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Deconstructing Reconstruction 

Pastor Responds to "America the Theocracy"

Page 2 of 3

A little closer to home, Mr. Sugg wrote: "Two conservative denominations, the Presbyterian Church in America...and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are Reconstruction-occupied territory." This is not only untrue; it is unfair. His language puts a smudge on every church within the PCA, linking them to theocracy. Go to all the PCA churches in Charlotte or Atlanta and see for yourself. Go to the denominational seminary and find a Christian theocrat. Visit with any of the denominational officials or the denominational website. Check out the position paper written by the staff of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia against Theonomy. The PCA is not only free from the hold of theocratic philosophy; you will barely find it within its walls.

Mr. Sugg's language is uncharitable and untrue. And frankly it's bad journalism. The furthest extremes exist in the midst of any philosophy or religion, but they do not define the center -- or even the left or right of center. This happens to my homosexual friends all the time. They keep getting lumped in with the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Defining the whole by the extremes simply restricts helpful communication.

This lack of research and charity are the parts that most frustrated me as Christian pastor and a Creative Loafing reader. I have to admit that I don't know all the names that Mr. Sugg presented to us as readers. I know most of them and I certainly knew one quite well -- Francis Schaeffer. The divergence between who Mr. Sugg reported Dr. Schaeffer to be and who I knew him to be was simply too wide.

Sugg writes: "Schaeffer called for action to restore biblical principles. And he mapped out a battle campaign to ignite the movement: Stop abortions." This makes it sound like the point of the Christian Manifesto was to stop abortion. The Christian Manifesto sees the importance of ending all injustices -- in every arena from human dignity to ecology to abortion, but listen to the result of this social action. In the Manifesto Schaeffer writes: "the result would be freedom for all and especially freedom for all religion. This was the original purpose of the First Amendment." Sugg either didn't read the whole Manifesto or chose not to report it. Instead Sugg goes on to write, "Thus [out of Schaeffer] was born dominion theology, sometimes dubbed covenant or kingdom theology. From this theology comes the concept of theonomy, literally "God's law,' which advocates define as application of the 600-plus Old Testament proscriptions to today's society. Theonomy would be the law of the land in the future that the dominionists want to construct."

Now please allow me to quote the Christian Manifesto:

"We must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of a theocracy. Let me say that with great emphasis. Witherspoon, Jefferson, the American Founders had no idea of a theocracy. That is made plain by the First Amendment, and we must continually emphasize the fact that we are not talking about some kind, or any kind, of a theocracy...We must not confuse the Kingdom of God with our country. To say it another way: "We should not wrap Christianity in our national flag.'"

Is Schaeffer unclear about his stance on Theonomy or Theocracy? No, he is not. He may be passionate as the day is long, he may believe things like Jesus can heal all of life's ills, but he does not believe in a Christian state with God at its head. Sugg's view of Schaeffer just does not compute. And Schaeffer is his launching point for the history of Reconstructionism.

So Sugg's view on Schaeffer is incomplete and wrong. How much more is wrong? I do not know. You do not know. I am not sure if he knows. That is my problem with the article. It is not a bad topic; the real Christian Reconstructionists need to be characterized (not caricatured) and the real culture war that might ensue must be dealt with. It is not a bad topic, but it is a bad piece of journalism. Truth has been sacrificed for rhetoric.

To quote CL editor John Grooms in Tara Servatius' article, "This was a news report that was riddled with inaccuracies and omissions and is as sloppy a job of news reporting as I've seen in some time."

John Sugg responds:
Rev. Hiatt makes good points -- but many of our differences are in interpretation. For example, he offers this textbook definition of post-millennialism: "Through the Church the Gospel gradually permeates the entire world and becomes immeasurably more effective than at present." I don't dispute it. But I'd also suggest that it can be interpreted in very benevolent terms, as Rev. Hiatt suggests, or it can be used to justify a theocratic and militant church. The latter interpretation is the one embraced by dominion theology and Christian Reconstruction.

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