Narrating Rushdoony; How it Started, How We Go About it, and Some Ideas for the Future
It has been my very great pleasure to have been working since July of 2020, together with Jeremy Walker, Grace Community School, and Nicene Covenant church, with the full cooperation of The Chalcedon Foundation on a project to narrate the entire of R.J. Rushdoony’s published work, minus the poetry, for upload and distribution on Audible.com, and other audiobook marketplaces, and RushdoonyRadio.org. I have learned a lot, been brought face to face with the claims of God Almighty many, many times, and simply cannot tell you what my favourite book was, what I have learned, or what the most surprising thing was that I read.
Instead of all that, it’s my aim to tell you how it started, in varying different points of time, a little of how it has progressed ’til now, and why I think this project is important, and how best it could be followed up.
How did it start? It started in the rolling hills of County Down, Northern Ireland, more than twenty years ago, when I first came across the late Dr. Gary North’s Freebooks.com. I downloaded all the books and didn’t quite devour them, due to my lack of mental furniture, but I had a fairly decent nibble at them. It was as if he were giving away free gold coins away. I instantly saw the absolute necessity for Christian education, the complete antithesis behind the world outside of Christ, and ‘Christendom,’ I had found my ‘home,’ so to speak. I was forever innoculated, by the grace of God, from halfway-house Christianity.
It also started with the original ‘narrator’ of Rushdoony’s works, R.J. himself. It was an evening in Dakar, Senegal in 2007. The windows were open on the second-floor apartment, and a gentle breeze was blowing through. The folks at Chalcedon had taken the Mt. Olive tape library collection of Rushdoony’s lectures, including the ever-so-juicy question-and-answer sessions, and encoded them as .mp3’s for free download! Again, I was showered with the immense wealth of the wisdom of the talks themselves, and his responses in the q & a sessions. The free availability mattered. The format mattered, too. I was able to ‘spend time’ with the man. Pick up a pointer here, and a pointer there, and knit together a much more thorough Christian worldview while I went about my business.
Where did it start? In a four metre by four metre apartment, six floors up in Bucheon, Korea in 2013. I had been inspired by Andrea Schwartz and CJ Ortiz, in their podcasting efforts. I nervously launched my own attempt at a podcast, which is best forgotten. It was something of a flop, but, I did try. I had earlier been inspired to ‘photocopy’ myself by GaryNorth.com, and produce digits, not electrons, or something along those lines. I had made my first attempt to produce something for others to consume.
Where did it all start? It was a first floor apartment, single-glazed, not very helpfully, in a sidestreet above a vacuum-cleaner repair shop in the heights of Puebla, Mexico. The floors were uncarpeted, the walls cement, it was all very audio-unfriendly, but hey! I made a start. I had reached out to Mr. Stephen Perks, and nervously asked permission to narrate his books, which he graciously agreed to. Looking back I cringe at the low quality, and poor technique of it all, but, it had its own special beauty, nothing beats a start! I was in the ‘photocopying’ business. It is a most gratifiying feeling to know that dozens, hundreds? thousands? of people would be helped to access high-quality material in a format that suited them. Further to that, I was asked by Mr. Jason Sanchez to be a volunteer narrator for Reconstructionist Radio. Thanks to his coordination I was able to narrate Chalcedon material and more. It was the Lord’s tithe that allowed me to give so much time to narration, if any of you readers gave to support me whilst I was in Puebla, working under Mr. Roger Oliver, I thank you.
West Africa, South Korea, Central Mexico, what exotic land would the winds of God’s immeasurably wise and gracious providence blow me to? A pig farm, of course! Yorkshire beckoned. The Southern African Bion family very graciously hosted me for a almost a year after my return to Mexico. If you support foreign missionaries, don’t forget to help them transition back home, if they aren’t tentmakers, encourage them to get a skill, preferably location-independent. I tried getting an online tutoring business off the ground, and make other courses, as a follow up to my English course for Spanish-speakers I have on Udemy.com, but, to no avail. I had taken two courses on doing voiceovers, though, whilst in Mexico, and The Lord brought to mind ACX.com, the backend of Audible.com, where voiceover artists compete for books to narrate. I built a makeshift booth with scrap wood and acoustic blankets, and was soon narrating my first audiobook for Audible.com, and getting paid. Several books later, and Covid struck, God moved me to a town outside Edinburgh Scotland, where another Southern African brother offered me hospitality in a rather quieter house, allowing me to record abetter finished audiobook.
