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Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism
Michael J. McVicar
The University of North Carolina Press, 2015
326 pp., $37.50
We expect scholarly works of history to be level-headed and even-handed because, of course, that is what scholarship is for. But we then give the game away if we act too surprised when works of scholarship actually turn out that way—despite easy opportunities not to. The Christian Reconstruction movement was a genuine hot rock just a few decades ago, and so it is somewhat surprising to see anybody discuss it, even today, without their oven mitts on. But that is what Michael McVicar manages to do.
McVicar is a careful writer, and not in anyone's corner. He is certainly not writing as an apologist for the Reconstructionist project, but neither is he functioning as a partisan for Reconstruction's many critics. At the same time, he clearly grasps what everyone was maintaining—recons and their critics both—and gives them all their due. The unvarnished views of his Reconstructionist subjects do leave him obviously aghast in a few places, but he recovers nicely and doesn't really let it affect his overall analysis. And, at the same time, he is clearly sympathetic to Rousas Rushdoony as a man, and he goes out of his way to place the radicalism of the Reconstructionists in context. A partisan Reconstructionist might object that this sounds too much like an anthropologist being scientifically dispassionate about the cannibal's dinner, but more is going on than that:
Rushdoony and the Reconstructionist project he cultivated cut to the very heart of a brutal century dominated by the technocult of the modern state and a global autophagic capitalist order. If his vision of the world is disturbing, it is because it grew from cultural soil fertilized with the rotting offal of modernity: three world wars (two hot, one cold); industrialized genocide; mass revolutions; the rise of omnipresent governmental and corporate surveillance systems; corrupt political regimes; skyrocketing domestic crime; and corporate piracy. Rushdoony's political theology ...