Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Nature of Dominionism

It's Saturday! Yay! This means that your ol' buddy Enigma has another big essay for you all set and ready to roll, in this edition of Saturday Social Studies. Last time I look a look at an Enlightened (if not severely misguided) philosophy called Objectivism. In a strange case of Enlightened philosophy verses Enlightened philosophy, I put the smack-down on Rand's immature and self-contradictory philosophy.

Today's essay has nothing to do with Rand, Objectivism, or Enlightenment verse Enlightenment.

Today, we're looking at the Dark Ages verses the Enlightenment. Today will be a day of strange bedfellows, as it often is when I have to dissect religious philosophy - in today's essay, we'll be looking at Dominionism. This is more dangerous than Objectivism, and no, this isn't some Christian boogieman that hides under Liberals' beds at night and goes "boo." We'd be better off if a figment of the imagination was all that it was.

So, before I go any further, let's consult our good buddies over at Wikipedia as to what Dominionism actually is:

Dominionism, in the context of politics and religion, is the tendency among some politically activeconservative Christians to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action, especially in the United States. It is also known as subjectionism.The goal is either a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. The use and application of this terminology is a matter of controversy.
That pretty much sums up Dominionism in a nutshell. It's a perpetuation of the stupid notion that America is a Christian nation because "Creator" was mentioned once in the Declaration of Independence (a document with zero legal authority) and "God" appears a half dozen times in and around Washington D.C. and on the back of our money, and that the Treaty of Tripoli was a great big lie (like everything else you disagree with if you set on the political right). 

That's what makes us a Christian nation, yessir. A half-dozen mentions of "God" in a city of over a half-million people and "Creator" mentioned once on a document with no legal authority.

Dominionists are not new. They take their marching orders from "the Bible," that mythical document half of them have never even read and of the half that did, none of them really understood. In particular, a phrase that pops up a lot (and I can verify this; it isn't just Wikipedia), is Genesis 1:28 of the King James version:
And God blessed them and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
Politics and nations are not fish in the sea, fowl in the air, and every living thing that moveth upon this Earth. And note the lower case. God's not talking about things that move under it, or over it, or things that move on sandstone or marble. On stuff that moves on earth with a lower case 'e' - that is, dirt.Your dominion over that ant ends the minute she climbs onto a carpeted floor or on a concrete sidewalk.

Sorry. I forgot that taking the Bible "literally" means "it says whatever the hell I want it to say".

Another common misconception is that the "them" in the first sentence is Adam and Eve. It's not. That "them" is the first humans that God created. He created them a verse before, in Genesis 1:27, by bending the aether to his will and forming them from nothing, in his image. Come Genesis 2, there's a massive cosmic reboot for no apparent reason and God then recreates everything, including creating Adam for the first time. Adam is not mentioned at all in Genesis 1, when humanity is first created. Furthermore, in Genesis 1, God creates man and woman at the same time. In Genesis 2, well, that's where the common story about woman being made from the rib of man comes from.

I could do this all day. You get my point - Dominionism is a severely misguided theological philosophy based on the same "literal" interpretation of the Bible that gives us Darbyism/Dispensationalism.

While there's actually a couple of different strains of Dominionism, like the different strains of the flu or the different types of hemorrhagic fevers, they have stuff in common. Once again, falling back on Wikipedia:
1. Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.
2. Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
3. Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or "biblical law," should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.
Number one is why I have such a big problem with them. The United States, and democracies like it that possess a Constitution to enumerate what the governments can do and, most importantly, a Bill of Rights to enumerate what they can't, sit squarely in the corner with us folks over here in the Enlightenment. The United States should be an Enlightened country. We have Enlightened principles writ large into our governmental structure. These guys deny that. Thus, one of my major beefs with them.

Here's an example of what they're talking about with the religious supremacy. Take the text in point 3 and replace it with "Sharia law" and "Islamic principles". What happens? The very same people promoting point number 3 go apoplectic. Even though, at the end of the day, you're replacing one fairy version for another, the end result is that they have heart attacks. They draft legislation to keep 1% of the population from enforcing their laws on everyone (which has a snowball's chance in Hell of happening anyway), while they do the same thing without missing a beat, and with zero cognitive dissonance. This is why. Their religion is simply "better" than that other religion. It's the "right" religion. Right, perhaps, in the sense that it sets over on the same side of the aisle that Glenn Beck sets on.

