Sunday, January 18, 2009

Apocolypse Now?

Nah, later.
Much later, if ever...
by Tom Van Dyke


My blogsister Lindsey Shuman posts an alarming alarm by the very alarmed Michelle Goldberg about the very alarming "Rise of Christian Nationalism."

Then some of the readers of this blog seemed to get very alarmed themselves.

The centerpiece of Ms. Goldberg's jeremiad is a cabal of "Dominionists" like RJ Rushdoony and his Chalcedon Foundation. A "Christian Nation" is established, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ follows.

Oy. That's very alarming. Let's look at what they're saying, then:

For one thing, I like the Wikipedia OK, but the link above calls Gary North a "well-known" theologian.

But Gary North is not a well-known theologian, even if my colleague Jonathan Rowe quotes him often enough. Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar are well-known theologians. Gary North is just some guy with a Ph.D in economic history from the University of California (Riverside) who happens to be the son-in-law of the late Rousas John Rushdoony, the Dominionist godfather.

Rushdoony is more well-known: whether or not he's a theologian is questionable, as the man was equally uncredentialed. But let's get past all that and get to their theologico-political claims:

As near as I can figger out their theology, the Second Coming of Jesus won't happen until mankind freely chooses to establish a Biblical theocracy and have it last for 1000 years, more or less. Post-millenialism, they call it.

So in other words, even the Dominionists [also called "Christian Reconstructionists"]---who are "extreme" by any socio-political measure, I suppose---don't aspire to take over the government by force. Their theology is simply that if/when a Christian theocracy is established [with the Second Coming to follow some 1000 years later], it will be by man's free choice.

OK.

Now, back here in the real world, there seems little danger of this ever growing into anything more than an abstract hope, in our lifetime or any other. Because if man could live under Biblical principles or even the "natural law" for 1000 years, he wouldn't even need a Heaven. Earth would become one.

Mebbe our Puritanism expert Lori Stokes can help out here, but even the Mayflower types couldn't fill up a single boat with Puritans for the maiden voyage to these shores. They were forced to include a bunch of non-Puritan riffraff to fill the holds for their one-way ticket to paradise just to finance the trip.

So much for the promise of theocracy. You can't even round up enough people to fill up a boat, and even if you did, things would go to hell soon after you landed.

We needn't worry about Michelle Goldberg's bogeymen, the Christian Reconstructionists, I think. They aren't oiling up their guns or sharpening their knives, nor have they bombed anything or anyone. They know that at least for any foreseeable future, the riffraff will always be with us, as they were from the beginning.

They're quite comporting with the American Way, to convince rather than coerce, fair play under the American principle of pluralism. I think it's safe to turn off the alarm for at least another 1000 years or so.

16 comments:

jimmiraybob said...

An interesting response, and not one that I would expect at a blog examining the founding period. Something about vigilance and liberty come to mind. You seem a tad defensive. Why? I didn’t get a general anti-Christian vibe, just that there was a radical element within Christianity the was of concern.

But Gary North is not a well-known theologian….[he] is just some guy with a Ph.D in economic history from the University of California (Riverside) who happens to be the son-in-law of the late Rousas John Rushdoony, the Dominionist godfather.

I believe that you sell the man a little short.

Rushdoony is more well-known…...

But he’s dead.

They aren't oiling up their guns or sharpening their knives, nor have they bombed anything or anyone.

How do you know? Either way “they” are very actively seeking to gain ever greater political influence…and own a Wash DC newspaper and have a large outreach/propaganda arm (additional publications)…and have a relationship with the GOP. I think you dismiss too lightly.

I don’t think the worry is that “they” will be storming the walls tomorrow (assuming a relatively normal day) but the continued growth of their on-going overt and covert influence upon our government and their placement during a national upheaval that could be taken advantage of. I think you’re being a little unfair to your blogsister and Ms. Goldberg.

I realize that some people are less disturbed by a creeping theocratic tendency than others. I would be one that would be more likely to not think that it's a good idea.

SO Katie said...

I don't think that the post nor Michelle Goldberg ever insinuated that the Christian Nationalists ever intended to take over the government by force.

But, it is rather a more insidious gradual process voted in democratically.

And even AH was voted in democratically.

Raven said...

Predicatable...boring...irrelevant.
Your attempt to portray the secularists as "alarmists" falls terribly short. Nobody is being an alarmist here. All Goldberg is trying to do is to encourage people to look at things without the blinders of faith.

Your quest to hover above the arguments of mere peons is failing, Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jimmiraybob writes:

An interesting response...

Thx. I was responding to the original post, which was not one that I would expect at a blog examining the Founding period either. I found it rather painful, meself. Who are these Dominionists???!!!???


Something about vigilance and liberty come to mind.


Take your pick on the source of that one.

You seem a tad defensive. Why? I didn’t get a general anti-Christian vibe, just that there was a radical element within Christianity the was of concern.

Do I seem defensive? Believe me, I don't agree with a goddam word they say.

But yes, I did get that there was an anti-Christian vibe in Michelle Goldberg's thesis. And yes, there is a "radical element" within Christianity. But I believe they amount to less than 1%, far less than those who believe in UFOs, and no, I'm not concerned about them. Neither are violent.

I was hoping we could chill, and all of Lindsey's other readers who got alarmed. I got your back.

I meself am some sort of Christian, at least by Thomas Jefferson's self-definition. I assure you if the Dominionists come for you, I'll come for them. I got a gun. We're cool, I think.

