Monday, November 26, 2018

Apostate and Racist was No Way for a Christian to Go Through Life

I would prefer the lead-in “Long time readers of this blog know…” but even though this is one of the original Christian blogs -1 the only long time reader is me.

So I’ll start differently: You may not know this about me, but I have a rational (I think) dislike for a certain school of theology and yet, mostly to my shame, that dislike manifests itself irrationally in the form of bug-eyed anger complete with uncontrolled spittle spray. I’m speaking of theonomy in all its virulent forms: reconstructionism, dominionism, etc. 1 It pains me all the more because the purveyors of this monstrous viewpoint (I am very tempted to use the label heresy), at least the intellectual firepower, tend to be of the reformed camp. While (thankfully) the leaders were/are mainly Presbyterian and not Reformed Baptists 2, the “useful idiots” of the movement are a ragtag ecumenical group of the religious right 3 who think God is waiting for us to create the perfect Christian nation suitable for the Parousia.

If you know anything about Christian Reconstructionism, you’ll know the father of modern movement is R. J. Rushdoony, and it lives on (although, as far as I can tell dwindling) in the likes Kenneth Gentry and the neo-confederate (and disgrace to Reformed Theology) Douglas Wilson. (And ditto for his bosom pal and southern-slavery champion Steve Wilkins.)  4

So that is the background.

Today I followed the retweet of a friend who has a biblical name that starts with the letter P5 and that led me to a fascinating article by Bradley Mason that examines the response to articles published in 1964 (the apex of the civil rights movement in the U.S.) in a conservative, reformed Presbyterian journal by Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, a black Presbyterian minister. Rev. Oliver makes an reasoned, impassioned, theological argument against segregation. The responses in the form of letters to the editor were, for the most part, quite ugly. Including one from R. J. Rushdoony:
The Presbyterian Guardian this year shows signs of outdoing the UPUSA Presbyterian Life in its social gospel preaching. The racist articles of C. Herbert Oliver are examples of this. There are two kinds of racism. First, there is the exaltation of one race above others as inherently virtuous, divine, great, or the like. Second, there is the exaltation of humanity as a race and a demand that we identify ourselves with all men as one people. Oliver is of this second type. He asks us so to exalt humanity, and states, “The truly secure personality has identified with all creation and with God through Christ.”
Rushdoony's nonsensical argument (pardon the redundancy) is quite repulsive. He conflates actual racism (what he calls the first kind) with non-racism. He actually had the gall to call the idea "that we identify ourselves with all men as one people" racist, in a transparent and crude attempt to take the moral high ground while simultaneously wallowing in the mire.

Why am I not surprised? Shame on anyone who is sympathetic to the teachings of R. J. Rushdoony.

-1 The first He Lives post was from May 8, 2002, when the intertubes were newly laid and a mere few months after Tom Brady won his first super bowl.

1 The set of non-virulent forms of theonomy (in the New Testament era) is the null set.

2 This is due partly (I think) to nuanced differences in the covenant theology of Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists, and primarily (I think) due to the glorious (though sometimes forgotten) Baptist history of supporting the separation of church and state, if not an outright claim to have invented the idea, at least in the western world. (See, for example, One Cool Baptist.)

3 By religious right I mean that group led by people like Ralph Reed and the late Jerry Falwell. They made/make American politics into an idol. They are a degenerate subgroup of politically conservative Christians, most of whom know that their Christianity trumps their politics, not vice-versa. If you are willing to ignore Christian principles and values just to have a conservative elected, even one who dubiously claims the title "Christian"--then you might be in that subgroup. Get some help.

4 See (if you have a strong stomach) Southern Slavery, As It Was, by Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins. Of the book, we are told: It explains Scripture's defense of a form of slavery against evangelicals who are embarrassed by it. Charming. One excerpt, speaking glowingly of the Confederacy: “There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world” (p. 24). 

5 If you guessed Peter or Paul I won't call you a misogynist, I'll just assume you were rationally playing the odds. However the secular world would will call you a misogynist for playing the obvious odds--so be careful out there!


  1. Brad has written some good posts about racism and the American church. Denying our past as Americans and American Christians and perpetuating myths because it makes us feel better about our history is a 9th commandment issue IMO. Any progress in racial reconciliation is going to be stuck until we get past this hurdle. But it won't be easy because of the amalgamation of America with the kingdom of God.

  2. @Persis I'll have to look over his archives.

  3. I've been reading your blog since 2005.

    Rushdoony didn't make sense, or made the wrong kind of sense, in what you quoted.