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The Emperor’s Continued Nudity: Jeff Sharlet’s Critique of Christian Historiography Examined

In some respects, Jeff Sharlet’s recent essay in Harper’s Magazine, “Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history,” seems to play to his base. Many sections read like exposés received from an embedded journalist, one providing disturbing information from inside the belly of the beast, viz., fundamentalist Christianity.

Martin G. Selbrede
  • Martin G. Selbrede,
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In some respects, Jeff Sharlet’s recent essay in Harper’s Magazine, “Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history,”1 seems to play to his base. Many sections read like exposés received from an embedded journalist, one providing disturbing information from inside the belly of the beast, viz., fundamentalist Christianity. His characterization of fundamentalists can’t be missed since he frames the article by way of a repeated theme:

Who would worship such a god? His followers must be dupes, or saps, or fools, their faith illiterate, insane, or misinformed, their strength fleeting, hollow, an aberration. A burp in American history. An unpleasant odor that will pass.2
We can’t conceive of the possibility that the dupes, the saps, the fools—the believers—have been with us from the very beginning.3
The dupes, the saps, and the fools—the believers—prefer their re-enchanted past, alive to the dark magic with which all histories are constructed.4

One suspects that Sharlet would hesitate to apply the above statements to Islam. Disrespect evidently has its limits.

While Sharlet, a savvy observer who knows how to write colorfully sharp prose, depicts some of his subjects as fools,5 it is evident that there’s something more to this article than what’s on the surface. Sharlet’s other theme is that fundamentalism needs to be taken seriously and that it’s not going away. In fact, he is quite clear that efforts to “explain away” and dismiss fundamentalism have collapsed: “The old theories have failed.”6 A careful, dispassionate reading of his article (letting perceived insults slide off our back) leads us back to a conclusion Chip Berlet voiced to his fellow secularists regarding their contempt of Christian activism: “Your sneering at them is part of why we’re losing.”7

The problem Sharlet faces is that he’s scrambling for alternatives to sneering. He desires the ammunition to make a substantive response to stem the tide of Christian fundamentalism in general and its incursion into the field of historiography in particular. Sharlet wants to keep the secularists’ hand on the tiller of history and its interpretation. He was miffed to report that he couldn’t grab the Orwell hammer to bludgeon the fundamentalists with it: the fundamentalists had gotten to the hammer first.8 George Orwell was being wielded against the secularists by the Christians. Worse, Sharlet knows the massive expansion of the modern state makes his secularist vision the more likely culprit to be caught in Orwell’s crosshairs.

The article’s title is the key: “Through a Glass, Darkly.” Sharlet seems to think that American history is being hijacked by wrong-headed revisionists and that a revisionist history is a dangerously heady brew, potent enough to galvanize people against secularism. Such revisionism (termed “a re-imagining” in the title) dispels the light in order to deepen an advancing darkness of ignorance. In actual fact, though, Sharlet acknowledges that the fundamental question is, Who is really guilty of revisionism? He implicitly acknowledges that there is some basis for the “revisionist” claims. While the Christian and Biblical heritage in our history has been successfully leeched out of the public schools over the last century, there was some tacit acknowledgment that many disparate threads pointed away from the established secularist hypotheses. But threads do not a cloth make. The only unification of history now taught (essentially by default) is the secular unified vision of it.

What Christianity did was reintroduce a unifying element: the same unifying element that shaped America for the century and a half beginning in 1620. This reunion is disturbing to Sharlet because he recognizes that two contending unified visions of American history are now on the field. While he lamely excuses his own secularist vision for looking comparatively dull (due to “the perfunctory processes of secular democracy”9), his actual problem is very different. It’s not that he’s backing a serious heavyweight contender in the far corner of the ring, one plagued merely by an unexciting demeanor; rather, his contender in this heavyweight fight is Pee Wee Herman Lite in an iron lung.

The unplugging of the iron lung keeping Pee Wee (the secularist’s unifying vision of history) from officially flatlining was recently disclosed by Richard A. Shweder (Professor of Human Development, University of Chicago).10 Shweder undertook to answer the question, Why so many barbed attacks (by book or by crook) against religion lately? “The most obvious answer is that the armies of disbelief have been provoked.” But Shweder probes below that deceiving surface:

[T]he popularity of the current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that it is not the story of religion but rather the story of the Enlightenment that may be more illusory than real.
The Enlightenment story has its own version of Genesis, and the themes are well known: The world woke up from the slumber of the “dark ages,” finally got in touch with the truth and became good about 300 years ago …
As people opened their eyes, religion … gave way to science. Parochial and tribal allegiances gave way to ecumenism, cosmopolitanism and individualism. Top-down command systems gave way to the separation of church from state, of politics from science. The story provides a blueprint for how to remake and better the world in the image and interests of secular elites.
Unfortunately, as a theory of history, that story has had a predictive utility of approximately zero.

