The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism (Updated)
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 09:03:28 AM EST
This is a reposting of the "The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism" with updates."

Michelle Goldberg's recent article warns that we now have two presidential candidates with "Dominionist" ties and explains what that means.  Goldberg emphasizes the Dominionism of Christian Reconstructionism and the huge impact of the late Rousas J. Rushdoony on today's Religious Right. The Charismatic Dominionists of the New Apostolic Reformation have emerged as a political force and were the organizers and leaders of Rick Perry's prayer rally to kick-off his campaign. How is the Charismatic Dominionism of the NAR different from Reconstructionism and where do they overlap? Where did the unique components of NAR's theology come from? I wrote this article in 2008, just after the election and amid publicity about the demise of the Religious Right, but first posted it in January 2011. I've added a few notes in brackets about Rick Perry's prayer rally.

The demise of the Religious Right is being announced with great fanfare in the media.  It is an announcement that has been made repeatedly over the decades and, without fail, has been wrong every time.  

It is difficult to juxtapose this image of the demise of the Religious Rights with the current reality in America - the growing popularity of spiritual warfare networks, spiritual mapping, the belief in generational curses, demon deliverance centers, health centers based on faith healing, and faith-based initiatives which have poured public funds into the hands of these spiritual warriors.  A prominent religious leader can be labeled as moderate or mainstream despite advocating beliefs that only a few years ago would have been considered marginal.

Open demonization of groups in our society is increasing in intensity and militant language is common.  This can be seen at events like the "The Call, San Diego," held in Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday, November 1, before the election.  By the end of this twelve hour spiritual warfare rally in support of Proposition Eight, the leadership was calling for martyrs.

[Rick Perry's prayer rally was patterned after The Call events and organized by leaders from The Call and Mike Bickle's International House of Prayer.]

The past premature diagnoses of the death of the Religious Right have been in response to elections in which they failed to present a united front, as has happened again.  But while the press announces the end of the culture wars, a newer and more potent movement has emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of Darby's dispensationalism.  The triumph of dominion theology, and the gradual unleashing of a new breed of spiritual warriors from the restraints of Dispensational theology, is transforming much of the Charismatic evangelical world.  The shift from Dispensationalism to Dominionism has produced a marked change in activism.  Ironically many of these charismatic Dominionist leaders have been pegged by the press as a wave of  "new evangelicalism" and a progressive resurgence, perhaps a return to the social gospel, or even a new liberation theology.  

Indeed the gradual abandonment of Dispensationalism could have resulted in a shift to a more progressive theology and the emerging movement does look and sound quite different from the previous white, male-dominated Fundamentalism.  However, the leadership of this multi-cultural movement with its women Apostles and Prophets and focus on societal "transformation" has not embraced the social gospel, but a full blown Dominionist or "Kingdom Now" theology that is sweeping the globe and impacting churches across the spectrum of Christianity.  


What is "Dominionism" in this context?  It is a word that has been used casually to mean many different things in recent years, including being used erroneously in reference to Dispensationalists, whose well-defined prophecy timeline includes no plan whatsoever for taking dominion over the earth.  One of the major features of Dispensationalism is a pre-Tribulation Rapture, therefore "born again" Christians will not still be present on the natural earth when the battles of the end times take place.  They will then watch from the grandstands of heaven and play no role in the defeat of Satan and his minions.  

Dominionism is a term that should only be used for those whose eschatological timeline requires that Christians, in some way, gain complete authority over the earth before the return of Jesus can take place.  This can refer to some postmillennial theologies or forms of premillennial theology in which Christians are not Raptured prior to the Tribulation.  The term Dominionism should not be used to describe pre-Tribulation Dispensational theology.  

Sarah Diamond in the glossary of Spiritual Warfare, The Politics of the Christian Right, defines Charismatics as,

Born-again Christians of any denomination who not only accept a literal interpretation of the Bible but who also believe that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they can perform supernatural acts.  "Charismatics" include old-fashioned pentecostals, some Catholics and both denominational and non-denominational Protestants."  Diamond points out that the conflict between charismatics and non-charismatics has been the source of struggles in the Religious Right including explaining "why a minor holy war ensued when Baptist Jerry Falwell took over the leadership of the charismatic PTL network."  [Falwell, a Fundamentalist from an Independent Baptist background, took over PTL from Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.]

