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Christian Dominionism Is Not A Myth

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2011

On August 14, Michelle Goldberg sounded the alarm about the close ties that two GOP candidates for president, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have with extreme elements of far-right Cristianism known as Dominionism. Today, A. Larry Ross responds with a well-intentioned, but ultimately hopelessly informed counterargument that “Christian Dominionism is a Myth.” Ross’s argument rests on this crux:

Although her well-intentioned article may resonate in the echo chambers of her fellow East Coast media elite, Goldberg misapplies a broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify.

Ross identifies himself as “a lifelong evangelical who understands the foundational tenets of belief in the doctrine of love, according to the principles of Jesus in the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount.”  I take him at his word. I think that description applies to almost all who identify as evangelicals — as well as almost all who identify as mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Mormon. Which means that it doesn’t really tell us much. And if the particular individuals that Goldberg discussed held themselves to that relatively simple and expansive definition, then there would hardly be any cause for alarm. But they don’t. And instead of understanding what they do believe to be equally essential articles of faith, Ross dismisses the entire phenomenon as ghosts dreamed up by the “East Cost media elite” (his words; how’s that for misapplying broad labels?) to pump more excitement into cable news channels:

Most Americans today consume news less for information than for validation, and gravitate to media outlets that reinforce opinions and a worldview they already embrace. Despite today’s proliferation of 24/7 news networks and social-media platforms, as everyone retreats to these silos of validation, we seem to have lost our public square, or at least the former civility of it.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis has observed that network-television viewers need to hear the collegial, respectful discussions among marquee leaders with opposing views that take place in network greenrooms moments before they aggressively attack and demonize each other in heated debates broadcast on point/counterpoint news programs.

But in discussing Dominionism, Goldberg doesn’t misapply anything. To the very point that Ross misses, she is actually applying a label to identify a theology that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify, and she applies it specifically to that exceptionally tiny minority for whom the label does applies. These are not the people within the broad spectrum of Christianity, nor are they even those within the outer ten percent of its fringes. We’re not talking about the Pat Robertsons, the Joel Olsteens, the Albert Mohlers or the Rick Warrens. No, we’re talking about people who are far, far more fringe than anyone whose name immediately comes to mind whenever most people think of Christian Evangelicalism. And that is exactly Goldberg’s point. And when Goldberg says, “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional,” that advice applies to mainstream Evangelicals as well. I suspect most of them don’t understand Dominionism either. Ross certainly doesn’t appear to.

Pretending that the so-called New Apostolic Movement and Seven Mountains Theology don’t exist or that those influenced by the Kansas City Prophets have not gained influence among particular presidential candidates here at home and political leaders abroad doesn’t make them go away. Granted, these are probably not the kind of people Ross runs into in his church, his friends and colleagues’ churches, or in any other circles he hands with. But just because they can’t be found under Ross’s bed or alongside him in the pews — or in Wallis’s greenroom sojourns — doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And when they are identified as close advisers credited for a big win in Iowa, or when they act as main speakers and moderators at a huge televised rally for a candidate’s benefit, the proper response is to ask hard questions of what they want for the country, not whistling and quickly walking away.

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Scott Rose
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

President Bush held weekly teleconferences with Evangelical leaders. One who told him that the Bible approves of pre-emptive strikes against another country was Ted Haggard.

BlackDog
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

Honestly, if you’re on the subject of the New Apostolic Reformation, Ted Haggard was originally a major player in it. His church made a project of “prayer walking” and (using fertilizer spreaders) “anointing” lots of streets and other places in Colorado Springs with Wesson Oil.

Do these even sound like Christian practices? They’re not, not really. Many NAR/Third Wave practices have more in common with New Age or Occult practices than anything resembling traditional Christianity. In real “Christian” terms it’s witchcraft, pure and simple. Not that I’m a Christian anymore I just paid attention in the religion classes I had in Christian schools when I was a kid.

They were basically trying to “name and claim” the city of Colorado Springs “for Christ.” You know what? I’ve been there (was there in 2000 for a girlfriend’s brother’s AF academy graduation) in spite of the large number of Evangelicals (or maybe even because of them) I think I ran into fewer people I would say act like what I understand a Christian to be than most other places I’ve been in the country.

Of course, Rose and I broke up within a month of that, and within a few more months I’d be involved with a Pentecostal Christian Dominionist that I got married to and within a year, would be divorcing.

