Aug 21, 2018

Fascistic theocrats: James Scaminaci comments on Insurgent Supremacists

James Scaminaci III is an independent researcher who has done important work tracing the beliefs and activities of U.S. far rightists for several decades. In Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire I drew particularly on his research regarding the interchange in the early 1990s between Christian Reconstructionists and white nationalists, and the often-ignored role of Christian Reconstructionists in inspiring and shaping the early Patriot movement. 

In the letter below, Scaminaci responds to some of the analysis in Insurgent Supremacists, mainly regarding the relationship between Christian Reconstructionism and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. Here are some passages from Insurgent Supremacists that outline some of their major features:
[Christian] Reconstructionist ideology is an offshoot of Presbyterianism (itself a branch of Calvinism) that was founded by Rev. R.J. Rushdoony in the 1960s....

...Reconstructionists advocate a totalitarian theocracy based on their interpretation of Old Testament law. In their ideal society, only men from approved Christian churches could vote or hold office, slavery would once again be legal, and death (preferably by stoning) would be applicable punishment for homosexuality, adultery (by women), striking a parent, heresy, blasphemy, and many other offenses. Women would be permanently “in submission” to men and expected to bear as many children as possible. Workers would have a duty to obey their employers, and labor unions would be forbidden.

Unlike most theocracies, the Reconstructionist model does not involve a highly centralized state, but rather puts most of the coercive authority either with local government or with nongovernmental institutions, especially the family and the church (31-32).
Christian Reconstructionism has always been a small movement, but has had disproportionate influence on the Christian right as a whole. Reconstructionists have been particularly influential in the anti-abortion rights movement, in Christian homeschooling, and in promoting the concept of “biblical patriarchy.”

New Apostolic Reformation, which is was formally launched by C. Peter Wagner in 1996, is a much larger Christian right current based among Pentecostals and Charismatics, who unlike Reconstructionists believe in miracles and divinely inspired prophecy as active components of Christian worship today. NAR is more ethnically diverse than the lily-white Reconstructionist movement, and allows women more latitude to play public and leadership roles. However,

like Reconstructionism, NAR theology declares that Christians are called to “take dominion” over all areas of society in preparation for Christ’s return. NAR leaders phrase this in terms of taking control of “Seven Mountains,” i.e., seven key societal institutions: government, media, family, business/finance, education, church/religion, and arts/entertainment.

[In contrast to Reconstructionism,] NAR is a centralizing ideology, whose leaders want to gain control of big government and make it bigger.... NAR combines a theocratic vision with an organizational structure that is far more centralized and authoritarian than most on the Christian right (38).
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Photo of C. Peter Wagner
C. Peter Wagner (1930-2016), founder of
the New Apostolic Reformation movement
NAR leaders teach that their adherents will develop vast supernatural powers, such as defying gravity or healing every person inside a hospital just by laying hands on the building. Eventually, these people will become “manifest sons of God,” who essentially have God-like powers over life and death. In the End Times, too, some one or two billion people will convert to Christianity, and God will transfer control of all wealth to the NAR apostles (39).
I also argue in Insurgent Supremacists that Reconstructionists have pursued consistently oppositional politics, while NAR has tended to straddle the line between far right (rejecting the legitimacy of the established US political system) and system-loyal right.   --ML

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August 15, 2018

I finished reading most of the chapters of your book. I'm glad my research helped out in spots. Thank you for finding those papers useful.

I agree with your expansion of fascism to include religious fundamentalist movements, an improvement over [Roger] Griffin's seminal idea regarding palingenetic populist ultra-nationalism. [See "Two Ways of Looking at Fascism."]

However, where I disagree with you is your treatment of the differences between the Christian Reconstructionists and the New Apostolic Reformation. There is a real difference between the two in terms of their treatment of women--which was a conceptual breakthrough for me. But, politically, they are virtually identical. Not completely. The Reconstructionists would be happy with 50 theocracies and the NAR want to rule all of America.

But, both of them work within the current system. Leading [Reconstructionist] strategists like Gary North and Edwin Vieira talk about coming to power either by having a majority of the population in favor, or, after a catastrophic economic collapse. Gary North, like the NAR strategists, view political conflict through the prism of a titanic battle between God and Satan. The NAR does not disagree, though it’s unique contribution is engaging in spiritual mapping and strategic spiritual warfareprecursors to real-world operations, including genocide. I've seen NAR "prophets" or "apostles" talking about economic collapse or a civil war, even.

I just do not see significant political methodological differences between the two movements, for example where one is reformist and one is revolutionary, or, [Leonard] Zeskind's mainstreaming and vanguardism.

Colonel Doner's book, Christian Jihad, noted that the Coalition on Revival's Worldview documents were drafted by both the Reconstructionism's and the NAR's leading thinkers. They dominated the COR because they had an agenda and a strategy.

On page 161 he notes that the neo-Pentecostals were "especially enthusiastic" and would later form the NAR.

Those Worldview documents committed the entire Christian Right to replacing the current secular, liberal, pluralist social order with a theocracy. In and of itself, those documents are revolutionary, a point you made with regard to the Reconstructionists who "reject pluralist institutions in favor of a full-scale theocracy based on their interpretation of biblical law."

Where there is a real epistemological difference between Reconstructionists and the NAR "apostles/prophets" is that the Reconstructionists take their legitimacy from the Bible, while the NAR argue that they can make things up through prophecy (the Holy Spirit). C. Peter Wagner has argued that even though abortion is not banned in the Bible, prophecy makes it illegal.

And, if you consider the NAR's "spiritual warfare," their combat against demons, and their belief that the federal government, the Democratic Party, etc are controlled by demons, then these institutions are by definition illegitimate. The whole point of the Seven Mountains doctrine is that these institutions are illegitimate.

And, the NAR folks believe that all other religions are illegitimate, especially the Catholic Church and Islam. So, ideologically, the NAR is revolutionary and aims to build a mass movement. The NAR or Third Wave is huge in numbers in America and worldwide. They have mass.

Moreover, the NAR also has the concept of Joel's Army, a supernatural army of young people trained to kill and conquer. Thus, they very much have the violence of fascism incorporated into their ideology. Joel's Army is linked to the revenge fantasy of the Left Behind novels.

If my assessment of the NAR is correct, that actually strengthens your case regarding the fascistic tendencies of the Christian Right, more broadly speaking.

Thus, I think your book represents another conceptual breakthrough.


Photo credit: By Jandirp [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons.