- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199913781
- ISBN-13: 978-0199913787
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Building God's Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction 1st Edition
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From the Publisher
Q&A with the Author: Julie J. Ingersoll
1. For those unfamiliar, who are Christian Reconstructionists?
Christian Reconstructionists are a small but influential group of conservative Christians who argue that biblical law as it is contained in the Old and New Testaments should be the basis of our modern legal system and the organizing mechanism regulating every aspect of human life. Most known for “dominionism,” they have had an important, but often hidden, influence in the culture, the agenda, and the framing of concerns of conservative American Protestantism.
2. What led you to this particular field of study?
Well, broadly speaking I have been interested in the intersection of religion and politics since I was an undergraduate at Rutgers majoring in political science and minoring in religion. Those interests led me into the Christian Reconstructionist world where I became a “member,” and remained for a decade or so. This project, more specifically, arises from decades of research, observation, and reflection on that part of my life. I should say though, this book is historical and sociological it is not a memoir.
3. What is unique about this book?
In addition to bringing together my first hand experience with the movement and my training in religious studies, the book blends research methods in what I hope is a unique way. The first half of the book is historical, tracing the rise of the movement and the development of what Reconstructionists call a “biblical worldview;” it’s an intellectual history of sorts. The second part of the book is a field-based study looking at how the biblical worldview plays out is some specific organizations and in the daily lives of believers. There are chapters on home schooling and Christian schooling, a discussion of the tea party, and a chapter on religion and violence.
4. What do you think people misunderstand about Christian Reconstructionists?
It’s funny, what people misunderstand is something that Reconstructionists say all the time: “it’s not about politics.” That is a little hard for outsiders to get their heads around because what they do seems, to most of us, to be so political. Their assertion that they are not primarily about politics is dependent, in part, on a difference in how they use the term. Importantly, though, if we look at only the explicitly political aspects of this movement we miss the source of their influence: what they really seek is much bigger than politics, it’s the compete transformation of every aspect of culture to bring it into line with the way they read the bible.
" [Ingersoll] make[s] a compelling and sobering case for the significant impact of this extremist movement Recommended."--CHOICE
"A thoughtful and important resource for scholars and students wishing to know more about an important movement in modern American religion and politics."--Church History
"This is the first book-length study of the shadowy but influential right-wing Christian Reconstruction movement. Julie Ingersoll reveals it all--its history, ideas, and current political impact--with sensitivity and laser precision. This is a major contribution to the study of religion in public life, the book to read in understanding the dark potency of America's religious right." --Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence
"During the last four decades, Christian Reconstruction, a theological movement seeking to remake the United States on the basis of biblical law, has shaped American evangelicalism. With scholarly acumen and subtle argument, Building God's Kingdom traces this influence in contemporary struggles over education, the family, and politics. In these pages, Ingersoll guides readers through Reconstruction and finds a logical, successful, and authoritative worldview that has been embraced by legions of pastors, well-known politicians, and popular pundits. This is not a conspiracy book. Instead, with quiet intensity, it reveals the power of religious influence to change the direction of a culture." --Diana Butler Bass, author of Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening
"Historians have long debated the role of Reconstructionism in the formation of fundamentalist politics. Julie Ingersoll's intrepid research and astute analysis demonstrates that the thought of Rousas John Rushdoony and others did indeed shape the nascent discontent that emerged in the late 1970s as the Religious Right." --Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
"Ingersoll has turned a bright spotlight on a little-known group. Building God's Kingdom exposes the Reconstructionists' many areas of influence and is crucial both for a better understanding of American politics and a more thorough understanding of right-wing religious groups."--Nova Religio Reviews
About the Author
Julie J. Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles (2003).
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What the book posits is that a very small group of Reconstructionists have had a much greater influence in the larger fundamentalist world than their numbers might suggest. The group's influence extends to pseudo historian David Barton, who has been on a committee on curriculum for Texas' public schools and whose writings are taken as gospel by millions (despite his last book being removed from the shelves by the publisher because even fundamentalist Christian historians said it was a load of bollocks).
Reconstructionist thinking, according to Ingersoll, also heavily influences homeschool curriculum and the concept that the family (with father in charge) is solely responsible for educating children and that public schools are socialist and should be eliminated.
Ingersoll traces this thinking back to R.J. Rushdoony and shows how his writings influenced others over the years.
All in all it's a fascinating look into a world that hardly anyone in the U.S. realizes even exists. The broad Christian world -- including mainline and progressive flavors -- have largely not even heard of Rushdoony, and even some of the fundamentalists who teach his doctrines are unaware of the Reconstructionist origin of their teachings in some cases, according to the author. Their thinking even extends to far-right politicians who are not part of the Reconstructionist thought. But the end goal for the movement is for the U.S. to one day have a majority who share their beliefs -- a multigenerational effort that could take hundreds of years -- at which point their "godly" civil government will work toward their goals and Old Testament crimes will be punished by civil authorities with the punishments given in the Bible.
Personally, I can't wait for their barbaric theocracy to begin. Fortunately, it likely never will come to pass. Maybe this book will help the broader public recognize the Reconstructionists' influence and their goals.