Scott Terry: Christian Reconstructionism and CPAC

On March 15th, CPAC attendee Scott Terry inadvertently drew media attention to a passionate but little understand faction of Protestant Christianity: Christian reconstructionism, also called theonomy. Terry, who, according to his personal Facebook, ‘ would love to be a prolific writer in defense of the rural and agrarian traditions of Anglo-Saxon Americans,’ attended a panel on diversity run by black Republicans. At this panel, Terry asked a panellist if he supported the ‘separate but equal’ approach to racial relations and objected to the panel’s negativity on slavery.. The panellist attempted to redirect the conversation to reconciliation, and referenced a letter written by Frederick Douglass extending forgiveness to his former owner. But according to Terry, Douglass had nothing to forgive: his owner had, after all, provided him with food and shelter. On his website, Terry further argues that slavery ought not be framed as ‘free labor’ and then lauds the business expertise of the South’s slave-owning class.

These arguments strongly resemble Douglas Wilson’s writings on Southern history and slavery. I’ve deconstructed those writings in previous entries on this blog and so would redirect readers to those entries rather than repeat my criticisms verbatim. To summarize, briefly, my objections to Wilson’s stance, and the stance articulated by Terry: I believe that slavery is intrinsically evil because it represents the ownership of one human by another, and therefore implies the inferiority of one class to another. Strange how these Biblical literalists become cultural relativists when confronted with the issue of race.

Wilson, a Christian reconstructionist, favors the application of Biblical law to contemporary issues. This doesn’t necessarily entail stonings, but on the subject of slavery, the rhetoric is pulled directly from the Old Testament. As a political movement, Christian reconstructionism has its primary origins in the writings of R.J. Rushdoony, who rejected the separation of church and state. Christian reconstructionism and Dominionism are distinct but related: both encourage Christians to reclaim and subsequently transform secular government. Like Rushdoony, Wilson is a Calvinist. This means a strong emphasis on predestination and membership in the elect.

Other than their adherence to Old Testament law on slavery, Christian reconstructionists don’t make obvious partners with Southern white supremacists. But closer examination reveals a common rhetorical narrative: an emphasis on saga and story-telling. The ‘About’ page of Scott Terry’s website is an excerpt from ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.’ Douglas Wilson, a prolific author, is a classicist by education and his writings on Christian life, particularly those concerned with gender and sexuality, invoke an idealized history defined by chivalry and benevolent patriarchy. The Chalcedon Foundation, founded by R.J. Rushdoony, sells Dominionist fantasy novels in its online store. In this, it resembles other fringe Calvinist movements, like Vision Forum.

Why this emphasis on chivalrous saga? I believe that their common reliance on the doctrine of predestination, and the related, shared belief that they belong to the elect, here supports a particularly malicious manifestation of American exceptionalism. It is certainly a fringe belief, but it still retains cultural relevance. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported a consistent intensification of white power movements. Wilson has founded a school and college, and his books have earned him a following among conservative Evangelicals. Similarly, Vision Forum and the Chalcedon Foundation have a following among Christian homeschoolers and the Dominionist approach to political participation continues to gain support among right-wing  factions. And there are famous adherents: Ron Paul has ties to Christian reconstructionism, and Michelle Bachmann has repeated sentiments similar to Terry’s on the institution of slavery.

Scott Terry’s views are not derived from a mainstream movement. But the fringe he represents is vocal, and merits a strong response from progressive Evangelicals disturbed by Christian reconstructionism’s relationship to Dominionism and white power movements.

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34 thoughts on “Scott Terry: Christian Reconstructionism and CPAC

  1. That would be because you’re delusional enough to believe that white southerners are somehow disenfranchised. I believe slavery is an intrinsic evil. You don’t. I’m deeply ashamed of my Confederate heritage. You call yourself ‘culturally Virginian.’

    Your perspective is patently absurd. No one has bothered to directly respond to your arguments because most rational people consider speaking to racists a waste of valuable time. Why don’t you try actually reading my earlier posts on Douglas Wilson and Southern history before commenting?

