Murderous Theology

When I was eighteen years old, I broke the law and was condemned to a violent death. I would burn for my sin.

I didn’t live in some far off country where honor killings are common, and I’m not a time-traveling witch or heretic. I was just a church girl from rural Arkansas who graduated high school in 1999.

How could this happen, and in a Mennonite Brethren church of all places?

I’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time, and I’ve found the answer is as simple as it is complicated.

I had sex with my boyfriend.

Christian Reconstructionism

Some of the members of my church were Christian Reconstructionists. In order to understand what happened, you first have to understand Christian Reconstructionism.

Christian Reconstructionism was originally rooted in postmillennialism. It’s an attractive view. They believe we’re already living during the reign of Jesus. The world will become more and more Christianized until Jesus finally returns for the Second Coming.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Under this belief, almost everyone will eventually be a Christian. However, their end-times theology leads directly to their next belief. Christian Reconstructionists believe that one day we will all live under a theocracy. When that day comes, civil government will reinstate all the Old Testament laws.


“Christians have been taught for over three centuries that the Old Testament is ‘off limits’ judicially to Christians in the New Testament era. Only the Christian Reconstructionists today affirm the continuing validity of Old Testament law.” – Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [1]


“Whole nations must be discipled by Christ. How? Through the imposition of sanctions by Christians in terms of God’s Bible-revealed law—not just in politics, but in every area of life.” – Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [2]


Old Testament Laws Affirmed by Christian Reconstructionists

Rousas Rushdoony is considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism. His three volume work, The Institutes of Biblical Law forms the backbone of the movement.

In Volume One, he lists the death penalties cited for women in the Old Testament [3]:

  1. Unchastity before marriage – Deut. 22:21
  2. Adultery after marriage – Lev. 20:10, Deut. 22:22-23
  3. Prostitution by a priest’s daughter – Lev. 21:9
  4. Bestiality – Exodus 22:19, Lev. 20:16, Lev. 18:23, Deut. 27:21
  5. Being a wizard or witch (sorceress) – Exodus 22:18, Lev. 20:27
  6. Transgressing the covenant – Deut. 17:2-5
  7. Incest – Lev. 20:11-12, 14, 17

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Something else was going on, though. 1999 was winding down and the Y2K panic was in full swing.

I want to take a little time and explain this for anyone who’s too young to understand what happened.

The Y2K panic happened during a time when our society was just starting to use the internet. This was well before the reign of the smartphone. Most families didn’t even have a computer in their home and were fairly ignorant about how computers and the internet worked.

Computers were using two digits for the year instead of four. (99 instead of 1999). When 2000 rolled in, the computer would think the year was 1900. Doomsayers started popping up in the mid to late 1990s.

Michael Hyatt’s book, The Millenium Bug came out in the fall of 1998. On his website, he expressed what he believed would happen when the calendar rolled over [4]:

  • No electrical power
  • No clean water
  • No telecommunications
  • Shortages of food, gasoline, clothing, and all retail goods
  • Wide-spread bank failures and inaccessibility of funds
  • A stock market crash
  • A dramatic drop in real estate values
  • An economic depression
  • Wide-spread unemployment
  • Civil unrest, including protests, riots, and general lawlessness
  • Inability of government agencies to deliver welfare, Medicare, Social Security, and Veterans benefits
  • No meaningful leadership from the Clinton Administration

Some people began to stockpile. Some even sold their homes and moved into rural areas where they believed they would be better able to provide for and defend their families.

I personally knew people who were stockpiling. They weren’t just stockpiling food and gas. They were stockpiling weapons and ammunition. They were getting ready for war.

Christian Reconstructionists and Y2K

In my church, this was directly influenced by a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, Gary North. He came through our area in the 1990s. Some of our church members bought his books. I can’t say for sure if any of them subscribed to his newsletters, but I found them archived online and they are full of alarmist predictions about Y2K.

North even hunkered down in northern Arkansas in the late 1990s to await the coming crisis. He advised his readers to follow his lead and seek refuge in rural areas, just like my home town. When I was in high school, we had some people move into the area for this specific reason. They were afraid.


