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The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

An inside look at the purpose and process of our new Chalcedon website and online store.

Andrea G. Schwartz
  • Andrea G. Schwartz,
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I wonder if Dr. Rushdoony could have imagined how far Chalcedon would reach since he founded the Chalcedon Foundation and coined the term Christian Reconstruction in 1965. Could he have foreseen how the advances in communication would lead to his work being distributed on a massive scale? He cared nothing for dust jackets and book covers, and he wrote tens of thousands of pages with a fountain pen, but what he did know was that it is ideas which have the power to shape history regardless of the available technology. 

For Chalcedon, the mission and methods remain the same despite how the “delivery system” for this message has changed. This ministry is still a “think-tank for the self-governing Christian,” and for every step along the 58-year journey, Chalcedon has been careful not to abandon the mission while adapting to the rapid advances in technology.

We’ve come a long way from mimeographed sheets of paper distributed to a handful of people in a short newsletter format, to now having one of the largest websites—in terms of data—around. No, this is not hyperbole. It comes right out of the mouths of our web developers who took on the task of helping us revamp, update, and streamline our website beginning in 2022.

Revamping Chalcedon’s Website… Again?

Somewhere along the line, there were those who recognized the value of the ideas and application of R.J. Rushdoony’s thinking. How can I make this claim?  Well, there are those that had the presence of mind to record his talks, whether they were as a sermon in a church, a lecture in a conference, or even a Bible study with a small group of people. At the earliest stages, this was done with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a far cry from our digital capabilities when it comes to recording. What no one could have imagined then, is a reality now. These thousands of lectures are available at our fingertips through multiple devices enabling anyone around the world to hear the wisdom of R. J. Rushdoony on demand.

In 2008, despite reservations from some individuals, the Board of Chalcedon decided to make all the content on our website freely accessible to everyone. While there were concerns that this approach might reduce incoming donations—since many people prefer not to pay for what they can get for free—the decision was more mission-driven than financially motivated. Aligned with the belief that the Church in the 21st century needs a significant course correction, Chalcedon felt a responsibility to both warn and instruct. This approach has since introduced many thousands of people to the idea that every aspect of life and thought should be governed by the law-word of God.

As of this writing, we have revamped the Chalcedon website at least three times previously, so why spend the time, money, and effort to repeat this process again?  Think of it in terms of why you may not be using the same phone, TV set, or automobile that you were using five years ago. Granted, many of these devices can have a long shelf life, but the internet updates far quicker than television or automotive technology. The answer is clear: people upgrade their technologies for more features, easier navigation, and advances that benefit the end user’s experience. Yet, like many of us, when a new phone is placed in our hands, we tend to miss some of the previous features and their placement, and it takes time to learn how to utilize the new ones.

So, buckle up your seatbelts as you get used to the 2023 updated version of chalcedon.edu!

Jill Rouse, Our Resident “Techie”

When we undertook this project a number of our staff were asked what they would like to see different on the new website. We also consulted professionals who instructed us that on the “back end” there were significant modifications and features that would allow for a more intuitive user experience on the “front end.”  It is not an overstatement to say, this is a daunting undertaking. Why? Because our goal is to make resources available and make obtaining them a process that gives the user tools to get to his destination. Doing that, however, is not so simple.

People often say that ease of use reflects good design. While it may seem that an underlying complexity makes things appear simple when done correctly, I assure you that is not always the case.

Without our office manager Jill Rouse’s unwavering dedication, perseverance, and resilience, we wouldn’t have a functioning website, let alone an improved one. Many may not realize that Jill is the granddaughter of R.J. Rushdoony. Having collaborated with her for over three decades, I’ve witnessed her growth and her establishment as a cornerstone of our team. Jill is not only our first line of defense; she has also self-taught many skills out of necessity.

For instance, Chalcedon owes its e-book availability to Jill; she has single-handedly crafted every digital version we offer. Our ability to use cutting-edge plug-ins also comes from her dedication to learning how to operate and adapt them to Chalcedon’s specific requirements. In addition, Jill is the go-to person for our supporters, whether they need assistance, wish to lodge a complaint, or want to express their appreciation for our work. Like many on our team, Jill performs multiple roles with great skill.

Let me also highlight Jill’s commitment to excellence. For her, “good enough” simply isn’t sufficient. I’ve seen her tirelessly hunt down bugs or obstacles to ensure that our website chalcedon.edu, our online store chalcedonstore.com, and even our donation process function at their best. It’s safe to say that she likely inherited some of those “Rushdoony genes,” which emphasize the principle that if you’re going to do something, you should do it right.

Emily Rouse, Our Resident “Expert”

When you first interact with our revamped website, it may not be immediately apparent that we’ve done more than just “update the furniture.” However, the real magic happens behind the scenes, a process that required considerable time and fine-tuning. Many users aren’t aware of the intricate steps involved when transitioning from listening to a resource to actually purchasing it, including accurately calculating tax, shipping, and handling. This is where another Rushdoony granddaughter, Emily—Jill’s younger sister—plays a crucial role. So adept is Emily at her job that even the post office consults her for shipping queries. Her expertise had to be translated into identifying the right products so that shipping could accurately calculate various tax rates, both nationally and internationally. While it may sound simple, getting these programs to run seamlessly on the website is no small feat. Therefore, the “sisters” (my personal nickname for them) continue their family legacy by refusing to settle for the path of least resistance.

For both seasoned users and newcomers to our website, some time spent exploring will be necessary to find your favorites and discover new offerings. To ease any potential frustration, we’ve designated the previous site as an archive, providing you with the option to access content from there as well.

Chalcedon.edu now serves as our worldwide gateway, and I believe most would concur that our world could greatly benefit from a return to embracing the entire Word of God as a foundation for all aspects of life. We’re grateful to our supporters and underwriters who make this possible, as well as our development team and consultants who help us reach our goals.

Please take advantage of our site. Share our URL with your network. Help us stay committed to the Great Commission and remain steadfast in prioritizing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (justice). Together, we can eagerly anticipate receiving the commendation: “Well done, My good and faithful servants.”