A Review of Jeff Sharlet’s recent essay in Harper’s Magazine
“Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history”
By Jay Rogers
Here’s another several-months-old news item that belongs in the Johnny Carson “I DID NOT Know THAT!” category. I suppose if I had been paying more attention, I would have seen this article when it came out in December 2006.
The Chalcedon Foundation even has a lengthy review of the article on their website and that is how I became aware of it:
Harper’s, one of America’s oldest magazines, which has been published since 1850, ran a feature article, 11 pages of dense print, warning of the dangers of “Christian maximalism” — the effort to “conform every aspect of life to God.” The chief culprit? Rousas John Rushdoony who “laid the right cornerstone of modern homeschooling” in his books and “Christian jihadi lectures” on American history.
Here is how Harper’s Jeff Sharlett sees it:
Rushdoony took the vague sentiments of early twentieth-century fundamentalism and found sources for them in American history, creating an intellectual foundation for the movement’s political ambitions … The Christian conservatives of his day, Rushdoony believed, had let themselves be bound by secularism. They railed against its tyranny, but addressed themselves only to issues set aside by secularism as ‘moral’—the best minds of a fundamentalist generation burned themselves to furious cinders battling nothing more than naughty movies and heavy petting. Rushdoony did not believe in such skirmishes. He wanted a war, and he summoned the spirits of history to the struggle at hand.
In tandem with Rushdoony was that erstwhile “Swiss hermit” Francis Schaeffer.* According to the article:
I read the works of Rushdoony’s most influential student, the late Francis Schaeffer, an American whose Swiss mountain retreat, L’Abri (“The Shelter”), served as a Christian madrasah at which a generation of fundamentalist intellectuals studied an American past “Christian in memory.” And I read Schaeffer’s disciples: Tim LaHaye, who, besides coauthoring the hugely popular Left Behind series of novels, has published an equally fantastical work about history called Mind Siege. And David Barton, the president of a history ministry called WallBuilders (as in, to keep the heathen out). And Charles Colson, who, in titles such as How Now Shall We Live? (a play on Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture) and Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages, searches from Plato to the American Founders to fellow Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy for the essence of the Christian “worldview,” a vision of an American future so entirely Christ-filtered that beside it “theocracy”—the clumsy governance of priestly bureaucrats—seems a modest ambition. “Theocentric” is the preferred term, Randall Terry, another Schaeffer disciple who went on to found Operation Rescue, told me. “That means you view the world in His terms. Theocentrists don’t believe man can create law. Man can only embrace or reject law.
After a three page dissertation on Rushdoony, Schaeffer and Van Til, the article reaches its focal point – a five page description of a pro-life event and prayer meeting led by none other than Operation Save America (Operation Rescue) leaders Flip Benham and Rusty Thomas.
But wait. The conspiracy soup gets thicker. In my personal conversations with Rusty, he credits Franco Gennaro as the fellow Tampa pastor who got him involved with full-time pro-life activism. What Franco did was to show some Tampa area pastors an 80-minute pro-life video produced by Eric Holmberg called
Rusty once said to me, “I’ve never met Eric, but tell him that if I do the first thing I am going to do is punch him in the nose … and then give him a big hug … because he ruined my life!!”
The upshot of all of this is that to most Americans, names such as Van Til, Schaeffer, Rushdoony, Flip Benham, Rusty Thomas and Eric Holmberg aren’t even a byword. The anti-theocratic left insists on “propping up Rushdoony as a fringe lunatic, and “a bogeyman.” According to Jeff Sharlet, they are missing what matters most:
That reading of Rushdoony—by liberal critics and conservative apologists—misses what matters about his revival of providential history. He derived from the past not just a quaint hero worship but also a deep knowledge of history’s losers, forgotten Americans—minor political figures such as John Winthrop and Timothy Dwight and all the soldiers who fought first for God, then country, the rugged men of the past who carried the theocratic strand through from the beginning.
In any case, a quick reading of the Harper’s article along with ought to give us virtual threads of new parody material.
- Jay Rogers
* Why do I call Schaeffer “that Swiss hermit”? Here’s a not-too-brief word of explanation. A lot of my closest friends don’t know this, but I was named in two frivolous lawsuits written by none other than the lawyer-architect of Roe v. Wade, LeRoy Spurgeon Lucas.
“Frivolous” is too weak a word – it was actually a hysterical screed aimed at making pro-lifers fear lawsuits. One of Lucas’ clients in this frivolous lawsuit campaign was none other than abortionist James Scott Pendergraft, who was later convicted of extortion and sent federal prison as a result of one of these lawsuits.
Lucas’ lawsuit against the Melbourne pro-life activists included this line:
Mr. Raney compiles this information in part for an imagined day of reckoning when all abortion doctors, patients, and accessories will face their war crimes holocaust trials under a new fundamentalist theocracy, as proclaimed by the Swiss hermit Francis Schaeffer.
This gave a friend of ours, M.J.C., an opportunity to opine:
By the way, you have got to give Lucas credit for making Francis Schaeffer look like a crazed Hitlerian unibomber with the use of a few choice words — Why in the name of St. Thomas More did Herr Lucas include the fact that Francis Schaeffer was Swiss? Are we allowed to include little impertinent facts about people when we refer to them in court documents? Maybe we should refer to Lucas in the future as “Suspected Homosexual, Esquire Lucas.”
Later, I did that very thing in an online discussion board. A lurker forwarded it to Lucas and I got a reply threatening me with another lawsuit! Sometimes I think I should write my autobiography part one chronicling only some of the funny, odd and unlikely things that have happened to me. Of course, no one wants to read about little old me, but in the off chance that I become well-known one day, a fast-paced comedic memoir will have already been penned.
P.S. I recently asked M.J.C. to compile our email conversations from this time. Here are some of that correspondence in reverse chronological order. Although it’s a little esoteric to those outside of our group, if you have the patience to read through, it is hysterically funny – if you like overblown pretentious satire and crazy madcap comedy that is.
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 23:12:56 -0400
Subject: ‘suspected homosexual, Herr Lucas’
Jay, it’s a long sequence, from bottom to top, how we got to the Lucas list of infamies.
——- original message ——-
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 22:23:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Emails from Roe v. Wade lawyer Roy Lucas
1) He said to send no “armed shooters.” Are there any other kind of shooters? Sounds like an ingenious rhetorical trap. He’s reportedly good at this sort of thing, so let’s think this one through.
2) Did you send some message to Lucas letting him in on our pet “characterizations” of our pro-choice friends? How did he know Pat Windle is a corpulent witch, and what does he mean that you “mischaracterize” him? Has there been a leak????
Anyhow, he apparently wants you to stop calling him names. If you must retreat from that incendiary term, “suspected homosexual,” maybe you can use some of the following literary helpers I’ve composed for you.
PS – Jay, thanks for the input on the “Spy House” menu. I like your style, you Magnificent Roundhead.
New, previously unused modifiers for our pal, Herr Lucas:
(*note; many of these make no sense. So what? neither does Lucas.)
the fanatical “Know-nothing”, Herr Lucas
the shrill, deluded blasphemer, Herr Lucas
that Esquire of shallow wit, Herr Lucas
the motley jester, inventor of his own world “history”, Herr Lucas
only the sad shell of what was once a big fool, Herr Lucas
that slave of feminist propaganda, Herr Lucas
that master of tortured hyperbole, Herr Lucas
that mother of bombastic metaphor, Herr Lucas
the wide eyed religious nut, Herr Lucas
the broken abortophile gramophone, Herr Lucas
that wicked Bastille, Herr Lucas
that paradox of putrid reasoning, Herr Lucas
that vile, malevolent historical redactor, Herr Lucas
that unsmart person, Herr Lucas
that dummy, Herr Lucas
that weak cup of hysteria tea, Herr Lucas
that rotten oyster of a scholar, Herr Lucas
that morally chipped plate, Herr Lucas
that rabid hamster of rhetoric, Herr Lucas
that crazy mixed up kook, Herr Lucas
that inflamed armpit of a man, Herr Lucas
that empty-headed little follower, Herr Lucas
that giggling groper of glop, Herr Lucas
that sheaf of soiled blotting paper, Herr Lucas
that animated dose of ipecac, Herr Lucas
that cigarette, Herr Lucas (note: in England, cigs are called fags)
that purveyor of ignorance, Herr Lucas
that spotted kangaroo of a lawyer, Herr Lucas
that 40-watt Dr. Zhivago, Herr Lucas
that prancing minx of legalese , Herr Lucas
that windowless hallway, Herr Lucas
that bowl of hate chowder, Herr Lucas
that oily spot on Windle’s bloody bib, Herr Lucas
that rainbow colored hairpiece, Herr Lucas
that worker of petty iniquity, Herr Lucas
that one legged ladder, Herr Lucas
that plagiarizer of restroom vandalism, Herr Lucas
that butcher of the innocent English language, Herr Lucas
that toothsome trollop of threatmongery, Herr Lucas
that victim of “medieval persecution envy”, Herr Lucas
that gullible, anticlerical parrot, Herr Lucas
that throwback to the stone ages, Herr Lucas
that clanging cymbal of antichrist, Herr Lucas
too silly to be taken seriously, too wicked to be laughed at, Herr Lucas
Windle’s servile remora fish, Herr Lucas
my favorite Martian, Herr Lucas
——- original message ——-
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jay Rogers)
To: email@example.com (Jay Rogers)
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 01:23:33 -0500
Subject: Emails from Roe v. Wade lawyer Roy Lucas
Here are two emails I recently received from Roy Lucas, the lawyer who filed the winning brief in Roe v Wade,
Lucas also wrote the lawsuit, Aware Woman Center for Choice v. Raney, Rogers, et al.
