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fundamentalists contra Rushdoony

The relationship between modern politically aware evangelicals, supposed ideal leaders like Rushdoony, and political leaders like Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, Phyllis Schlafly, et al is complicated, at least as complicated as the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Rushdoony view of the future involves seizing the reins of power, overthrowing structures of government, and founding a new revised American government on a foundation of Old Testament Law. There are several other views, some of which I’ll cover in later posts.

The small handful of people I know who talk about situating government on a foundation of Old Testament law talk about the United States in the image of the Old Testament nation-states of Israel and Judah, more or less during the time of the prophets, when good kings and bad kings followed each other in succession, prophets advised good kings and resisted bad kings, God judged the nation in part according to the righteousness (lawfulness) of the king, and the nation-state gradually declined because of persistent national unrighteousness until God destroyed it using some foreign army as an intermediary.

This view usually surfaces in the form of references to particular issues, like this: “We need to stop [abortion, gay marriage, Obamacare] because we don’t want God to destroy America.” On rare occasions it surfaces in the form of claims that so-and-so will be a modern version of a “righteous king” who will lead America back to the true path (e.g. “George W. Bush/Sarah Palin is God’s man/woman for the job”), but there’s mostly a lull in that sort of talk right now. I expect more of it after the midterm election later this year, probably peaking during the primary season in 2012.

This is strictly speaking not a fundamentalist reading of the Old Testament; there are several problems. Fundamentalists as Dispensationalists read God’s treatment of Israel as a historical one-off, to be revisited and concluded in the Revelation, and therefore not as a giant metaphor, nor as a pattern for God’s treatment of other countries. There are also problems with picking aspects of the story and not others: there’s no “American Moses” to receive the Law from God; there’s no American tribe to be the “people of God;” and the various Old Testament prophets mention a whole host of sins, not all of which rate mention: treatment of the land, treatment of marginal people, purity of national religion, etc. The Reconstructionist narrative at present deals with only some of these problems: as best I can tell only the “America is a Christian Nation” and “The Founding Fathers were all/mostly Christians” is part of this story nowadays, with the Founding Fathers as an aggregate American Moses. The idea of the United States as a successor empire to Great Britain and unified around an ethnic identity has fallen out of favor, and taken the “certain white Americans as people of God” narrative with it.

Fundamentalists and their evangelical children often reach similar but different political stances, but do so by different paths. I’ll have to deal with those in another post.

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