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Dominionism (sometimes used interchangeably with Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy, see below) is a political and religious philosophy that seeks to make the United States government a Christian theocracy. (Most Dominionists try to avoid using this name. Regardless, it is usually applied to any Christian movement with these explicit or implicit goals.)
Dominionists believe that the civil laws laid down by the Old Testament (as distinct from the moral laws such as the Ten Commandments) should be enforced by reforming the U.S. legal system along theocratic lines, which would entail a substantial increase in the use of capital punishment. They also believe that that biblical injunctions regarding slavery should be followed. Dominionists are, for all intents and purposes, the Christian equivalent of Islamists demanding Sharia law.
Origin of the termThe term "Dominionism" comes from Genesis 1:26 of the King James Version of the Bible, which reads:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.In every other verse of the King James Version where the word "dominion" occurs, the word either refers to God's dominion over the world and all of its people; or to the dominion of a king over his kingdom, as in Psalms 72 ("The reign of a righteous king"). This is the only time when the word is applied to all men.
Unfortunately, this misinterpretation of the original text may have altered world history for the worse. The original word is more accurately translated as "stewardship."
One explanation for this error is that King James I -- a Scottish king who was trying to solidify power after being crowned England's new king -- wanted his translation of the Bible to re-enforce his divine right to rule as he saw fit.
Types of dominionism
"Dominionism" has become a catch-all for a number of conservative Christian movements with theocratic tendencies. In its original sense, the word "dominionism" is not interchangeable with other terms like "Christian Reconstructionism." The weakest form of dominionism is often referred to as "soft dominionism" or "Christian nationalism," which contains advocacy for writing certain Biblical mores into law (e.g., bans on gay marriage) but does not advocate a full-fledged theocracy. "Hard dominionism" encompasses openly theocratic ideologies. "Theonomy" is a subset of this -- it entails a separation of church and state powers, but with an official state religion and legal system that must conform to Biblical moral codes. Theonomy is influenced by legalistic Calvinist theology and often advocates for a devolution of power to more local levels of government. "Christian Reconstructionism" is the most well-known modern incarnation of theonomy (these terms are also sometimes used interchangeably), which was launched in large part by R.J. Rushdoony and his Chalcedon Foundation. Christian Reconstructionism is also largely hyper-Calvinist and incorporates neo-Confederate ideology. Another branch of this belief system which became more prominent shortly after the Christian Reconstructionist movement is called "Kingdom Now theology" or simply "Kingdom theology." Kingdom Now draws more on the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition.
Critics of the term have characterized it as a conspiracy theory or the "paranoid mot du jour." Critics tend to attack a straw man by asserting that there is no actual movement calling itself "dominionism." However, proponents of the term have acknowledged paranoid and conspiratorial overtones in popular usage and criticized the characterization of dominionism as a unified, monolithic movement angling for world domination. Sara Diamond writes:
“”Conspiracy theorizing about the Christian Right's supposedly "secret" agenda involves highlighting the hate-mongering and bizarre ideas of a handful of Christian Right players while neglecting the broad popularity of dominion theology. There are a variety of ideological tendencies within the Christian Right. At the truly extreme end of the spectrum is a set of ideas proponents call reconstructionism, associated with only a small number of think tanks and book publishers. Many Christian Right activists have never even heard of reconstructionism, whose advocates call for the imposition of an Old Testament style theocracy, complete with capital punishment for offenses including adultery, homosexuality, and blasphemy.
Chip Berlet defends the use of the term while acknowledging its abuse: "Just because some critics of the Christian Right have stretched the term dominionism past its breaking point does not mean we should abandon the term."
Dominionism is often connected with the theological position known as postmillennialism, which envisions a period of one thousand years prior to the eventual Second Coming of Christ during which the "Kingdom of God" will gradually gain ground against the forces that oppose it. For that reason, these "hard dominionists" usually work towards a general Christianization of society in the belief that this will help bring about the "Kingdom of God" and (after a thousand more years) the Second Coming.
In this, they differ from the premillennialists, who believe that the Second Coming itself will mark the beginning of the millennium and that Jesus will do all the dirty work; thus, they tend to focus more on the conversion of individuals than of society as such.
Dominionists believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. As such, they believe that God "gave man dominion over the earth."
Dominionism cannot be regarded merely as a hyper-literal take on Christianity; its main tenet has been opposed by Christians from the earliest days of the Church.
The precepts of the Mosaic Law have traditionally been divided into three categories by Christian theologians: the moral law (e.g., the Ten Commandments), the civil law (the "constitution" of ancient Israel), and the ceremonial law (e.g., the proscriptions against eating pork).
Also traditionally, it has been held that both the ceremonial and civil laws were nullified with the coming of Jesus. At the Council of Jerusalem, described in Acts 15, it was determined that only certain moral precepts of the law applied to gentile Christians; Paul of Tarsus wrote extensively against "legalism," or the idea that Christians had to follow the whole Mosaic Law, saying that the whole point of the law was to lead the Jews to Jesus, and this purpose being fulfilled, the law was not in effect any longer. This position was later hammered out in detail, with the position being taken that the ceremonial law was "deadly" (could not be practiced at all) and the civil law "dead" (did not need to be practiced). St. Thomas Aquinas said:
“”For if a sovereign were to order these judicial precepts to be observed in his kingdom, he would not sin: unless perchance they were observed, or ordered to be observed, as though they derived their binding force through being institutions of the Old Law: for it would be a deadly sin to intend to observe them thus.
