(Reprinted from The Roots of Reconstruction [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991], 298-302).
It is a significant fact that Karl Marx championed equalitarianism while being an elitist. The two go together. Honest men know the limitations of all men and that equality and inequality are myths. They are essentially mathematical terms which cannot do justice to the diversity of life. You and I may excel in doing certain things and feel totally incompetent in other areas. A man can be a mathematical genius and also incompetent in simple household repairs. If we were all equal, we would all be omnicompetent and would not need each other. This is why equalitarian regimes are so murderous: they see all men as readily replaceable and readily disposable, except for the elite few, the philosopher-kings.
The great sourcebook for elitism is Plato’s Republic. Its doctrine of justice is humanistic to the core: “Everyone ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suited him. Well, I believe that principle, or some form of it, is justice.” This justice means that society must be ruled by philosopher-kings. Under them are the guardians: soldiers and public officials. Most people must make up the masses; they are the slaves, and their virtue must be temperance, meaning self-restraint and obedience.
For such a “republic” to work, Plato felt that two factors which make for individualism had to go: property and the family. Private property must be abolished, and childbearing must be regulated and strictly controlled.
But this is not all. Basic to the ideal “republic” or elitist state is the state control of all education. This means also the control of books, music, and popular entertainment.
Later elitists refined the controls. Sir Thomas More, one of the uglier figures of the renaissance era, a man who lived badly but died well, added to Plato’s communism the control of money. Gold should be used only for making slave chains and chamber pots. Lenin was pleased with the latter part of this plan by More and adopted it. Much later, Edward Bellamy, in Looking Backward (1888), wanted state-issued credit cards to replace money. (This would enable the state to starve dissidents into submission.)
Chad Walsh, in From Utopia to Nightmare (1962), cited the principle articles of faith held by utopians. Four of these are of concern to us. First, man is basically good. The doctrine of original sin is anathema to elitists, because it places all men on common ground before God; it is perhaps the only valid form of equalitarianism. Second, man is plastic man; he has no fixed nature and can be readily molded to suit the goals of the philosopher-kings. The doctrine of evolution is an elitist myth which “vindicates” the elitist worldview. It means that the elite can remake man and the world after their image. Much science is devoted to such goals. Third, individual happiness is only possible in any true sense if society is served and flourishes; to seek happiness in separation from the goals of society is subversive and is not true joy. Hence in the Soviet state, the workman who surpasses the work goals is the happy man, because he sees his good and joy in terms of social goals. Fourth, man is a rational being who can become more systematically rational. Society will flourish as reason and science flourish. Hence, the philosopher-kings, as reason incarnate, must guide the state and the masses into the life of reason. The implication in all such elitist orders is that submission to the state and its elite is submission to pure reason, and revolt against the elite is irrationalism.
Thus, in every elitist social order, the elite holds this as a fixed premise: think as we do, and you are a sane and rational man; if you disagree with us, you are a social deviate with a serious mental problem.
Rule by Elitists
Almost all nations are now ruled by elitists. When men depart from Christianity, they abandon hierarchy, which means sacred rule in terms of God’s law-word, for man’s rule by elitists. These elitist rulers have more in common with another than with their own peoples. Elitists love elitists, or at the least prefer them. Our elitists in the United States have made us allies in effect of Red China and the Soviet Union, but not of the Republic of South Africa. Although the R.S.A. has many points in common with them, economic controls for one, it still smacks too much of the old order of Europe and must be destroyed. Red China has the world’s most murderous abortion laws, and extensive state-created famine, but no one proposes disinvestments in Red China, except a few students. The Soviet Union has its slave labor camps and planned genocide, but where are the demands for disinvestments in the USSR?
Elitists love other elitists; they profess to love the masses and are militant equalitarians in legislation and snobs in person. The elitist loves “exclusive” places; he will patronize with delight a fine restaurant if few know about it, but, let it become too popular, and it is “spoiled.” He loves out-of-the-way places to travel to and rhapsodizes over them, but let a few “common people” begin to enjoy the same places and he sees it as “commercialized” and spoiled.
The elitist hates the free market because it gives in its own way a good form of democracy. In a free market economy, most men, if they want them, can earn enough for an automobile, television, and their own house. In this way, they pass out of the servant class (“It’s so hard to get good servants these days”) into the middle class, and this means an independence from the elite. The great evil of Puritanism and of Cromwell to the English elite was that “Merry England” was “destroyed,” since now no large class of servitors were bowing and scraping before them. For some ever since, the restoration of such an order has been a dream, whereas their ex-servitors in many cases want to hurt “the ruling class” even if it destroys the country in the process.
Elitism is common to all spheres. Its origins are commonly in Plato, for whom the true universals are abstractions, or ideas, or principles, not the concrete universal, the triune God. Recently, on a trip, one earnest person, who knew the Bible well, asked me in some bewilderment, “I know my Bible, I know Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and I try to live by God’s word, but what are these principles our school principal keeps talking about?” Neither Christ nor the Bible can be reduced to a Greek abstraction or principle: there is never anything abstract about Scripture. Theft, murder, adultery, false witness and more are forbidden, not because of some abstract principle, but because God says so. Tithing is required, the Sabbath rest is mandatory, and short tem debt and more is the law of God, not because of some abstract principle, but because we are God’s creation and property, and He commands us. Principles lead us to another religion; faithfulness leads us to the Lord.
Elitism takes other forms as well in the church. The Bible gives us legitimate and God-ordained types and symbols which are specific and concrete: they refer to Christ, our salvation and sanctification, and the like. Biblical typology is open to all believers; it is not esoteric. Symbolic theology is elitism. Who but those scholars who know fertility cult religions and have studied under one or two esoteric seminary professors will ever see, in the plain words of Scripture, the hidden and esoteric meanings in the conflict between Moses and Zipporah over circumcision? And what believer, reading the account of the first Passover in Egypt, could even imagine that the sides of the door represented a woman’s legs, the top of her pubic area, and the blood of the lamb a woman’s hymeneal blood on her wedding night? When the Bible tells us that Christ is God’s Passover lamb, what believer will look for an abstract symbol or principle?
Elitism in Academe
Elitism governs the academic community of our time. In the seminaries, professors tend to look down on those students who intend to be pastors; the favored students are the potential professors. For them, religion often is something to dissect and discuss, not marching orders from the Lord God. For this reason, most seminaries tend to do their students more harm than good. It is of significance that today the fastest growing churches are those which do not require seminary training.
Colleges and universities are schools of elitists. They are hostile often to true scholars as well as to most students. The theory held by intellectuals is that their intelligence sets them apart and makes them distinctive. However, as one professor, a true scholar, once remarked to me, few places are more governed by the mores of a wolf pack than the university. It is not intelligence that makes men strong and independent, but rather faith and character.
As we have noted, elitism stresses education, but it is humanistic education. Such schooling does not breed freedom nor independence but an emphasis on the group. Peer pressure then governs people. When a child begins to attend a state school, that child very soon is governed by his peer group, the other students, and the directions given to the peer group come from the statist educators. The result is a growing breach between the child and his home.
Elitism is moreover very prone to styles, fashions, and fads. These can be with respect to clothing, foods, ideas, recreations, and more. There are continual changes in what is acceptable, because the elite want to be different, and the imitating masses want to follow their trends. It is ironic that for elitism the consent of the governed, according to Plato, is “Where the desires of the inferior multitude will be controlled by the desires and wisdom of the few.” Now that the elite set the trends for the masses, they long to be different, and they alter their styles and tastes to show their difference.
As we have seen, for Plato (and Socrates), justice is an elitist doctrine. It means that all people do what the elite feels is best for them to do. In Plato’s words “we have laid down, as a universal principle, that everyone ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suited him. Well, I believe that principle, or some form of it, is justice.” Notice that Plato, the elitist, lays down a principle, a rationalist premise. Disagree, and you go to a slave labor camp or to execution. God instead gives us commandments and laws which we are to obey. These are not ideas to discuss and try to understand but marching orders for life. God’s laws are more intelligent than all the intellectualism of Plato and every elitist since then, because God’s law-word sets forth the way of life, of faith, and of understanding. We are plainly told, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pr. 1:7). Again, “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Pr. 2:6). This is not a principle: it is a fact of life. It presupposes that God made the world and all things therein, and all creation is governed and judged by Him. Elitism presupposes a self-created world; it has thrived on the myth of evolution. In that world of brute factuality, there is no law-word of God. Man therefore fashions ideas or principles with which he proposes to govern and rule the world. When Christians try to combine God and principles, they try to join what cannot be joined.
In earlier years, I felt that the Hellenic concept of ideas or principles was too deeply enmeshed in our thinking for eradication. I have since come to the conviction that it is wrong to compromise with such thinking, or attempt to use and direct it, as I did earlier. Our duty is to be faithful; the results are in the hands of God.
- R. J. Rushdoony
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.