As for AH being voted in, pls see the previous thread where me & me pal Jonathan Rowe explore the phenomenon of authoritarianism and democracy. I hearya, man, but that's another discussion. Do jump in there.

bpabbott said...

If there is a paranoia regarding Christian Nationalists, there is a euphoria among those who favor themselves as such.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjMRgT5o-Ig

Tom Van Dyke said...

Aw, Raven, you continue to lump me in me with people who have unquestionable "faith." If you only knew. And I've run across plenty of people on the internet who hide behind false names and who claim unquestionable faith, and truth.

But over a beer, or over a heart-to-heart conversation [and often both], I've never met a single person who doesn't doubt.

Not once, Raven. I get angry at the same people you get angry at. But then I forgive them, I guess. Despite all their apparent moral certainty, they're just trying to find their way to the good despite their human failings. Some people claim they know the Ultimate Good, some people deny there's an Ultimate Good, but as human beings, we each crawl toward it anyway, each in our own way.

This I believe. The rest is just words.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And as for your comment about euphoria, Ben, I couldn't agree more. But I've never found a forum or a group of people who didn't come together to create that same sense of euphoria, for any reason, anytime.

An orgy, a clusterf***?

Politics is not fact, it's opinion, it's feeling. Passion. See Isocrates or the Founder James Wilson.

See how Jonathan Rowe was euphorically trashed on Ed Brayton's blog. A good time was had by all, except Jonathan.

And me, as his friend.

The Christian Nationalists---Christian Reconstructionists---are toejam, in any sensible view. But it's kinda quaint and reasonable in its way, if you read my essay above.

The anti-"Christian Reconstructionists" get their own thrills by trolling for them and arguing against them. I see them as peas in a pod. They need each other, I make it.

If they didn't make their way here onto our blog, I'd be content to ignore them all so we can examine the Founding. But they do make their way here, so I try to give them all equal hell.

Pls do let me know when I don't, Ben. I know I can count on you.

bpabbott said...

Tom,

I genuinely thank for the clear response.

I fint it is often impossible to determine your position on topics. The only clear points are that you find most other opinions objectionable in some way.

I encourage you to invest more effort in explaining your own position. It is likely that constructive input will be welcomed where critique is not.

I realize the hypicrisy in my post, so no need to point it out ;-)

jimmiraybob said...

Do I seem defensive? Believe me, I don't agree with a goddam word they say.

I didn't mean to insinuate that you were making a specific defense of their position.

I was responding to the original post, which was not one that I would expect at a blog examining the founding period either.

As a geologist I find it useful to examine the present as key to the past so I guess I don't see a conflict. I think that examining today's religio-political landscape probably adds a keener perspective on the founding - even the passionate side.

I see them as peas in a pod.

Really. Someone that would subvert the spirit and letter of the constitution and someone that would oppose them are the same?

James Stripes said...

even the Mayflower types couldn't fill up a single boat with Puritans for the maiden voyage to these shores.

It's such a minor quibble that I shouldn't even mention it, but were any of the Pilgrims that constituted the religious half of the passenger on the Mayflower Puritans? As I understand my New England history, the Pilgrims were separatists, while the Puritans, who arrived en masse ten years later and took over the colony, wished to reform (or purify) the English church. When they came to power in England, however, things got a bit too bloody for most people and they did not last long.

Pinky said...

.
For What It's Worth:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
----Margaret Mead, U.S. anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978)
.

Pinky said...

.
Of course, almost none of us can put our self in the other person's shoes when it comes to knowing motivations.
.
But, from what I'm reading here and in other threads at this blog, at least one of us is so full of his own self that it is difficult for him to recognize how full of himself he actually is. That's just an observation that could almost go without saying.

When a blogger has a personal agenda to push a certain bias regarding the site's subject matter, there is strong possibility that confusion will ensue.

I have been accused of some blindness here as a result. But, to think of one's self as special as a result of being one of the bloggers is a little much. I was offered the opportunity to be one of the bloggers and I greatly appreciated that as special; but, I hastened to add that I didn't see myself as qualified. I'm more than happy to be an observer and to offer my comments as such. And, that is exactly what this is--totally my sense.
.
As for this statement, "...Gary North ... is just some guy with a Ph.D in economic history from the University of California (Riverside) who happens to be the son-in-law of the late Rousas John Rushdoony, the Dominionist ...", I have to say, "So YOU say, Tom, so you say."

I refer you to Margaret Mead's famous statement about how things get done in this world.
.

Pinky said...

.
So much for the gobbledegook.
.
Perhaps one of the bloggers could do a short synopsis on the struggle between Jefferson's republican ideas and Hamilton's urban influence? Might this have had some influence our our nation's Founding Era and the religiosity of the times?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Stripes, I do believe you're correct about the distinction between Pilgrims and Puritans, which is why I weasel-worded it and asked for Ms. Stokes' help.

But I was casting a wider net for my point, that to my knowledge, none of the Pilgrim or Puritan ships were 100% religiously pure.

bpabbott said...

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
----Margaret Mead

Perhaps Margaret had the fouding in mind when she said that?

If not, it is still a good point.

bpabbott said...

Phil: "I was offered the opportunity to be one of the bloggers and I greatly appreciated that as special; but, I hastened to add that I didn't see myself as qualified. I'm more than happy to be an observer and to offer my comments as such. And, that is exactly what this is--totally my sense."

You have a rare sense of integrity. Kudos to you!