Shweder’s subsequent explanation makes clear that we’re witnessing the death paroxysms of the Enlightenment story of history: the unplugging of Pee Wee Herman Lite’s iron lung. Sharlet recognizes he can’t fight something with nothing. I suspect he’s embarrassed that he’s bemoaning nebbishes blowing shofars11 or children brandishing 51-inch war blades12 because these are diversions from the primary problem he faces. To the extent his examples are relevant (most aren’t), they represent incidental symptoms of the core issues driving Christianity forward.

But does Sharlet’s article cloak “a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society?” It seems Sharlet has pulled the cloak back somewhat, has opened the kimono, to implicitly acknowledge the crisis. Shouting “Demagoguery!” in a crowded theater won’t suffice if the opponent has the academic and scholarly goods to put across a compelling philosophy of history. R. J. Rushdoony, for one, has done precisely that.13 In his book The Biblical Philosophy of History, history is no longer denuded of meaning and purpose but is seen in transcendent terms, within a perspective in which people live for something bigger than themselves. One cannot truly grasp the significance of Rushdoony’s other books on history without laying the foundation here. This volume contains the 800-pound gorilla that was lined up to face Pee Wee Herman Lite in the ring.

Sharlet did listen to the entire eighteen-lecture cassette series that Dr. Rushdoony recorded on American History. Curiously, Sharlet uses more ink describing his bizarre encounter with a police van on the Brooklyn waterfront while listening to the tapes than actually interacting with their content.14 It’s become as true for Rushdoony as it was for B. B. Warfield: the safest way to deal with such a powerful protagonist is to ignore him, or hurl imprecations drive-by style.

But the problem Sharlet faces is a compound one. Not only is his preferred theory of history coming up short, modern educators are miserably incompetent to propagate it. This truth is being aired in some very uncomfortable places (at least from Sharlet’s vantage point): not in stuffy scholarly tomes or journals nobody reads, but in places where plain folk can get their hands on it. For example, there’s nothing more populist in bearing than old-time gospel music, and Bill and Gloria Gaither are about as folksy and friendly as gospel musicians come. But a recent edition of the Gaither house publication Homecoming features an article calculated to give Sharlet a coronary. Former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett sat down for an interview with Gloria Gaither, as recorded in an article entitled “Raising A Ruckus.”15 The problem Dr. Bennett outlines, regarding American education, is letter simple:

Our worst subject is history. People have heard ad nauseum the reports and the scores of our reading and math. Our kids actually do better in reading and math than they do in history, American history particularly. Many kids from other countries know American history better than we do. That’s a stunning fact.
And second—if we do not teach it to them, they will not pick it up, unless they watch the History Channel, which a lot of kids don’t do. It’s the obligation of one generation to pass on to the next things of value. There’s hardly anything of greater value than passing on the legacy of this country. We’re not doing it. Our schools are teaching social studies, which is not history. When historical subjects are taught, they are often taught either: A) in a very tendentious, politically correct way, or B) in a very boring way, or C) both of the above.

The very vehicle (public education) intended to propagate the secularist outlook is an international disgrace. But what children do imbibe history and grasp it? Those in conservative Christian schools and homeschools.

Frederick Clarkson, lecturing at the same New York secularist seminar as Chip Berlet in October 2005, made some pertinent observations that corroborate this difference. Clarkson held that Christian Reconstructionists “know where they stand in history” and the role they’ll be playing in it. Clarkson contrasted this with the rest of society, which “is pretty much disconnected from” history. The value and power of Rushdoony’s unflagging application of the Bible to everything has never stood more clearly revealed.

Elsewhere, Rushdoony notes that the Humanistic Education Sourcebook, an anthology “used in training teachers,” contains an essay “entitled ‘Humanism: Capstone of an Educated Person.’ This title is revealing. For our statist educators, a truly educated person is a humanist.”16 This academic reality is confirmed by the secular scholar Karl D. Uitti, thus:

What is the purpose of humanistic scholarship? What, in fact, does the humanist scholar do? The job of the humanist scholar is to organize our huge inheritance of culture … to clear away the obstacles to our understanding of the past, to make our whole cultural heritage … accessible to us.17

The problem, as Bennett and Clarkson have noted, is that this entire program has failed. The Enlightenment heritage that secularism sought to perpetuate has not been made accessible. And from all accounts, the program is not even worth saving because the secular view of history must now compete with the Christian view of history. In 1965, prior to Rushdoony’s influence on the infancy of the homeschool and Christian school movements, there may have been an abstract, hypothetical chance for secularism to concoct some attractive theory of history in the absence of serious competition, but the reality is that we’ve moved from an allegedly post-Christian era to the early dawning of a new post-humanist era.

The flaw in history education is a simple one: “In the long run humans do not bear up well without meaning.”18 Sharlet recognizes that the Christian worldview is suffused with meaning. He may not agree with that meaning, but that’s irrelevant to the impact that the possession of meaning, transcendent meaning and purpose, has on human beings. I believe Sharlet barks up the wrong tree when he classifies all the appeal under the exclamation, “Intensity!”19 Intensity is merely how something is done (consumed with zeal versus phoning it in). The appeal is in the content. A Biblical worldview delivers history from meaninglessness. It also delivers us out of the cold hands of what most informed Christians (including myself) would regard as an expurgated version of history, a tale denatured by educational necessity given the exigencies of public policy. Ironically, Sharlet grasps the sense of the situation well (although he does so with a measure of cynical sarcasm—he doesn’t buy any of it, but acknowledges this approach’s supposedly delusional power and appeal):

The Christian nation of which the movement dreams, a government of those chosen by God but democratically elected by a people who freely accept His will as their own, is a far country. The nation they seek does not, at the moment, exist; perhaps it could in the future. More important to fundamentalism is the belief that it did exist in the American past, not in the history we learn in public school and from PBS and in newsmagazine cover stories on the Founders but in another story, one more biblical, one more mythic and more true. Secularism hides this story, killed the Christian nation, and tried to dispose of the body. Fundamentalism wants to resurrect it, and doing so requires revision: fundamentalists, looking backward, see a different history, remade in the image of the seductive but strict logic of a prime mover that sets things in motion.20
The movement now sees that to reclaim America for God, it must first reclaim that tradition for Him, and so it is producing a flood of educational texts with which to wash away the stain of secular history.21

Now, “revision” is a dirty word if you’re defending the status quo historiographies and hagiographies. All “revision” is spurious to the stalwart old guard. To be called a “revisionist” is a slur one tier below “extremist” in today’s environment. The problem is simply this: if the Christians are correct about God and history, then God Himself is a revisionist, and His story cannot ultimately be buried, let alone countered. In fact, this is precisely the problem secularists like Sharlet face: their opposition is buried under an embarrassment of riches in terms of original source material and documentation. The secularists maintain a gaunt facade of studied neglect, but they fail to discern that if the Christian history proponents didn’t have a seemingly infinite storehouse of evidence for their view, but only shallow and easily exhausted resources that paled next to the evidence for the Enlightenment/secular version of history, the Christian history movement would have long ago died.

Perhaps the most significant Christian historian of early American history was Verna M. Hall (a fellow researcher of Rushdoony’s at the Volker Fund). Her mission, in her own words, was to equip Christian schools to train up individuals who could read and understand the Federalist Papers. I had the privilege and honor of working with Miss Hall in the early 1980s (primarily on production of the 1983 volume The Bible and the Constitution)22 and was able to tour her foundation’s massive library in San Francisco several times to survey its surprising contents while asking questions of the scholars working there. A semitrailer truck was ultimately needed to move the 300 boxes of resource material from San Francisco to Virginia after her death. Unpublished volumes of hers included a four-volume historical study of Samuel Adams, almost completely typeset, the proofs filling seven large boxes. Sharlet has no idea that he’s been spared a good part of the “flood of educational texts” that he fears. But the flood is only made possible because the historic source material to compose that flood actually exists!

Sharlet knows better than to link Chalcedon and Rushdoony to disparate groups with distinctly different theological agendas. Lumping all such movements together under “fundamentalism” or “maximalism” has become a growth industry, and many critics of Christian activism are notorious for making irresponsible representations. Sharlet, who juxtaposes Rushdoony with such diverse strands, does not sufficiently distinguish between his chosen targets. I suppose it’s hard to aim straight when you’re running away from your targets.

