Dominionism Hiding in Plain Sight
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Aug 23, 2016 at 11:48:33 PM EST
Dominionism has been an evolving movement for a half century. Fed by two main streams, it has becoming a roaring current, tearing through American public life.  It has advanced far more rapidly and on a scale far greater than its early proponents imagined.  This has been facilitated by far too many of us who clung to an attitude that `it can't happen here' and the consequent denialism that dominionism is much of a threat or even exists.  Thus we have been handicapped in our efforts to cobble together much of an agreed upon common body of knowledge and terms to go with it, reducing our capacity to have much in the way of coherent strategic conversations. Plus the subject is so emotionally fraught.

That's why I spent the past few months crafting a revised, refreshed and updated retelling of the story of dominionism that seeks to incorporate what we have learned over the years, so that we can better understand what it is and is not about -- the denial and pooh poohery not withstanding.    The result is a just published story in The Public Eye magazine, which specializes in taking the long view of the Right in long form.  The magazine has been covering dominionism since 1992, followed by major stories in 1994, 2005, 2007, 2013, and 2015.  I'm glad to have been able to contribute Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight to this body of work.

Here are a view excerpts:

In June 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) held a private meeting with conservative movement leaders to plot his political future. Attendees afterwards cast him in the role of Ronald Reagan, who'd lost the 1976 Republican presidential nomination to Gerald Ford but led a conservative comeback in 1980 that made Jimmy Carter a one-term president. The thinking was that Cruz did well enough in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries before losing to celebrity billionaire Donald Trump that he could plan to run again in 2020 or 2024. "He was with kindred spirits," said Brent Bozell, the conservative activist who hosted the meeting, "and I would say most people in that room see him as the leader of the conservative movement."

    The rise of Ted Cruz is a singular event in American political history. The son of a Cuban refugee and evangelical pastor, Cruz was raised in the kind of evangelicalism-with-a-theocratic-bent that has come to epitomize a significant and growing trend in American public life. That is, dominionism: a dynamic ideology that arose from the swirls and eddies of American evangelicalism to animate the Christian Right, and become a defining feature of modern politics and culture.

    Dominionism is the theocratic idea that regardless of theological camp, means, or timetable, God has called conservative Christians to exercise dominion over society by taking control of political and cultural institutions. The term describes a broad tendency across a wide swath of American Christianity. People who embrace this idea are referred to as dominionists. Although Chip Berlet, then of Political Research Associates, and I defined and popularized the term for many in the 1990s2, in fact it had (along with the term dominion theology) been in use by both evangelical proponents and critics for many years.

    In many ways, Ted Cruz personifies the story of dominionism: how it became the ideological engine of the Christian Right, and how it illuminates the changes underway in American politics, culture and religion that have helped shape recent history.


Deliver us from Hillary

    Dominionism now appears to be a permanent feature of politics at all levels. For three presidential elections in a row, dominionist politicians have played prominent roles. Following Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin in 2008, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry in 2012, and the remarkable run of Ted Cruz in 2016, dominionists are among the most prominent politicians in the country and enjoy significant public support and acceptance as a legitimate part of the political mix.

    While Senator Cruz's campaign was supported by... most Christian Right leaders, there was always a Plan B as well. One NAR prophet said God had told him in July 2015 that he will use Donald Trump to "expose darkness and perversion." Donald Trump also enjoyed significant support from other Christian Right figures, notably 7M theorist Lance Wallnau (who also sits on the board of an NAR political arm, the Oak Initiative).

    Wallnau sought to explain the paradox of evangelical Christians supporting Trump from early on even though he didn't seem like a good fit. Trump, as has been much discussed, was a longtime supporter of abortion and LGBTQ rights, a thrice-married philanderer, a failed casino magnate with ties to organized crime, and someone whose Christian credentials were dubious at best. Nevertheless, Wallnau suggested that God could use Trump to achieve his purposes even though he was a flawed vessel. Wallnau recalled the story of Cyrus, the King of Persia in the biblical book of Isaiah who, as had been earlier prophesied, freed the Jews who had been captive in Babylon for 70 years, and helped to build the temple in Jerusalem. God used the pagan Cyrus, as Wallnau put it, as a "wrecking ball" for his purposes. Wallnau thought God would use Trump to challenge "an increasingly hostile anti-Christian culture" and "deliver us from Hillary."

to ignore dominionism in all of its remarkable manifestations and interesting history.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 04:00:30 AM EST
"Ted Cruz has long moved in the sort of elite conservative evangelical circles Barton circulates in--in 1999, an astonishingly precocious twenty-nine year old Cruz, then a Bush campaign aid, brokered a key lunch meeting between leading co-architect of the modern religious right and new right Paul Weyrich (who co-founded the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation, and ALEC) and top Bush for President campaign leader Timothy Goeglein.

Cruz and Goeglein won Weyrich's support for Bush (they talked for hours, recalled Goeglein in his mémoire) and so helped the Bush campaign lock down support of the religious right in advance of the 2000 election. Joining the Bush for President effort, as a campaign adviser, was David Barton."

That's from my April 2016 story concerning Ted Cruz and David Barton ( s-biblical-slavery-non-christians )

I imagine that Cruz' connection to Weyrich stemmed from Rafael Cruz' involvement in the Religious Roundtable - which Weyrich had a hand in.

As I noted in the piece, in her recent book Christian Reconstructionism authority Julie Ingersoll has mirrored my take on David Barton's apparent support for "Biblical slavery".

In addition, I provided some key evidence on how, exactly, it has come to pass that many in elite mainstream media have been persuaded that dominionism is a fringe movement.

The answer comes down to a sophisticated media schmoozing operation that was originally funded by Pew and, more recently (as of 2008 or 2009), by elite conservative evangelical funders associated with the community and event known as The Gathering (both of which I have studied at some length).

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 02:22:25 PM EST

Within Evangelicalism. Indeed, some sects would consider them heretical. Yet, several people I know insist that they are not Theonomists while supporting their agenda. One friend told me that he is no way a Theonomist but just thinks God's Law is the wisest way to govern a country. It's almost like John Bircherism and its influence (in both politics and evangelicalism) far beyond their numbers, even as people who support their agenda declare them fringe and/or pretend they ceased to exist in the 60s.

by Xulon on Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 02:56:29 PM EST


To me the most shocking part of your Public Eye article were these two paragraphs:

Wagner's successor as the convener of the United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (USCAL), Joseph Mattera, takes the same approach. USCAL is one of several NAR leadership groupings that teach that Christians of the right sort must hold governmental power and implement a biblical approach to the law.

Mattera, who pastors a church in Brooklyn, New York, adds that the historic evangelical goal of universal conversion is unnecessary to achieve dominion. One of the "keys to dominion," he says, is prolific reproduction and indoctrination of Christian children. Christians, he believes, should seek to multiply faster than those who are limiting the size of their families, so their children would "have more influence... [and]...more votes than anybody else and we would have the most power on the earth." (Mattera's gradualism is not limited to waiting for babies. His regional Apostolic Leadership team includes Democratic New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who has also taught at Mattera's Leadership Institute on waging a "Kingdom Revolution" to advance a "biblical worldview." They waged an unsuccessful Democratic primary effort in 2014 against five candidates in an apparent effort to make the Democratic-dominated Council more conservative. Cabrera himself ran an unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge to his incumbent state senator in 2014, and tried again in 2016 with backing from charter school development interests.)

(Emphasis added and footnotes removed by me.)

I knew we had some religious right wing politicians around here, including some in the Democratic Party, but I never suspected that the main leadership of the NAR would be located here.

Thanks very much for this info!

I'll be posting one or more additional comments here later, with some specific questions about the possible influence of the NAR in New York politics.

by Diane Vera on Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 06:05:13 AM EST

As promised in my comment above, here are some questions about the NAR and New York (both state and city) politics:

  1. As far as you can tell, is New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr involved in the NAR?  If so, are you aware of any documentation of his NAR connections?  Back in 2007 to 2011, Diaz was one of the main opponents of same-sex marriage here in New York State.  He is also pastor of a Pentecostal church in the Bronx.  He is now planning to leave the State Senate and go back to being on NYC's City Council if he can.

  2. Do you know anything about Diaz's son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.?  Is he involved in the NAR at all, and, if so, how has this affected his political actions?

More generally, I think it would be extremely helpful if you, or someone here, could publish some sort of research article on NAR-connected and other religious right wing political activity in New York City, in particular.  This information could be extremely helpful to the LGBTQ and women's rights movements and religious minority communities here in NYC, and would help make more people here aware that we can't take our rights for granted even here in cosmopolitan NYC.  Such a report might also be a good way to attract the attention of major mass media, many of which happen to be headquartered in NYC.

Here in NYC, the evangelical/Pentecostal religious right wing has never been politically very powerful on its own but has always had to work in coalition with the Catholic hierarchy and various ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups.  If a major NAR leadership organization is headquartered here, that would seem to suggest that the NAR is trying very hard to increase its power here, which means our local religious right wing coalition is NOT just melting away in the wake of the same-sex marriage victory in 2011.

Later I'll post some other questions here about a recent event, this summer, that suggests possible increasing NAR activity here in NYC.

by Diane Vera on Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 07:55:08 AM EST

Hi Diane,

Katherine Stewart's 2012 book The Good News Club : The Christian Right's Stealth Assault On America's Children has considerable material on the Child Evangelism Fellowship's efforts within NYC.

At least one of the churches discussed in Stewart's book, a church whose evangelizing efforts targets NYC public school children (those efforts, at the national level, are the subject of Stewart's book), is a New Apostolic Reformation church. I'm reasonably confident it is not the only one in NYC involved in this predatory stealth evangelism campaign.

As Stewart's book blog details, the Child Evangelism Fellowship has promoted to public school students Bible verses that appear to justify genocide committed against unbelievers.

See: ntalists_plan_to_teach_genocide_to_schoolchildren    

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 08:51:40 AM EST

Thanks for the info about the Good News Clubs.

I've posted another question about possible NAR-connected dominionist activity here in NYC here.

by Diane Vera on Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 10:07:11 AM EST

On that same blog you mentioned, I just now found this:  Now, de Blasio Creating His Own "Religious Liberty" Problem by Katherine Stewart, originally published in Gay City News, April 2, 2015, about churches being allowed to hold services in public school buildings here in NYC.

by Diane Vera on Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 11:17:08 AM EST

On the website of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), I came across N.Y. Democratic Candidate Thinks Same-Sex Couples Should Be Barred From Public School Textbooks, about S.J. Jung, who "is challenging incumbent state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens) for her seat. Stavisky, who defeated Jung back in 2014, voted to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. It seems that move didn't sit well with Jung, who is hoping to rally anti-gay voters to his cause."  The AU blog post referenced a New York Daily News story dated August 29, 2016, according to which Jung "made the remarks in March to a group made up primarily of Korean churches."

The specific group is not identified, nor are the churches.

by Diane Vera on Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 07:54:52 PM EST

Out in the open but unidentified as to their politico-religion and its affiliations and in what they promote and preach. it is in this country the idea of staying out of people's private lives. But these people's private ideas they want to make national and the law of the land. That should be talked about but isn't.

Like the idea of using "religious liberties" as a means of pushing other people's rights by twisting it to be used as a bulldozer so that they can do what they want because of their "religious liberties" as they define it. To them practically none of our laws applies because they hadn't passed their religious muster. And mot wouldn't. They want to go backwards to an earlier time like say Salem Witch trial times. WE know how bad it was, they see it as a good thing. However they have no problem using the latest technology, weapons and surveillance equipment to maintain it in the 21st century of their own theocratic state.

The reporting of those who accept the Dominionist theology and theonomy but don't consider part of it reminds me of those Feminists who decline to be identified as them even though their very life reflects it. Like the identifier has a bad reputation, but the core of it is still acceptable.

by Nightgaunt on Sun Nov 13, 2016 at 07:46:15 PM EST


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