Millions in the Pentecostal/Charismatic sector of Christianity are now actively involved in spiritual warfare networks, prayer marches, long term fasting, around the clock prayer vigils, and organized campaigns like "Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture" to take control over society and government.  These seven mountains are government, education, arts and entertainment, media, family, religion, and business.  Many pastors across the Pentecostal/Charismatic spectrum have rejected the pre-Tribulation Rapture and embraced these campaigns for dominion.  Youth across the country are being trained to be warriors, much like the Tribulation Force of the Left Behind series.  However, in this scenario, true believers will not be snatched away from the earth before the battle begins, and there will be no waiting for armies from heaven. These Christian warriors, representing the "corporate body" of Christ, plan to be victorious over evil themselves.

Organizing Charismatic Dominionists

Charismatic Dominionists were in a somewhat disorganized state for several decades, and their activism was overshadowed by the better known dominionism of the small but influential Reconstructionist camp of the late Rousas J. Rushdoony.  The impact of Rushdoony's ideology could be seen in the partnership of dispensationalist and dominionist camps that produced the 17 Christian Worldview Documents, The Manifesto for the Christian Church, and other foundational documents of the Coalition on Revival.

This coalition, led by Jay Grimstead and initiated in 1984, was an effort to bring about a truce between those in competing theologies in order to promote a unified front in their impact on society and government.  They were particularly concerned about overcoming differences in eschatology which is critically important to guiding activism.  The documents produced by the coalition provided the foundational underpinnings for taking Christian dominion in government, economics, law, education, and other specific areas of society.  As stated in these documents,

"charismatics and non-charismatics, covenant and dispensational theologians, have joined arm in arm in prayer and hard work to see revival, renewal, and reformation in the Christian Church and the American culture."  

The movement was a coalition, but the end product was considered a triumph for Reconstructionists and Dominion theology.  The exercise further demonstrated the inadequacy and incompatibility of Dispensational theology as a foundation for Religious Right activism.

Since the time of the Coalition on Revival, both the Dominionist and Dispensational leaders of the Religious Right, as well as those researchers monitoring the Religious Right, saw the tremendous potential for exploitation of the vast numbers of the Pentecostal/Charismatic sector and their growing mass media capacity.

In 1994, Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility, the Struggle between Theocracy and Democracy and co-founder of, wrote the following. The quotes are from an article titled "No Longer Without Sheep,"

"Since 1980 much of Pentecostalism has begun to adopt aspects of Reconstructionism or dominion theology.  This is not an accident.

Reconstructionists have sought to graft their theology onto the experientially oriented, and often theologically amorphous, Pentecostal and charismatic religious traditions.  Following a 1987 Reconstuctionist/Pentecostal theological meeting, Joseph Morecraft exclaimed:  "God is blending Presbyterian theology with charismatic zeal into a force that cannot be stopped.!"

Clarkson continues by explaining that this means hundreds of thousands of Pentecostals and Charismatics moved from apolitical into the activist camp.  Clarkson, a long term veteran in the effort to expose Reconstructionism and its impact on the Religious Right, continued in the same article,

"As recently as the early 1990s, most evangelicals viewed Reconstructionists as a band of misfits without a following.  All that has changed, along with the numbers and character of the Christian Right.  The world of evangelicalism and, arguably, American politics generally will never be same."

Gary North, son-in-law of the late Rousas J. Rushdoony, and a prolific Reconstructionist writer, wrote even earlier about the potential of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement.  In the July/August 1985 issue of "Christian Reconstructionism" North wrote an article titled "A Letter to Charismatics." It is an open letter asking why Charismatics, and more particularly "word of faith" televangelists, had not abandoned Dispensational theology.  North claims that this theology is an excuse for the failure of Christians to change the world.

"To mentally justify this failure, millions of Christians have adopted eschatology of earthy failure - an eschatology which teaches that in time and on earth, God's people will be persecuted, defeated, bankrupted, ridiculed, imprisoned, and generally made to feel as though God is voluntarily impotent to implement His principles on earth through the effort of his faithful servants.  This doctrine is called premillennial dispensationalism.  It is radically pessimistic.