However, Sharlet’s sloppiness23 misses a key point concerning Rushdoony’s position regarding history. Rushdoony never saw history as normative:

During the many years of my life, I have more than a few times been disappointed in men whose knowledge at first glance made them notable. Their problem was a past-bound vision. Their focus was on the early church, or the medieval church, or the Reformation church, and so on and on. If their interest was political they often looked backward to a particular era in history.
Now such interests can be good, but too often such people idealize the past and want a return to something no longer tenable. The modernist, on the other hand, wants a continual revision of the content of the Faith in terms of the spirit of the age. Those of us who hold that it is God’s enscripturated word that is alone authoritative must recognize that it must transform and govern our todays and tomorrows.24

What does this mean? It means that Jeff Sharlet has failed to recognize that Rushdoony is future-oriented and is not seduced by idealistic notions of an alleged “romance of American fundamentalism” as Sharlet describes it (see endnote 12). Even if Sharlet’s side painstakingly succeeded in recovering the past for the Enlightenment, Rushdoony’s sola scriptura message would slice through that like a hot knife through warm butter: an omnipotent God shapes the future on His terms, being one who isn’t limited by what transpired before.

In other words, Sharlet laments that his secular history message (1) isn’t competitive, (2) is so far from attractive it’s positively stultifying compared to Christian historiography, (3) is a complete bust in terms of predictive utility, (4) inspires nobody to live for something greater than themselves, and (5) has led to attempts to remediate one through four that are manifestly futile since Christian Reconstructionists are latched onto the future. How completely pervasive this last point becomes is clarified by Rushdoony:

Because time is predestined, and because its beginning and end are already established, time does not develop in evolutionary fashion from past to present to future. Instead, it unfolds from future to present to past. In Wood’s words, “The future is the source, it is the reservoir of time which some day will be present, and then past.” Better stated, eternity is the source; time is predestined, and therefore it moves from the future to the present to the past. “The future is logically first, but not chronologically.”25

Rushdoony acknowledges that “for evolutionary time, the past is determinative.” But Biblically considered, God, not the past, is determinative of the future. Abraham was not determined by the fact that his father Terah was a pagan: God was the determiner of Abraham’s future. If God determines Abraham’s future, surely He can determine ours.

God’s willingness to use foolish things to confound the wise, to use weak things to confound the strong, to subvert humanistic expectations about credentials and knowing one’s place, seems to nettle Sharlet. Describing a graphical mockup of George Washington kneeling in prayer “with an anonymous soldier in fatigues—just another everyday hero” leads Sharlet to the putative punch line this image allegedly puts across: “That could be you, the key-man theory of fundamentalist history proposes.”26 It’s apparently okay to tell kids they could grow up to be president. It’s apparently not okay to tell them that if they grow up to be something other than president, it can be just as important to God’s purposes for history.

There is a wry irony here: modern society is manipulated against the rich by inculcating envy against them: what makes them think they’re better than everybody else? Let’s equalize everything: soak the rich, the financial elite, and cut them down to size. But when cultural elitists are confronted with egalitarianism such as is unleashed among Christians who take the priesthood of all believers seriously, it’s suddenly a bad, disorderly idea. But Jeremiah 33:22 makes the promise firm: “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.” That’s a lot of priests and kings, as one would expect from Revelation 1:5-6’s assertion that this is precisely how God constitutes His Kingdom on earth.

So, what’s the worst that Sharlet and the secularists can hypothetically do? If they could cut godly men and women off from their Christian past, they’ll still fail to cut us off from the future that God has created. It’s beyond the range of their fiat. We are blessed that they’re unable to cut us off from our past. “[L]ook unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” (Isa. 51:1–2). God would not bid us to do the impossible. I get the impression that when scholars like Verna Hall “look unto the rock whence [we] are hewn,” it gives the secularists shudders. Their worst nightmare isn’t that her scholarship is atrocious: it’s that her scholarship is too accurate.

Sharlet’s final comment, a lament on the consequences of any significant success of the Christian history program, is a plaintive one:

Fundamentalism is writing us out of history.27

If someone appears to be writing Sharlet out of history, of cutting him off from history, Sharlet should closely examine the knife that’s doing the cutting. He may be surprised to find that the only fingerprints on that knife are his own.