  2. Interesting.

    You know, I can teach you a thing or two, Ms. Jones.

    For one, Douglas Wilson is not a leader in dissident right-wing, Presbyterian movements. At best, he’s a popularizer. We don’t really like him.

    Matter of fact, he has publicly repudiated “Kinism” and has repeatedly shown his solidarity to the radical egalitarian cause (Google his recent exchange with Anthony Bradley).

    So, you can slander him all you want, just don’t associate him with Kinism; that wouldn’t be accurate.

    Secondly, you have spent an awful lot of time “speaking” with me, via posts on my blog, and now a response here – to turn around and claim it’s all a waste of time. Methinks you’re more interested in the subject that you let on.

    I appreciate your replies and your concerns, and if you really love me, maybe you should try reasoning me out of my consistent Reconstructionist position?

  3. 1.I don’t love you, and I sincerely doubt you can ‘teach me a thing or two.’
    2. Douglas Wilson does actually have a significant following, primarily through his published work. His views on slavery and race are not particularly well known, but they strongly resemble Rushdoony’s and the ones you articulated CPAC. Hence their inclusion.
    3. I’m an anti-racist and my graduate work focuses on postcolonial theory and religious movements. I am interested in the subject, yes, but not in you specifically.

    Finally, I believe there’s nothing further to discuss. I have no interest discussing the alleged merits of slavery with an individual who actually opposes interracial relationships, desegregation, and other aspects of the civil rights movement.

  4. There’s a difference between being open-minded and tolerant of other views when those views don’t denigrate other human beings. But when people uphold slavery, homophobia, patriarchy, etc. there’s really no debated needed. Those perspectives are evil. The end.

  5. Neither of you can defend your positions rationally, then.

    It’s probably for the best you not try to anyway. For my part, I can rationally defend my position (with more than fidiestic dogmatism – which amounts to sticking your fingers in your ears and humming).

    Lots of money has has been spent on education and pop-memes, to ensure that you two ladies believe exactly as you do.

    Anytime you’d like to think outside the box, look me up.

    • Look, I’ve been on your website, and as a native of the South I’ve heard variations on this theme my entire life. I reject it precisely because I’m capable of rational thought. Similarly, I’m no longer a Biblical literalist and believe theonomy is something that ought to be resisted, not encouraged, whether it’s advocated by the Taliban in Afghanistan or Calvinists in the South.

      Jen and I believe slavery is an intrinsic evil because we understand what slavery actually means: ownership of a human by another human. That sort of power imbalance implies that one human somehow possesses the moral authority to buy and sell different kinds of human. It implies the superiority of one race to another. And the white race is not superior. The South is not superior. We do, however, have a great deal to atone for, and your website is simply further evidence of that.

      I seriously doubt you have anything to contribute other than archaic perspectives on race and patriarchy.

  6. My views may be archaic; fair enough.

    Are they wrong because of it? No. If I’m wrong, it’s not because my views are old fashioned. I’ll have to be refuted on some other grounds.

    Since you’re from the South, and familiar with Reconstructionism (by the way, out of the thousands interacting with me lately, you’re the first to engage me on this level. I found your statements interesting) you’ll know that our position, specifically, our “theonomy” is based on the Reformed epistemology of Cornelius Van Til, and his infamous “presuppositional” apologetic methodology.

    See, I believe my position is on very good philosophical grounds, while yours is not.

    If you want a “strong” critique of my position, you’ll have to engage on the philosophical level.

    And, hey: I’m always fond of taking Southern ladies out to lunch – should you ever want to have an honest and civil discussion. 😉

  7. Well I learned something new today. There is apparently a very important and noticeable difference between ‘free labor’ and ‘almost-free labor’. Clearly my ideas of slaves getting absolutely nothing for their work was wrong, they got paid in all kinds of ways! Personally I’d love to get paid in cast off worn old clothes, 1-2 meals a day, a small leaky shack I may or may not share with half a dozen other people, beatings, no vacation days to see any of my family members (if I know where they are), one blanket to last me through the winter, and retirement when I die. And I get all this just for working 12 hours a day 6-7 days a week with no breaks at back breaking labor for the next 10 years of my life (if I live that long)!

