May 29, 2015

Reconstructionism and the 'normal' place for religion in public


Rushdooney's ultimate, confounding legacy may have little to do with the reform movement he inspired or his intellectual output and that of his followers. Instead, the interest in Christian Reconstructionism prompted by evangelical infighting and secular journalistic reports of the "dominants" sympathies of GOP party leaders or the post-Obama Tea Partiers all suggest that Rushdooney and Reconstructionism have become nodes in a vast, shifting discursive network that codes public imaginings of "good" and "bad" forms of public religiosity. This concern over Reconstructionism -- whether in the 1980s or the 2010s -- is analogous to the media's interest in "cults" during the 1960s and 1970s. As religious studies scholar Sean McCloud has shown, popular journalistic interest in "cults" peaked during the 1960s as Americans came to terms with a shifting religious landscape. Boundaries between "mainstream" and "fringe" religious movements emerged in the press because, McCloud argued, "the American religious fringe functioned for journalists as a 'negative reference group' in a process of identity construction" .... The struggle to identify the limits of Christian Reconstructionism vis-à-vis evangelicalism and conservatism similarly reflects an attempt to identify and differentiate a "negative reference group" against which a more acceptable sort of public religiosity might be constructed.  
This process of negation amounts to a subtle but profound assertion of a normative understanding of the proper limits of religion and citizenship in the United States.  
... Christian Reconstructionism has become a screen upon with critics project competing interpretations of the proper place of religion in American society.