There are some in this country who constantly worry over American Muslims and Sharia law being forced upon the citizens of the United States – although Muslims are less than 1% of U.S. population according to Pew Research. But there is a religious group to be very worried about: we have our own home grown radical religious sect. Christian Dominionism is religious-political extremism wrapped in an American flag and carrying the cross. This religious sect is a bible-based cult that has co-opted Christianity, the Republican Party, and is redefining “conservatism.” It is “a belief that states Christians have a God given right to rule all earthly institutions.”
For those who thought the Tea Party was a product of GOP masterminds or the Great Recession, think again. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell examine the origins of the Tea Party movement. They say that the Tea Party is basically just the latest iteration of the Christian Right. The Tea Party is intertwined with Dominionism. According to Putnam and Campbell, next to being a Republican, the best predictor of a Tea Partier was the desire to see more religion in politics:
"Tea Partiers seek deeply religious elected officials, approve of religious leaders engaging in politics, and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government."
So what did they find that the Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do. More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 – opposing abortion, for example – and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.
The Tea Party’s and Christian Dominionists’ desire to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.
Dominionists say they are non-denominational and include organizations such as the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptist Convention, and a variety of randomly named churches that incorporate names such as Foursquare and Hillsong. Christian Dominionism is an umbrella term that harbors varying franchises of religious sects that may or may not necessarily agree with each other. There are the New Apostolic Reformationists, the Transformation Network, the pre-millennialists, the post-millennialists, the Calvinists, the Rushdoony followers, the Francis Schaeffer followers, the deceased Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy followers, the Pat Robertson believers…and many, many more.
Even though there are many different groups mentioned above, Dominionism is the glue that binds them. The actual root word – dominion – means to literally take control. These religious zealots take their beliefs directly from the Book of Genesis, chapter 1: 26-28 wherein they believe God is speaking directly to them and telling them that it is their Mandate to dominate the U.S. government – and eventually the world.
Defined in its simplest form, Christian Dominionism is a political approach to Christian faith based on a literal interpretation of Genesis Chapter 1 verses 26 – 28 of the Christian Bible. Believers perceive themselves as the “chosen” or the “elect”, commanded by God to “subdue” the earth and “have dominion” over all living creatures. The movement began in the sixties with Christian Reconstructionism when Calvinist R. J. Rushdoony advocated for Old Testament Biblical laws to replace or be added to current American laws; such laws would permit the death penalties for homosexuality and abortion setting the rights of many Americans back centuries. While current Presidential candidates Bachmann and Perry have brought the movement back to the forefront, it was present during the Bush administration. The Dominionists place emphasis on Biblical verses like the one in Genesis where God tells Adam to take dominion over all the world.
The goal of Christian Right Dominionism is to abolish Separation of Church and State, establishing it as a distinctively Christian Nation based upon Old Testament Mosaic Law. Dominionism is an umbrella term that harbors many divergent franchise groups claiming a foundation in Christianity. They see the “real” Christian as being “born again”, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and professing a personal relationship with Christ.
In his article “Church and State”, Rob Boston noted that while the Constitution does not mention the name of God in any form, the word “Creator” does appear in the Declaration of Independence – a fact that seems to elude many Americans – and causing a state of confusion that fundamental Christian right wing religious groups are perpetuating to further their cause.
Combining church and state is historically un-American.
In 1773 New England Baptist minister Reverend Isaac Backus said, "church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischief that have ensued." A few years later that concept became a part of the Constitution for the new country known as the United States of America when as a part of the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech and the press it was written that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." The common phrase used today of separation of church and state does not appear anywhere in the Constitution itself but was written by Thomas Jefferson in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Church of Connecticut in 1802.
It is time for moderates to acquaint ourselves with our very own homegrown version of radical Christian fundamentalists. Do not confuse them with the majority of Christians in America who are mainline Christians. Mainline Christians are those who actually follow the teachings of Christ that promote kindness, compassion and love thy neighbor; don’t judge lest ye be judged; let them know you by your good deeds; and it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But don’t make the mistake of thinking, “Well, I’m a Christian so they would accept me.” No, not true…unless you have a born-again birth certificate and personally hang with Christ, you are what they refer to as “not the right kind of Christian.”
Christian Dominionists believe that we are in the End Times and that they must proactively make the way for the 2nd coming of Christ. They ignore passages from the Bible where Jesus said “you will not know the day, the hour…I will come like a thief in the night”. Instead they have a laundry list of duties that they must implement before Christ can return. Some of these include fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-20 ) which they interpret to mean that they are to go forth and aggressively hound the people of the world into conversion, “harvesting as many souls” as possible.
Additionally, they believe that it is their mandate to prepare Israel for the return of all the Jews from around the globe – hence their pro-Israel rhetoric and schizophrenic “love the country – not the Jew” policies. (We have all witnessed how they apply that, the “love the sinner – not the sin” when they try to mask their homophobia). So, in order to have room for all these Jews who they see making their way to Israel soon, as was pointed out by Sarah Palin, there is no land to spare! Palestine just doesn’t fit into this plan, so negotiating a two-State solution is out just of the question. It makes no difference that they discriminate horribly against the Jews otherwise, calling them “Jesus-killer”, “anti-Christian”, “the Yiddish are coming!”, and a plethora of hate-filled name-calling all in the name of God. Remember, they love the country – they are just not so fond of the inhabitants.
The same confusion applies to their obsessive concern for the rights of the fetus to the point that they are spending millions to redefine person. They helped to redefine personhood to include corporations. And they now have “personhood” legislation pending in several states re-defining a person as a citizen the second that a sperm hits an egg. Yet once a child is born, if he/she has the misfortune of being born to a heathen and/or god forbid it is poor, indigent and in need, the Dominionist position becomes Ayn Randian. The poor and their children are on their own! In their world, it would be socialist to expect the Dominionist Christian to care for their fellow man/leeches on society.
There are a number of different Christian denominations in the United States with some variations on interpretation of the Bible. There are also quite a few believers of other faiths who call themselves Americans. Perhaps religious candidates who seek to rewrite national documents that are over 200 years old should remember that they are not the only persons of faith in this country. While most Americans have no problem respecting the beliefs of others, we strongly object to having someone else’s beliefs and Biblical interpretations shoved down our throats.
As Putnam and Campbell point out, the religious inclination of the Tea Party explains why disapproval of the Tea Party is actually on the rise – even as Americans have grown slightly more fiscally conservative as a whole, they have become more opposed to mixing God and politics. A recent NYT/CBS poll revealed that 40% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party, compared to just 18% in April 2010. Meanwhile, Tea Party (Christian Right Dominionists) supporters have slipped from 21% to 20% in the same period. The Tea Party ranks lower in public opinion than Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, and atheists.
Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun said, "When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." We no longer have the luxury of simple partisan politics in America. According to Leah Burton, an expert on Dominionism, after the infestation of the Republican Party by the political wing of the Dominionists we can no longer think in terms of Democrat vs. Republican or Liberal vs. Conservative… it is now a matter of freedom versus theocracy.
Following the Dominionist Thread, By Leah L Burton
Crashing the Tea Party, By David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam