(appeared originally on www.lewrockwell.com)
I have no claim to scholarship. I was never his disciple, nor could I afford being a patron. For heaven's sake, I was not even a Christian. Yet, I was proud to share forty years of friendship with the great Christian scholar and charismatic spiritual leader, Rousas J. Rushdoony.
In 1973, Rushdoony's monumental tome, The Institutes of Biblical Law, was published and immediately recognized as an extraordinary contribution to Christian thought. As the years passed, the Institutes became the foundational influence for the Christian Reconstruction movement.
In the preface to this historic work, Rush wrote: "Many of the ideas developed in this study were discussed at times with Burton S. Blumert, who in more ways than one has been a source of encouragement."
Although the reference was hardly deserved, it meant more to me than a Nobel Prize for Coin Dealing. What had prompted this giant of a man to be so generous? The answer is clear: I was a friend.
But spiritual leaders, you might say, don't have friends. It's unlikely that the Archbishop of Canterbury has any pals, but Rush and his wife, dear Dorothy, were my true, enduring friends.
I was introduced to the great man in 1962 by financial newsletter writer, H. D. Bryan. As is often the case when, searching for beginnings, specifics are difficult to recall, but before long Rush and I were on the phone at least once a week. Our chats covered every subject ranging from medieval history (of which I knew nothing), the evils of the modern church (of which I knew little), to plain old gossip about folks in the freedom movement (of which I was a minor authority).
As the seasons passed, we drifted a bit. Rush was traveling all the time, testifying before varied official bodies on behalf of home schooling. I would see him but a few times a year, and his demeanor changed from that of the vibrant Christian scholar to that of an Old Testament patriarch. There were occasions when I expected to see small lightning bolts around his head and magnificent gray beard.
Others have covered the life, career, and enormous impact R. J. Rushdoony has had on Christianity, conservatism, and individual liberty.
I can only share with you some personal reflections of small moments during our decades-long friendship.
The Gold Coins That Didn't Exist.
The memories are jumbled, but it was probably during the late 1960s that I had consigned an array of world gold coins to a weekend charity bazaar Rush had organized. He phoned on Monday morning to report that the event was a smashing success, and the gold coins sold like "hotcakes."
The next day's mail included payment and a group of returned coins. Surprised, I'd thought every item was sold. I examined the rejects, and red-faced, realized they were all Turkish. (Rushdoony's Armenian heritage could never forget the holocaust the Turks perpetrated upon his people.) We never exchanged a word about it, but it was as though I had never sent the satanic coins and he had never returned them.
The Carton of Paper Money.
August 16, 1968 was the final day U.S. $1, $5, and $10 silver certificate notes were to be redeemed by the U.S. Treasury Department for actual silver. As the day approached, activity in the coin and precious metal industry turned frantic. Rush was visiting my office in San Mateo, and I jokingly handed him a carton containing ten thousand silver certificates that we were shipping for redemption.
I proceeded to say something as unbelievably stupid as, "What do you think of this as a Christmas gift?"
Rush accepted the "gift" with a graciousness that comes only to men of the cloth, long accustomed to the charity that sustains their flock. It took several agonizing moments to recover the valuable package. Years later I realized that, as the saying goes, he was "putting me on" all along.
The Last Conference.
Although it was heart-wrenching to see him so frail, his 80th birthday celebration was a grand event in San Jose, California.
Rush's face brightened when I told him of a forthcoming conference "The Rothbard-Rockwell Report" was sponsoring. Wouldn't it be terrific if he could attend?
Andrew Sandlin and the other folks at Chalcedon, Rush's foundation, made all the arrangements and Rush was comfortable during the seven hour round-trip between his home in Vallecito and the Villa Hotel in San Mateo.
It was a magical moment for the 200 conference attendees when Rush entered the banquet room.
"Burt, ask Rush if he would like to address the group," Lew Rockwell said.
"But, Lew, he may not be up to it."
"I think you should ask him," Lew persisted.
The next fifteen minutes were amazing. I was so apprehensive that I can't even recall his subject but his presentation was impeccable. Not a mumbled word, not a hesitation, not a break in the flow. It was pure Rushdoony.
I needn't have worried. The crowd was enthralled.
Power of Concentration.
Rush and Dorothy had come to my office, and we were to have dinner in San Francisco with Christian school educator Reverend Bob Thoburn who was visiting from Virginia. I advised Rush and Dorothy I needed fifteen minutes to prepare for departure. He smiled, removed a small volume from his leather briefcase, and started to read.
I don't recall the nature of the calamity. It might have been a fire, a flood, or an armed robbery, but my office was in total chaos that afternoon. I do know that Rushdoony's eyes never left the page of the book. Speaking as someone whose attention span is about thirty-five seconds, I marveled at his power of concentration. No surprise he could read a book a day.
The Christian Reconstructionists have lost their inspirational leader. The home schooling movement mourns the passing of the great man who provided its life's blood. His students and parishioners will never replace this magnificent educator.
And I will miss my good pal, Rush.
February 14, 2000