Dominionism

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Dominionism is a conspiracy theory most often used to describe politically active conservative Christians, mostly Calvinist in orientation, with an imagined specific agenda. The term is not recognized by any legitimate, trusted dictionary[1] and is rarely used as a self-description; it is a loaded or pejorative term, and use of the term is primarily limited to religious and non-religious critics of the Christian Right on the political left. Leftists commonly assign the pejorative label "Christer" to those they perceive as being "Dominionists".

Contents

Origin of the term

The origin of the term can be found in the writings of the founder of Christian Reconstructionism, Rousas J. Rushdoony, whose 1973 book, The Institute of Biblical Law, uses the word “dominion” quite frequently:

  • "God's covenant with Adam required him to exercise dominion over the earth and to subdue it (Gen. 1:26 ff) under God according to God's law-word."
  • "The restoration of that covenant relationship was the work of Christ, His grace to His elect people."
  • "The fulfillment of that covenant is their great commission: to subdue all things and all nations to Christ and His law-word." [2]
  • “…the first step in the mandate is to bring men the word of God and for God to regenerate them. The second step is to demolish every kind of rampart or opposition to the dominion of God in Christ. The world and men must be brought into captivity to Christ, under the dominion of the Kingdom of God and the law of that kingdom. Third, this requires that, like Paul, we court-martial or "administer justice upon all disobedience" in every area of life where we encounter it. To deny the cultural mandate is to deny Christ and to surrender the world to the devil.” [3]

It’s a term echoed by other Christian Reconstructionists. George Grant wrote in 1987: [4]

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ - to have dominion in the civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.

Generic dominionism

Dominionist or Christian Reconstructionist theology's belief that the penalties of the Levitical law remain binding upon Christians under the New Covenant is controversial among many conservative Evangelicals.

The Christian Research Institute, a noted conservative Evangelical apologetics ministry, takes the Dominionists to task for what it sees as a misunderstanding of the Bible.

Within the Christian Right, concern over social, cultural, and political issues such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, sympathy for Israel sometimes expressed as Christian Zionism, the banning of teacher-led prayer in the public schools, and the reduction of overtly fundamentalist Christian perspectives in the public square has prompted participation in elections since the 1970s. Activists and intellectuals in the Christian Right work in a coalition of religious conservatives, operating through the Republican Party to promote their influence. These dominionists sometimes make the claim that "America is a Christian nation."

Dominionist authors look to 19th century court rulings for a different perspective on Christianity's role in government. [1] They argue the U.S. Supreme Court has undermined the framers' intent for the establishment clause since the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education case.[2] They claim the morality expressed in American laws, such as the Blue laws, passed during the early part of American history deeply reflected Christianity's influence upon the culture. Such perspectives were advanced in 19th century cases such as Updegraph v. Commonwealth (1824) and Holy Trinity v. Commonwealth (1892), which Dominionist authors frequently cite in support of their arguments. [3][4]

The Dominionist Chalcedon Foundation argues:

"Based upon those premises, secularists would have to admit that at the time the Constitution was ratified, America was a full-blown theocracy. Sodomy laws, blasphemy laws, and even Sabbath laws were common in various states. If secularists are crying “theocracy” now, they would’ve marched in the streets of eighteenth-century America."[5]

Now, they feel shut out, and feel the need to re-assert their presence as religious people with a valid perspective in the democratic political process and the institutions of the culture.

Few, however, articulate a position that could be called theocratic.

Critics argue the claim that the United States is a Christian nation is of questionable historic validity (often pointing out the deism of various founding fathers) , is ethnocentric, and reduces secularists and members of other religions (such as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism) to second-class status. Religious historians, like Nathan Hatch, Mark Noll and others, also suggest that modern fundamentalists are nostalgic for a time that never really existed as they imagine it: a time in the indefinite past, before the turbulent sixties, when wholesomeness, and sanity, and harmony prevailed under a benevolent religion much as they conceive their own to be.

Theological critique

Dominionist or Christian Reconstructionist theology's belief that the penalties of the Levitical law remain binding upon Christians under the New Covenant is controversial among many conservative Evangelicals.

The Christian Research Institute, a noted conservative Evangelical apologetics ministry, takes the Dominionists to task for what it sees as a misunderstanding of the Bible.

