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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stoning For Astrology

by digby

Another expert on the Religious Right, Bruce W. Wilson who writes at Talk2Action, has delved into Daniel Webster's ties to Christian Reconstructionists and writes this fascinating piece for Alternet. He notes Webster's continuing association with Bill Gothard, (at whose Institute Webster was recorded making his remarks about women submitting to their husbands in 2009):

As an August 5, 1996 article in the Gainesville Sun quoted Webster, ‘I respect (Bill Gothard) as much as anybody. ..

Bill Gothard, in turn, was a close ally of R.J. Rushdoony, considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism and founder of the movement’s flagship institution, the Chalcedon Institute.

As Vice President of the Chalcedon Institute Martin Selbrede stated in the Institute’s March/April 2010 issue of Faith For All Of Life, the only reason Bill Gothard didn’t agree to use Chalcedon founder R.J. Rushdoony’s monumental Institutes of Biblical Law tome in Gothard’s sprawling evangelical empire is that the two couldn’t agree on divorce. Rushdoony’s Institutes was a template for instituting Biblical law in government (for more on Reconstructionism, see story appendix.)

As Selbrede wrote,

“[T]he divide between Gothard and Rushdoony on divorce was a deep and abiding one. Gothard proposed using Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law as a resource for his massive ministry; the sheer volume of the resulting sales would have made Rushdoony both rich and famous. Gothard’s condition for moving forward on this was letter-simple: Rushdoony merely needed to remove the section on divorce from his book, and the highly profitable deal would be sealed.

Rushdoony refused the offer.”

So, while Gothard was categorically opposed to divorce, Rushdoony, a virulently racist Holocaust denier who espoused Geocentrism, was a little more liberal on divorce. In other words, the two men were otherwise in substantial agreement – except for the sticking point of divorce, they both agreed that Rushdoony’s vision for Biblical law should be imposed upon America.

That vision included instituting stoning as a form of capital punishment for rape, kidnapping, murder, heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, “sodomy or homosexuality,” incest, striking a parent, extreme juvenile delinquency, and “unchastity before marriage.”

Daniel Webster’s association with Bill Gothard’s Institute For Basic Life Training has continued into the present, and a speech Webster made at a Nashville IBLP conference in 2009 has now become a source of controversy due to a new Alan Grayson campaign ad. Grayson is currently taking a media drubbing because of a campaign ad that calls Grayson’s political opponent, Republican Daniel Webster, “Taliban Dan.”

An assessment from Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, that a new Grayson campaign ad attacking Grayson’s political opponent, Republican Daniel Webster, for allegedly taking out of context statements Webster made in a speech at a 2009 conference of a religious organization called the “Institute of Basic Life Principles.”

Die-hard religious right researchers at ReligionDispatches.org are challenging Factcheck.org’s immediate charge, and Religion Dispatches editor Sarah Posner calls out Factcheck.org for blandly describing Bill Gothard’s IBLP as a ”non-denominational Christian organization that runs programs and training sessions.”

Many across the political spectrum appear appalled by the Grayson campaign’s “Taliban” label but Daniel Webster’s nearly three-decade long, intimate involvement with the Bill Gothard and the Institute For Basic Life Principles suggests that the label may be less than hyperbolic.

Indeed. Hyperbole is hardly necessary when we are comparing two worldviews that believe there should be laws making stoning a form of capital punishment for rape, kidnapping, murder, heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, “sodomy or homosexuality,” incest, striking a parent, extreme juvenile delinquency, and “unchastity before marriage.”You can argue that comparing the Christian Reconstructionists to the Taliban is too politically hot or theologically imprecise. What you cannot say is that they don't have the same primitive worldview.

The rest of the article is equally damning. Take this bit for instance:

Some critics have accused Gothard of employing exorcism which, in the following account, would seem, to function as a method for disciplining unruly wives. In her 2003 book Bonshea, by Coral Anika Theill, Theill describes undergoing the following therapeutic regimen at one of Bill Gothard’s facilities:

“My husband counseled over the phone with Mr. Jim Logan, a man who specialized in counseling in matters regarding demon possession. He suggested my husband take me to the Bill Gothard Indianapolis Training Center in Indianapolis. A few months later, in September of 1994, my husband took me by plane to Indianapolis for counseling and reprimand. Mr. Bill Gothard of Basic Youth Conflicts runs this “Christian” training center.


I was told how I had not learned to submit to my husband and religious “authorities” and that God was punishing me because of my rebellious spirit. I was accused of witchcraft and they tried, through prayer and exorcism, to cast demons out of me on a daily basis.

I was forced to listen to presentations by the Institute every single day on how to be a more submissive wife. The central theme message was from 1 Cor 11:3-9, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” ” [Bonshea, pages 56-57]

I realize that it's completely, shockingly irresponsible for Grayson not to have explained the full theological meaning of Webster's beliefs in his 30 second ad, but the fact remains that it's completely true that Webster believes that women should submit. But perhaps Grayson's ad will have the perverse effect of making people in the district ask just what it is that Daniel Webster believes. And if they scratch the surface, they'll find that he is a very extreme fundamentalist theocrat who is unfit for public office anywhere but perhaps 16th Century England or 21st Century Afghanistan.