Reconstructionists Revisited

A few weeks ago, Kathleen mentioned Mark Crispin Miller’s “scariest plenary ever,” in which Miller discussed the Christian Reconstructionist movement, which seeks to radically restructure American politics into a Christian theocracy. A recent Creative Loafing article has revisited these issues. Not sure I have much to add here, but the Loaf article, by John Sugg, does offer a valuable overview of the movement, specifically its roots in the reaction to the 1960s counterculture and the Roe vs. Wade decision. Incidentally, the CRs also flourished in suburban Atlanta’s Cobb County by the early 1980s.

Further, Sugg is careful to distinguish between CRs, who are usually Presbyterian, and evangelical fundamentalists, such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. There are certainly ways in which these groups overlap (both oppose gay rights and abortion rights, for example), but the two groups have a much different understanding of how things will play out. The “traditional” right of Robertson and Falwell “were ‘pre-millennial,’ meaning they believed history was going to hell. Indeed, adapting the Revelation to the modern era, they prophesized that Armageddon would likely arrive with a nuclear blast.” By contrast,

The Reconstruction and dominion theologians had a solution to the dilemma. They preached the gospel of ‘post-millennialism,’ meaning that it was Christians’ job to take over the world and impose biblical rule. Christ would not return, they said, until the church had claimed dominion over all of the world’s governments and institutions, and most of the world’s population had accepted the Reconstruction brand of Christianity.

I do think these two groups must be understood separately, even if many of their goals are the same, and even with specific alliances such as The Council for National Policy, which Kathleen mentioned earlier.

Instead, the Reconstructionsists should be understood more in terms of what Bill Berkowitz calls a “tentacle influence,” in which CR policies and practices are spread without necessarily adhering to the core theological premises. Of course, this doesn’t mean that CRs haven’t influenced elections or bent Bush’s ear. It just means that the religious right needs to be understood as a much more complicated, amorphous group than we often see in representations of it. Still, the Sugg piece traces the CR movement’s far-right and anti-democratic beliefs, and it’s a movement that needs to be more carefully examined.

Not sure there’s a direct connection here, but Kathleen’s discussion of Miller’s plenary also reminded me of his argument that “part of Bush’s mass appeal lies in the vicarious pleasure of aggression and domination,” which brought to mind Sidney Blumenthal’s stinging Salon editorial condemning Bush’s wisecracks about the “missing” WMDs in a slide presentation given just minutes after tearful testimony by the widow of one of the 9/11 victims.

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