Along with about two dozen pro-lifers in Melbourne, Florida, I am being sued by the Aware Woman abortion clinic (in part) because I own the house across the street from them. I also maintain a web site that chronicles the abortion industry at its worst.
The lawsuit, which is too surreal to be described fully here, can be read in full at:
Lucas sent the following two personal emails taunting me, commanding me to hand over evidence to him, and other such “advice.
I forward the following two emails from Herr Lucas, because I think the Christian community needs to discern the spirit of the pro-abortion movement’s lawyers and legal strategies.
- Jay Rogers
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999 23:36:39 EST
Subject: federal complaint in AWCC v Raney, Rogers et al Status: U
Dear John C ‘Jay’ Rogers:
By now you have been served with the complaint in the federal case where you are a named defendant. When and if you have legal counsel, please have them contact me. I know you have a copy of the complaint because it is posted on your website.
Please be advised that any and all real and personal property you own, control, or have an interest in is now at risk for the satisfaction of future judgments. Lis pendens will be filed.
Send me a complete copy of your personal liability, homeowners, and vehicular liability insurance policies.
Your insurance agents and carriers should be notified of the current and the likely next two lawsuits you will be receiving. I will do the notifying for the victims of your actions. You may be able to shift some of your liability to those carriers for your many wrongful acts over the past several years.
You could avoid many worlds of grief by confessing the truth and extent of your wrongdoing before a court reporter.
Injunctive relief also will soon be sought against you for your ‘hit list’ type activities, the Killing Place mailbox, and more.
Don’t even think about harassing me or sending any armed shooters after me. That would get you a lot of time in a federal prison with unpleasant roommates. The lawyers who would step in behind me might be much worse for you and yours.
You have wrongly been characterizing me personally in your communications in a defamatory and libelous manner. That must stop and be retracted, or you will suffer the legal consequences. Now is your opportunity to tell me what you have said, to whom, and the basis for your defamatory remarks. At least you did not call me a corpulent warlock, or make slurs about the 15th versus 17th centuries. I keep getting the Inquisition mixed up with the later burnings of Copernican scholars and suspected witches by those delightful Christian believers in the flat Earth theory.
How about that Portland jury? And the Dallas jury? And the many others? It’s time to rethink, or perhaps think through for the very first time what you are doing, and get a meaningful life, do something for the future of human civilization.
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 00:01:12 EST
Subject: 11/93 article on Buffer Zone
You still have posted the 11/93 article on the ill-fated Cheffer decision.
That is misleading, if not downright wrong and dumb.
Cheffer has been subsequently rejected by more judges than you can imagine. It was vacated twice, remanded, dismissed, and then the Christian lawyers’ requests for fees were rejected out of hand. It’s over. You lost.
How about a truthful followup now, over five years latter. Is there not truth in Christianity? Just because Swaggart was a liar, Bakker was a liar, Robertson has delusions about meteorites, Oral Roberts had hallucinations, and Terry was a used car & tire salesman speaking in tongues, is no reason for you to bear false witness about the fate of the buffer zone. It is alive and well, and not mentally ill.
Continuing to publish that article is like bragging about the Pope overruling Magna Carta, or continuing to condemn Galileo and Bruno.
How many times did you cross over into the buffer zone to make unwanted contact with AWCC patients?
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