1. Jeff Sharlet, “Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history,” Harper’s Magazine, December 2006, 33–43.

2. Ibid.,33.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., 43.

5. Sharlet can’t resist describing William J. Federer’s red tie as being “marred by a stain” (p. 34), or mentioning Federer’s inadvertent substitution of “Orson Welles” for “Orwell” (p. 35).

6. Sharlet, 34.

7. Chip Berlet was a featured lecturer at a seminar held at the CUNY Graduate Center October 21–22, 2005, entitled “Understanding Dominionism, Political Power, and the Aims of the Theocratic Right.” He directed this comment at his own secularist camp.

8. There’s some disingenuousness in Sharlet’s attempt to raise the name of Orwell because he proposes this action in direct response to a book published by Chalcedon (James B. Nickel’s Mathematics: Is God Silent?) where the topic is fundamental ontology, not historiography or power politics. Orwell’s categories of falsified speech and doctored definitions were crafted to perpetuate tyranny and amass greater control over man. Nickel was affirming the ultimacy of God the Creator over the things He created, while Sharlet assumes mathematical truth is uncreated and more ultimate than God. Sharlet would pit man’s definition against God’s, man’s being the superior one. The trouble is, Orwell directed all his firepower at human definitions. More charitably, Sharlet apparently refers to Orwell’s notion that to control the future, one must control the past. Humanists having taken control of the past, they resent attempts to repatriate it. They repudiate the idea that Christians are restoring a history since rewritten and distorted to serve the secular party line. Sharlet implicitly denies the existence of secular revisionism of U.S. history: hence each side’s appeal to Orwell.

9. Sharlet,33. Compared to secular democracy, the Christian vision, says Sharlet, “seems to some great portion of the population more compelling, more just, and more beautiful.”

10. Richard A. Shweder, “Guess who’s unwelcome at dinner? Nonbeliever elites may as well get comfortable with God in conversation,” Outlook section of the Houston Chronicle, December 3, 2006, E1 & E5. Shweder, a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the AAAS Socio-Psychological Prize, was president of the Society for Psychological Anthropology. Sharlet would need to grant that Shweder’s credentials are impeccable, even on Sharlet’s own principles. Shweder’s piece first appeared in The New York Times on November 27, 2006, under the title “Atheists Agonistes.” This title, with its intriguing literary allusion, was apparently adjusted by the Houston Chronicle to be intelligible to Texans. The entire article can be found on the Web at

11. Sharlet, 41. The “nebbish” is Lane Medcalf, one of many that Sharlet sees as being swept up in the (apparently delusional and likely destructive) notion that they have a God-given part to play in God’s big picture. Medcalf is an interesting character influenced by some peculiar strains of fundamentalist thought, and one cannot blame Sharlet for choosing subjects that would gratify any writer searching for material. In doing so, though, Sharlet is still cloaking the weakness of his theory of history. In the Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a serious press conference on UFOs is derailed when a grizzled mountaineer stands up to proclaim that he saw Bigfoot once. Medcalf becomes a similar point of focus for Sharlet: a diversion. But Medcalf and the dawning of an embryonic awareness on his part aren’t Sharlet’s problem: a full-orbed, fleshed-out model of history that has documentary teeth is the 800-pound gorilla he needs to contend with.

12. Sharlet, 37, n. 2., Sharlet refers to the Vision Forum Family Catalog, and decries the martial tone of the offerings between its covers. He sees the emphasis on purpose and courage (based on historical exemplars) as indicative of the “romance of American fundamentalism, the almost sexual tension of its contradictions: its reverence for both rebellion and authority, democracy and theocracy, blood and innocence.” Concerning the Braveheart-inspired 51-inch long war blade (which Sharlet humorously observes “is still a lot of knife for a kid”), its implications are far from positive. The marketing of such weapons to children promotes the teaching of “history at knifepoint—a theology of arms.” Since Sharlet is coming up empty on a theory of history to successfully compete with the Christian’s rediscovery of his actual heritage, he trots out the old war horse Isaac Asimov alluded to: armies marching in the night. He appears more concerned that a Christian child might pick up the values of William Wallace than that a secular child might pick up values from Grand Theft Auto. Given Sharlet’s worldview, the former is immeasurably worse: the Grand Theft Auto kid is well on his way to becoming a subservient drone given his “enlightened” schooling.