The final start came a few miles from ‘The Giant’s Causeway,’ Northern Ireland, in a house belonging to a sister, vacant because of Covid restrictions. I had finished seventeen books for Audible, and knew my way around. When Jeremy approached me with an idea to record R.J.R.’s complete works for Audible, I was able to give him the advice he needed. During my time in Puebla, I was able to visit Naples, Florida home of G.C.S. and Nicene Covenant Church twice, and build relationships with the folks there, particularly Mr. Walker.
How did we tackle the project? We went from the shortest book by page number, ‘God’s Plan for Victory,’ weighing in at 41 pages, on up to the book I am currently working on, the titanic ‘Faith and Action,’ a whopping 1,634 pages long.
How is it all done? I work in a homemade ‘acoustic booth’ of sorts, with the text on a PDF or a Kindle file in front me on a screen mounted on monitor arm, and a high-quality mic’ suspended on a boom arm to my side. I snug myself in to the booth, in a kneeling position, open the necessary programs, swing the boom ’round into position a handspan from my lips, adjust the screen, and hit the record button. Every time a make a mistake, a mispronounced word, a sixteen-syllable Latin term I couldn’t get first time, I hit the ‘punch and roll’ button on my recording programme, and fix the error. I’ll have a spreadsheet open to record the duration of each chapter, translate.google.com, for the pronunciation of foreign words, and my trusty ‘Hannover’ Starbucks mug to my side, full of water, for lubrication. When I’ve finished my work for the week, I’ll ‘render’ the audio into a .WAV file, and upload to Google Drive for checking. I didn’t know that I made mistakes, but, ask Jeremy, I’m afraid I do. The work is checked for stray bumps, and checked for faithfulness to the text of the book. If there are any mistakes to be corrected, Jeremy will send the work back to me with instructions. I now check my own work rigorously, line upon line, plosive on plosive.
That’s really it, start, keep going, and don’t stop. It helps if you like the sound of your own voice.On Jeremy’s end he sprinkles magic dust on the recordings, and submits it to ACX/Audible, uploads it to Rushdoony Radio . org and now, CanonPress’s subscription service. With a small team, since July 2020, we’ve chipped away and have recorded around 16,000 pages of Rushdoony’s work, representing fifty-nine full books, forty-nine of which have been published on Audible.com. One needs re-recorded, my fault, and the rest either need checking or are ready to be submitted to the various platfoms for final approval.
What made this all possible? The providence of God, of course, painstaking work, naturally, Christian hospitality, for certain. Beyond that, however, this was made possible by individual Christians and businesses which tithe their increase. The tithe is God’s own catalyst to make ‘something out of nothing’ in a secondary, creaturely manner. Vision on its own doesn’t get the work done. Volunteer work can be done to a high standard, but, in God’s economy, those who labour in word… as it were, deserve the ‘honour’ of getting paid, that’s what allowed our small team to make it all happen, by God’s grace. It’s God’s money, put it to work to build the kingdom!
Suggestions for the future. Paper books are great, eBooks and PDFs have their place, too. Each format will serve a different ‘sector’ of the market. Freely available PDFs of Reconstructionist books, including Rushdoony’s work, translated into Spanish, are having a transformative effect on many in the Hispanic world where paper book printing would simply not be feasible. By God’s grace, changing the format can help immensely. There is another ‘format,’ however, which merits attention, in my humble opinion, which could extend the breadth and depth of the impact of Rushdoony’s work. R.J.R. weaves many threads through all his books; ‘inescapable concepts’ such as infallibility, presuppositionalism, covenantalism, and eschatology. He applies these are other concepts widely to various spheres of life, for example medicine and ‘mental health.’ His topics cover history, historiography, theology, law, philosophy and much, much, more.
Focused study is required to get the most out of Dr. Rushdoony. This is the job of the scholar, and the pastor. Many ‘laymen’ give themselves to study, also, but most do not have the time or the background, or the self-discipline to be able to study effetively. The ‘format’ that is missing, in my view, is self-paced, standalone, course, in video format primarily, with supporting quizzes, which can step learners through the theological, philosophical, historical, educational etc. teaching of Dr. Rushdoony. In this time of shaking, many are reassessing their views. Not everyone reads, not everyone listens to audiobooks, many are video-viewers, others take courses in order to understand. Dr. Rushdoony’s work is a rich mine of Christ-honouring, world-defeating, spiritual dynamite that more people need to read, and hear, and see.
Do pray that the Lord would bless and use the audiobooks already out there, pray for the months of work that lie ahead to publish the remaining eleven audiobooks.