Founded in 2012 by an encyclopedia salesman, a movie stuntman, and a building inspector, RSI doesn’t teach “theoretical physics, double-entry accounting, or Freudian voodoo.” Instead, it offers courses on conspiracy theories, farm science and aquaculture, and “the sociotheosphere, where you can learn about historical battles between dominant religions and government.”
RSI was named after Roger Sherman, a Connecticut lawyer who served in the U.S. Senate in the 1790s and signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. According to the school’s website, Sherman was “a man of impeccable moral fibre” with an “absolute hatred of paper money,” who “walked to the beat of a vastly different drummer than those who occupy modern Wall Street and Washington, D.C.”
Aaron Bollinger (Prospective theology students who fear the name of the institute is “some form of man-centric idolatry” are told to “take heart. He can be an example to others, in much the same way as any of the Apostles or Reformers now have Seminaries named for their achievements. We do not think him a ‘saint’ in any way. Those decisions are left to the Ultimate Judge of us all.”)
Such caveats are not the only thing that sets the online-only Sherman Institute apart from its competitors. As RSI co-founder Aaron Bollinger, a former Encyclopedia Britannica salesman who signs E-mails “Disciple Aaron,” explains in an online video promoting the school, “This is not a higher learning institution that will politically correct historical fact to protect someone’s feelings.”
What’s more, he says, “Our instructors don’t follow the script written by state and federal governments or specific organized religions about education in the realms of political science, theology, or general studies.” Instead, “we allow you to research down whatever rabbit-holes you choose.”
Bollinger knows a thing or two about rabbit holes. A pale, bearded character who appears in the promotional video clad in a black suit, narrow black tie and broad-brimmed black hat of the kind favored by traveling preachers of yesteryear, “Disciple Aaron” is a longtime radical-right activist who has mingled and worked with the some of founding fathers of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement.
In 1981, fresh out of high school, he joined the “Committee to Restore the Constitution,” a Colorado-based operation run by the late Archibald E. Roberts, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who despised the United Nations and who once wrote that “men of unbalanced and dangerous brilliance” – presumably Jews – had “perfected a sophisticated and systematized plan, incorporating brainwashing and genetic prostitution, to achieve soviet-style control over the American social order.”