Death by Dominion
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:05:03 PM EST
The Chalcedon Foundation in Valecito, California was founded by R.J Rushdoony in 1965 and continues to this day as a think tank devoted to the development of a school of evangelical Christian thought called Christian Reconstructionism. It is part of a broader modern theocratic movement that many writers and scholars refer to as dominionism, after the notion that a goal of many conservative Christians is to "take dominion" over all aspects of society.

The Chalcedon Foundation conveniently provides its own explanation of the notion of Christian Dominion on its web site. This is significant in part because in a media flap a few years ago some journalists and pundits engaged in a round of smears, denials and distortions in response to reporting on the contemporary politics of dominionism in the Republican Party.  Some professed ignorance, and claimed that dominionism was insignificant if it existed at all. Some questioned the motives of those of us who have written about these things. (Some of us formally responded to the more egregious smears.)

Mark Rushdoony explains "Dominion is the application of God's law over our sphere of influence. It is the surrender of every area of life and thought to God's righteous standard."  (at 2:00 in the audio). Now of course, one of the main questions is always who gets to say what that standard is?  Mark Rushdoony's father, the late R.J. Rushdoony sought to lay down the Biblical law in his landmark work, Institutes of Biblical Law.  Among other things, Rushdoony listed about the three dozen capital offenses he found in the Old Testament, which are mostly religious and sex crimes, including blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, and astrology, as well as homosexuality and adultery.  

In fairness, many contemporary dominionists do not agree with the modern application of Rushdoony's list of Biblical capital crimes.  But even as these dominionists deny that their version of Christian dominion would include the death penalty for most of the offenses (the exception usually being murder, including abortion) the question of the criminalization of homosexuality, other religions and the Biblically incorrect is a question that often goes unanswered. (Should public office be limited only to Christians of the correct sort?  

There are many variations within the dominionist movement. In an effort to achieve a broader definition of dominionism, in 2005, I observed that dominionism shares three main characteristics.  

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.

Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.

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.

R.J. Rushdoony has sought to make what I have called a distinction without a difference that goes to the core of his thought:  He did this by avoiding how theonomy -- a society based on God's law -- would enforce that law.  In the video below, he insists that dominion cannot be forced on people from the top down.  And that may have been his intention.  However, he also believed that people who think as he does should be at the top. And once they get there, enforce biblical law, including the three dozen capital crimes. He defines the implementation of what he calls "God's law/word", as "love."

"We do not believe in something forced on people from top down. We believe that every Christian must work to bring every area of life and thought into captivity to Christ.  So our method is not gaining control dictatorially of the state and saying to everybody: Get in line! Go to church!  Say your prayers! But rather, by conversion and the exercise of dominion. By this means, to bring every area of life and thought into  captivity to Christ. And so evangelism is basic to this and then the exercise of dominion."

Of course, come the political hegemony or dominion of the converted, those who get to decide exactly what it is one has convert to, and whether in fact one has achieved that conversion, will depend on who is in charge in the new dominion.

If the new dominion is cast in the image of Rushdoony, if you happen to be gay, a pagan, a Jew, a Muslim, an atheist, an agnostic, an astrologer, or if the religious authorities du jour deem your views of Christianity to be insufficiently correct, you may find yourself in the stoning circle.

I think that Chip Berlet's observation in a recent post that new converts are much more easily radicalized than are the seriously devout who have spent a lifetime studying and practicing their faith has some bearing on this article. After the term "low-information voter" became popular last fall, I started to think of the many enthusiastic but poorly informed Christians that I encounter as "low-information Christians." Many are sincere and eager, but they have neither depth of knowledge nor the inclination to acquire it, and are thus easily controlled by dominionist and reconstructionist leaders.

For example, someone who understands that "prayer is good; God instructs us to pray without ceasing" but has not had the opportunity to study and experience a number of different methods and disciplines of prayer will not be able to discern the aberrancy of such dominionist tactics as prayer walking and imprecatory prayer.

