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A Tribute To Dr. R. J. Rushdoony For His Contributions To Christian Education

When I first met Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony, I was in awe of his great wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and the way he articulated both in such a non-condescending way.

  • William D. (Bill) Graves,
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When I first met Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony, I was in awe of his great wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and the way he articulated both in such a non-condescending way. Despite his brilliance, he made it obvious that he was not a master, but a servant. I was so flattered when he insisted that I address him not as "Doctor" or "Reverend," but simply as "Rush," which is how I will refer to him now.

My first contact with Rush turned out to be in itself an education on the sovereignty of God. In the early 1980s, I was hired to represent an Oklahoma school district as its attorney in a Federal Court civil rights case. The school had been sued by a group of parents because the school was allowing students (who so desired) to have devotions prior to the start of school. An American Civil Liberties Union attorney represented the objecting parents.

Since the case involved religious freedom, I concluded that I would need an expert witness to testify about America's Christian foundations. Rush's name was recommended to me. His name was familiar since I had read his book, This Independent Republic. I called and told Rush my need of his expertise. He quickly agreed to come. I was surprised when he said there would be no expert witness fee. The only thing he asked was to have his travel expenses paid.

Eventually, I was required to give the Court the name of my witnesses, as well as a summary of their testimony. I stated what Rush's testimony would be. Shortly thereafter, I was stunned when I received an order from the Court in which the Judge stated that he would not hear any testimony involving our nation's Christian foundations. I then called Rush and told him what the Court had ordered. I was stunned once again when Rush replied: "I think I should come anyway." I naively asked what he could say to the Court in view of the Judge's order. I don't exactly remember Rush's response, but the implication seemed to be that it was something that I perhaps ought to get to work on. I did.

In the Courtroom
I prayed for a way to get Rush's testimony before the court without my being held in contempt of court. God provided a plan. The plaintiffs' ACLU attorney was and is a very able lawyer, but he was also a trifle overconfident at the time. Even though I had an excellent co-counsel named Dick Hampton, I was handling the questioning of all the witnesses. Dick and I concluded that if Rush was asked some fairly harmless questions concerning religion and state, the plaintiffs' attorney would, on cross-examination, open the door for a flood of information from Rush by challenging him with some broad questions. We also concluded that the court would be less suspect of any attempt, albeit ethical, to circumvent its order if Dick questioned Rush instead of me.

Dick's questions, which were few in number, were all within the parameters of the court's order. Plaintiff's attorney could have declined to cross-examine with absolutely no damage to his case. Nevertheless, he took the bait and cross-examined. In doing so, he did exactly what we had hoped by asking questions that allowed Rush to get in the testimony we wanted concerning our country's religious heritage. When the door was opened, Rush drove through like a Mack truck. The Judge listened intently. As the questions kept coming, and as Rush answered each one in such a magnificent way, Dick, sitting in back of me, was so elated that he began pounding my back. I was having great difficulty keeping a straight face as the plan unfolded and worked so well.

I believe this story shows how well Rush knew who was actually in control. He obviously had faith that if we called upon God for His help, the Supreme Judge would in effect overrule the human judge, which is essentially what happened. Due to adverse Supreme Court precedent, we didn't obtain the victory we wanted, but the plaintiffs got much less than they wanted — in great part because of Rush.

After this case, Rush became a good friend and mentor to me. He was always so cordial and helpful when I would call about educational, theological, philosophical, or political matters. Rush's great contributions to Christian education were not just to children, but also to adults like myself. As I read many of Rush's books and other writings, I began to realize that Christ is Lord of all and that His teachings govern in every area of life.

Personal Impact
As I read Rush's book, The Messianic Character of American Education, I began to understand that all education is religious, that all schools are religious establishments and that American education has been severed from its Christian roots and transformed into a man-centered, secular humanistic base that teaches and perpetuates socialism — all in great part because of Darwinian evolution.

In The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, Rush taught me and countless others that the Christian "liberal arts" curriculum significantly differs from the humanistic one. Liberal arts, Rush said, is teaching "the art of being a free man."The Christian liberal arts curriculum teaches that freedom is of Christ and that teaching is "inescapably a religious task" while the humanistic one teaches that freedom is of man. Christian education is that which teaches that "the Bible is not only the word of God, but also the most exciting book there is" and that God's Word "governs and informs every subject."

Because of Rush, Christendom has begun once again to grasp the importance of the Biblical cultural mandate. Rush taught that it is not the purpose of the Christian school to prepare a student for a retreat from the world, but to teach him that God wants His people to have dominion over the earth and to establish a Christian culture in order that the propagation of the gospel and freedom under Christ may thrive and that men may "glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

It was ultimately because of Rush that my wife Connie and I began to home educate our children and finally place them in Christian Heritage Academy — an Oklahoma City private school which teaches that God's Word should govern and inform every subject. In May, 2003, we went with our son Jonathan (our 5th CHA graduate) on his senior class trip to New England to view first hand the Christian foundations of our nation. We saw many great landmarks, but I was most impressed with the magnificent Forefathers' Monument in Plymouth, Massachusetts in which the Pilgrim fathers' Christian beliefs are symbolized by integral components of true Christianity: a supreme and everlasting faith in God and Christ which informs and governs education, morality, law, and liberty. It almost seemed as if Rush might have had something to do with the monument's design — it was so parallel to his teachings as to the true Christianity that once made America so free and great.

  • William D. (Bill) Graves

Bill Graves is an Oklahoma City lawyer and a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

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