Have secularists properly understood R.J. Rushdoony?

The British Centre for Science Education interprets the data on Rushdoony like this:

In detailing Rousas Rushdoony, we believe we are presenting a man every bit as potentially murderous as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or anyone else you may want to name amongst the annals of evil…

Having looked at the matter for a second time, the author has come to the conclusion that Rushdoony was a thoroughly evil man and that his pernicious influence runs deep in both the fundamentalist and the creationist movements…

He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, “Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare.” (Institutes of Biblical Law, page 93).

But Michael McVicar shows a deeper level of understanding than that:

At the heart of the secularist critique of Rushdoony, I detect a contradictory narrative that declares him to be the most relevant irrelevant Christian thinker of the twentieth century. He and his supporters—the Christian Reconstructionists and dominionists—are said to be both insignificant outsiders and the theocratic masterminds behind the rise of George W. Bush and the Christian Right. These critics blame the Reconstructionists for everything from George W. Bush’s interventionist war in Iraq to his faith-based initiatives even as they simultaneously ridicule Rushdoony for his primitive irrelevance. That neither portrayal has any basis in fact has yet to deter the purveyors of the vast theocratic conspiracy theory.

After initially buying into this conspiracy theorizing, I came to realize that it tells me more about Rushdoony’s detractors than it does about his ministry…

My peers and I had turned Rushdoony into an allegorical figure that embodies all of our uneasiness with the Bush regime and the so-called Christian Right. Thus we obsessively warn that Rushdoony’s followers will steal elections, oppress their foes, and indiscriminately murder children and homosexuals. Such presentations neglect to point out why so many Christians find Rushdoony’s work persuasive. They also neglect to point out how and why Rushdoony’s ideas are relevant to us haughty secularists.

Quote sources

  1. British Centre for Science Education (n.d.) In extremis – Rousas Rushdoony and his Connections. Available http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/RousasRushdoony. Last accessed 25th Jul 2015.
  2. McVicar, M. (2007). ‘Rushdoony Among the Academics: The Secular Relevance of the Thought of R. J. Rushdoony’ in Faith for All of Life, May/June 2007, pp. 20-21
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