    What a great deal. Can’t believe African Americans didn’t want to be almost-free laborers!

    (I was going to try a rebuttal of a few points but then went to the CPAC website. Whoops, there went quite a few brain cells.)

  8. I had Rebekah’s comments about “Free labor” in mind.

    I’m sorry that you all have so thoroughly forgotten the honor inherent in being a Southron, that you accept politically-correct talking-points without consideration, and when opposed – you offer nothing but emotionally-laden sentiment instead of reason.

    Our ancestors fought to keep out Northern radicalism, but now it’s being preached from the mouths of Southern ladies.

    It’s almost more than an honorable man can bear.

    • Even so, your comment makes no sense whatsoever. Nothing in life is free? So we shouldn’t apply fair living standards, then? We should exploit individuals based on their ethnic identity and socioeconomic status? You’ve got a strange definition of honorable. You see, I believe that the color of a person’s skin really doesn’t affect the content of their character. I acknowledge and celebrate cultural differences, but do not believe that any one culture is intrinsically superior to another because there is simply no evidence in existence that supports this belief. If egalitarianism, applied to gender, applied to race, applied to political economy is radicalism, then I am a proud radical.

      ‘Southron,’ by the way, is not a word that anyone uses to refer to themselves unless they have mentally trapped themselves in a bad translation of Beowulf.

      As for your bizarre idealization of ‘Southern ladies,’ this Southern lady has a master’s degree in postcolonial culture and global policy. I’ve extensively studied the effects of Western imperialism on cultures in the East and the South, and when I speak against racism, it is hardly because my views have been shaped by mindless emotion. They have not been shaped by emotion, and they have not been shaped by irrational prejudice. I haven’t ‘debated’ you because I prefer to pick on people my own size.

      Now get your sexist, racist ass off my blog.

  9. I’ll play (a week later).
    Scott Terry, answer my critique: Isn’t your position, on nearly everything, simply demographic self-interest? Aren’t you simply taking the stands that are most convenient for you, as a white, southern, Christian man?

    As for the specifics of your arguments, why should anyone bother to address them? They are the convenient rationalizations of an extremely small segment of humanity. Further your arguments capriciously cherry pick quotes, positions, etc. disregarding all that does not agree. Yours are simply a more eloquent version of what is generally the insane mumblings of an uneducated culture soon to be forgotten. The small minded rural bigot is withering away and there is NOTHING you or anyone else can do that will stop this from happening.
    Finally, if you’re still with me, you are too combative, I wrote the above paragraph to show you that what it is like to be on the receiving end of such dismissals. A debate is not about “winning” it is about discovering truth. Not one truth, but each participants truth. The problem with you is that you are endlessly trying to win. That is absurd. You cannot. You cannot convince me of anything anymore than I can convince you that you are wrong. We convince ourselves, it looks like someone else is doing it, but that is because they are talking with us while it happens. Deep down, you know this is true. That is why you do not actually consider other positions, the second you did, that is when you’d “lose” — though, not really. That loss would be your first victory, then you could actually defend the world that you love and maybe succeed.
    As it stands now you are a few 100 people (okay, maybe, maybe as man as 10s of 1000s tops) stupidly trying to win an argument with 100s of 1,000,000s who disagree with you. How can you possibly win? You can’t. It is just stupid to try.
    Better, and I agree with part of your effort, that is the desire to preserving your culture (though not all of it) — in the same way the po-co scholar in me wants to preserve local culture everywhere. But I cannot accept your racism that denies humanity to all humans, nor will a world that is far more non-white than white every accept this. For that matter, in a world half-filled with woman, your misogyny hardly stands a chance either.
    By all means have at it. You a pebble in the Mississippi, you will be washed out to sea. Rage all you want.
    No one is, nor should, engage with your positions until you (A) genuinely acknowledge your biases, (B) admit that your opposition are people, really live human beings, just like you, who deserve the same respect that you desire, and (C) learn about folks who are not like you, understand their positions as you understand your own.
    Until you do those three things you are the rhetorical and intellectual equivalent of homo sacar, except we didn’t make you, you did when you made bare life, or zoe, of others.