Most charismatics say that they still believe in premillennial dispensationalism , even though they also say they believe in biblical principles of successful living.  This baffles me.  Are they pessimists or optimists?"

North adds,

Charismatics say that God can heal bodies and does.  They say that God can heal churches and families, and does.  They say that God can heal the whole world, but won't.  Why not?  Is there something the matter with God?  Or is there something the matter with premillennialism?

North continued through this public letter to Charismatics to emphasize the inherent contradictions of dispensationalism and Charismatic belief.  In a 1986 article in Dominion Strategies, a publication of North's Institute for Biblical Economics, he claims that large numbers of premillennialists who are unable to publicly announce their transition had become "operational postmillennialists" in both language and activism.

Hal Lindsey, well known Dispensational author of "The Late Great Planet Earth," and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, published a less known book in 1989 titled The Road to the Holocaust.  The book had the subtitle "Unchecked the Dominion Theology movement among Christians could lead us - and Israel - to disaster."  Lindsey, who was clearly disturbed by the growth of Dominionism, describes the process through which Reconstructionist leaders made their breakthrough with Charismatic leaders.  

To everyone's amazement (including the Reconstructionist's), they have become the `intellectual shepherds' of the Charismatic leaders...  But when Gary North and the Reconstructionists won some converts among the Charismatics, they saw a new dynamic for spreading their doctrine - one that already possessed a vast means of mass-media communication.  Yet, as we will see, the Charismatics and Reconstructionists are strange bedfellows indeed."

Christian Zionists like Hal Lindsey had long abandoned the purer form of  Darby's classical Dispensationalism, and were already working to advance the eschatological clock through religious and political activism.  However, Lindsey and North both understood the implications of the changes to activism if Dominionist theology could supplant Dispensationalism on a much larger scale.  These Christian warriors would no longer be constrained by having to wait for a future Rapture. The battle against evil to bring about the millennial utopia would not wait for divine intervention, but be initiated by human hands - an army of Christian warriors bringing about the Kingdom, now.  

Lindsey defines dominion and Kingdom Now,

"The title `Dominion' grows out of Postmillennial emphasis that the church is supposed to take dominion over the earth, its environment and its inhabitants, as per command of God to Adam in Genesis 1:28.

Likewise the title `Kingdom Now' resulted from their belief that the Kingdom of God in its earthly form is being established on the earth NOW, before the Second Advent  of Christ."

Latter Rain

Charismatics have abandoned Dispensationalism in large numbers, but they have had other shepherds besides Rushdoony to turn to for guidance.  Charismatics are now embracing a Dominonist theology of their own design and are shepherded by their own leadership.  The beginnings of Charismatic Dominionism actually predate Reconstuctionism by decades, and, by the time Reconstructionism had gained scrutiny in the United States, Charismatic Dominionism was already sweeping South America, Asia, and Africa. This Charismatic Dominionist theology resembles the Latter Rain movement that began in the late 1940s, with its supernatural manifestations, the goal of "restoration of the Five-fold ministry, the restoration of the "Tabernacle of David," belief in the "Manifest Sons of God," and the impartation of supernatural gifts by the laying on of hands. However, their methodology and political strategies show the fingerprints of the Coalition on Revival.  

The Charismatic Century

Jack Hayford served as the head of the Pentecostal denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, from 2004 to 2009.  In his 2006  book, The Charismatic Century, Hayford tracks the one hundred year history of Pentecostalism in the U.S., closing with a tribute to Oral Roberts as keeping the flame of "Renewal" alive in the decades between the era of the Latter Rain and William Branham's Voice of Healing revival, to the Charismatic movement of the 1970s and then the "Third Wave."

Hayford defines the Third Wave, a term coined by C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber, as the leaders who "embraced the Holy Spirit's supernatural work without considering themselves either Pentecostal or Charismatic."  The New Apostolic Reformation and Wagner's International Coalition of Apostles and the widespread restructuring of churches "relationally, not organizationally" is an outgrowth of the Third Wave and effort to bring together independent Charismatic ministries.