This goes double for other versions of Christianity. While Protestants not considering Catholics real Christians and Catholics not considering Protestants real Christians goes back to the reformation, with Dominionists, this whole thing becomes even more stark and black and white. My brand of Christianity is the only acceptable brand. All of the others are wrong. This is also why it rarely does any good when confronted with a Dominionist to point this out - "which brand of Christianity was American founded on, anyway? Catholicism, Mennonites, Quakers? Your Brand? Of course it's your brand. It's simply that awesome. Yours is like the others, but with 10% more Jesus": They willingly admit it's their brand, because they see their brand as something superior to the others.

Now here's the really scary part - an overview of some of the stuff that Dominionists would like to see happen. I can stand here all day and suggest that they want to follow Jewish law to the "letter" - whereby the "letter" is open to however they want to interpret it - but until I show some of the ramifications of it, it won't mean a damn thing.

From Theocracy Watch:
A general outline of what the reconstructed 'Kingdom,' or confederation of Biblical theocracies, would look like emerges from the large body of Reconstructionist literature. This society would feature a minimal national government, whose main function would be defense by the armed forces. No social services would be provided outside the church, which would be responsible for 'health, education, and welfare.' A radically unfettered capitalism (except in so far as it clashed with Biblical Law) would prevail. Society would return to the gold or silver standard or abolish paper money altogether. The public schools would be abolished. Government functions, including taxes, would be primarily at the county level.

Women would be relegated primarily to the home and home schools, and would be banned from government. Those qualified to vote or hold office would be limited to males from Biblically correct churches.
 That term sorta flew out of the blue. The phrase "Christian Reconstructionist" is important - that's actually one of those strains of hemorrhagic fever Dominionism I was talking about.  The term, indeed, the foundation of it as a political vehicle, comes from Rushdoony, an Armenian-born American citizen who popularized the theology in the late 1980s. Yes, Reconstructionists do promote the death penalty for gays and lesbians. Because, apparently, a "man lying with a man like he would a woman (anatomically impossible)" is the same as "a woman lying with a woman like she would with a man (also anatomically impossible, but "Biblical literalism", again, means that the Bible "literally" means whatever the hell they want it to).

I keep comparing Dominionism to a virus. This is no mistake. This theology is viral; like all religion, it spreads like a viral meme. However, not all viruses are harmful - some provide indirect benefits through a symbiotic relationship, and viruses are important to the continued health and evolution of life here on Earth with the capital 'e' (ironically enough). The majority of them are harmful, however, or at least mildly irritating. Dominionism is explicitly dangerous; this is the Ebola virus of religious philosophies. The HIV of religions.

From Religious
Reconstructionism represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought found in the U.S. Its followers are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to facilitate this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order.

One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion peacefully. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them. If, as many commentators predict, conversion of the U.S. to a theocracy is met with opposition, Dominionists may have to revert to force.
All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly fundamentalist Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed if found guilty. Blasphemy, adultery and homosexual behavior would be criminalized; those found guilty would also be executed.

At that time that this essay was originally written, this was the only religious movement in North America of which we were aware which advocates genocide for followers of minority religions and non-conforming members of their own religion. Since then, we have learned of two conservative Christian pastors in Texas who independently advocated the execution of all Wiccans.
I left the links in place so you could follow them of your own free will.

I'd like to give this the healthy mocking it deserves. I'd like to look on this and laugh at how backwards and Bronze Aged these people are being. But I can't. And the reason I can't:
In 2000, the Republican Party of Texas declared that it "affirms that the United States is a Christian nation." Last month, [February 11, 2004,] that sentiment reached the national level. The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 would acknowledge Christianity's God as the "sovereign source" of our laws. It would reach back in history and reverse all judicial decisions that have built a wall between church and state, and it would prohibit federal judges from making such rulings in the future.

This is a major political party, and they're aligning themselves with these theofascists. The whole "Constitution Restoration Act" is nothing but doublespeak for "Gutting the thing and infusing my own religion" into it. This desire to acknowledge an utterly fictitious entity as the source of all morality and then force others to do that is the hallmark of Dominion Theology.

