Anthony Bradley has been dishing it out pretty good of late against Doug Wilson, almost to the point of making Wilson look like Tom Reagan from Miller’s Crossing. Bradley is alarmed by Wilson’s neo-Confederate arguments. He believes Wilson harbors racism because of his defense of slavery. And Bradley is surprised — maybe even aghast — at the traction that Wilson has among the co-allies of the gospel. These musings have led Bradley to wonder about a conspiracy among Christian Reconstructionists to use social and political issues to gain new recruits, especially among the young, restless, and gullible.
It’s been about 20 years since I first encountered this stuff but I think the combination America’s secularism, masculinity crisis, growing socialistic public policy, and the like, have opened the door for Christian Reconstruction to avail itself to new generation of young Calvinists but not through the front door–”Christian Reconstruction,” “Theonomy,” and the like–but through the back door of apologetics, the family, masculinity, big government, and so on.
Bradley even speculates on a connection between Christian Reconstruction and Roman Catholicism in that both groups use social teaching to gain converts.
What makes Bradley’s criticisms of Wilson, Christian Reconstruction, and the Young Restless crowd odd is that Bradley himself follows the political script that those he criticizes use. Bradley is generally a fan of neo-Calvinism. I have also heard him appeal to the language of cultural transformation in his interview at Christ the Center.
In which case, the problem with Wilson, slavery, the Confederacy and Christian Reconstruction may not be the actual forms these efforts to Christianize the social order take. The problem may be any attempt to read a social order out of Scripture. For instance, it would be interesting to know what Bradley thinks of his fellow Manhattanite, Tim Keller’s programs of word and deed ministry. Or for that matter, what does Bradley do with the use to which the creators of apartheid put neo-Calvinism? Does the gospel have a social program that Wilson, for example, misses or distorts? Or does the gospel have almost nothing to say about a social order?
Either way, it might be helpful to Wilson’s bruised ego to see Bradley acknowledge both men’s common debt to Kuyper.
And for what it’s worth, part of the appeal of the Confederacy, at least among political conservatives as opposed to the Religious Right, is that the South did stand for an understanding of the United States that was closer than Lincoln’s or the Progressive’s to the Constitution. The phrase, states’ rights, generally receives smirks from those who assume it represents a defense of slavery or worse, racism. But the Constitution itself was not particularly clear on how to sort out the relative powers of the states and the federal government, which was a large factor in the sectional crisis. But if folks want to dismiss states’ rights as simply the cant of “Crackers” who wanted to keep African-Americans in place, they should consider the good that states’ rights might serve today when applied to gay marriage and abortion. That may explain some of the appeal of the Confederacy, though I don’t presume to speak for Doug Wilson.