A previous attempt to organize nondenominational Charismatics under the "submission and authority" of leaders had been attempted in the "Shepherding" movement, founded in 1974 in Ft. Lauderdale by Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Price, Charles Simpson , and Ern Baxter, and an outgrowth of Eldon Purvis's Holy Spirit Teaching Mission and New Wine Magazine.   As Hayford describes, the group became extremely controversial and the Shepherding leaders "dissolved their association in 1986."

The growth of the "prophetic" movement was spearheaded in the late 1980s by Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, and a group sometimes referred to as the "Kansas City Prophets."  Bickle is now a major ideological leader in the shift away from belief in a pre-Tribulation Rapture.  His Kansas City IHOP or International House of Prayer, trains young people to reject defeatist theology and to believe that they will be perfected and empowered through the Holy Spirit to take dominion over the earth.  The IHOP model is now being used in cities around the U.S. and worldwide.

[Note that Mike Bickle led part of Rick Perry's "The Response" prayer rally. Bickle is also the person in the videos claiming that Oprah is a forerunner of the anti-Christ.]

The most visible results of the current apostolic and prophetic movement is the New Apostolic Reformation, described by C. Peter Wagner as a second reformation of the church and beginning in 2001.  In The Charismatic Century, Hayford describes C. Peter Wagner's 1988 book New Apostolic Churches as documenting the phenomenon of "contemporary apostles" and the movement away from traditional denominations in which "the association of pastors and churches under the apostolic leader are based on affinity rather than strict doctrinal statements or hierarchical structures."  Hayford points to Ted Haggard's New Life Church (prior to Haggard's scandal and downfall) as a leader of this phenomenon in which the independent congregation does not call itself Pentecostal but "in all ways typifies a church moving in the fullness of the Holy Spirit."

New Apostolic leaders Lou Engle, founder of  "The Call," and Mike Bickle teach that the current revival movement is rooted in the  similar revivals of the Latter Rain movement.  This movement was also focused on fasting and a wave of healing revivals, and is described by Engle as possibly  bringing about the establishment of the modern state of Israel or "physical restoration" of Israel.  Engle and Bickle  believe that the current wave of revivals could bring about the "spiritual restoration" of Israel in preparation for the Millennial Kingdom on earth.  They teach that Jesus is bound in heaven by prophecy and can not return for his earthly kingdom until the church gains greater authority on earth, a responsibility which they have assigned to the young people who are attending their events.  

Charismatic Christian Zionists

The media materials from "The Call Jerusalem" in 2008 explained that the return of Jesus to earth also depends on a critical mass of Messianic Jews in Israel asking for his return as their Messiah. The rapid growth of this Dominionist theology has dramatically altered the nature of Christian Zionist activism, and today the major international events are overwhelmingly Charismatic and Dominonist.  These same leaders are simultaneously involved in the support of the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel and in Jewish populations around the globe.  

The support system for the Charismatic Messianic network are Christian Zionists who have gained access to Jewish communities through their "pro-Israel" partnerships such as John Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI).  With very few exceptions, the leadership of CUFI is Independent Charismatic as are the churches which hold CUFI events. Hagee continues to be a vocal Dispensationalist, preaching an imminent Rapture.  He assures his Jewish partners that his Christian Zionists supporters do not believe humans can advance the prophetic clock, a claim Jewish leaders often repeat their organizations and synagogues. This serves as a smokescreen for CUFI, since the majority of its directors and host churches teach that humans must work to being about the Millennial Kingdom themselves, including providing support for Messianic ministries in Israel.  Many of CUFI"s directors and supporters are directly involved in the New Apostolic movement.

[The prayer for Israel at Rick Perry's "The Response" was given by Don Finto, an apostle at the heart of a network of support for Messianic ministries and proselytizing of Jews.  Hagee's mentor was Derek Prince, a leader of the Ft. Lauderdale Shepherds. ]


In the shift in theology from Dispensationalism to Dominionism, the responsibility for triggering the  Millennial Kingdom and defeating the anti-Christ shifts away from Jesus and heavenly armies, to humans and human armies.  The Latter Rain Movement taught a doctrine called Manifest Sons of God, in which "Overcomers" would become increasingly holy and eventually take on supernaturally qualities that would make them invulnerable or even immortal.

