Ron Paul's Appalling Pal: Former Congressman's New Home-School Curriculum Gives Religious Right Radical Gary North a New Soapbox

Article excerpt

When former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul announced a new online curriculum for home-schoolers in April, few political observers were surprised. Paul, a three-time candidate for president with a distinctly libertarian bent, has long been wary, if not hostile, to public schools and other government-sponsored public services.

But what was surprising to many was Paul's choice of leadership for the project. The man he named as director of curriculum development is Gary North.

North, 71, is not a professional educator. He is a leading theorist of Christian Reconstructionism, a radical movement that denounces democracy, thinks some forms of slavery are OK and wants to impose a draconian version of biblical law that prescribes the death penalty for gays, adulterers, blasphemers, witches and incorrigible children, among others.

Like some of his colleagues in the movement, North advocates stoning as the biblically preferred means of execution. The "implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost," he said once, and executions become "community projects."

North's role in the "Ron Paul Curriculum" is a stark reminder of the ongoing influence of Christian Reconstructionism on American political and religious life. Although the movement's views may seem outlandish, adherents and camp followers pop up in many unexpected places.

Christian Reconstructionists trace their thinking back through the centuries, but the modern founding of the movement came in the 1960s with the late Rousas J. Rushdoony, a California theologian who coined the term.

Rushdoony, a prolific author and activist, wrote the three-volume, 1800-page Institutes of Biblical Law and dozens of other books and articles, making the case for a strict application of the Old Testament's legal code on modern society. In 1965, he founded the Chalcedon Foundation, a Vallecito, Calif.-based outfit, to spread his views about how to establish "theonomy," literally God's law.

Says the Chalcedon website, "We believe that the whole Word of God must be applied to all of life. It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion."

Rushdoony promoted a "pre-suppositional" theology that insisted on the pre-supposition that the Bible is true and anything that conflicts with it is inherently wrong. He argued for a rigid patriarchal society where fundamentalist Christian men rule the family, church and community, and dissenters are executed or sent into exile.

Although he dabbled in conservative libertarian political circles for many years, Rushdoony's views remained largely unknown to the general public until the advent of the Religious Right in early the 1980s.

When Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other ultra-conservative Protestants dived into politics back then, most lacked a well-developed theological basis for their new-found interest. Fundamentalists, evangelicals and others in that camp had generally regarded politics as a worldly enterprise far removed from their central mission of making converts. They wanted to win as many souls as possible before the imminent rapture of Christians to heaven and Jesus' return to Earth.

Rushdoony's hyper-Calvinist theology was quite different. He thought Jesus' return would be hundreds of years in the future, so Christians should "reconstruct" society along biblical lines now.

Rushdoony's end-times beliefs were rejected by preachers like Robertson and Falwell, but some of his other concepts appealed to the budding Religious Right's "moral majoritarian" impulse. Rushdoony insisted that the Bible requires Christians to take "dominion" over all aspects of society, including the government. He cited chapter and verse to make the case that politics is a perfectly legitimate venue for Christian activism. …