Dominionism

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Dominionism is a trend in Protestant Christian evangelicalism and fundamentalism that suggests political participation in civic society should extend to attempts to take over and dominate the political process.

The concept of Dominionism is based on the Bible's text in Genesis 1:26. Most Christians interpret this verse as meaning that God gave humankind dominion over the Earth. Many consider this a mandate for stewardship rather than the assertion of total control. A more assertive interpretation of this verse is seen as a command that Christians bring all societies, around the world, under the rule of the Word of God, as they understand it. As Sara Diamond explains, in this view, Christians see themselves as "mandated to gradually occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns."

Critics often use the terms Dominionism, Dominion Theology, and Christian Reconstructionism almost interchangeably, but this collapses many distinctions. This chart shows the relationships:

A subset chart looks like this:

Triumphalism
Dominionism
Dominion Theology
Christian Reconstructionism

Theonomy and Christian Reconstructionism

Theonomy is the next step in Dominion Theology, because it would "reinstate the Old Testament civil code, including the penal code. (Most theonomists believe the method of punishment should be adapted to the times, however. So homosexuals and gluttons would die in the electric chair rather than by stoning. What a relief!)" [1]

A militant form of Theonomy is Christian Recontructionism.

According to Sara Diamond, "Reconstructionism is the most intellectually grounded, though esoteric, brand of dominion theology."[2]

"Gary North, one of the movement's most vocal proponents, defines Reconstruction in this way: 'A recently articulated philosophy which argues that it is the moral obligation of Christians to recapture every institution for Jesus Christ.'"[3]

S.R. Shearer, calls Christian Reconstructionism: a "militant post-millennial eschatology ('doctrine of end times') which pictures the seizure of earthly (temporal) power by the church as the only means through which the world can be rescued; only after the world has been thus 'rescued' can Christ return to 'rule and reign.' (Some dominionists see the seizure of the earth as the result of 'signs, wonders, and miracles;' others picture it as the result of military and political conquest; most see it as a combination of both.)" [4]

How Influential?

Chip Berlet argued in 1996: "Reconstructionism is a theology that argues that only Christian men should rule civil society. It has a softer related theology called dominionism. ... 'Dominionism' in general threatens the Church/State separation so vital to our democracy as a pluralist society. Groups such as the Christian Coalition really have adopted many of the tenets of Dominionism, and some key Christian right leaders are close to Reconstructionism, which thinks that the U.S. Constitution is a sub-document overruled by Old Testament Biblical Laws."

Sara Diamond and Frederick Clarkson have also argued that Christian Reconstructionism played a major role in pushing the Christian Right to adopt a more aggressive dominionist stance.[5] [6].

Some evangelical Christians, however, are skeptical that such doctrines exert much direct influence on the Bush adminstration's specific policies. Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College, Illinois, writes:

"As the presidential election draws closer, some people are asking, in ominous tones, a question: What impact does President Bush's evangelical Christianity have on his administration's policies? As an evangelical, an interpreter of literary and cultural texts, and a long-time observer of the evangelical world, I have both a personal and a professional interest in this question. And I'm here to offer an answer: Probably not much....
"[Author Timothy] LaHaye's 'premillennial' eschatology is, generally speaking, the default position for those who occupy the fundamentalist corner of the evangelical world. To be sure, many readers of the 'Left Behind' books may enjoy the story without believing that LaHaye and Jenkins have rightly calculated every detail. But they will probably share the premillennialist view that human societies will not exhibit moral progress, but will deteriorate until the only option for redemption is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory, which will usher in the Millennium, the 'thousand-year reign' of God....
"Reconstructionists such as [Howard] Ahmanson, by contrast, generally don't believe in a Millennium in LaHaye's sense, and are pretty confident that Jesus isn't going to show up any time soon to rescue us. In fact, it is precisely because they don't believe in an imminent Second Coming that Reconstructionists are so determined to use Biblical law as the foundation for civilization. They'd like to build a world that Jesus would want to return to.
"In other words, President Bush could scarcely be a premillennialist and a Reconstructionist at the same time -- at least not with any consistency. 'Aha!' you may reply, 'but is someone like Dubya likely to be consistent? I think not.' And I think not, also. But that's precisely why I don't share the fears of [essayist Joan] Didion and [media theorist Mark Crispin] Miller. The scenarios they construct require Bush and his key advisers to be people who read the Bible in light of a coherent theology that yields a specific political program (rather than politicians whose chief concern is getting reelected). The danger would lie in consistency itself -- in Bush's willingness to get policy from theology as a mathematician derives an equation. Yet even if that were true -- even if Bush's mind worked that way -- these fears could only be realized if he were a premillennialist in foreign policy and a Reconstructionist on the domestic front.
"My experience as an evangelical suggests to me that such consistency is highly unlikely. And if I didn't know it from self-reflection, I'd know it from nearly 20 years of teaching at Wheaton College, the leading evangelical liberal-arts college in America....
"President Bush, like most evangelicals (and most Americans), is intellectually mongrel. The likelihood that his thinking and his policies are shaped by a single, coherent, radical ideology is virtually nil. Bush may be a bad president -- he may pursue bad policies on the domestic front and abroad -- but if so, his Christianity has little or nothing to do with it. And with the exception of John Ashcroft, there's no one among his core advisors who could possibly teach him what right-wing evangelical politics are supposed to look like -- at least, not until Donald Rumsfeld becomes an ardent premillennialist or Karl Rove a disciple of Christian Reconstruction." [Italics added.] [7]

Others are a bit more worried:

"Caution is in order here. One must not indulge in the temptation to assign guilt by association. We can't assume that the hard-line Dominionism of Gary North is shared by all conservative Christian leaders. But we must ask, Where is this all leading? There must be a line between radical Reconstructionist thinking that would insist on capital punishment for homosexuals and the more palatable conservative Christian thinking that would prefer the Ten Commandments to a phallus in the school yard. Yes, yes, there is a line, but the question is, Do we know where it is?"[7]

Quotes

  • "The first time that we may be completely certain [that Saddam] has nuclear weapons, is when he - God forbids [sic] - uses one." -- In speech to United Nations, 9/12/02. [8]
  • "We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation." -- Quoted in "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward. [9]
  • "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam Hussein, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them." -- According to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas [10]

Related SourceWatch articles

References

Barron, Bruce. 1992. Heaven on Earth? The Social & Political Agendas of Dominion Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Clarkson, Frederick. 1997. Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage.

External Resources

General

Re George W. Bush