The Call San Diego promotional material refers to Franklin Hall's 1946 fasting and prayer revival center in San Diego, and Hall's book, Atomic Power with God through Fasting and Prayer.   This book, along with George Warnock's 1951 Feast of the Tabernacles, has provided some of the core ideology for the current Charismatic Dominionist movement.  Atomic Power with God through Fasting and Prayer is the original source text for the current and growing practice of long term fasts, including liquid fast for up to forty days. Engle has called for a number of long term fasts over the last few years.  Feast of the Tabernacles is one of the original sources and provides the foundation for the current widespread practice of celebrating Christianized Jewish holidays, including the annual Feast of Tabernacles event in Jerusalem. In his book, George Warnock described "overcomers" as being able to live

"the very same life of only begotten Son of God."

The return of Jesus is no longer required to bring about the miraculous events of the end times.  Rick Joyner is a leading Charismatic Dominionist author whose ministry is now housed in part of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakkers' Heritage USA complex.  Joyner describes the perfected saints of the end times,"

...the visible glory of the Lord will appear upon some for extended periods of time as power flows threw them.

There will be no plague, disease, or physical condition, including lost limbs, AIDS, poison gas, or radiation, which will resist the healing and miracle gifts working in the saints during this time.

Rick Joyner, The Harvest, Charlotte: MorningStar Publications, 1989

Theologian Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School, wrote Fire from Heaven in 1995. It is a positive look at the history and potential of Pentecostalism, although Cox is clearly alarmed to find some Pentecostals embracing Dominionist theology.

"At first I was just merely puzzled about how so many pentecostals, whose battle cry for years was the imminent return of Christ, could have fallen in love with dominion theology.  When I discovered what some historians think the answer is, I was astounded.  These historians believe that the turning point came with the Latter Rain movement of the 1950s, one of whose massive revivals I had attended some forty years ago...

...the leaders of this movement were so convinced that the Spirit was at work in their spectacular displays of healing and prophecies that they believed a worldwide revival was at hand.  They quietly set aside the idea that Jesus would return soon..."

Cox included a 1948 quote from Latter Rain leader George Hawtin,

"We are entering the Kingdom Age in a sense now, for the Kingdom is being formed in us and when it is completed... all judicial as well as religious authority will be vested in the church of Christ."

[On page 293 of Cox's book, Hawtin is misspelled as Hawkin.]

Charismatic Dominionists have been overlooked despite the role they have played in building the American Religious Right and in the development of similar movements around the globe.   Today they have not only abandoned the Dispensationalism which Gary North described as limiting their success, but have emerged to take a lead role in politicized religion.

Charismatic Dominionism's Appeal

This Dominionist agenda is wrapped in a very different style and much more appealing package than the rigid Biblical legalism and theocracy of Reconstructionism, although the planned outcome of the two groups is quite similar.  Charismatic Dominionists believe that they can take control of geographic areas through prayer, fasting, and spiritual warfare as described at a 2008 New Apostolic conference.

"God is preparing a people to displace the ones whose sin is rising so that then they tip over and the church goes in - one is removed and the church moves in and takes the territory."

-Alaska Apostle Mary Glazier

Additionally, Charismatic Dominionists have the international broadcasts capacity, international network, conferencing and educational structures, developing business networks through their "Marketplace Apostles," and most importantly, many millions of devoted adherents.  

Now that the potential of Charismatic Dominionism is being tapped by its leadership, they appear to be alone in recognizing the global political and religious implications of their emerging movement. Few outside the movement are taking them seriously.  Just as Frederick Clarkson and other independent researchers and writers battled for years to draw attention to Reconstructionism, a small group of determined researchers are now working to bring attention to Charismatic Dominionism.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the movement is not bashful about advertising their grandiose goals in their books, sermons, conferences, and websites.  C. Peter Wagner, referenced previously for coining the term "Third Wave," is a former professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Convening Apostle of the International Coalition of Apostles, one of the most prominent networks of Charismatic Dominionism.  Wagner's titled his 2008 book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World, and it is an excellent introduction to the movement as seen by its primary architect.  In his 1998 book New Apostolic Churches, Wagner and numerous other religious leaders spelled out a vision for a reorganization of the charismatic evangelical world under the authority of apostles and prophets and new "Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare" techniques for taking dominion over geographic areas.

