Deeper Background on Dominionism -- Revisisted
In the Fall of 2011, there was an extraordinary -- and extraordinarily scurrilous -- wave of criticism aimed at those of us who had written about dominionism. Conservative columnists from The Washington Post, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among others, were deployed against a wide range of journalists, authors, bloggers and liberal Christian ministers and theologians.
That effort apparently stopped after several of us called the smear campaign what it was, and asked Jim Wallis -- who had joined in the frenzy -- to reconsider. He never replied, but the smear campaign stopped. But not before an aide to dominionist leader Peter Wagner, had called on his followers to pray that God "silence" us. Suffice to say it was a contentious and often confusing time.
Contributing to the confusion about dominionism has been the false assertion that that moderate and liberal Christians have been soft on dominionism. People who made that assertion, clearly had not been reading the work of Chip Berlet, who has not only been one of those who defined and popularized the term, but is an active progressive Christian and a contributor to the book I edited, Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. They also clearly just not been reading about dominionism. Indeed, dominionism has been a concern of many Christian thinkers, two of whom authored detailed essays on the subject right here at Talk to Action. Their work is as relevant today as it was when it was written. So I am reposting a piece from September 04, 2011 that highlighted their work. (Some of the links may no longer be live, but there is more than enough here to make it worth the time.) -- FC
After the recent round of silliness in which top journalists confessed to either not having heard of dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation, or claimed that neither actually exists, or sought to downplay the entire matter as as leftwing paranoia -- a number of us who write about these things have sought to correct the record. Chip Berlet's post Inside the Christian Right Dominionist Movement That's Undermining Democracy
goes a long way towards putting this bruhaha into perspective. But as part of this effort, I want to highlight two remarkable series on dominionism posted at Talk to Action
few years ago by two Christian ministers and scholars from very different backgrounds and parts of the country.
Back in 2005, Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister, a leader in Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and one of the founders of Talk to Action, posted an important series on dominionism. He had experienced the politics of dominionism up close and personal: in the rightist takeover of his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, and later in the Republican Party in the city where he lived, Houston, Texas.
In 2007, a Lutheran theologian writing under the name Mahanoy, who taught at a mainline seminary, reposted for us a series he originally published on the (now defunct) group blog, Street Prophets. The series analyzed an eye-opening booklet titled: "America, Return to God."
Here is an excerpt from Bruce Prescott's opening essay:
In February 1990 I received an unsolicited video in the mail. The video came from a Dr. Stephen Hotze and was entitled "Restoring America: How You Can Impact Civil Government." Filmed at a church in my neighborhood, I recognized the actors as the pastor and congregants of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church (the Jerry Falwell kind). The video was a guide on how to 1) take over a Republican Party precinct meeting, 2) elect "Christian" delegates to the GOP District meeting, and 3) put planks supporting the theocratic agenda of Christian Reconstructionism into the party platform.
After reciting the standard mythology about America being a Christian nation, about the influence of Christianity on the reconstruction of the South after the civil war, and about the threat of modern secularism, here is what Hotze said on the video:
Biblically, the legitimate role of civil government is to provide justice based upon the absolute standards of God's law, to restrain wickedness, to punish evil doers, and to protect the life, liberty and property of law abiding citizens.
Christians have the responsibility to be actively involved in family, church and civil government arenas. There is no neutrality. Civil government will either reflect biblical Christianity or it will reflect anti-Christian positions.
You can make the difference. The upcoming primary elections will provide you with the opportunity not only to exercise your right to vote but also to attend precinct conventions which occur at your polling place after the polls close. The precinct convention is the most critical meeting for you to attend if you want to have an impact in the area of civil government.
[To hear an audio podcast (an mp3 file) of Hotze's 8 minute speech, click here and give it time to download. To hear the audio from the entire 34 minute video, click here and give it time to download. [This link now dead]
I was not registered as a Republican, but I knew that a good friend of mine, a retired moderate Baptist preacher, chaired the GOP precinct in my neighborhood. I called him and advised him about the organized attempt to takeover of his precinct. He survived the challenge that year (they ousted him the next election cycle), but nearly all of the other Republican Party precinct leaders in Harris County lost their chairs.
Hotze's dominion over politics in Houston, Texas (the third largest city in the U.S.) began that year - just in time to prepare for service as host of the 1992 GOP National Convention. His reign lasted for around a decade -- until he was arrested for D.W.I. and fell from the good graces of his Fundamentalist followers. The machine he created, however, still rules over the Harris County Republican party and his success inspired and emboldened theocrats to takeover GOP precincts all over the state of Texas.
Along with his video tape, Hotze sent a written agenda and instructions for how to conduct a precinct meeting. He also suggested resolutions for the party's platform. Today, nearly all the planks that Hotze suggested can be found in the current platform of the Texas Republican Party.
Meanwhile, most of the country club Republicans who provide the funds for this theocratic juggernaut still seem to be sipping their cocktails in ignorant bliss.
Dominionists are patient revolutionaries. They work through the system to gain control. Then they work from within the system to change the system. The changes they are making are incremental. They have little respect for democracy and none for pluralism. They mean business and they already hold many of the mechanisms of power around the country.
It is long past time for Americans who love democracy to acknowledge what is at stake and start facing the challenge that these patient theocratic revolutionaries represent.
Here are links to the six part series:
On Restoring America
Learning to be Patient Revolutionaries
From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 1
From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 2
SBC Takeover Leaders and the CNP
Reconstructionism, Southern Baptists & Education
Here is how Mahanoy concluded the final essay:
...the Dominionists have declared war on the very principles of American secular democracy and on the entire Western intellectual tradition. It is time for us to recognize the stakes of this war and join the battle that has been pitched. The future of our nation, and of our world, is at stake.
Here are links to Mahanoy's "Deconstructing the Dominionists" series: