BOOK REVIEW BY LEVON KIRAKOSIAN
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In April 1915, the snow had just begun to melt from the peaks of Mount Ararat and run into the villages nestled in its valleys. In the shadow of the mountain lay the idyllic town of Van, which the Rushdoony clan had called home for nearly 2,000 years. That spring brought catastrophe for the Rushdoony’s. The Ottoman army laid siege to their town, hoping to quash the only fortress of resistence against the military crusade to eradicate the Armenian race. When the Ottoman cannons opened fire, Y.K. Rushdoony and his wife fled for the hills, embarking on a harrowing horseback trek westward through Europe, a voyage across the Atlantic, and a trip from one end of the American continent to the other, finally to begin a new life in California.
In 1916, the year of their arrival in the United States, Y.K.’s wife gave birth to their second son, Roussas John “RJ” Rushdoony. (R.J.’s older brother had been one of the 1.5 million who perished in the Armenian Genocide.) ……., and as a son of survivors of a recent genocide the young Rushdoony was raised on tales of the slaughter that uprooted his family’s ancient Christian heritage. The above is an excerpt from Max Blumenthal’s book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party. Soon “RJ” Rushdoony became an ultraconservative Orthodox Presbyterian minister, started his campaign to ‘restore purity’ to the fallen world and nurtured the sprouting conservative counterculture.
R.J. Rushdoony, who’s almost unheard of, influenced the Christian right and provided them with their plan for what they saw as the promised land, which is a actually theocratic dystopia, a virtual hell. He advocated substituting theocracy for the Constitution, wrote, thousand-word tomes explaining how this would work out during the 1960s, during the battles for desegregation, and the extreme right. Under Rushdoony’s plan, disobedient children, witches, blasphemers, adulterers, abortion doctors would all be executed, according to, Leviticus case law.
As extreme as it sounds, it had an enormous impact on the right-wing evangelical movement as it moved from the pews into the political realm, because it gave them something to campaign for, even if what they were going to get was going to be more along the lines of a Shattered Republican Party.
It was astonishing to find at the center of a radical theocratic movement that has influenced and provided a moral blueprint for the emerging conservative counter culture, RJ Rushdoony, a son of Armenian immigrants. After I finished reading this book I kept thinking about RJ Rushdoony and asking myself how could a son of Armenian immigrants, who witnessed the annihilation of their people, possess such intolerance for those who have been pushed out to the margins of society. Strangely, I have seen this on a personal level meeting young men who have emigrated to the U.S. from socially conservative countries of the Middle East, however, not to such an extreme level from those who have lived their entire lives and have been educated in the U.S
Reasonably one would think that a man whose family escaped mass murder and were victims of the same ideology would go on to encourage compassion, solidarity, and understanding, but Rushdoony went the other way, taking literally the 613 laws in the Book of Leviticus.
In 1973 RJ Rushdoony wrote The Institutes of Biblical Law.his magnum opus, outlined his philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism and it greatly interested racist southern pastors in America, particularly Jerry Falwell. Rushdoony’s writings were a major influence on the Christian Right’s philosophy. In his book he advocates capital punishment for “disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, adulterers.” He wanted nothing less than to grasp the reins of government to force a theocratic society; there are so many parallels to the goals and aspirations of the Taliban.
Gary North, the Presbyterian Christian Reconstructionist, is his son-in-law, and, while not backing down on the mass death penalty, advocates stoning rather than burning at the stake, because stoning is cheaper. As for who would be doing the killing it would be Christians. We thought that such ideology could be harbored in foreign places such as Afghanistan regrettably it is being advocated in the U.S. today.
During the early 1950’s Rushdoony befriend Robert Welch who shared his visceral hatred for anyone who liberal tendencies. Welch had retired as a candy manufacturer and used his wealth to create the John Birch Society. (Its headquarters was in Glendale California.) This fringe group gained notoriety by red baiting prominent public figures such as President Truman, President Eisenhower, and Allen Dulles, director of the CIA. On the fateful day that President John F. Kennedy visited Dallas, November 22, 1963, Birchers welcomed him by mounting posters around the city showing the president’s head at the center of rifle crosshairs. Rushdoony was impressed by the Birchers actions, he wrote, “The key to the John Birch Society’s effectiveness has been a plan of operation which has strong resemblance to the early church.”
For the leadership of the Christian right, race was the issue that galvanized their political activism. But as America grew increasingly weary of overt, ugly displays of Dixieland racism, their resentment transmuted into a more palatable moral crusade. The strategy to win that crusade –propelled the Christian right close to Rushdoony’s theocratic vision of government.
The G.O.P. of the 21st century bears scant resemblance to The Party of Eisenhower. It has been co-opted by authoritarians like James Dobson and Tom DeLay, people who, as predicted by psychologist Erich Fromm nearly 70 years earlier, in an attempt to deny their own human flaws have risen to power by donning the armor of religious, bullying self-righteousness and imposing their misdirected anger on others.
The Party of President Eisenhower has been seized by the religious right the Republican Party of today bears very little likeness to that of the G.O, P. of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower.
President Eisenhower was fascinated throughout his presidency (and probably before), with Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer which was likely influenced by social psychologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom. It is the latter who argues that popular movements are people eager to surrender their freedom to a cause, people who seek personal transcendence through authoritarian political parties, causes and heroes. They allow the tyranny of the majority and permit small groups to control their movement why not their Party. Hoffer puts it this way: “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.” Blumenthal throughout his book refers to Fromm‘s teachings as he explores the many scandals, cover-ups and hypocrisies of the ever more radical Republican Party.
This hardbound book was a fascinating read, Max Blumenthal has written for The Nation Magazine, Media Matters For America, the Huffington Report and the Daily Beast, which constitutes much of his reporting. I learned a great deal about the Republican Party, the Christian Right’s culture of personal crises, and that they’re as out of control as America’s future is. I highly recommend it so you may better understand the sad, but true story behind this mass movement.