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Beyond the Book

326 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-1-4696-2274-3
Published: April 2015

Christian Reconstruction

R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism

Michael J. McVicar

This is the first critical history of Christian Reconstruction and its founder and champion, theologian and activist Rousas John Rushdoony (1916–2001). Drawing on exclusive access to Rushdoony's personal papers and extensive correspondence, Michael J. McVicar demonstrates the considerable role Reconstructionism played in the development of the radical Christian Right and an American theocratic agenda. As a religious movement, Reconstructionism aims at nothing less than "reconstructing" individuals through a form of Christian governance that, if implemented in the lives of U.S. citizens, would fundamentally alter the shape of American society.

McVicar examines Rushdoony's career and traces Reconstructionism as it grew from a grassroots, populist movement in the 1960s to its height of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. He reveals the movement's galvanizing role in the development of political conspiracy theories and survivalism, libertarianism and antistatism, and educational reform and homeschooling. The book demonstrates how these issues have retained and in many cases gained potency for conservative Christians to the present day, despite the decline of the movement itself beginning in the 1990s. McVicar contends that Christian Reconstruction has contributed significantly to how certain forms of religiosity have become central, and now familiar, aspects of an often controversial conservative revolution in America.

About the Author

Michael J. McVicar is assistant professor of religion at Florida State University.


“McVicar . . . has produced a landmark work describing the rise and eventual fall of Reconstructionist thought. This fine work is highly recommended.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

“An extensively researched and critical yet balanced history of the Christian Reconstruction movement and its founder, R.J. Rushdoony. . . . Specialists in religion, politics, sociology, history, and cultural analysis, as well as the general public, can find rich reflection herein no matter their personal, political, or religious persuasions.”
--Library Journal

"Buy it. Read it. Critique it. Learn from it.”
--Faith for All of Life

"McVicar is a careful writer. . . . He goes out of his way to place the radicalism of the Reconstructionists in context."
--Books & Culture

"It is sometimes said in a review of a well-written and insightful account of an important person’s life that it is the biography the subject deserves. That can be said of this fine book, but I say it with a sense of sadness. It is the chronicle of a brilliant thinker who, as [McVicar] observes at one point, increasingly displayed no 'ability to cooperate with anyone who disagreed with his interpretation of Scripture, no matter how minor or insignificant the distinction.’”
--Richard J. Mouw, First Things

"Not only is this volume a much-welcomed contribution to the scholarship of religious conservatism and evangelicalism in America, it also serves a model for scholars who are writing about persons whose opinions differ markedly from their own."
--H-Net Reviews

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