    As it stands now you are just a specter of the past whose uncouth whisper managed to echo across the web while saying despicable things at a public event. You are the branch of the family that never learned that different does not equal less. We will not miss you when you are gone. Though, I will miss some parts of your culture (particularly the food).

    Don’t kill people. No matter how you slice it, Jesus clearly does not condone killing folks. He would say to you, God’s why is God’s why, and even in defeat the true Christian wins — as they did against the Romans, the Germanic barbarians, etc.

    • Your comments are really excellent, by the way. I’m glad you made them. I’d have loved to see him try to respond to that, but it seems my banishing spell was successful 🙂

  10. Um…wow
    Somehow I didn’t realize there existed people like Scott Terry and Douglas Wilson. I guess I believed that most racists or misogynists believed that way because they thought their race/sex was better than the other(s). I didn’t think there were some who would try to defend slavery as ‘better’ for the slaves or misogyny as good for women.

    That said, good comments Sarah, Jen, Rebekah & Jack; more eloquent than I could’ve been

    • I think it’s similar to the way certain people try to defend ‘Biblical patriarchy.’ They try to argue that it’s really better for women, for a variety of (bullshit reasons). It’s as if they’re trying to divorce slavery and patriarchy from their bigoted roots by addressing them as institutions, if that makes sense.

    • A public service announcement: I took screenshots of every single one of your comments and am tweeting them all, identifying you, Scott Terry, as the author. You could try to delete the blog associated with your account, but I’ll just access a cached copy to prove your identity, so there’s really no point.

      Why am I doing this? Because I’d like the world to know that the White Students Union isn’t simply racist: it’s sexist, and its leaders would rather demean female critics instead of interacting with them as intellectual equals.

      It’s behavior I’d expect from racists. I just happen to find it particularly amusing, given your superficial comments to concepts like ‘chivalry.’ Your comments prove just how intellectually bankrupt your ideology truly is.

  11. Oh, you want to debate me?

    Interesting. I thought you didn’t have time for it.

    And please … give me as much publicity as you can. You’ll be joining a (small, but growing) line of left-wing zealots doing the exact same.

    Let the world know that not all white men are cowed by the irrational, incoherent, and satanic drivel being churned out by pop-culture and American academia.

    • There’s nothing to debate. You hate black people. I do not. End of discussion. And you’re not really doing yourself any favors here: you’re making yourself look insane. Which is fine by me, because the sooner your ideology dies a slow agonizing death, the better off we’ll all be. But you? You. Look. Crazy. You harass female bloggers, you refer to yourself as ‘a proud Southron man.’

      I’m giving you publicity because you are living proof that white supremacy is worthless. And you’re playing right into my hands, so thanks for that.

  12. Hey Im black and i say leave him alone. He is just voicing his thoughts. I DON’T AGREE WITH IT BUT DEBATE HIM AND STOP BASHING. WHITE LIBERALS DO THAT ALL THE TIME. Just debate

    • Here are my favorite quotes from that treasury of word salad you call a blog:

      “Basically, feminism was the white women’s way to go against the male for power, and in turn destroy families throughout western civilization. ”

      ” My response was, “how can we never talk about the women’s choice not to have sex, but we don’t talk about how women lure men to have sex with them?”

      “My point of saying this is was at may day to talk to may about issue concerning both our communities like homosexually Zionism Agenda 21 and the new world order. ”

      Hilarious.

  13. So you’re telling me to keep doing what I’m doing?

    Careful … cheerleading is a traditional female role.

    And I don’t “hate” black people, by the way. I’m rather fond of them. But, unlike pretentious left-wing social marxists, I have a realistic view of their race, as well as human nature in general. Hence why my ilk often refer to ourselves as “cosmopolitan localists” – ya can’t love others without first loving yourself, after all.

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