From that notoriously Liberal and biased source, Religious (because it has Tolerance in it. That's how we know it's Liberal and therefore, biased), a look at what would happen if they gained control of anything larger than a 7-11 store:
  • The use of the death penalty would be greatly expanded, when the Hebrew Scriptures' laws are reapplied. People will be executed for adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution, evil sorcery (some translations say Witchcraft), etc. The Bible requires those found guilty of these "crimes" to be either stoned to death or burned alive. Reconstructionists are divided on the execution method to be used.
  • A church or congregation that does not accept the Mosaic Law has another god before them, and is thus guilty of idolatry. That would be punishable by death. That would include all non-Christian religious organizations. At the present time, non-Christians total two-thirds of the human race, so the slaughter would be enormous.
  • The status of women would be reduced to almost that of a slave as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. A woman would initially be considered the property of her father; after marriage, she would be considered the property of her husband.
  • It would be logical to assume that the institution of slavery would be reintroduced, and regulated according to Biblical laws. Fathers could sell their daughters into slavery. Female slaves would retain that status for life. Slave owners would be allowed to physically abuse them, as long as the slaves lived for at least a day before dying of the beating
  • Polygyny and the keeping of concubines were permitted in the Old Testament. However, Reconstructionists generally believe in marriage between one man and one woman only. Any other sexual expression would be a capital crime. Those found guilty of engaging in same-sex, pre-marital or extra-marital sex would be executed.
  • The Old Testament "Jubilee Year" system would be celebrated once more. Every 50 years, the control of all land reverted to its original owners. In theory, this would require every part of North American land to be returned to the original Aboriginal owners (or perhaps to those persons of Aboriginal descent who are now Christians). Hawaii would be given back to the native Hawaiians. Somehow, I doubt that Dominionists would retroactively apply this practice.
  • Governments would all have balanced budgets.
  • Income taxes would be eliminated.
  • The prison system would be eliminated. A system of just restitution would be established for some crimes. The death penalty would be practiced for many other crimes. There would be little need for warehousing of convicted criminals.
  • Legal abortions would be banished; those suspected to be responsible for abortions would be charged with murder. If found guilty, they would be executed.
That reads like a "To Do" list for the Political right, doesn't it? Just listening to Rick Perry, or any other extremist Right-Winger, proves that at least 6 of those points are ticked off. That needs to be a watch list. Any politician who starts spewing off stuff like that with a real chance of getting into power needs to be examined closely and called out on it.

Oh, wait. We do.

The last major tenant of Dominionism is lying like a snake.
I had never even heard the term until 2005 when a Christian Science Monitor reporter asked me about it in connection with our Reclaiming America for Christ conference.

The reason I was so clueless is because, as Joe Carter explains in First Things, it’s a label used exclusively on the left. Berkeley-educated sociologist Sara Diamond, the author of several critiques of Christian civic engagement, including Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right, invented the term in the 1980s.
Dominionism, Carter explains, is a term “never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”

It is, however, a handy way to smear evangelicals like Bachmann and Perry who bring biblically informed moral convictions into public debate.
The truth is that dominionism is a sham charge-one reserved for Christians on the right.
Of course, lying is a general Christian tenet on the political right, not just a Dominionist or Reconstructionist one, but lying is lying regardless of who's telling the lie. Just go back up and read those points, and then find damn near anything said by Perry or Bachmann or just about anyone else on the Right. The overlap is astounding.
The goal is not just to have Christians in high places, but rather to have Christians who are called to be in high places step into that role. And wearing a "Christian” label on our sleeve isn’t the point. We need to learn to be "as wise as serpents and harmless as doves” and realize that stealth authority and influence are much preferred over overt authority and influence. A low profile diffuses resistance from the opposition. Political righteousness isn’t determined by whether someone calls himself a Christian or not anyway. That’s established by whether the political values they are prepared to defend or establish are actually righteous. A Christian who espouses abortion rights or the validity of gay marriages, for example, is worthless as a "Christian” candidate. If candidates don’t understand righteous politics, they aren’t anointed for this mountain. They may have enough Christianity in them to enter heaven, but they don’t have enough Christianity to bring the rule and reign of God down to earth.

This will change as the Elijah Revolution is released upon the nations. Sons and daughters of the King who understand the call to take the seven mountains will rise to the mountaintops ... One of the primary roles of future government leaders will be to instruct in righteousness. The more God’s judgments are poured out on earth, the more explicitly will they be able to give that instruction.
What's going on is an attempt to redefine a word that not many people understand anyway. The political Right is good about fighting the culture war with language control; I've noted before how fluid the Right is with language. However, this is a fight we can't afford to lose. In their diseased minds, power is zero-sum. If they can't have it to lord over other people, then other people will have it to lord over them. As it becomes more apparent that they won't have that power, they're resort to more extreme measures to try and gain it back.

The fact that the major proponents of the Right are lying to cover them while openly courting their vote makes this a very dangerous game. One that might end up costing everyone in the long term.

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