Wagner's movement was originally going to be described as post-denominational but due to objections from partners like Jack Hayford, Wagner named it the New Apostolic Reformation.   Wagner partnered with Ted Haggard to build the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs as a nerve center for the movement, and the movement now has "prayer warrior" networks in all fifty states under the authority of their apostles and prophets.  "Transformation" entities work like Ed Silvoso's International Transformation Network work in specific geographic following prototypes of communities that have supposedly been transformed through spiritual warfare.  The prototypes for taking dominion over cities or even nations is demonstrated in the Transformations movie series produced by George Otis, Jr. and Sentinel Group.  

[Apostle Alice Patterson is known for her Transformation activities in Texas.  She and C. L. Jackson stood with Rick Perry while he gave his speech at "The Response."]

In  Dominion! Wagner makes a projection that the neo-Apostolics of this movement will comprise 50 percent of non-Catholic Christianity by 2025.  This estimate is an increase over the one made in one of his previous books, Churchquake, published in 1999.  In a section titled "How Big is the Movement" Wagner quotes David Barrett of World Christian Trends. Wagner stated that by 1996 Barrett had documented 1000 apostolic networks on his database and "that he would estimate at that point considerably more than 100 million new apostolic adherents worldwide."

This may sound outrageous to those who have not been following the meteoric global rise of the New Apostolic Reformation.  But there is statistical information which is supportive of the claims of Wagner's  New Apostolic Reformation and other neo-Apostolic networks.

Growth Statistics

World Christian Trends, AD 30 - Ad 2200 authored by David Barrett and Todd Johnson, and published by  William Carey Library Publishers, a cooperating entity with the U.S. Center for World Missions,  is an overview and analysis of the statistical information presented in the 2001 World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, published by Oxford University Press. David Barrett's statistics are sourced by academics like Harvey Cox and Philip Jenkins, as well as governmental, think tank, and business strategists.  Barrett's 900-plus page resource defines the Pentecostal Renewal movement as the combination of three components or waves.  The first wave is traditional Pentecostal denominations, the second wave is the Charismatic movement, and the "Third Wave" is the name of the subsequent neo-charismatic movements with no direct affiliation with the first and second waves.  

The 2001 edition of World Christian Trends tracks the growth of these three combined waves providing an estimate of 72 million adherents worldwide in 1970, and growth to over 500 million in the year 2000.  The calculated ratio of Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave adherents in the U.S. in the year 2000 is shown as 7/28/65 percent in that order, and globally to be 12/33/55 percent in that order.  If correct, their statistics would indicate that the vast majority of the Pentecostal Renewal movement now falls within the realm of the neo-charismatic or "Third Wave," with only 7% of the U.S. total and 12% of the world total of the Pentecostal Renewal falling in the category of "traditional" Pentecostal denominations.  Furthermore these statistics do not account for apparent tremendous growth of the "Third Wave" portion of the movement since 2001.

The startling numbers of the New Apostolic Reformation have been achieved by harnessing much of the "Third Wave" into interconnected "relational networks," although the New Apostolics are also drawing significant numbers from existing Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as other evangelical denominations, mainline Protestants, and Charismatic Catholics.

Yet this massive movement with its rapidly evolving theology, has received very little notice from the mainstream press, the academic world, or even many researchers and writers who monitor the Religious Right.  At the moment much of the nation believes that the Religious Right is in retreat.  Not so.  The Religious Right is reorganizing and rearming, much of it under the banner of Charismatic Dominionism.  

Dispensationalism with its pre-Tribulation Rapture and desire to abandon the earth, has been left behind.

But they all have the same goal and ideal - forcing the rest of the world to follow some form of their ideology.

