Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gary North Makes the New York Times

A notable event. Gary North is both brilliant and nuts. Whatever good and insightful ideas he may have get poisoned by the fact that he's a Christian Reconstructionist who, in his first best world, would stone to death adulterers, homosexuals, recalcitrant children and those who worship false gods (all things the Old Testament instructs).


Gary North was nearly impossible to track down. He did not return multiple e-mails, and when finally reached by phone, he refused to talk and hung up.

But if you know where to look, he is everywhere.

He is a trained historian with a PhD from University of California, Riverside and his book on the political theology of the American Founding I think well understands its implicit unitarianism and how such is incompatible with Christian Reconstructionist political theology.

Update: North explains why he hung up. I enjoy reading North's jab at the print industry. I do follow North's prognostications on the future of technology. For an old fogy he's arguably a cyberpunk. Though I take what he (and just about what everyone) says with a grain of salt. His predictions on Y2K were embarrassingly wrong. Though, the creative destruction of Moore's Law is something to be a acutely aware of, if you are concerned about how you (and/or your posterity) will live in the near future. We won't get "Mr. Fusion"-flying cars or that free energy source until the next breakthrough (who knows when that will be). But information technology is itself a breakthrough that is currently riding an exponential wave that will terminate in something fascinating and arguably, predictable in a way that "Mr. Fusion" is not.


jimmiraybob said...

Well, that might be one line of discussion, "How is Biblical economics compatible with founding republican principles, including a right of individual conscience and representative democracy that is the crux of our system."

Is Biblical economics, at least as indicated in the Times article, anti-American? How do you reconcile “God has cursed the earth” with the spirit of the American Cause and the rampant optimism in the human condition that declares "the People" to be sovereign in their own affairs?

In the web-intro to An Introduction to Christian Economics North states, "The moral issue is personal responsibility. The Bible places this squarely on the shoulders of the individual decision-maker." While this is nice sentiment, is it in line with the prevailing founding sense that people could do good and could make moral choices while at the same time the nature of man would drive at least some to stray and to inflict oppression on others?

In the web-intro North also states, "This book stands as a refutation of what is known as the Social Gospel. The Social Gospel, developed in the late 19th century, calls for government intervention into the economy in the name of biblical ethics." I would say that this is directly antithetical to the social/political norm during the founding where, at least in more urban areas of the colonies (centers of vital trade), political or at least quisi-political institutions had to be establish to provide relief for the poor and destitute. One major benefit that colonial, early federal America had is that they could at least partially mitigate these persistent social conditions by opening new lands for settlement which meant displacement of weaker indigenous peoples. (A separate ethical-moral debate for which I'm guessing North would find ample OT justification.)

In my estimation, his system would be unworkable, unethical (in a humanistic way at least), and would lead to a modernized pre-10th century (CE)-style misery and loss of human liberties that would mortify all by the most unconscionable, ruthless and aristocratic of the founders. It would be distinctly un-American.

If the founders had intended such a drastic polity they certainly would have written as much, left the AoC in place (or just let the confederation die), and we'd have no Bill of Rights. (Or Constitution since the Bible would provide the blueprint.)

And, I don't know about you, but I do not want to lug a bag of gold to the marketplace. An let's not forget, it was a voluntary Union with Union representation that negotiated our liberty from the British in the first place. And yes, there was thuggery, mobbery and violence involved.

Tom Van Dyke said...

North does not want to reform or change the US system. He wants to scrap it and replace it with a covenant with God.

But it's important to acknowledge he wants this covenant to be voluntary.

Elsewhere, I compared it to some Muslim talk of instituting Sharia. Now, it may happen in Egypt, but in the US it would be along the same lines. I'll just c&p here:
As for the Dominionist crowd, perhaps you're correct. But I do know
one will not get the proper nuance by quoting their critics. I did
some digging, and the or talk2action stuff is completely
uncharitable reading.

I make the same point as I did in defense of some of the Muslim sharia
talk. These folks are speaking in the abstract, what a scripture-based
legal system might look like in some far distant future, where the
people have chosen it willingly.

It's eschatology, not current politics.

Gary North wrote that explicitly of the hatchet job:

"Olson conveniently neglects to mention Rushdoony's conviction in Law
and Society that the biblical civil codes are designed for a nation in
covenant with God, not modern Western secular democracies which are at
war with God."

No covenant, no Mosaic law. And a covenant is not forthcoming.

We have to understand these religious types as they understand
themselves, and frequently, secularist critics read uncharitably or
simply uncomprehendingly of what's actually being said.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Thanks for the North quote on the Olson article. I did read one Christian Reconstructionist response to Olson's classic; but I didn't think it was GN's. I'm going to google it now.

