Rev. R. J. Rushdoony
It is a privilege and a form of wealth to be born into a rich
culture, and most Americans, although they fail to recognize it, are
born rich. My father and others with an extensive knowledge of various
cultures often remarked that the poor in America were richer and freer
than most of the world's peoples.
Now add to that the fact of being born into another culture, and
yet living here in America, and one can see how wealthy an immigrant or
foreign family can be, if they know and respect their heritage. I had
the wealth of an ancient Christian Armenian culture and all the vast
treasures of an American one.
My father was born in a remote village on a mountain next to
Ararat. He lived where his family had lived for perhaps 2000 or so
years. Having played as a boy in the churchyard where his father (of the
married clergy) had been a priest of the Church of Armenia, my father
had memorized the names of his ancestors for fifteen or more centuries
back, from the gravestones and church records. My mother came from Van
City, which was relatively modern and prosperous.
As a boy, I heard stories from survivors, including our family,
of the massacres and the long death march. I heard of the martyrdom of
many, including my paternal grandfather, first blinded, then a year or
two later killed by the Turks. My maternal grandfather was killed while
on a pilgrimage to a favorite monastery church.
My father knew the ancient liturgy as the very beautiful songs of
medieval monks. They still echo in my memory with their intense faith.
I was thus born rich though materially poor. My father loved
California. Having spent time in Europe in his student days, he knew and
thought highly of it, especially Switzerland; but he held that
Americans failed to appreciate the often greater beauty of their own
Up until my college years, I was immersed in the Armenian
community. With time, I lost my ability to read and write Armenian, but
the cultural impact remained. I was a child of two worlds and two
This enabled me to see, as I grew older, how both American and
Armenian cultures had steadily left their moorings and had drifted from a
strong Biblical and theonomic faith to a vague evangelicalism. I was
brought up with unchanging reverence to believe that the Bible is the
very word of God.
I can vividly remember each Christmas my father's reading the
nativity accounts. I recall him helping us decorate the Christmas tree
and telling us that it signified Jesus Christ, the tree of life,
ever-green, ever-alive. The ornaments were fruits, or simulated fruit
ornaments, to set forth Revelation 22:2. I can recall coming home from
kindergarten with my first tale of a Santa Claus, amazed and excited. My
laughing father cleaned the chimney, but my cousin Edward, two years
older than I, told me it was a silly American story. I always disliked
Santa Claus after that.
In Armenia, there was no neutral ground between Islam and
Christianity, and I came to realize that there is no neutral ground
anywhere. But, to my dismay, the country was drifting into a belief in
neutral ground, with all racial groups in that drift. As a student at
the university, then in seminary and in the ministry, I came to realize
that this belief in neutrality was becoming a kind of new religion,
especially among scientists and among churchmen who advocated a
rationalistic apologetics. It is difficult for me to express the deep
revulsion I felt towards this, then and now. It gave me an intense
appreciation of Cornelius Van Til when I encountered his thinking. My
horror for neutralism has only deepened with time.
Almost from the day I learned how to read, I began to read the
Bible. I loved its majesty, beauty and certainty. In my later university
years, I would read as much as an hour, out loud, saturating myself
with the glory of God speaking to man. Over the years, when speaking at
various churches, I try when possible to read Scripture myself in the
service, rather than having another do it. It is a privilege I cherish.
I have been doubly blessed in being an heir of two Christian cultures. Truly, I was born rich.
Rev. R. J. Rushdoony is chairman of the board of Chalcedon and a
leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on
the application of Biblical Law to society.