various of Rushdoony's works.

      http://faithandheritage.com/2012/07/rushdoonys-kinism/

      I would agree with you that Al Gore is not responsible for eco-terrorism. I think Rushdoony falls into an entirely different category. (Gore never advocated execution by stoning for "blasphemy" for one thing.)

      But the real difference is that Rushdoony's philosophy is inseparable from his theories of race and society. I have no proof for it, but I do tend toward the theory that the racism came first, and the theonomic theories were in part a justification for his problems with, as he put it, "the ’spick, black nigger, bastard, Buddhahead, and kike." Just my gut feeling.

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  23. You might like this essay arguing against the Reconstructionists on biblical grounds.

    http://www.reformed.org/ethics/index.html?mainframe=/ethics/ligon_duncan_critique.html

    Moses' Law for Modern Government:

    The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement

    This is a pretty solid argument against their exegetical style. And I like the libertarian Christian complaint against them that they argue ad hoc for their blend of the Bible and libertarianism rather than systematically.

    And like the Old South, which argued for a states' rights view of the Constitution and a libertarian and federalist view of our founding, their internal social policies would be horribly oppressive. My guess is that not only do they argue for a revisionist interpretation of Southern history, they ultimately distort the only rational interpretation of Biblical history and essentially throw the New Testament out the door.

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    1. I would agree. Thanks for your contribution to this discussion. That article is an excellent resource, and I shall use it to educate those who are unfamiliar with Reconstructionism.

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  24. Thank you for writing this post. I've written a post of my own that links to yours and want you to know that I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to write it all. I've been wondering for a while why it seems like right-wing Christians and conservative politicians seem to have so much trouble with racism, and here you'd already chiseled out the wheel for everybody! Great work. You've done the world a great service by sharing your research and findings here. Thank you.

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