In a way, the effort to "reach the unchurched" that has been adopted by many mainstream churches leaves them more vulnerable to being steeplejacked. With more and more recent converts in the pews, they risk having an easily-swayed majority that lacks the depth and wisdom to resist when a determined dominionist leader moves in. Sadly, the result usually is either a badly split congregation, or one that has become entirely dominionist.

The trend is alarming, and it needs to be taken more seriously. Mainline seminaries need to start equipping their ministerial students with both the insight and discernment needed to recognize early warning signs, and the skills to educate their congregations so as to inoculate them against dominionist and reconstructionist thought.

by MLouise on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 09:58:59 PM EST
Here is one prayer that is used by Orthodox  Christians:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Use it. It can't be abused, Rushdoony can't touch it.

by rdrjames on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 11:01:56 PM EST

You put your finger on the fatal flaw in the dominionist ideology--disunity. Whatever fleeting success Rushdoony's spiritual heirs might achieve by attaining political dominion would be undermined by the "many variations within the dominionist movement."

This is not an argument against vigilance, but against alarmism over dominionism. In Matt. 10:16, Christ advised, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." We should always be aware of such movements, ready to answer their false claims and respond to their actions, but our time and energy will be best spent on doing God's will as revealed in the plainest passages of scripture: serving humanity, loving our neighbor, uplifting the downtrodden and comforting the afflicted.

by eeyore on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 09:43:38 AM EST
They CLAIM to, but the reality is that they abuse the poor ("GET A JOB!" sound familiar, how about "Poverty is caused by SIN!"), they take money away from poor people and browbeat them for more (tithes, offerings, love gifts, and "GIVE 'TILL IT HURTS!"), and their love?  Well, there have been many reports here and elsewhere of the sort of "Love" they pour out on people who don't obey them.  A good example is Darla Kay Wynne... they killed her pets, they torched her kitchen (tried to burn down the house but failed), and beat her up... because she pushed for non-sectarian prayers at a public function.  David Mullins of the Air Force Academy... I think his situation has been mentioned here.  They poisoned his dog because of his resistance to their attempts to take over the military.

That's just two examples out of many.

They dominate many areas of the country... and try to dictate people's lives.  Out of 5 churches in our immediate area, only one is NOT dominionist.  Until it got out that I'd taught evolution, I ran about a 50/50 chance of getting preached at or ranted at over the fence by my neighbors when I went out into my yard (it started when I learned about my Native American heritage, and got far worse when I returned to school).  Now they avoid talking with me (actually a big relief).

They also work in concert even with the divisions... common goals and all that.  Yeah, they win, there will probably be a religious civil war as the different factions fight it out.  Right now, they hold their noses while fighting together for their plans for this country.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:25:10 AM EST

"Out of 5 churches in our immediate area, only one is NOT dominionist."

How many of those churches are reconstructionist versus the Apostolic ones?

by Villabolo on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 01:37:52 PM EST
about half of the dominionist churches in the area are Reconstructionist, maybe a bit more, the other half NAR.

Many of the Reconstructionist (generally Southern Baptist) are actually somewhere in between the two.  As I learned, when the local "Bible College" (AoG) opened, the Southern Baptist minister wannabes flocked to it, thus they got a big dose of AoG thinking and methods.  I think that they STILL go there for their "ministerial degree".

Personally, I don't care about any difference between the two, but then I'm looking at it from a different perspective... from the damage they do to people and the threat they are to this world.  

The lone non-dominionist (in the ones I can think of off the top of my head) in this immediate area is United Methodist and I admit I don't know much of anything about them.  There are more non-dominionist churches as you get closer to town, but the number of dominionist ones multiplies.  Plus there is a major effort to steeplejack everything in sight... we left a severely steeplejacked Episcopal church in town because it had changed so drastically (became anti-evolution, anti-LGBT, pro-war, extreme conservatism).