“What we are going to see between now and the year 2000 will the most abnormal period in the history of the West since the bubonic plague of 1348–50.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1997 [5] 
 

“Our day is coming, sooner than you think, and sooner than today’s power elites think. Be patient. Be prepared. Be out of the city.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1998  [6]


Y2K was a Christian Reconstructionist’s dream. If the civil government fell, it provided the church an opportunity to rise up and fill the vacuum. Naturally, these brave new Christian leaders would institute Mosaic Law.


“Think of the year 2000 if the computers go down. A lot of them will go down, taking with them the organizations that are dependent on them. A great overturning is about to occur… conditions after 1999 will not allow the church to sit on the sidelines of culture, as it sits today. The collapse of the humanist welfare-warfare State will put the church in the center of society in most small towns. In central cities, the churches will compete with the gangs. A new generation of Christian leaders will spring up overnight at the local level. National leadership will disappear… The world will move to localism.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1998 [7]


 “Leadership will return to churches that rediscover the importance of God’s law.” Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1997 [8]


It’s a seductive idea, especially for Christians who’ve been living with an “us vs. them” mentality against the secular world. North is telling them that they could be leaders in the new world after the collapse of civilization. They could do God’s will. They could be in power.

Who doesn’t want to be important and powerful?

What Does That Have to Do With Murder?

There were people in my church who sincerely believed the collapse of secular civilization was imminent. This meant that the civil government would no longer be in power, but the church instead would become the de facto government.

But, why wait for it to go down before you start obeying Biblical law?

I found that some Christian Reconstructionist literature is ambiguous at best and incendiary at worst regarding this.

Rushdoony says, “Men cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” [9] in one breath and then (regarding stoning an unchaste woman), “Its place in the Bible is due to the ability of the witnesses and the community to take part in the execution. Since the police power of the people required that they recognize their duty to witness and to execute in all cases of established crime. The principle of general police power is still valid and basic,” in the next. [10]

North and DeMar are even closer to crossing the line between civil government control and vigilantism.


“Christians must begin immediately to reconstruct their own lives, families, and churches before God’s judgment on society begins. We must prove ourselves ready to lead. We must do this by following God now, before His judgment beginsDisobedience to God’s principles produces His judgment: man’s disinheritance from God’s riches, both in history and eternity.” Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [11]


In both the Bible and Christian Reconstructionist literature, we find statements saying that God will punish the community that doesn’t root out wickedness. If a person honestly believes that God demands Christians follow Mosaic law and he honestly believes that God will punish those who disobey, it’s not much of a stretch to see how he could decide to take matters into his own hands.

In my case, one law from Leviticus seems to have been the focal point.


“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” – Leviticus 21:9 (KJV)


My father was a pastor. I assume this man equated that with being a priest. It came close enough, I suppose.

This was one of the Bible verses he underlined and left for me. He also set my bed on fire one night (when I wasn’t home), so this wasn’t an empty threat.

Granted, he was mentally ill. Originally, he’d been romantically interested in me. But, somehow he found out I wasn’t a virgin—I assume it was through one of the friends my boyfriend or I had told—and his stalking behaviors switched from threatening anyone who was protecting me to threatening me. He latched onto Christian Reconstructionism’s Old Testament laws and used that to justify his behavior.

It’s easy to blame that solely on his mental illness. That certainly played a large role, however I can’t ignore the opportunity that Christian Reconstructionism gave him.


“Polluting a priest’s household brought pollution into God’s presence. This was a sacred boundary violation: profaning the temple. This violation of household authority was a capital crime…Her harlotry put the nation at risk of God’s negative sanctions.” – Gary North,  Sanctions and Dominion [12]


A newsletter Gary North currently (as of 2015) has available on his website says the following regarding unchastity: “This whole passage serves to declare God’s special concern that chastity be maintained among His people. And from this we may gather that if whoredom has full liberty among us, it is such an abomination in the sight of God that it provokes His wrath and vengeance. Such a people will have to be cursed, among whom there is open liberty for whoremongering and where this vile filthiness is not cleansed.Calvin Speaks [13]

That sure sounds like a call to action.