"But are Christians supposed to be taking dominion at all? Granted that there is some confusion among American Christians as to what taking dominion would mean, is there a sense in which this really is the mission of the church? A careful reading of the Bible indicates otherwise. Simply put, the Bible never commands Christians to take dominion. A search for such a mandate proves fruitless. The Bible never even hints that this is to be a responsibility of the church between Christ's first and second comings." [6]

CRI argues the Great Commission found in Matthew, Chapter 28:18-20, does not provide any sort of "Dominion Mandate" as argued by Gary North, R.J. Rushdoony or other Dominionists. "There is certainly no explicit connection made in Matthew 28 between the Great Commission and the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28. Nor are the commands to disciple, baptize, and teach somehow equivalent to 'take dominion.'" [7]

It also denies that Christians have a "general mandate from Christ to seek or achieve worldwide or even nationwide political dominion before His return."

Likewise, Bob DeWaay, a conservative Evangelical preacher from Minneapolis, argues the Dominionists strain to make biblical passages conform with their theology. "It is remarkable how much emphasis is placed on Genesis 1:26-28 as being a mandate to rule over cultures and human institutions in a fallen world when at the time that Adam was given this mandate, no such cultures existed and the world was not fallen. The text says nothing about cultures or subjugating other people." [8]

The "Christer" controversy

On 29-30 April 2005 a gathering was held at the City University of New York (CUNY) [5] of radical leftists to discuss the "real agenda of the Christian right" and to "develop strategies to defeat them". One of the speakers, Katherine Yurica, told the conference the Republican Party had gained power through "Hitlerian tactics" and that evangelical leaders from Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell "had to have read Hitler’s Mein Kampf." [6] 60s activist Chip Berlet said Christians are motivated by doctrines like "Dominionism, which order Christians to take over the secular state." Berlet lamented the fact People for the American Way had stopped monitoring Christian groups and noted his organization, Political Research Associates would love to do it but complained there wasn't enough money to be made. [7] Berlet has since become the primary author of the controversial Dominionism series in Wikipedia. [9] During a panel discussion [8] on appropriate pejoratives to use, such as Christer or Theocon, Berlet also recommended terms such as Religious Supremacist and Christian Supremacist. [9]

Stanley Kurtz of the National Review reported on the conference. Kurtz said the alleged desire of the Religious Right to "suppress other religions ...reestablish slavery. ...reduce women to near-slavery by making them property. ...execute anyone found guilty of pre-marital, extramarital, or homosexual sex. ...to bring back the death penalty for witchcraft" was the subject matter of discussion. [10] Christians soon reacted to the hate, [11] bigotry, and distortions coming out of the conference. [12] Kurtz has investigated the extreme rhetoric of alleged Dominionist watchdogs and discovered at a website calling itself religioustolerance.org the claim that Dominionists

“advocate genocide for followers of minority groups and non-conforming members of their own religion.” [13]

Anthony Williams of FrontPage magazine.com also commented on the absurdities coming out of the conference. While noting the “threat” of religious fundamentalism among the gathering of extreme leftists was not in beheadings, forced marriages, honor killings, or genital mutilation in the Islamic Middle East, in this ideological fever swamp the real threat to freedom and liberty, "it turns out, is Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the seditious propaganda of Tim LaHaye, author of the best-selling apocalyptic fiction series Left Behind." [14]

See also

References

  1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dominionism?jss=0
  2. The Institutes of Biblical Law, R. J. Rushdoony, Pge 14
  3. The Institutes of Biblical Law, R. J. Rushdoony, pp 724-725
  4. ”The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action," George Grant, 1987
  5. Public university sponsorship of conference on "Examining the Real Agenda of the Christian Right"
  6. President Bush Called “Evil,” Evangelicals Equated With Nazis at NCC-Supported Conference, John Lomperis, The Institute on Religion and Democracy.
  7. The New Blacklist: Corporate America Caves In to the Christers, Doug Ireland, June 09, 2005.
  8. Religious Right Watch July 10, 2005.
  9. Techniques of the Propagandist, Chip Berlet, Political Research Associates, Cambridge Massachusetts.
  10. Dominionist Domination, The Left runs with a wild theory. Stanley Kurtz, National Review Online, May 02, 2005.
  11. Dark Christianity, Exploring and Exposing Dominionist Christianity, 12 December 2005.
  12. The "Christer" Controversy, Rhymes With Right, June 16, 2005.
  13. ReligiousTolerance.org Onterio Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Dominionism (aka Christian Reconsturctionism, Dominion Theology and Theonomy)
  14. "Dominionist" Fantasies, Anthony Williams, FrontPage magazine.com, 4 May 2005.

Further reading

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