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 10:46:41 PM EST

I thank God earey day that I am an Eastern Orthodox christian living in the Pacific Northwest; Here we have freedom of religion, and can practice our faith,  without those nosy Babtists and other protestants sliming on us. We proclaim the Resurrection of Christ on a different date that the west, but we do celebrate it next Sunday, come and see, if you want, youwill be amazed

by rdrjames on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 11:12:59 PM EST
While I am happy that you have been able to find a faith that suits you and a location where you can practice it unmolested, that really is beside the point in regards to the current discussion. Dominionist Christianity is a real and growing threat to civil order in many parts of our country. The need is to heighten awareness and to share strategies for countering its pernicious influence in our culture.

I would ask you to take more care before posting. Not all protestants are dominionist, and not all "Babtists [sic] and other protestants" want to "slime" your faith. Such blanket statements are extremely unhelpful and can be heard by those of us who are faithful protestant Christians as deeply offensive. Let's recognize the common opponent and work together rather than demonizing anyone not journeying on your particular faith path.

by MLouise on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 09:35:15 AM EST
When I read it, I wish you could have seen my expression - eyes rolled and a grimace.

Proselytized by an Orthodox Christian (or claims to be)!  (Of course, it could be a joke.)

(Laugh!)  I wonder what it is that makes me the target of such behavior... as far as I know, I don't wear a sign saying "I'm a potential convert!"

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 10:32:59 AM EST

You are quite welcome. I just couldn't let that post go unanswered. I think what we may have here is an example of the sort of "enthusiastic convert" that Chip Berlet mentioned and I referenced earlier. The traditional Orthodox groups of which I am aware do not proselytize. I grew up in a steel mill town with a lot of eastern European immigrant workers. There were two large and flourishing Orthodox churches, and a fair number of my school friends were members. The only "recruiting" they did was to ask me if I wanted to play in the orchestra for their dance group (they needed a fiddle player), which I did quite delightedly for most of my high school years. In all those years of rehearsing, performing, and just hanging out at the church hall I never once felt an ounce of pressure to join their church. The only time I even heard of conversion's being a question was when an Orthodox kid got engaged to a non-Orthodox.

I don't know whether or not the Orthodox in general have been targeted by dominionists for take-over. They are a small group in relation to Catholics and non-dominionist Protestants, so perhaps they are not yet on the dominionist radar. And most of them are so steeped in their traditions and ethnic identities that they are probably less susceptible to cooptation. On the other hand, there is now the "convert-friendly" Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, which is intentionally not rooted in a specific ethnicity. It is open, far more than the traditional Orthodox churches, to accepting converts from other Christian traditions. I don't know if it has adopted the practice of active proselytizing. It would be helpful if one of the researchers on talk2action could write an article about the impact of dominionism on Orthodoxy.

by MLouise on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 04:43:07 PM EST

I didn't say "churches," I said scripture.

I'm not sure what your spiritual path is, but most people who strive to walk one are focused on spirituality more than on political action. They let their relationship with God (as opposed to a pinched and inflexible interpretation of scripture) guide their actions in this world, with assurance that as long as they keep their focus on that relationship, God will make the results positive. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33).

If that's not your path, I'm OK with that. I'm trying to speak to those who have chosen this path.

by eeyore on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 04:04:15 PM EST
The purpose of this site is broader than that. This is not a soapbox for any particular religious or non-religious point of view.  We have quite a range here.

The site topic is the religious right and what to do about it.  Comparative "spiritual paths" may or may not have anything to do with it.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 05:14:50 PM EST

...I had not intended to advocate for a particular religious or nonreligious point of view, only to express my opinion and to cite the generally accepted (in this Christian-influenced culture) principle on which I base it.

"The site topic is the religious right and what to do about it." I accept that and have offered my thoughts on "what to do about it." If my approach doesn't appeal to you, I won't be offended. Please don't take offense at my attempt to contribute to the discussion.

by eeyore on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 06:36:59 AM EST

I feel as if you're trying to proselytize me, and at the same time being denigrative towards my own path.

I don't think you could or would understand my path, but this you should know... I used to consider myself Christian, and still do in a sense, although what I believe would be rejected by most who claim the title.  I was driven from the Christian path by the "Good Christians" who, by the way, sounded a bit like you do.  I meet people all the time who are no longer Christian... many have gone to atheism, rather than put up with the sort of stuff (hate, hypocrisy, micromanaging, "Give 'till it hurts!", etc.) that drove them away.  Even more are pagan.  Funny thing, but I've found that as a general rule, they're all far more kind, more generous, and more willing to listen and truly try to help than all of the "Good Christians" we knew before.

