Most Americans have never heard of the Reconstructionists. But they have felt their impact through the Reconstructionists' profound (if indirect) influence over the wider (and vast) Evangelical community. In turn, the Evangelicals shaped the politics of a secular culture that barely understood the Religious Right, let alone the forces within that movement that gave it its edge. As a result people ask themselves; "Where on earth do people like Michele Bachmann get their wacky ideas from?"
I'll tell you.
The Americans inhabiting the wider (and more secular) culture see the results of Reconstructionism without understanding where those results have come from -- for instance, how the hell George W. Bush got elected and then reelected, or the Ralph Reed comeback. Without understanding the Reconstructionists a person would not understand this Washington Post story:
"What's likely to happen is what a lot of us have wanted to see happen for a long time -- a social conservative movement that speaks to a broader set of issues but which never strays from the foundational issues of life and family and marriage," said longtime political operative Ralph Reed, who as a baby-faced 33-year-old leading the Christian Coalition in 1995 was dubbed "The Right Hand of God" on the cover of Time magazine.
Reed suffered a fall from grace and a defeat in his 2006 bid for Georgia lieutenant governor, hurt by his association with the scandals surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he is back again as head of a new organization called the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
But what is behind this?
As I explain in my book, Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics -- and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway, if you feel victimized by modernity, then the Reconstructionists have the answer in their version of biblical interpretation.
Ralph Reed is a follower of my late father Francis Schaeffer and as I know from conversations with him many years ago was highly influenced by the Reconstructionists.
Reconstructionists want to replace the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with their interpretation of the Bible. In the Reconstructionists' best of all worlds, Eddie Izzard would have been long since executed for the "crimes" of inappropriate wardrobe, not to mention "blasphemy." If given the chance, they would burn people like my Evangelical leader mother (Edith Schaeffer) at the stake for her "heresy" of explaining away the nastier bits of the Bible or at least not living by its meaner rules.
Most Evangelicals are positively moderate by comparison to the Reconstructionists. But the Reconstructionist movement is a distilled essence of the more mainstream Evangelical version of an exclusionary theology that divides America into the "Real America" (as the Far Right claims only it is) and the rest of us "Sinners."
And it was those "Real Americans" who were Bush's base and are now trying to turn the 2012 election into a religious contest about "values." The Reconstructionist worldview is ultra-Calvinist but, like all Calvinism, has its origins in ancient Israel/Palestine, when vengeful and ignorant tribal lore was written down by frightened men (the nastier authors of the Bible) trying to defend their prerogatives.
In its modern American incarnation, which hardened into a twentieth-century movement in the 1960s and became widespread in the 1970s, Reconstructionism was propagated by people I knew and worked with closely when I, too, was a Jesus Predator claiming God's special favor.
The leaders of the Reconstructionist movement included the late Rousas Rushdoony (Calvinist theologian, father of modern-era Christian Reconstructionism, patron saint to gold-hoarding haters of the Federal Reserve, and creator of the modern Evangelical homeschool movement), his son-in-law Gary North (an economist and publisher), and David Chilton (Calvinist pastor and author).
Writer Chris Hedges has called this the rise of "Christian Fascism," where "those that speak in the language of fact... are hated and feared."
Anyone who wants to understand American politics had better get acquainted with the Reconstructionists. Reconstructionism, also called Theonomism, seeks to reconstruct "our fallen society" and/or in the words of Sarah Palin "take America back."
Its worldview is best represented by the publications of the Chalcedon Foundation (which has been classified as an antigay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center).
According to the Chalcedon Foundation website, the mission of the movement is to apply "the whole Word of God" to all aspects of human life: "It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion. We must live by His Word, not our own."