We must beware trying to split them down into smaller and smaller definitions, although knowledge of the different forms is important (and this is what you're teaching).  The very fact that they have similar goals in spite of significant differences combines with the fact that they HAVE coexisted and worked together and do cross-pollinate to a degree (I've seen Southern Baptists listen to Pentecostals and Pentecostals listen to Southern Baptists, for instance), thus we need to deal with them as a whole.

I think their planning and goal is to overthrow the US government and start a theocracy, then fight it out amongst themselves as to which theological form it will take.  

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 11:04:20 AM EST

It is important to make the distinctions.  As you have commented frequently, many people who have become involved in this don't know what they are embracing. This movement appeals to young people in a way that Christian Reconstructionism does not, for instance.

Also, in the progressive camp we tend to lump conservative evangelicals together.  This is a terrible mistake. We can find allies there on the issue of separation of church and state.

I grew up Southern Baptist in the deep South. If someone had tried to introduce what the NAR is teaching in an SBC church of my youth, they would have been viewed as teaching another religion, if not coming from another planet. It is true that the "fundamentalist takeover" of the SBC has dramatically changed the denomination. (I was close to tears when I found out that the Reconstructionists have been using SBC facilities.) Still, this doesn't mean that all SBC members are ready to embrace Rushdoony's Reconstrucionism or the NAR.    

Another thing that I've observed repeatedly is that many of the most radicalized dominionists are people without a religious upbringing.  I think there are lifelong churchgoers who are becoming increasingly repulsed by the direction that politicized religion is taking. When we make sweeping generalizations, we alienate people who share our concerns and, after looking at where the NAR is headed, might be staunch allies for separation of church and state.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 11:42:29 AM EST

We do indeed need to make reasonable distinctions between the various groups and ideas out there, and to use appropriate, reasonably well defined and comprehensible terms so that we can communicate with each other and with the wider world.  

We should hasten to add, that the constituent parts of the Religious Right often change over time. The ideas of Christian Reconstructionism for example, may not have changed much since the 70s, but how they have influenced society certainly has. And even as several major Reconstructionist thinkers (Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Chilton) have died, and some have claimed that the Reconstructionist movement itself is dead, we see lots of evidence of its influence in major religious institutions and at ever higher levels of American politics.

Figuring out how to better understand, document, and communicate about these things, as well as to appropriately respond and make necessary adjustments as we learn -- is one of the central tasks of our time.  There are increasing numbers of people who are good at taking the conversation forward, and I think it is making a difference.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 05:03:24 PM EST

What are some of the roadblocks to getting the word out, especially in the mainstream media? Fear of offending all Christians? Too complicated to explain?

by amyloo on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 08:33:50 AM EST
here amyloo. But since you asked:

One major obstacle is simple ignorance. You can't report on what you don't understand, and sometimes can't even see.  Certainly the NAR stands out as an excellent example of this. It was not long ago, we had a lot of people who ought to know better, including liberal activists, pundits and journalists, claiming that the Religious Right is dead or nearly so, and that the culture wars are over, or just about.  And now comes the Texas prayer rally that launched the Perry campaign featuring leading NAR figures, and Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll.  

Another major obstacle is the insistence of too many otherwise smart and capable people, to fail to use the basic vocabulary, and insist on calling the various elements of the religious right nasty or hyberbolic names in routine reporting and discussion.  Its like trying to discuss generic politics when the only words you have to use are "traitors!" and "cowards!"

There is certainly more, but I think that the fear of offending all Christians ranks way low on the list.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 09:45:39 AM EST

the fear of offending Christians as a whole. And goodness knows that a lot of them love to scream persecution over silly stuff like the "Christmas Wars".

But until I read the article at Religion Dispatches on Friday on the UN resolution protecting the right to blaspheme, I guess I never realized that even secular western governments have laws forbidding the "insult" of religions. "Respect" for religion has stifled a lot of commentary, I expect.

Of course, in our society, with so much power in the hands of the religious right, it is a brave journalist who will speak the truth. Careers have ended over less.

by phatkhat on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 10:39:59 AM EST
Imagine if the Tea Party movement had no recognizable label but was, nevertheless, organizing and making an impact on politics.