13. R. J. Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History (Phillipsburg, NJ: 1979). Reprinted by Ross House Books, Vallecito, CA: 2000. This is a critical study that exhibits precisely how the secular vision of history is like unto the emperor who has no clothes.

14. Sharlet, 36. Sharlet can’t resist juxtaposing the presence of a target for terrorists (a Coast Guard chemical depot) with “the Christian jihadi lecture” he was listening to on headphones (Rushdoony’s lectures). He elsewhere (p. 41, n. 5) calls Rushdoony a bigot: a pointless vilification that apparently didn’t merit a position in the main text.

15. “Raising A Ruckus.” Gloria Gaither’s interview with Dr. William J. Bennett. Homecoming, Vol. 4, Issue 5 (September/October 2006), 25–28.

16. R. J. Rushdoony, “Education: Today’s Crisis and Dilemma” Journal for Christian Reconstruction 11.2 (1987), 69.

17. Karl D. Uitti, Linguistics and Literary Theory (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969), vii.

18. Robert Erwin, The Great Language Panic and Other Essays in Cultural History (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990), 75.

19. Sharlet, 34.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., 36.

22. Apart from my working association with Verna M. Hall and Rosalie Slater, I played a significant part in the publication of the nearly 500-page volume A Guide to American Christian Education for the Home and School by James B. Rose (Camarillo, CA: American Christian History Institute, 1987), even extracting the Scripture index for the volume. I can speak with considerable familiarity about this and related material (having played a part in the publication of the expanded edition of Marshall Foster’s The American Covenant and knowing firsthand the work of Ronald W. Kirk and Christopher R. Hoops). The historical scholarship of Miss Hall was peerless, and it was primarily grounded in original source material. Dr. Gary North’s position that Miss Hall used secondary sources from the nineteenth century is only half-true: if she found original material and later historic narratives that corroborated each other, she’d use the one that told the story better. But the groundwork in original sources was never absent. North’s view that Miss Hall’s research petered out around 1777 because the Constitution represented a secular revolution against the “Christian” Articles of Confederation is a faulty conclusion because her published output is the tip of the iceberg. More than half of Miss Hall’s research has never seen the light of day, the thousands of typeset pages (and yet more typewritten manuscript pages) still remaining in storage.

23. I regard the blatant misstatements and errors Sharlet makes concerning R. J. Rushdoony and Christian Reconstruction to be distractions that should be ignored. We should expect such misrepresentation to worsen when scholars and journalists far less qualified than Sharlet take up the humanist cause and write about Chalcedon’s work. If misguided Christian opposition to Chalcedon’s distinctives is marred by reliance on faulty secondary sources, there’s little sense in expecting better of our secular opposition and our culture at large.

24. Andrew Sandlin, ed., A Comprehensive Faith (San Jose, CA: Friends of Chalcedon, 1996), 15, quoting Rushdoony’s article, “Unconstructive Religion,” first appearing in Chalcedon Report, no. 362, September 1995, 2. Another evidence that Christian Reconstruction doesn’t stand or fall with regard to recovering a Christian history of U.S. can be seen in the minority opinion of Dr. Gary North expressed in volumes like Political Polytheism. Dr. North’s iconoclastic adoption of the secularist thesis regarding U.S. history hardly impedes his future-oriented message. He has merely moved the locus of betrayal into the Constitutional Convention, thereby acquitting the secular historians. While I sharply disagree with Dr. North, his thesis is reported both for the sake of completeness, and to serve notice that Sharlet’s mission is beset with more difficulties than he may have imagined.

25. Rushdoony, Biblical Philosophy of History, 11.

26. Sharlet, 37.

27. Ibid., 43. This is the final conclusion Sharlet reached having spent multiple paragraphs discussing Sergeant York, Stonewall Jackson, and the alleged mythologies being cooked up by fundamentalists around these and other figures of history. Since no Anti-Rushdoony has risen up to counter the Christian worldview and close the Pandora’s Box that God so thoughtlessly opened, Sharlet ultimately closes his screed with a halfhearted counsel of despair.

Martin G. Selbrede
  • Martin G. Selbrede

Martin is the senior researcher for Chalcedon’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship, along with being the senior editor for Chalcedon’s publications, Arise & Build and The Chalcedon Report. He is considered a foremost expert in the thinking of R.J. Rushdoony. A sought-after speaker, Martin travels extensively and lectures on behalf of Christian Reconstruction and the Chalcedon Foundation. He is also an accomplished musician and composer.

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