You will recall a while back that I linked to a terrific article from Throne, Altar, Liberty concerning the definitions of orthodoxy and fundamentalism in the religious context. I return to this in order to flesh out some details concerning how religion should be viewed from a Reactionary standpoint, and this essay itself is a response to a recent rumination from Nick Land entitled ‘Theonomy’ where he seems to open his own NeoReactionary door to followers of Rousas Rushdoony’s brand of Christian extremism known as ‘Reconstructionism’.
It’s understandable why the ideas of Reconstructionism appeal to Land. For one, Rushdoony was no Fred Phelps. He was a well-versed theologian and philosopher who adapted off of the Calvinist works of Cornelius Van Til and through his written works crafted a comprehensive ideology which featured both autocratic government as well as libertarian economics.
There are big problems however, and they stem from the movement’s inherent fundamentalism. To proceed, let me outline what I see as three religious strains that exist in almost all pre-Enlightenment religions today.
Orthodox – This is religion according to its early origins of organization not only in the specific sense in the World of Tradition, but in its deeper roots via hermeticism to the greater religious tradition woven through all of man’s ancient religious practices, reflecting divinely gifted knowledge of the invisible world.
Liberal – The rejection of orthodox religion in favor of subservience to the great parasitic Cult of Progress, with such subjugation resulting in the pliability of any dogma or doctrine and the eventual purging of all significance of the religion in question, with regard to both politics and spiritual connection.
Fundamentalist – A reflexive backlash against the degenerative toll that Liberalism has on religion, or in select cases shortfalls of religious orthodoxy, this movement seeks to interpret sacred texts in ways most antagonistic to anything deemed Liberal or potentially erroneous, thus almost always degenerating into a chaotic holiness spiral, becoming rapidly unstable as a result.
So all religions are undoubtedly orthodox (small ‘o’) before the ‘Enlightenment’. Liberal religion does not emerge until after this. Some fundamentalist strains do appear beforehand, the greatest being perhaps the original design of Protestantism forwarded by Luther, however this has also made an appearance in other religions around the world as well, though contained more effectively in those circumstances.
I believe Rushdoony to be theologically mistaken in the belief that Old Testament Civil Laws have not been abrogated, but I doubt this means much to Land, so I will for a moment reflect on some practical concerns about Christian Reconstructionism.
1. It believes in theonomy, which is a positive and correct Reactionary viewpoint. In spite of what critics say, the Reconstructionists are not theocrats (see my own article on the confusion surrounding theocracy). However, even though Rushdoony himself said the following, “Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristocracy,” he still believed in the separation of church and state, an entirely Tradition-anathema position, which denies the sovereign a necessary spiritual and ritual legitimacy. Although church and state have always been definite institutions that are distinct from one another, to separate them in this regard is to cause damage to both, church in the short term, and state in the long term. Secularism and the existence of explicitly religious laws cannot work in harmony long-term. The contradiction is a dissolving agent.
2. The enforcement of Old Testament Civil Law is almost completely unworkable in a practical sense. In theological terms, this is self-evident, for it is the reason for Christianity’s existence that the Jews were unable to keep these laws, and in fact failed miserably at doing so. Through the Reconstructionist advocacy of a return to these specified laws, they rob Christianity of one of its great political advantages and that is its legal flexibility which allowed sovereigns and the church, with the knowledge of the Moral Law, to craft their own Civil Law around this as the situation and culture required it. To view the Bible as Rushdoony does is to give Christianity its own Sharia Law, something that is alien to the orthodox practice of the religion, and brutally limiting.
3. Christian Reconstructionism leaves absolutely no room for coercion, in spite of what critics say. Rushdoony seemed to believe that a revolution in the soul of man could occur on a mass level so as not to require any violence whatsoever for the establishment of the Reconstructionist State. While I am certainly in favor of a non-coercive citizenship, with free exit at any time, and do believe that the souls of men must experience change before society does, to think that a Reactionary State could be established with no force whatsoever is foolhardy. It puts too great a faith in too many a people. What men’s souls in which the aristocratic ideal can be restored will be a relative handful.
