Over at the so-called “libertarian” blog site “Skeptical Libertarian,” primary author Daniel Bier is angry at the associations that Ron Paul has made in promoting and developing his new curriculum intended for homeschoolers (especially for Christian homeschoolers).
In his post, Bier “serve[s]… a warning to the libertarian and Christian homeschooling communities: Gary North, the man who is writing and publishing the “Ron Paul Curriculum,” is certifiably nuts.” Well, here I am, a Christian, libertarian homeschooling proponent ready to dismiss the warning and defend Dr. Paul and Gary North. I am also not a Christian Reconstructionist as North is.
How might the American Federal Government invoke the right type of fear from its constituency in order to force a response of say, support for war in the Middle East? The government needs that type of support because it loves its bloodthirsty wars. By creating drama with phrases like Muslim Extremists, Anti-Government radicals, and the like, the State has long been able to get away with all types of action that the people have learned to ignore.
Bier is doing something similar by comparing Dr. North to the Taliban. Yes, antiwar and anti-collectivist Gary North is the new Taliban according to this post that was published only today. By crying foul over the fact that North “subscribes” to the Christian Reconstructionist movement, Bier has implied that libertarians ought to only think like him, otherwise, they are not worth learning from. Does he not realize that Murray Rothbard was close to Gary North? Does he not realize that Rothbardian and early paleo-libertarian Burt Blummert was close with North’s father-in-law and Christian Recon founder RJ Rushdoony? (who was also anti-war and anti-collectivist).
Bier then states (I’m still in the first paragraph) that Reconstructionism “aspires to establish a global Christian theocracy.” This is absurd. He has no idea how Reconstructionism is applied in light of the Christian doctrine of postmillennialism. Firstly, Reconstruction, because of its postmillennialism, is anti-revolutionary. They seek to forcefully establish nothing. Rather, they simply describe where they believe the culture will eventually end up before the second coming of Christ. Secondly, a theocracy should not be confused with the more accurate term, theonomy. Whereas Theocrats advocate for the State to forcefully apply God’s law, theonomists (which are the Recons) advocate that the Church ought to take care of these (Old Testament) laws, all of which will be applied to those within the Church. Some theonomists even consider themselves voluntarists because joining the Church is optional. It is important to note that I personally am not a Reconstructionist, a theonomist, or a postmillennialist.
(I want to be very clear here. North and Rushdoony et al, when the use the word “theocracy,” when they do, mean theonomy. North differentiates between theocracy and theonomy by calling the former “humanistic theocracy” and the latter Biblical theocracy. The meaning of the word is more important that the word itself. To use a libertarian example, Ludwig von Mises writes in favor of “democracy.” But he is referring to the older understanding of democracy which means that the masses decide via the free market rather than democracy wherein the people use political means to accomplish the broad goals of the majority. Anyone who states that Mises advocates democracy must define his terms).
The next couple paragraphs essentially imply that Bier hates Gary North and that Ron Paul’s statements on the site sound too much like North for his taste. Did North write these statements? Most likely. I am very familiar with North’s writings. But as Bier himself notes, even Tom Woods has written for Paul. This is a very common practice. In fact, in the 1970’s in his early years in Congress, Paul had several speeches written by North. The audacity. But he admits that “none of this is wrong in itself.” So I won’t hold it against him.
But now we get to the important part. The part where parents ought to be concerned: Gary North has an agenda. And guess what. This agenda is in line with his personal worldview. As if there are educators and visionaries out there whose goals are different from their own worldview. Bier quotes Gary North as stating:
“Everyone talks about religious liberty, but no one believes it. So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”
Christians don’t have too much a problem with such a statement and there is little in this statement itself that implies Reconstructionism. Even my own primary influence, John W. Robbins, who wailed on North’s reconstructionism and theonomy wouldn’t have been too far from agreeing with the same statement. (Robbins also worked with North and Paul in Congress during that era in the ‘70s. He was a strong Calvinist and was the heir apparent of Philosopher Gordon Clark, arch nemesis of Westminster Seminary’s Cornelius Van Til, whose philosophy North subscribes to.) The issue is how it is applied. Regardless, the worldview of Christianity is hardly totalitarian. There is not word or phrase in that statement that can be used to say that the State shall force everyone to agree or follow Christianity’s teaching. Now that would be totalitarian.