These people are crazy, and they don’t have good plans for the rest of us. They don’t give a damn what we think, either. My ex tried to drive a wedge between me and my family, cost me a couple of jobs, and left me in debt when I had never been in debt before. Then after I left she spent a couple of years harassing me, tried to convince me that I was supposed to be some kind of “Prophet” and it got so bad Law Enforcement got involved. She was stalking me and got her church in on it, for a while I was carrying a gun. These were some freaky people, and when I finally went to the cops about it you could tell from their eyes that they thought all the letters and notes and stuff I showed them were scary too.

It gets worse. Even up to the last time we spoke, which has been several years now, my ex maintained that God had forgiven her for all the wrong she did, so I should too. Also, she was still convinced that she was right. Well, it’s been ten years now and I’m still not some kind of Pentecostal preacher.

False prophets, every last one of ‘em that I have ever met.

WMDKitty
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

This shit is scarier than ANY horror flick I can think of.

Richard Rush
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

Uncharacteristically, I’m feeling optimistic today, and I’ve come to share The Good News:

http://www.alternet.org/belief/151947/goodbye_religion_how_godlessness_is_increasing_with_each_new_generation/?page=entire

All these individual facts add up to a larger picture, which is confirmed by statistical evidence: Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. . . the numbers don’t lie, and the trends of the last several decades show more and more evidence of the same secularizing wave that’s overtaking most countries in Europe.

h/t – Andrew Sullivan:
http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/08/dying-by-its-own-hand.html

BlackDog
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

Somehow I have a feeling that the tendency of American Uber-Christians to act like assholes will only accelerate the trend.

Maybe when they lose their semi-priviledged place in this country, they’ll think about what they’ve been doing wrong. Maybe they’ll finally realize that they aren’t any better than the rest of us? Maybe they’ll face the facts that they don’t rule the world, or have any right to?

I see some very ugly things coming, but in the end they will overplay their hand and lose their ass. If you look at history, that’s usually how it works. Unfortunately, real history is something these people are very ignorant about.

The sad thing is, when they are only a small percentage of the population and no one cares what they think…most of them will probably wonder what the hell happened, and not even consider their own behavior. It’s always someone else’s fault, for some reason.

Matt
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

Two thoughts:

1) Thanks for making the important point that this isn’t Christianity, or even super-Christianity, that we’re talking about here, but rather something rather unchristian being disguised as Christianity.

2) I realize that this isn’t the substance of your post, but the Goldberg article you linked to doesn’t really do a very good job of connecting Perry to the Dominionist movement. It seems mostly to assert that they really like him, rather than that he really likes them back. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thinks they’re useful, or sees them as potentially helpful people who might be of use to him, but I don’t think Goldberg really shows that.

Guilt-by-association pieces generally seem to me to to reveal how rotten virtually all politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are; how willing they often are to accept or work with shady people in order to attain power. You can produce a guilt-by-association piece for almost anybody in elected office. Take, for instance, Harvey Milk and the People’s Temple/Jim Jones. I don’t know that Goldberg proves anything more “damning” about Perry than Shilts did in The Mayor of Castro Street.

There are plenty of other reasons to oppose Perry, such as what he’s actually said and the positions he actually takes on issues.

TampaZeke
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

Jim Wallace is a snake in the grass who professes to be a “progressive Christian” but is actually just another Christian homophobe if you just barely scratch the surface.

TerryDarc
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

Bravo! I read the Sarah Posner editorial in Salon.com this morning saying that Rachel Maddow didn’t get it b/c the New Apostolic Reformations is “the NAR is just another development in the competitive, controversial, outrageous, authoritarian and often corrupt tapestry of the world of charismatic evangelists.”

When you’re a serious candidate for the presidency and you’re espousing views that are so far to the right and so opposed to the history of govt. in the USA, to accuse Maddow of being “ahistorical” is ludicrous and worse, dangerous.

Thanks for correcting this dangerous Salon distortion of the truth.

Sue Duncan
August 21st, 2011 | LINK

I think it’s great some people have such a strong faith in their religion. Unfortunately these people don’t make the best leaders for the United States (in my opinion). This country is far to diverse to be lead by anyone who isn’t grounded fully by realism.

Bernie
August 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Just think about it you guys, Michele had hired David Barton to teach the freshman Tea Party Congressmen the Constitution. Perry had Barton on the stage praying with him during his Evangelical/I’m running for POTUS party.

