August 25th, 2011
Last Sunday, I posted my reaction to an incredibly ill-informed op-ed on The Daily Beast by A. Larry Ross claiming that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there is no such thing as Christian Dominionism. It was all a myth, he claimed, made up by the “East Coast media elite.” While Ross’s op-ed was grossly misinformed, Ross himself is not. His is, in fact, an Evangelical publicist whose client list includes such heavy hitters as Rev. Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes. None of those Evangelical clients hew to the particular definitional theologies of Dominionism, although some of them — Rod Parsely, for example — might be said at least to have some Dominion-ish tendencies, and another — Rick Warren — was taught by a Dominionist teacher (Warren denies having had any contact with theologian Peter Wagner since his seminary days).
It would appear that a few folks had a conference call and decided to plant the Dominionism-is-a-myth bug in more than one outlet. A few days before Ross’s piece appeared in the Daily Beast, Lisa Miller wrote a very similar piece for The Washington Post. Like Ross, Miller claimed that concerns over the Dominionist leanings of some GOP candidates and their advisers was exactly the same thing as being paranoid about Evangelicals overall — despite the fact that only a very tiny minority of Evangelicals hold Dominionist views. Critics can tell the difference between mainstream Evangelicalism and Dominionism, but Miller pretends that the word Dominionism is just a pejorative for mainstream Evangelicalism. And to drive the point home, she even puts “Dominionism” in scare quotes:
One piece connects Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called “The New Apostolic Reformation,” whose main objective is to “infiltrate government.” Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of “dominionists.”
The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees. But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world. … As Rachel Maddow so sarcastically said of the New Apostolic Reformation on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Aug. 10 : “Their goal, world domination, blah blah blah.”
Miller emphasizes that mainstream Evangelicals do not want to take over the political world, that mainstream Evangelicals aren’t of one mind, and mainstream Evangelicals aren’t militant. Fine, but a small minority known as Dominionists do and are. And to pretend that Dominionists don’t exist is like saying that since mainstream white people don’t want to bring back Jim Crow, then it follows that “racists” don’t exist and the word belongs in scare quotes. That kind of reasoning is patently absurd.
Rachel Tabachnick, who researchers the political impact of the religious right, appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross on Wednesday. She gave a very succinct description of one version of Dominionist theology promulgated by a movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR):
Tabachnick says the movement currently works with a variety of politicians and has a presence in all 50 states. It also has very strong opinions about the direction it wants the country to take. For the past several years, she says, the NAR has run a campaign to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence. The “mountains” are arts and entertainment; business; family; government; media; religion; and education.
“They teach quite literally that these ‘mountains’ have fallen under the control of demonic influences in society,” says Tabachnick. “And therefore, they must reclaim them for God in order to bring about the kingdom of God on Earth. … The apostles teach what’s called ‘strategic level spiritual warfare’ [because they believe that the] reason why there is sin and corruption and poverty on the Earth is because the Earth is controlled by a hierarchy of demons under the authority of Satan. So they teach not just evangelizing souls one by one, as we’re accustomed to hearing about. They teach that they will go into a geographic region or a people group and conduct spiritual-warfare activities in order to remove the demons from the entire population. This is what they’re doing that’s quite fundamentally different than other evangelical groups.”
Get that? This is fundamentally different than other evangelical groups. And Tabachnick’s background allows her to tell the difference:
Tabachnick, who has been researching and writing about the apostles for a decade, says her own religious background has helped her with her research. She grew up as a Southern Baptist and converted to Judaism as an adult.
“Having the Southern Baptist background and growing up in the Deep South has helped me to be able to do this research and has also helped me realize something that might not be apparent to some other people looking at the movement,” she says. “This is quite radically different than the evangelicalism of my youth. The things that we’ve been talking about are not representative of evangelicalism. They’re not representative of conservative evangelicalism. So I think that’s important to keep in mind. This is a movement that’s growing in popularity, and one of the ways they’ve been able to do that [is because] they’re not very identifiable to most people. They’re just presented as nondenominational or just Christian — but it is an identifiable movement now with an identifiable ideology.”
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Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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