(Slightly) In Defense of Christian Reconstructionists

I didn’t find anything in the literature that explicitly indicates any of these men would have condoned one man from my church threatening to kill me. They advocate following the Old Testament laws, which isn’t at all the same as mob justice or vigilantism.

Additionally, the man from my church focused on a single Old Testament law and ignored all the ones he himself had broken. This isn’t what Christian Reconstructionists teach.

However, they do explicitly state the dangers of “whoredom” and leave plenty of wiggle room for vigilantism between some inconsistent statements about the civil government, especially if a governmental collapse is heading our way.

What Makes Christian Reconstructionism Dangerous?

For one thing, it’s just wrong. The laws they propose only applied to Israel. I’m not an ancient Israelite, therefore those laws do not apply to me.

But, being wrong doesn’t necessarily make you dangerous. I do believe that killing teenage girls who have sex with their long-time boyfriends is dangerous, though. Anything that even comes close to condoning the death of another person is dangerous, especially when that’s mixed with a general sense of panic and desire for power and control.

We aren’t facing a Y2K panic these days. These days, we’re facing a panic about baking wedding cakes. The “us vs. them” mentality of the Christian Reconstructionists is alive and well in our country.

I’ve run across people who quote Old Testament law and believe people should be executed for “homosexual acts”. Of course, they always say the government should do this (which somehow makes it OK). That is Christian Reconstructionism. It’s still out there and it’s still dangerous.


“God is plowing up the modern world. This is softening the Establishment’s resistance to many new ideas and movements, among with Christian Reconstruction is barely visible at present. This is good for us now; we need the noise of contemporary events to hide us from humanist enemies who, if they fully understood the long-term threat to their civilization that our ideas pose, would be wise to take steps to crush us.” – Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [14]



I was troubled to find that Gary North is educating children right now. He laid low for a while after the world didn’t blow up, and now he’s the main contributor to Ron Paul’s homeschool curriculum. Another generation is at risk.

Why Write This

I started out researching Christian Reconstructionism because I wanted to understand why this happened to me. It was only one man who wanted to take God’s law into his own hands, but there were others who shared his foundational beliefs. It was these people, who hung on Gary North’s word, who turned their backs on me when it happened.

These were good people. These were people I’d grown up with. I’d played board games on their living room floors and eaten dinner at their tables. But, their beliefs cut them off from me. I don’t know if they believed a pastor’s daughter should die for having sex. All I know is I was the “them” in the “us vs. them”.

It wasn’t only Christian Reconstructionism and Gary North that led to this. Mental illness, faith healing, and hyper-complementarianism played a detrimental role as well, but advocating Old Testament law appears to have presented the real opportunity for life-threatening danger.

As I dug into this, I realized this wasn’t a one-time event. There will always be something to panic about, something that men like Gary North can latch onto to promote Christian Reconstructionism.

There is room for disagreement when it comes to theology. There is room for misunderstanding or not completely understanding some theological point. But, there is no room for prostelyzing and spreading bad theology to others. There is no room for not fully grasping the implications of your new theological discovery.

Bad theology is dangerous.

Christians have an obligation to carefully consider where their theology will lead. If someone’s telling you exactly what you want to hear, take a step back and evaluate what they’re saying.

The danger with Christian Reconstructionists is that not everything they say is wrong. They get just enough correct to make their beliefs attractive.


“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” – Matthew 7:15-20 (NIV)



What fruit has Gary North produced? What fruit has Christian Reconstructionism produced?

Discernment is a gift of the Spirit. Use it.

 


Notes

[1] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t by Gary North and Gary DeMar (p. 43)

[2] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. 51)

[3] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 by Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony (p.448-449)

[4] Michael Hyatt’s Y2K Personal Survival Guide – Introduction (archived on Oct. 13, 1999 by The Way Back Machine)

[5] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXI, No. 3 May/June 1997

[6] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXII, No. 3 May/June 1998

[7] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXII, No. 2 March/April 1998

[8] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXI, No. 6 November/December 1997

[9] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 by Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony (p. 681)

[10] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 (p. 659)

[11] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. 57-58)

[12] Sanctions and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Numbers by Gary North

[13] Calvin Speaks, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1981

[14] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. xxi)

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