When North says that the “order… denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God,” such a bold statement should be considered in context of the entire worldview of the Christian Reconstructionist. To translate that statement, North believes that if one is an enemy of God, there will eventually be a time when the Church environment is so large that it begins to overcome the secular environment. Not by force, but by progression. In other words, North believes that all of society will eventually be a Christian one and that those who come into the Church will necessarily be made to give up their “liberty” of seeking other religions. The secularist world will be crashing and the secularist person will have to jump ship.
As North says several paragraphs later in the same book that Brier quotes, “[The Christian] does not seek to expand state intervention as a means of establishing a utopia on earth.” I don’t want to get too deep into Reconstructionist theology here, but it is important to know that North does not advocate some socialist revolution of terror against the present age.
Brier then proceeds to bring about various examples of North’s theonomist vision. All of which are explained without the context of the postmillennial concept of the “Church Age” and all of them are used to allegedly show the reader that, since Gary North believes in them, the recipient of his curriculum should not seek to learn anything from him at all. This is interesting considering the fact that time and again, North, despite his disagreements on religious ideas with the mainstream libertarians (even Rothbardians), is a primary lecturer at Mises events and is considered by the likes of Joseph Salerno to be one of the best economists today.
I won’t get into responding to Brier’s claims about the Recons understanding of “replacement theology” and the role of Christ as the second Adam. This conversation is ultimately unrelated to the quality of the home school curriculum. Brier ends his crusade against North and the curriculum by stating that he would not feel comfortable letting his children in the same room with him. Although to my knowledge, North has killed far less, stolen from far less, lied to far less, molested far less, and kidnapped far less people than representatives of the State. It is amazing that Lew Rockwell, David Gordon, Joe Salerno, and all those other non-Calvinist Austrians made it out of the Mises Institute alive after talking with North.
Brier was even sure to include the notorious Westboro Baptist in his story. That is a must-have when fighting against Christians who seem outdated in today’s world. In summary, Brier was bigoted against North’s views, intolerant of his goals, dogmatic against the curriculum. And all those other key words that the politically correct and morally relativistic libertarians love to throw to their audience.
There is no religious neutrality that is true. But I bet, after reading Brier’s note, one would never guess that he allowed Woods to write a Catholic track for the Western Civilization course. But North did exactly that. North is no monster. He is a friend of Ron Paul’s, he was a friend of Murray Rothbard, and he is one of the most knowledgeable historians and economists I know. His theological preferences do not impede his historical and economic brilliance as a lecturer and writer –but apparently Brier is distracted by them. I doubt North will be teaching a lesson on sound money and include in the lecture his vision of why the little girls and boys ought to obey their parents or else.
All of the above paragraphs to say: enough of the fear mongering. North does great work and to bring in his more “controversial” views and misapply them in this curricular setting is unfair. Perhaps I spent too much time on discussing Brier’s misunderstanding of North and not enough time pointing out that most of his statements were irrelevant to the course material. But I did want to defend the integrity of Dr. North and Dr. Paul.
When it comes to history and economics (which North is teaching), I trust, more than I trust most other historians and economists, North to provide a quality and rigorous education. This coupled with the emphasis on life skills, entrepreneurship, writing, blogging, and personal finance, it will be hard for the Christian liberty-oriented family to find something better. Of course the non-traditional and non-conservative Christians will despise the Christian aspects of this. What did we all expect?
I disagree with North on his Reconstructionist theology and his theonomist political philosophy. But if I were advising Ron Paul to pick a person to lead this project, I can think of no other candidate I would rather trust to provide a solid education than Gary North and Dr. Woods. Ron Paul is not stupid. He knows exactly who Gary North is. Ron Paul is a Christian who invited two dogmatic Calvinists (North and Robbins) onto his staff in the 1970s. I think the libertarians ought to not attempt to make Paul someone he is not. He is a Bible-believing Christian and his choice of North was not random.
By the way, for clarity’s sake, Ron Paul is not a Reconstructionist either.