Most Dominionists pretend that they are followers of John Calvin, if not the only true followers of that Protestant Reformer. But Calvin had even stronger views than Thomas Aquinas on that subject:
“”There are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false.
However, as might be observed, the Dominionists have little argument for reinstituting the Mosaic civil law besides, "It's in the Bible!"
Dominionism in fiction
The "Republic of Gilead" in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale represented one scenario of a Dominionist takeover in the United States after an environmental disaster drastically reduced the reproductive capacity of the population. Everyone thought the book was just some ultra-feminist overreaction to American society until 2009.
Another example of Dominionism is 'If this goes on...' by Robert A. Heinlein, where an evangelical preacher named Nehemiah Scudder takes control of the Executive Branch of the United States Government, and imposes fundamentalist law over the country.
Speaking of Heinlein, Joe Haldeman's 'The Accidental Time Machine' dedicates a large portion towards a dominionist takeover of the Eastern seaboard, all run by a crazed religious robotic overlord with killsats!
A threat to freedom?
Many people argue about the subject of personal freedom in a theocracy, but the dominionists themselves see no lack of freedom as they believe following the bible is freedom. As a result, a group of teachers and intellectuals from Cornell University created Theocracy Watch to combat the dominionism movement.
Connections to the United States Government
Youth With a Mission, a small but highly influential organization within Dominionist circles, owns the building which houses The Fellowship in Washington D.C.. "The Word of Faith" theology, an ideology practiced in many pentecostal and charismatic churches which maintain allegiance to dominionist theology, has been reported to have ties to the Central Intelligence Agency which has been spreading the ideology to oppose communist regimes in South American countries. Talk about destroying the village in order to save it!
- Actions which demand the death penalty in the Old Testament
- Christian economics
- Christofascism, which may or may not be the same thing as this.
- God Hates Fags
- God hates shrimp
- Joel's Army
- Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic version of this (to an extent; it varies from country to country)
- New Apostolic Reformation
- Positive Christianity
- Slavery in the Bible
- Society for the Practical Establishment and Perpetuation of the Ten Commandments
- Spiritual warfare
- Taliban, the infamous fundamentalist Islamic group who actually controlled Afghanistan from 1995 to 2001, which gives an idea on how the US might look if the Dominionists took power.
- Hindutva, after a fashion the Hindu version of this in its stronger forms
- Citizens for the Ten Commandments, a website advocating Dominionism or something very much like it.
- A list of videos made by Theocracy Watch.
- Your Guide to the Christian Reconstruction Movement, a collection of links to material by and about Christian Reconstructionists
- This Week in Christian Nationalism, a blog examining dominionism in US politics by Chris Rodda.
- Information About Christian Reconstructionism and Dominion Theology, archive by the Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists
- Dominionism Series at Left Hemispheres blog
- Inside the Christian Right Dominionist Movement That's Undermining Democracy, Chip Berlet, AlterNet
- What Are "Dominion Theology" and "Kingdom Now Theology", Robin A. Brace, UK Apologetics
- Christian Reconstructionism, Frederick Clarkson, Public Eye magazine
- Theonomy: What It Is; What It Is Not, Pastor T. Mark Duncan, Immanuel Presbyterian Church
- The Evangelicals Engaged in Spiritual Warfare, NPR (report on the New Apostolic Reformation, an off-shoot of Kingdom Now theology)
- The Endurance of Christian Reconstructionism, Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches
- Casting Stones, SPLC
- In this case "Christian" usually means extreme fundamentalist Protestant.
- "Dominionism". ReligiousTolerance.org. May 18, 2005.
- Enyart, Bob. "God and the Death Penalty". TheologyOnline.com.
- Gary North, however, represents a distinct view from many other dominionists. He believes Christians are to supplant the government, not take it over. Call this "anarcho-theocracy" if you need a good descriptor.
- Kim Davis Should Not Be In Jail Because 'Man's Law Is Not Allowed To Contradict God's Law'
- What Is Theonomy? Theonomy FAQ, Jay Rogers, The Forerunner
- Meet the Theonomists, Thomas P. Roche, SUNY Buffalo
- Christian Reconstructionism, Apologetics Index
- Kingdom Now Theology and the New Apostolic Reformation, Left Hemispheres
- An Examination of Kingdom Theology, Apologetics Index
- See Chip Berlet's article What Is Dominionism? at Theocracy Watch for a fuller treatment of the term "dominionism."
- Dominionist Domination, Stanley Kurtz, National Review
- Be Not Afraid of Evangelicals, Lisa Miller, Washington Post
- Paranoia and the Progressive Press: A Response to WaPo's Religion Columnist, Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches
- Dominion Theology: The Truth About the Christian Right's Bid for Power, Sara Diamond, Z Magazine
- The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy, Chip Berlet, Political Research Associates
- Summa Theologica FS Q104 A3 BP1
- Institutes IV:XX.14
- Theocracy Watch
- Bruce Wilson (08/11/2009). "Ensign’s “C Street House” Owned By Group Touting Plans For Christian World Control". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wilson/ensigns-c-street-house-ow_b_230015.html.