An Army of radical Christian Reconstructionists is preparing a campaign to convert conservative fundamentalist churches.
Draped in a stark black suit with a shiny gold cross pinned to its lapel, Mark Rushdoony peered down from the pulpit through glasses tinted the color of hellfire.
"We are authorized by God to challenge all that is not godly!" Rushdoony thundered. "God is angry with the wicked every day, and the sins of the wicked deserve the infliction of God's wrath in this life as well as the life hereafter!"
Rushdoony was the keynote preacher at a symposium held in September at the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Cumming, Ga., to observe the 40th anniversary of the Chalcedon Foundation, the ultra-fundamentalist Christian ministry founded in California by Rushdoony's late father, R.J. Rushdoony. The elder Rushdoony was a racist and Holocaust denier who took his group's name from a medieval council of bishops that proclaimed the subservience of all nations and governments to God.
The Chalcedon Foundation has since become the fountainhead for Christian Reconstructionism, an obscure but growing branch of Christian fundamentalism whose adherents believe the world should be "reconstructed" so that everyone in it lives under strict Old Testament moral codes imposed by local theocracies.
There is no room for democracy in Reconstructionism, and no tolerance for dissent.
"To oppose us is to attack God's law," Mark Rushdoony testified to nearly 200 followers from four states, "and to attack God's law is to attack God himself!"
Mark Rushdoony took over as president of the Chalcedon Foundation after his father's death in 2001, and now leads a small army of true believers whose fundamentalism is so hard core they make garden-variety right-wing evangelicals seem like Unitarians at a Peter, Paul and Mary sing-along. Reconstructionists envision a future in which gay men and lesbians and adulteresses will be put to death, as demanded, they say, by Mosaic Law.
Like many homophobes on the religious right, Reconstructionist leaders often cite the book of Leviticus, chapter 20, in which God tells Moses to tell the children of Israel to put to death any man "who lieth with mankind as he lieth with a woman." In that chapter, God also orders the death by stoning of all sorcerers, wizards and worshippers of the ancient pagan fire deity Menoch.
"We must base our laws on faith, not reason," Rushdoony told the Georgia congregation.
Rushdoony shared the pulpit with the Chalcedon Foundation's vice president, Martin Selbrede, who exhorted the assemblage to arm themselves with "the powerful bazookas of God, not the peashooters of the flesh," and with Gary DeMar, owner of the Reconstructionist publishing house American Vision.
In April, DeMar had appeared alongside ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore at a "Restore America" rally in Powder Springs, Ga. Moore, the "Ten Commandments judge" who is running for governor as a Republican in Alabama after being thrown out of office there for defying federal court orders, is a hero to Christian Reconstructionists.
"Thank God for Roy Moore," said Joe Morecraft, the pastor at Chalcedon Presbyterian and a man well known in Reconstructionist circles. "He understands our duty to acknowledge God as the sole source of law and justice."
Morecraft said the September conference was a preview of a planned speaking tour of Reconstructionism's leading voices, including Rushdoony, Selbrede, and DeMar, that will be traveling to non-Reconstructionist fundamentalist Christian churches around the country beginning this winter as part of the Chalcedon Foundation's missionary effort to "convert" already conservative congregations to full-blown Reconstructionism.
"Anyone who says that Biblical law is too restrictive or burdensome, they will be counted as enemies of the Lord and they will be destroyed by him, whether they are liberal or conservative," Morecraft said.
During the short breaks between speakers, the Reconstructionists browsed merchandise booths in the church's community room. One item for sale was a standardized, multiple-choice "worldview test" designed for children to "measure secular humanism's influence on their perceptions." It includes the questions, "Capital punishment for certain crimes is a Biblical mandate and should be enforced in our society," and "Absolute truth exists in all areas and can be known." The correct answer for both: "Strongly agree."
The Chalcedon symposium was titled, "The Blueprint for Christian Civilization in the 21st Century." But instead of specifically outlining their strategy, the presenters simply pounded the drums of holy war by heralding the conquest of the wicked, variously identified as gays, secular humanists, abortionists, evolutionists and heretics.
Mark Rushdoony concluded by quoting his father's deathbed pronouncement: "Oh, my God, bless us in this battle! Our victory is certain! I can't talk much more. Oh, my God, we thank thee for this great calling to victory!"
Devotees of Menoch, thy days are numbered.