The Olson article is notable because it explains how the CRs are currently aligned with libertarians. They tend to be Rothbardians in their 2nd best world in preparation for the covenant.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It was Andrew Sandlin's quote, not Gary North's; I did read the response at Reason.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oooops. My bad, and thx for the correction. It does go to Rushdoony, however, and the Dominionist theology.

Secularist critics often take this abstract theologizing for public policy prescriptions. For instance, Muslims in America might want a bit of sharia, but aren't advocating hudud, stoning adulterers or cutting off the hands of thieves.

That Dominionist article defending stoning disobedient children that the secularists went to town on was defending the wisdom of the Bible, not recommending we make it law.

The secularists just didn't understand what they were reading, which was theology and eschatology, not current politics.

Phil Johnson said...

I stopped in at my favorite coffee house, MacKenzie's Bakery & Cafe, here in Kalamazoo today. I like to go there because there's always a current copy of The New York Times to read with my coffee and chocolate covered donut hole.
I read the article on Gary North.
Tell me about it~~

And, people think it's wrong to criticize religion as a problem in our society? Geez--sounds like the way the church came down on Martin Luther, Tyndeale, and several others. Burning people at the stake for asking questions?

Give me a break! We must criticize.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Who is "we," and what does that have to do with this blog?

If "we" want to discuss the Founding's anti-clericalism, or anti-Catholicism, fine. Or the general reverence for religion, fine. But "our" opinions as to what is "acceptable" religion and what is not acceptable belongs in a late-night college bull session, or blogs like Dispatches from Hell, or anywhere else but here.


As for Gary North, in his own words, germane to what I wrote above about secularists misusing, misunderstanding and generally condemning that which they don't understand, the difference between abstract theology/eschatology and current politics:

Why I Hung Up on a New York Times Reporter

by Gary North

Yesterday morning, a New York Times Op-Ed writer called me. He wanted to write a piece where I am quoted. I chose not to talk to him.

I asked him straight out: "How did you get my phone number?" He said a staffer had retrieved it. The number is unlisted.

I told him I was busy. I was in the middle of my monthly Remnant Review piece. I had a deadline to meet.

I told him to compliment his researcher.

I choose not to give interviews, except on rare occasions. I know how the game is played. It's called selective quotation. I figure if an OpEd guy is after me, he will be highly selective.

If he has some published quotations from me, he can cite them. They are public. They are for citing. But the "phone interview" game I will not tolerate. I would have no record of what I said. The reader has no way to be sure I said it. The writer will not run the article by me to make sure that I approve.

He said he would say I refused to talk. Fair enough. I surely did.

He had to invade my privacy to get even that much out of me. He has the ethics of a telemarketer, but without the respect for sales.

Phil Johnson said...

"WE" are regular and everyday people, the heirs of the Enlightenment.
If "we" don't criticize, the crazies will take away every liberty "we" ever had enforcing their religious views on everyone.
Sharia is not all that much different than what passes for biblical law to the crazies which could be called on for stoning children to death as a method of punishment for disobedience. Soon, they would be burning witches at the stake AGAIN just like they did before.
If you want to defend biblical law, you have to go all the way--people who live in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Perhaps you're missing the point, Phil?

Actually, two.

Phil Johnson said...

Do you mean your point or the point of the NY Times article?
I've missed a lot of points over the years.
My take on North is that he is a crazy. I wondered what his problem was with his father-in-law Rushdooney.
Rushdooney was held in fairly high esteem by many of the Evangelicals. I know that.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

How one sees or understands the political and the spiritual cannot be divided easily down the line of this or that.

If one begins with the spiritual then one will come out with a Dominion/Reconstructionist view, because the view that everything is really spiritual is "at stake". Therefore, everything must be "bougth" or brought back under the auspices of "God".

The fundamentalists believes that nothing is redeemable about the world systems, therefore, one must wait for the redemption in the "sweet by and by".

BUT, those that want a grounding in reality, not not in spirituality, ground their belief in political philosophy, and scientific reality not in theology. Because today one does not hold to "God's" order in the universe, in the same way that the Founders understood it. The debate is one that is scientifically debated.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"God" doesn't control, maintain, or order the universe, Man does. Men are those that order "after God", in Christian circles. In other circles, the disciplines order Man's understanding.

Eschatology is viewed as important to those that don't have any hope or have any hope to hope in this life, as they are politically oppressed. These are told that "God" will work out and divy out justice in the end! One is supposed to trust that "God' is at work. Passivity is the stance in such a belief system.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The problem is when such ordering is done under a "biblical model" that doesn't prescribe to a modern understanding of life and its complexities. A simple "tit for tat" might be applicable in primitive societies when man had no conflicting obligations, than to "serve God", as life was understood in a supernaturalistic way....Certainly, tribal societies didn't have an understanding of "rights", or equality before the law....