Remaking America as a Christian Nation
When Roy Moore
, the Chief Justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court, installed a two-and-one-half-ton granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama state courthouse in Montgomery in July of 2001, he knew it was a deeply symbolic act. He was saying that God's laws are the foundation of the nation; and of all our laws. Or at least, they ought to be. The monument (wags call it "Roy's rock") was installed under cover of night - but Moore had a camera crew from Rev. D. James Kennedy's
Coral Ridge Ministries on hand to record the historic event. Kennedy then sold videos of the installation as a fundraiser for Moore's legal defense.
They knew he would need it.
The story of Roy's rock epitomizes the rise of what many are calling "dominionism." It is a story of how notions of "Biblical law" as an alternative to traditional, secular ideas of constitutional law are edging into mainstream American politics.
That's how my article The Rise of Dominionism: Remaking America as a Christian Nation
opens. It appears in the Winter 2005 issue of The Public Eye
, the quarterly magazine of Political Research Associates, a Somerville, MA-based progressive think tank (where Talk to Action's own Chip Berlet
is on staff.) I am honored to be on the editorial board of The Public Eye
these days. There is lot's of other good stuff in the current issue -- and back isssues -- if you are interested in understanding different sectors of the political and religious right in the U.S. and abroad. If you haven't visited the PRA web site, you are missing out on an extraordinary resource.
Here is an other exerpt from the article. But you can skip it and go right to full online text.
...Naturally, people look for explanations for how it has come to this. There are many factors for this trend, just like any other important trend in history. But many Americans, regardless of their political orientation, seem genuinely baffled and obsessed about one or another factor in the rise to power of the Christian Right: they look to issues of funding, mass media, megachurches, dominionism, and so on. It is all of these and more. However, following the logic of Occam's Razor, that the best explanation is usually the simplest, I offer this: the Christian Right social movement, fueled by the growing influence of dominionist ideology, gained political influence because it was sufficiently well organized and willing to struggle for power. And now they are exercising it.
While most dominionists would say they favor the U.S. Constitution, and merely seek to restore it to the original intentions of the founders, in fact, their views are profoundly anti-democratic. The dominionist worldview is not one based on the rights of the individual as we have come to know them, but on notions of biblical law. Among the political models admired by the likes of D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson and Reconstructionist writer Gary North is the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a government ruled by the intensely Calvinist Protestant sect, Puritanism. In the dominionist worldview, the biblically incorrect (and those of other religious views) are second-class citizens at best. While few would admit to the clear implications of Christian nationalism, dominionism in the short run necessarily means, as a matter of theocratic public policy, reducing or eliminating the legal standing of those who do not share their views.
Indeed the dominionist movement and its allies in Congress are actively seeking to eviscerate the capacity of the federal courts to protect the rights of all citizens. Developing a coherent understanding of the ongoing role of dominionism in the dynamic growth of the Christian Right movement will be integral to any effective counter strategy in this, one of the central struggles of our time.