Don’t forget Michele and the lot, appeared on Brian Fischer’s program at the AFA.

Goldberg is correct in that these fringe thoughts are not a true representation of evangelicals in America…but…Mon Dieu! But, these wily charlatans do have the capacity to nudge their way into the files of the elite that surround these people.

This is why I say a pray before I go to bed,”Dear Lord, Please protect me from your most ardent adherents. Amen.”

Jerry
August 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Lisa Miller had a piece in the Washington Post downplaying the religiosity of Republican candidates. The comments were not buying her argument.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/dominionism-beliefs-among-conservative-christians-overblown/2011/08/17/gIQAb5eaNJ_story.html

FreeDem
August 22nd, 2011 | LINK

The European Cuckoo succeeds because it provides a super example of all that the Wren measures (in the case of wrens while there are other races of cuckoo that parasitize other species). The cuckoos agenda of course leaves only them to the destruction of the wrens.

The literature they try and share only among themselves makes it clear that, like the cuckoo, their hidden agenda is something that normal Christians would find horrific, but is a shared policy with cuckoos in most big religions, and contrary to those religions as well.

There is a need for especially the real fundamentalists of each religion to out and shun their cuckoos, but it is those very folks that the camouflage is most aimed at, and thus the most blind to the issue.

For the rest of us IMHO this is the metaphor most likely to be able to remove the blinders, and the best universal description that other religions not be defined as the agenda of the cuckoos among them as well.

Jay Jonson
August 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Christian Dominionism is alive and well though conservatives are trying to deny that it exists. Howard Ahmanson, Jr., the quack who was the largest contributor of Prop 8 and who finances all sorts of political candidates and causes has long been associated with Christian Dominionism. One of the beneficiaries of his largesse is the right-wing religious blog, GetReligion.org, which tries to hide his participation by saying that the philanthropist who supports the blog is “Roberta Green” without pointing out that Roberta Green is Ahmanson’s wife.
See the section on GetReligion in “Confessions of a Blog Addict. Or Why I Love to Hate GetRelgion.org and FamilyScholars.org” at glbtq.com. Here is the url: http://www.glbtq.com/sfeatures/confessionsofablogaddict.html

Bill T.
August 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Dominionism has been around for a very long time. It is a very old practice of applying Old Testament laws to New Testament Christianity. It is a very evil practice. I became aware of it through Anita Bryant in the 70’s, and I have been fighting some form of it ever since.

Dallas David
August 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Check out this Rushdoony guy . . . he’s been a huge influence. And not for the god . . .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rousas_John_Rushdoony

“Rushdoony’s work has been used by Dominion Theology advocates who attempt to implement a Christian theocracy, a government subject to Biblical law, especially the Torah, in the United States. Authority, behavioural boundaries, economics, penology and the like would all be governed by biblical principles in Rushdoony’s vision, but he also proposed a wide system of freedom, especially in the economic sphere, and claimed Ludwig von Mises as an intellectual mentor; he called himself a Christian libertarian.”

Wendy Leigh
August 23rd, 2011 | LINK

“We’re not talking about the Pat Robertsons, the Joel Olsteens, the Albert Mohlers or the Rick Warrens. No, we’re talking about people who are far, far more fringe than anyone whose name immediately comes to mind whenever most people think of Christian Evangelicalism.” ????

Excuse me??? We absolutely ARE talking about Pat Robertson and Rick Warren! He is C Peter Wagners star pupil. As a matter of fact, his college thesis is about dominionism/reconstructionism, and the inspiration for his purpose-driven book.He describes himself as a Kuyper Calvinist. Ted Haggert is high level NAR. This movement is now being spread by AFA, FOF and FRC and all their state chapters. This has been a 30 year old stealth operation.

Read Sarah Diamond, Yurica Report, Orrel Steinkamp, Sourcewatch, Talk to Action…

Timothy Kincaid
August 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Not only is a leader who has experienced authentic heart transformation able to live a godly life, he or she also endeavors to model counterintuitive servant leadership, rather than domination or control, and to empower the least of society instead of mounting a quest for power.

According to author and social critic Os Guinness, the primary issue is “learning how to live with our deepest differences, especially when they involve matters of faith; it’s about justice, not ‘just us.’”

I know evangelicals for whom this is true. There are even evangelicals who take political stances with which I disagree who do so out of a desire to improve their community rather than out of a desire to impose God’s Will on the resistant.

But yes, oh yes, there are dominionists.

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