The NAR is like the Tea Party of denominations, but has no public label.  They are masters of community organizing, but since the NAR and its leadership is not identifiable to the general public,  their agenda is also unknown to the public. The NAR has emerged from the huge block that remains unidentified beyond "nondenominational" and there have been tremendous advantages to avoiding any further labeling.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 12:47:48 PM EST

is thin.

In my experience it is not the fear of offense (and not just to Christians) so much as ignorance that is the underlying problem.

Now it is true that if one is ignorant and unsure of oneself, individually or institutionally, there is a far greater risk of unintended offense. This is particularly so in a media and political environment where there is unnecessary and gratuitously offensive stuff written all the time. Some people become understandably hypersensitive on the matter. Unless one is also well grounded in the values of reporting and the values of avoiding gratuitous and unintended offense, writers and producers can find themselves stymied, and living in fear of controversy.

This is one of the reasons why our site rules take theological debates off topic, and gratuitously insulting language aimed at anyone, religious or non-religious of whatever stripes is totally out of bounds.

I find it remarkable that so many people who say that they favor the right of individual conscience, religious pluralism and separation of church and state, choose to behave like the stereotypes the religious right projects to justify claims of persecution. Its so dumb, and yet so many people who do it think they are coming off as smart. Someone will write a classic comedy exposing the fallacy of such behavior one of these days.

How we contend with these matters is played out all the time in a variety of arenas, and I give them a great deal of thought. For example, I wrote about the contrast between a thoughtful, well-informed, committed religious pluralist perspective as against the Manichean "Christian persecution" perspective in a rather unexpected context recently. There are consequences to playing into the hands of those who cry persecution. It is important to learn not to do it.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 12:42:18 PM EST

I did a bit of research on the differences between the Reconstructionists and the NAR yesterday, because I was in a discussion on another forum about this. Most of the most pointed criticism of either "philosophy" seems to be coming from fundamentalist Christians who view them as "heresies". (Certainly that "Overcomer" stuff would be considered heresy by any traditional religionist.) There are pages of references and links to Christian sites critical of these groups' teachings. So I think you are definitely right on saying that fundamentalists can actually be our allies, even if we don't agree on everything.

by phatkhat on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 10:34:14 PM EST

Irregardless of their ideology, the end result for the ordinary person will be the same.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 09:21:45 AM EST
Differences in ideology

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 09:23:17 AM EST

Rachael, Frederick, and phatkhat!  My first college english paper is dated fall 1983.  Raised by a fundamentalist protestant great-grandfather who drove me many Monday mornings to my catholic parochial elementary school, I became intrigued by God, authority, and politics early in life.  The '83 paper was my argument against politics from the pulpit (the '84 presidential campaign saw the Religious Right use this strategy).  Jimmy Carter's frankness regarding lust and being born-again seemed "honest" and appealing to our dismayed and frustrated, post-Vietnam and Watergate minds. "I'll never lie to you," he promised smilingly.  Why not? we said.  By '80 we'd grown more dismayed and frustrated.  Ronnie Reagan smilingly offered us a  Western comedy (a la "Blazing Saddles") for our 'malaise', remember? "'Laughter is the best medicine," we self-diagnosed, "and it feels empowering.  Besides, we do need a sure-fire sheriff for our outlawed independence." What I sincerely want to say is thank you for this site because it will empower the inquiring mind. I respect informed thought and inherited common-sense.  May I finish with this:  the German populace was dismayed and frustrated in the post-WW I years.  Initially, Hitler was judged a joke by those with common-sense;nevertheless,he advanced his fundamentalist, abominably inhumane treatment of "his people." What's that poem that says, "First they came for the Jews, but I wasn't Jewish so why should I care?; then they came for...finally, they came for me, but most everyone was gone, I was alone." In the '83 paper I argued that the average American would never buy the snake oil of the Religious Right - in the long run. The label they refuse to give themselves may best be described as a 'Hydra.' Presuming ignorance of Greek Mythology on behalf of the average Joe, we start the explanation by using the word "hydrant" (fire) to explain the truism, 'where there's smoke, there's fire!'  Thank you, David

by degordy on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 02:33:29 AM EST

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