Gary North, one of the leaders of an extreme faction of the Religious Right called Christian Reconstructionism, died Feb. 24. He was 80.
North was an advocate of a combination of extreme free-market economic ideology mixed with Christian theocracy, a system known as “theonomy.” He called for abolishing most government services and basing the U.S. legal system on the Old Testament’s legal code. Under North’s vision, people would have executed for “crimes” such as fornication, witchcraft, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, worshiping “false gods” and incorrigible delinquency.
North seriously argued that in some cases, the Bible called for stoning people to death who committed these crimes.
North, a prolific author who penned dozens of books, held a Ph.D. in economics and ran a group in Texas called the Institute for Christian Economics. He was an early disciple of Rousas John Rushdoony, considered the dean of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. North married Rushdoony’s daughter, but he and Rushdoony had a falling out over a point of doctrine. Rushdoony died in 2001.
While the views of the Reconstructionists were always considered fringe, many scholars say they played a pivotal role in the rise of the Religious Right by urging conservative Christians to stop focusing on the afterlife and get involved in politics.
In its obituary of North, The New York Times noted that in “1981, Mr. North wrote that ‘Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.’” But North saw the ballot as merely a means to build a theocratic society. He was no fan of democracy and once wrote, “The modern world has been threatened by the rise of mass democracy, the politics of one man, one vote.”
Church & State profiled North and other Reconstructionists in 1988. The article observed, “Modern American society, the Reconstructionists believe, is based on a humanistic philosophy that permeates all institutions, including the church and state. These ‘humanists,’ say the Reconstructionists, don’t always deny God’s existence but they ignore God’s laws in their day-to-day existence.”