On "positive results"...

"God blesses the people who follow Him with good things, and punishes sinners with poverty and misery" is counter to what Jesus taught.  In other words, it's heresy.  Read Job, and remember that everything Job said was true - if you think the Bible is inerrant or without flaw.  (The book is a diatribe against that form of thinking.)

Scripture and churches are also interchangeable when it comes to the form of "Christianity" that I'm talking about.  Ditto for "Spirituality" and "Christianity"... the people like to mix and change the words back and forth so they confuse others and divert criticism.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:00:04 PM EST

If we have reached a point where citing scripture is considered proselytizing, the Religious Right has already won, because we have accepted its politicization of the essentially spiritual message of the Bible. As I have written before, I am not a Christian in the sense accepted by most Christians, and I am not trying to convert anyone to Christianity, or to any other specific creed, by quoting the Bible in support of my opinion.

I don't believe "positive results" translates into "God blesses the people who follow Him with good things, and punishes sinners with poverty and misery." As you say, that is not what Jesus taught, and it certainly is not what I meant.

I have enjoyed and have gotten a lot of insight from reading Talk2Action because I feel it is necessary to be aware of possible threats to our free exercise of religion. In discussing the topic of religious freedom, I thought expressing a spiritually influenced view might be acceptable. I won't make that mistake again. Thanks for the opportunity.

by eeyore on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 06:54:59 AM EST
that you said nothing about the denigrating tone.

Quoting the Bible in support of "spirituality" and expressing the things you did set off a lot of triggers.  I remember an older woman (very powerful in a political sense) who always claimed to be "spiritual" rather than Christian, and who sounded very much in the same tone as you wrote.

I caught her lying in serious ways (disastrous for us as it later turned out), and she fully supported preaching hostile and demeaning sermons against living people.  "How else would we control people?" was her response when I told her that was wrong in my book.  As it turned out, I was the subject of the next sermon.  That was the last day I set foot in that church, and that church has caused me a lot of damage.  Every since that incident, things have been sour there and I've avoided the area because of it.  If they thought they'd bring me in line by that sermon - well, it had the opposite effect (a common response).

That is the sort of claim that dominionists make all the time - that they're spiritual and not religious (or Christian).  Then they turn around and try to tell you how you're to be (that also should sound familiar).  It's a marketing ploy because they've burned so many bridges in the past.  So I'd suggest avoiding using it, unless you really are dominionist.

As far as the dominionists winning because I resent being proselytized, well, I also resent it when militant atheists and others try to proselytize me - especially when they get denigrating about my path and start insisting that they're right (for instance, atheists telling me that I'm being illogical because of my spirituality, and that religion is by nature anti-science).  About the only group that has NOT tried to proselytize is the pagans.  I like their "live and let live" policy.

I might add that dominionism is a dire and immediate threat to freedom in this world.  CoinMS just posted a thread about kids being forced to attend a religious activity in their schools, where they got preached at.  Our freedom is eroding day by day, and the evidence is all around us.  The erosion is caused by the dominionists and their attempts to "take back America for Jesus" (or whatever).  So the accusations of "alarmism" actually serves their interests, as it is highly inaccurate.  In fact, in my opinion, there isn't nearly enough alarm being sounded - the threat is that dire.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 09:46:41 AM EST

that you think that I am engaged in "alarmism" which  Mirriam-Webster's online dictionary defines alarmism as:  "the often unwarranted exciting of fears or warning of danger."

And all you have in support of your insult is that our time would be better spent on something else.

Would you please be so kind as to point to anything I have written here or anywhere else that you consider alarmist, and explain why you see it that way?


by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 05:28:41 PM EST

Is a method of shutting down what they are saying.

Such as Global Warming and Science in general that talks about all of us having to change our ways.

The various versions of Dominionism is one they poopoo a lot to any critics. It gets reduced to a conspiracy idea and that being alarmist is a way of rallying anti-Christians against them as the "good" book says. We know the difference and so can other Christians who find Dominionism too radical and un-American to support. We need them on our side.

by Nightgaunt on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:11:05 PM EST

This is not an argument against vigilance, but against alarmism over dominionism.

The situation is serious enough to warrant "alarm". I myself, thinking that I had a good understanding of the subject, have come to the conclusion that we all have underestimated the gravity of the situation.

As for disunity the New Apostolic Reformation seems to be very unified in spite of being a semi-anarchical network of churches and organizations.

Also, keep in mind that virtually the entire Republican Party panders to or are de facto Christian Nationalists. What more unity do you need?

It's true that there is some division between Reconstructionists and Apostolic Dominionism as regards to strategy. Reconstructionists believe that Dominionist strategy is dangerous and could lead to a bloodbath because they want to attain "dominion" as quick as possible (within years or a few decades) as opposed to their slower multi-generational plan of conquest.

by Villabolo on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 06:28:16 PM EST
I think the NAR may be dominant in this region, if the Reconstructionists are thinking in terms of generations.

They're pushing for theocracy as soon as possible... pushing the boundaries every way they can, and attacking anyone who resists.  I read about or hear about a new tactic or push so often that it seems almost daily, and have lost track of many of them.  They're in the schools, in the businesses, and of course in government.

I admit to being a little surprised... I expected that some sort of violent attempt to force theocracy on us would be made within a year of President Obama winning the election (the violent rhetoric in the area peaked just before the election and then went silent afterwards - it was creepy in a way), and it's been several months now.  

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:18:03 PM EST

I also thought of the possibility of a violent coup. Whether it happens or not we've already passed a tipping point where entire segments of our society will be locked into theocracy mode even if the media were to give serious coverage on the matter.

To be bluntly Machiavellian on this matter it would be better that it would happen quickly since there would be serious blowback and the infiltrators will be easily identifiable. Otherwise we'll be like the proverbial frog in the saucepan

by Villabolo on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 01:09:42 PM EST
President Obama won the first time, I was almost scared to drive anywhere... the rage and hostility was white-hot (and I heard the n-word at the gasoline pumps several times, as people were grumbling in the first couple of weeks after the election).  I also heard people say "Palin got robbed!" outright or words to that effect quite a few times in the couple of months after the election was over, and then that statement peaked again after the inauguration.  I thought we were going to have the second civil war start right there after the first election.

Around the last election, the rhetoric and verbal hostility ended the morning after... it was creepy and very worrying.  The people I observed either looked elated (rather rare), or almost expressionless (a few looked sullen).

Whether that was because of the election, or just day-to-day stuff, I don't know (my observations were, after all, not very scientific).  But contrasting the two elections has been rather interesting.

I almost wish there was a shorter and safer (politically) route to go to school, but there isn't.  (I also wish we could move to a safer area, but that's not likely for some time.)

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 10:49:01 AM EST

"I also wish we could move to a safer area, but that's not likely for some time."

I hope you don't mind my asking this question. Are you from a red state?

by Villabolo on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 02:56:34 PM EST
They claim it's more moderate than red, but I laugh whenever I read that.

The Republicans rule this state... with an iron fist, and at all levels.  This article kind of illustrates the problem: /NEWS00?Title=House-Not-Backing-Down-On-Conservative-Agenda

They're that way from Scott all the way down to local... where the prayers before government meetings are still going on.

I'd say that the state could even be considered more towards the infrared end of the spectrum... because it's so strongly Tea Party (probability that health insurance reform will be rejected, for instance).

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 05:24:08 PM EST

The Chalcedon Foundation's concept of Christian Dominion, as part of the broader dominionism movement, poses thought-provoking questions about the role of conservative Christianity in society.  Cannabidiol For Pets While some may dismiss it as insignificant or deny its existence, it remains a topic worthy of investigation and discussion. As society continues to grapple with issues of faith and politics, the influence of dominionism cannot be ignored.

by isabelladom on Sat Apr 15, 2023 at 01:49:36 AM EST

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