There is a common strain of thinking that I’ve noticed among those who attack and criticize the Christian Reconstruction movement.
Naturally, they call it “extremist” (but so is Biblical Christianity). They say that it’s “outside the mainstream of modern evangelicalism” (which indeed it is). But then they go on to characterize it as an attempted coup of the government by a fanatic, fringe group of Old Testament-minded Christians who are seeking a hostile TAKEOVER of the levers of power in order to force their narrow and strange beliefs onto an unwitting populace via a top-down, authoritarian bureaucracy that they themselves control (which it isn’t, it doesn’t, and they don’t).
And in their denunciations they usually employ a certain word to try and defame Reconstructionism in the strongest terms possible, characterizing it as a repressive faction of do-gooders “hell-bent” on installing a regime of religious totalitarianism. They try to use this word in the most pejorative and derogatory sense that they possibly can.
That word is (horrors!) theocracy.
Now, theocracy for some people, thanks to media distortions, misappropriations of the word and just plain, bad theology, amounts to little more than an intolerant, bigoted, religious dictatorship.
The trouble is, “theocracy”, the way Reconstructionists use the word, is neither authoritarian nor totalitarian.
If It’s Not Authoritarian and It’s Not Totalitarian, Then What Is It?
Theocracy, as far as Christian Reconstruction is concerned, really does mean, simply, “God’s rule”. God’s government, by God’s laws. Government by the Creator, by the Creator’s laws. As opposed to man’s government by man’s laws, i.e., government by man’s misguided, depraved, humanistic, atheistic, sin-reinforcing, justice-perverting laws.
Under a true, i.e., biblical theocracy, human authority is limited. Man only “rules” in a delegated, temporal (and limited) sense. He does not have absolute sovereignty or total, unchecked power over the people. Actually, theocracy begins and ends with the most fundamental and rudimentary form of government known to man: self-government.
But for this kind of regime to work properly and function fairly and equitably, it requires that the people living under it be SELF-GOVERNING and SELF-DISCIPLINED. And that requires an intelligent, educated and biblically-informed population. Without this, theocracy does degenerate into an authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial, tyrannical regime.
Now, if you’ve ever read or heard anything by either of the two primary founding fathers of the Reconstruction movement, Gary North and Rousas John Rushdoony, rather than relying simply on second-hand, readily-available-but-factually-inaccurate sound bites from misinformed detractors, you know that this is exactly what they mean when they talk about “theocracy.”
Here’s a quote from Rushdoony’s “Christian Manifesto” (1984):
“Few things are more commonly misunderstood than the nature and meaning of theocracy. It is commonly assumed to be a dictatorial rule by self-appointed men who claim to rule for God. In reality, theocracy in Biblical law is the closest thing to a radical libertarianism that can be had” (Roots of Reconstruction, p. 63).
Everything that both North and Rushdoony have written and spoken on the subject over the years bears this out. (North is even dismissed as being TOO libertarian for some “conservative” evangelical Christians!)
For Christian Reconstructionists, “theocracy” is self-government under God. It really is the closest thing to “biblical libertarianism” that there is without lapsing into its atheistic alternative, anarchy.