And so I return to the discussion of those three religious strains: orthodox, liberal, and fundamentalist. Liberal religion is a dying proposition. It’s a proxy for the Cult of Progress and essentially a laughing stock at this point. Fundamentalism is a very easy alternative, as it presents confident solutions without any hesitation or doubt in its principles. The problem is that it is inherently flawed because today, it is thoroughly Modern and very much a response to Liberalism in general. Much as Fascism did, fundamentalism recognizes a real problem and immediately grasps for a bold new solution without much thought to past experience of tried and tested method. Let us be honest and say that the Islamic State is not the Umayyad Dynasty. That’s not to say it couldn’t eventually transform into such a political body if a coup were to occur, but right now it is driven, as is Christian Reconstructionism, by a fanaticism that is out of touch with its ancestral and historical roots. Sunni Islam as a whole is trapped in a holiness spiral that destroys all hope for stability, and ISIS is only the latest iteration on this whirlwind come to clear away the exploits of Arab Socialism. From the article I first linked to above, I want to post some key excerpts:
“The publication of The Fundamentals, the statements by the Niagara Bible Conference and the Presbyterian General Assembly, and the entire fundamentalist movement in general arose in response to a specific problem – the growth of unbelief, formulated as doctrine, in the Protestant denominations. This formulated unbelief was known as modernism or (theological) liberalism. Either term is apt because it was a product of the Modern Age and the predominant ideology of that Age which is liberalism. The Modern Age was an Age of rebellion against tradition and authority, which liberalism regarded as shackles that robbed people of their freedom and blinders that kept from them the light of reason and science […] The fundamentalists believed they were contending for sound or orthodox doctrine against heresy and unbelief. There are those who would say that this is ironic because fundamentalism did not itself represent what has historically and traditionally been considered orthodoxy within Christianity. There are a number of different reasons given for this charge. One would be that the denominations most heavily represented in fundamentalism are those that arose out of the English Dissenting or Non-Conformist Movements and their counterparts in continental Europe, i.e., the churches traditionally considered the Radical or left wing of the Protestant Reformation.”
Fundamentalism is already problematic because it emerges out of Christian traditions which got their start opposing the priestly caste of Catholicism, and as such represents a rebellion against authority. It is no wonder that such movements once unleashed are hard to contain and control. They lack the discipline of hierarchy and instead rely on groundswell. They remain at base demotic currents in religious thinking which are uniquely susceptible to frenzy.
In addition, when we take the divine origins of such texts seriously, as we must when discussing them as a basis for any state, we have to be very careful how we treat them. They most certainly cannot be treated as other texts are, and the orthodox are in alignment with fundamentalists on the inerrancy of Scripture, however the fundamentalists take this a step to far, and thus corrupt the texts with human error.
“To understand what the doctrine of inerrancy means and does not mean requires a great deal of common sense, a commodity which is sadly in short supply in our day and age. It means only that the Bible is inerrant in what it asserts and teaches. It does not mean that because a sentence is found in the Bible it must therefore be taken as true in every possible sense without reference to its context,. […] Fundamentalism, however, insists that the Bible be interpreted as literally as possible. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, insists that the Bible be interpreted as traditionally as possible. “
Any religious text interpreted as one might interpret a textbook (and this is essentially what fundamentalists do), is going to fly off the tracks badly when implementation of biblical principles in life fails to cohere with reality. I’m not saying that Christian Reconstructionists are the most guilty in this regard, but they are interpreting the Bible in a way it has never been interpreted before, often in a way that almost makes their practice indistinguishable from Ancient Judaism, but only in theory. Such a view is not a sound bedrock from which Reaction can build. It’s far too unstable and impractical, and when we talk about religion we aren’t discussing something that is a component of the state. Religion is not the crow’s nest of a ship, but the engine room, it’s the central axis and core around which the civilized society functions. Error here is perhaps most catastrophic of all for any political project. The problem is not zealotry, the problem is zealotry in a non-Traditional direction through which dire ends are realized.
None of this is to say that Christian Reconstructionists could not be useful allies against Modernity, and we can all name several different non-Reactionary groupings that would also qualify in this regard. However, when it comes to the development and refining of the Reactionary State, even at only the foundational level, the path must be through orthodox religion, rather than fundamentalist religion. In this day and age, building a political ideology with any real adherence to revealed Divine truth is extreme enough. There is no need to take it to dizzying heights from which we might end up crashing to earth through an endless inquisition.