Until Rushdoony, founder and late president of the Chalcedon Foundation, began writing in the 1960s, most American fundamentalists (including my religious leader parents parents) didn't try to apply biblical laws about capital punishment for homosexuality to the United States.
Even the most conservative Evangelicals said they were "New Testament Christians." In other words, they believed that after the coming of Jesus, the harsher bits of the Bible had been (at least to some extent) transformed by the "New Covenant" of Jesus' "Law of Love."
By contrast, the leaders of Reconstructionism believed that Old Testament teachings -- on everything from capital punishment for gays to the virtues of child-beating -- were still valid because they were the inerrant Word and Will of God and therefore should be enforced. Not only that, they said that biblical law should be imposed even on nonbelievers.
This theology was the American "Christian" version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
It's no coincidence that the rise of the Islamic Brotherhoods in Egypt and Syria and the rise of North American Reconstructionism took place in a twentieth-century time frame -- as science, and modern "permissiveness" collided with a frightened conservatism rooted in religion.
The writings of people such as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and those of Rushdoony are virtually interchangeable when it comes to their goals of restoring God to His "rightful place" as He presides over law and morals. According to al-Banna, Islam enjoins man to strive for a segregation of male and female students, a separate curriculum for girls, a prohibition on dancing, and a campaign against "ostentation in dress and loose behavior." Islamic governments must eventually be unified in a theocratic Caliphate. Or as the late Reconstructionist/Calvinist theologian David Chilton (sounding startlingly al-Bannalike) explained:
The Great Commission to the Church does not end with simply witnessing to the nations. . . . The kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of Christ. . . . This means that every aspect of life throughout the world is to be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ: families, individuals, business, science, agriculture, the arts, law, education, economics, psychology, philosophy, and every other sphere of human activity. Nothing may be left out. Christ "must reign, until He has put all enemies under His feet" (1st Cor. 15:25). . . . Our goal is a Christian world, made up of explicitly Christian nations. How could a Christian desire anything else? . . . That is the only choice: pagan law or Christian law. God specifically forbids "pluralism." God is not the least bit interested in sharing world dominion with Satan. (Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion, 6th ed. Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1999, 271)
It was my old friend, the short, stocky, bearded, gnomelike, Armenian-American Rousas Rushdoony who in 1973 most thoroughly laid out the Far Right/Religious Right agenda in his book The Institutes of Biblical Law. Rushdoony changed the definition of salvation from the accepted Evangelical idea that it applies to individuals to the claim that salvation is really about politics.
With this redefinition, Rushdoony contradicted the usual reading of Jesus' words by most Christians to mean that Jesus had not come to this earth to be a political leader: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
According to Rushdoony, all nations on earth should be obedient to the ancient Jewish/Christian version of "God's Law," so that the world will experience "God's blessings." Biblical salvation will then turn back the consequences of The Fall, and we'll be on our way to the New Eden. To achieve this "turning back," coercion must be used by the faithful to stop evildoers, who are, by definition, anyone not obeying all of God's Laws as defined by the Reconstructionist interpretation of the Bible.
How far would the Reconstructionists go? North, writes,
"The question eventually must be raised: Is it a criminal offence to take the name of the Lord in vain? When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime (Exodus 21:17). The son or daughter is under the lawful jurisdiction of the family. The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death. Clearly, cursing God (blasphemy) is a comparable crime, and is therefore a capital crime (Leviticus 24:16)." (The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), 59-60.)
Doctrinal leaders (notably Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen) call for the death penalty for a wide range of crimes in addition to such contemporary capital crimes as rape, kidnapping, and murder.
Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, "sodomy or homosexuality," incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, "unchastity before marriage."
According to North, women who have abortions should be publicly executed, "along with those who advised them to abort their children." Rushdoony concludes: "God's government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them."
Here is how I imagine a Reconstructionist version of the Sermon on the Mount would read, inclusive of Reconstructionist "inside" theological/political code words like "Law-Word":
Blessed are those who exercise dominion over the earth: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who deport the immigrants: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who agree that the significance of Jesus Christ as the 'faithful and true witness' is that He not only witnesses against those who are at war against God, but He also executes them: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who subdue all things and all nations to Christ and His Law-Word: for they shall be filled. Blessed are those who say that those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God must be denied citizenship: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the Calvinist Christians who are the only lawful heirs to the Kingdom: for they shall see God. Blessed are those who know that turning the other cheek is a temporary bribe paid to evil secular rulers: for they shall be called sons of God if they bust their enemies in the chops. Blessed are those who have taken an eye for an eye: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye when ye know that the battle for My sake is between the Christian Reconstruction Movement and everyone else. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven. For so we are to make Bible-obeying disciples of anybody who gets in our way, and kill those who resist.
The impact of Reconstructionism (often under other names) has grown even though Rushdoony has largely been forgotten even in Evangelical circles, let alone the wider world. He made the Evangelical world more susceptible to being politicized -- and manipulated by some very smart people.