Rushdoony, historical incompetence, racism and lunacy

Carl Trueman writes in the Reformation 21 blog about Holocaust denial

The latest edition of Harper's Magazine has an article by Jeff Sharlet on how the Christian right is reimagining US history. R J Rushdoony gets quite a few column inches but Sharlet misses the worst aspect of this man's history: Holocaust Denial.
Indeed, in his Institutes of Biblical Law, RJR has a truly horrible section where he reduces the number of Holocaust dead to (from memory) less than a million, and roots the cause in the winter cold, not a Zyklon-B facilitated act of conscious act of genocide, His sources? Paul Rassinier et al -- no credibility with professional historians, but very popular among skinheads, Klan freaks, the British National Party and characters like David Irving.

As a historian, I've had an amateur interest in the phenomenon of Holcaust Denial for well over a decade and I've come to the conclusion it is motivated by either (a) methodological incompetence vis a vi the use of sources; or (b) racist ideology which simply ignores or discounts any counter-evidence which does not suit the political program; or (c) mental illness; or (d) some combination of (a) to (c). It is not like disputing some minor detail of history; the Holocaust is so huge, and the evidence so utterly overwhelming that the case really is closed to any competent, sane historical mind.

In other words, Holocaust Denial is a scholarly deal-breaker. If an alleged historian holds to it, then you can be reasonably sure they are probably an incompetent, racist headcase -- three conditions which have implications far beyond their reading of German history between 1933 and 1945. Now, the First Amendement guarantees the right to speech that is incompetent, racist and looney; but it does not require that anyone else has to take it seriously. What I find so very disturbing that, given RJR's attitude to the Holocaust, anybody would give him the time of day on any aspect of history -- seems rather like taking advice on global circumnavigation from a member of the Flat Earth Society. Yet the man appears to enjoy authority as a `historian' among certain Christian groups. Is it too cynical to regard some such as identifying Christian orthodoxy less with the great creeds of the faith and more with hating the right (i.e., the left) people?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why did Peter put his coat on before jumping in the water? John 21:7

fun with contonyms

Gabion House for Haiti - Project R (The Rubble House)