[Note: an email from a participant in our yesterday's April Book of the Month Club meeting on the book In His Service: The Christian Calling to Charity, by R.J. Rushdoony]
In 1965, I matriculated into Bryan College as a freshman and joined the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. During the Fall term YAF invited a speaker to come to campus -- a fellow by the name of R.J. Rushdoony.
The YAF faculty sponsor told us that Rushdoony was very conservative, but held a peculiar belief. "He thinks things will get better and better until Jesus comes." (The usual inaccurate characterization of postmillennialism.)
The evening of Doctor Rushdoony's lecture, it fell to me to watch the book table set up at the back of the chapel. As I watched and listened from my seat by the table, he related the story "Not Yours to Give" about Davy Crockett's bid for reelection to Congress, during which a constituent plainly told Davy that he would not be voting for him. When asked why, the Tennessee farmer cited Crockett's vote in favor of a pension for the widow of a deceased military officer.
Rushdoony told us that Davy Crockett maintained to his constituent that providing for the widow was the charitable thing to do. The other retorted that the charitable thing would have been for representatives to take up a collection from their own pockets. He concluded that while giving your own money is charity, giving someone else's money is theft, because it's not yours to give.
At that point, I blurted out, "Amen," and every head in the chapel turned to look at me. In that moment of my embarrassment, R.J. Rushdoony's gaze met mine, and he said, "That's all right, brother. I know exactly how you feel." I'm sure he did, because the student body gave a rather hostile reception to his presentation.
It would take me almost twenty years from that time to realize what Rushdoony was really about and to embrace Reformed theology and Christian Reconstruction, but I have always fondly remembered his empathy in my first encounter with him.