Liberty University’s Falkirk Center held “Get Louder,” a day-long “faith summit” Thursday that included Christian Reconstructionist Gary DeMar among its speakers. DeMar’s presence at “Get Louder” reflects the widespread influence of Christian Reconstructionism and contemporary religious-right leaders’ embrace of Christian nationalism.
DeMar led a group called American Vision for nearly 30 years, from 1986 to 2015, and returned to the helm last year. American Vision promoted “Get Louder” and DeMar’s appearance on its website, where DeMar wrote Friday that it is “worse than irrational” and “immoral” for Christians to vote for Joe Biden.
The stated mission of American Vision is “to restore America to its biblical foundation—from Genesis to Revelation.” American Vision’s website describes its vision this way:
An America that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life, where Christians apply a Biblical worldview to every facet of society. This future America will be again a “city on a hill” drawing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to subdue the earth for the advancement of His Kingdom.
“If God is to be pleased by men, the Bible must become the foundation of all their governments, including civil government,” DeMar wrote in his book “Ruler of the Nations,” adding that “Biblical law must be made the foundation of all righteous judgment in every government,” civil as well as church and family.
The Falkirk Center was co-founded last year by Jerry Falwell Jr., who until recently led Liberty University, and Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk with the stated purpose of “mobilizing, educating, inspiring, and mobilizing Christians in the battle to preserve American liberty and rally citizens in an effort to shape government policies, national institutions, and American society through a Biblical worldview.” (Falwell recently suffered a spectacular fall from grace and left his position at Liberty due to public revelations of a sexual relationship between a young man and Falwell’s wife, reportedly with Falwell’s involvement.) Since Falkirk’s founding, Kirk has openly allied himself with dominionists and Christian nationalists in a “spiritual war” for the future of America.
DeMar appeared on a panel moderated by religious-right author and pundit Eric Metaxas, recently seen punching a protester after a Republican National Convention session at the White House. DeMar said he was concerned about Christians who don’t sufficiently understand a “Christian worldview.” DeMar’s message to Christians was that God did not simply save them for heaven or to wait around “for some End Time eschatological event that’s going to take you out of the difficulties of the world.” DeMar continued, “We were put here in order to manifest basic principles of God’s word in every facet of life.”
DeMar said that Christians must fight present political battles while also planning for “transformative” longer-term solutions.
The idea that government policies must reflect a “biblical worldview” is grounded in Christian Reconstructionism, an ideology articulated in the 20th century by Calvinist theologian R.J. Rushdoony, who taught that the United States should be governed according to his interpretation of biblical law. “It is God’s world and must be brought under God’s law politically, economically, and in every way possible,” Rushdoony wrote.
Religion scholar Julie Ingersoll, author of “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism,” calls DeMar a popularizer of Rushdoony’s ideas. She notes that his “God and Government” put those ideas in a format “accessible for use in Christian schools and homeschools as well as Bible study groups.” She writes that DeMar’s books “laid important groundwork for the later promotion of Christian American history by people such as David Barton.”
In an interview, Ingersoll told Right Wing Watch that she was not surprised by DeMar’s appearance at the Liberty University event. She has been making the argument that Reconstructionist ideas have infused the Christian right, Tea Party movement, and “patriot” right as well as the conservative Christian home-schooling movement. She said that during the current COVID-19 pandemic, more families have been thrown into homeschooling, and many may end up unwittingly using curricula that is shaped by Reconstructionist ideology.
Many of Rushdoony’s concepts, like his teaching that the Bible puts some activities, like care for the poor, outside the jurisdiction of government, are embraced widely across the religious right—even by leaders who would not call themselves Reconstructionists, or who might distance themselves from some of Rushdoony’s more extreme positions, which include, for example, the application of Old Testament punishments for gay people or rebellious teens.
Ingersoll says that Rushdoony’s discussion of “dominion theology” is reflected in the Seven Mountains Dominionism promoted by the “prophets” and “apostles” of today’s New Apostolic Reformation and others across the religious right who promote dominionist rhetoric as a political strategy even if they have differences over the theology undergirding it. (Among the promoters of Seven Mountains Dominionism is Lance Wallnau, a Trump-promoting “prophetic” author and speaker.) Another Rushdoony teaching heard in the rhetoric of today’s dominionists is that there is but one truth and everything else is from Satan.
Echoes of Reconstructionist teaching are also apparent in “biblical economics” and claims by religious-right activists that churches are not subject in any way to government public health restrictions because the church is an equal “sovereign” to the government—or in anti-gay activist Jim Garlow’s “biblical applicationalism” and right-wing evangelical attacks on the very idea of “social justice.”
David Barton, who Ingersoll considers “Reconstructionist-lite,” promotes a Christian-nation reading of history and the Constitution that reflects Reconstructionist teaching. Last year’s Christmas catalogue for Barton’s ”Wallbuilders” organization featured a massive three-volume work by Christian Reconstructionist John Eidsmoe, which Right Wing Watch called at the time a sign of the “near vanishing of whatever blurry line may have once separated religious-right political advocacy groups from their more overtly extreme and dominionist compatriots.” Religious-right activist and former Rep. Michele Bachmann has cited Eidsmoe as a mentor; he now works for the disgraced former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law.
Another Reconstructionist, P. Andrew Sandlin, argues that “politics, like all else, must be Christian,” and insists that “the Constitution requires a Christian people.” Sandlin has taught young lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which has said its goal is to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”
The Institute on the Constitution is another Reconstructionist organization that uses curricula and outreach to legislators to “restore our American Founding Fathers’ Biblical, Constitutional, American view of law and government,” which in practice means insisting that public policy be aligned with the religious right’s very specific interpretation of the Bible.
Among the many religious-right figures who spoke at “Get Louder” were Kirk, Kirk’s pastor Rob McCoy, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Messiah College historian John Fea, a critic of Christian nationalists and Trump’s “court evangelicals,” live-tweeted much of the event. “Evangelical Trump supporters were encouraged to yell and scream more, fight more, and make sure that they were active on every social media platform,” Fea commented on his blog. “This is how the Kingdom of God will advance and Christian America will be saved because in the minds of the speakers, and probably most of those in attendance, there is little difference between the two.”