Dominionists on the Loose

by John G. Turner

Many news websites are running a wonderful piece by the Associated Press's Rachel Zoll about a segment of American evangelicalism / Pentecostalism. It features the commentary of our own Randall Stephens and also incorporates analysis from Anthea Butler and C. Peter Wagner. Among the article's observations:

These preachers believe demons have taken hold of specific geographic areas, including the nation's capital. They also promote a philosophy of public engagement known as the "seven mountains," which urges Christians to gain influence in business, government, family, church, education, media and the arts as a way to spread righteousness and bring about God's kingdom on earth. The language seems close to dominionism, the belief that Christians have a God-given mandate to run the world.

This is the sort of thing that apparently keeps journalists and some secular Americans up at night. Nothing like fear of the theocrats. One could frighten many residents of Boston or New York this Halloween by dressing up as Michelle Bachman. Heck, they'd probably run away from Joel Osteen, seeing some sort of sinister plot in Osteen's "Every Day a Friday" slogan. Actually, that terrifies me as well to a certain extent. I haven't read Osteen's book, but I have sometimes found value in other days of the week, not to mention the weekend. Osteen is most likely targeting fans of casual office wear with his latest offering.

Zoll, with the help of Stephens and Butler, mostly dismisses the recent furor over dominionism:

Randall Stephens, a professor at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass., who researches Pentecostals and politics, called warnings of a conservative Christian plot an overreaction. "I think this is a rabbit hole people fall down and it has a whiff of conspiracy," Stephens said.

I agree. While there are some theocrats out there, I doubt Bachman or Rick Perry is one. When in Boston in August, I noticed that the Globe, rather desperate in its efforts to feed the fears of its readers, carefully noted that Bachman had hugged an Obama birther at a campaign event. Likewise, Rick Perry has shared the stage with some crazy religious nuts. That doesn't make him one. But if he can't rip Mitt Romney to shreds on the issue of health care, he probably doesn't stand much chance of imposing a theocracy on the United States anyway.

It's always good reading when journalists discover whiffs of dominionism on the campaign trail every few years, but this is very old news. Bill Bright and many other evangelicals talked about "capturing" or "retaking" government, the entertainment industry, and higher education back in the 1970s. These spheres of American life were not yet mountains. Such evangelicals were alarmists, but most were not theocrats. If anything, I think most evangelicals are much less self-confident about the potential for their political influence today than three decades.

The 2012 GOP race has been good for our blog thus far. If only Herman Cain had decided to go with a 6-6-6 tax reform plan.


Robert Cornwall said…
Cain may not have gone with 666, but Michelle Bachman did see it there and suggested the numbers be tipped upside down, for the "devil is in the details!"

But you're right -- fear of dominionists is a bit like fears of Socialists taking over!
John G. Turner said…
I missed that, Bob, but just found a clip. I had overlooked Cain's thinly disguised alliance with Satan, but thanks to Bachman, I am now aware of the threat. Thanks.

Clearly, Cain would have been better off going with 8-8-8.
Anonymous said…
Sorry Mr. Turner but I vehemently disagree with your article. I am a journalist and have been researching the Dominionist movement for years. Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin are both mebers of New Apostolic Reformation and that is a Dominionist church. Meanwhile, folks who live in a Bible Belt don't get hired, some have their homes burned down, etc. if you aren't THEIR particular brand of Christianity. You need to read which has been covering the gradual takeover of our govt by Christians. They started in 1970 by taking over boards of education; they have a 7 mountain theory for taking over every facet of life in the U.S. Have you not noticed this? I'm very much surprised. The powers that be are joining up with Dominionist groups and making laws that suit them. These Dominionists are also infiltrating evangelical churches. I think you need to do ALOT more research.
Alex Burgess said…
Great post, John.

We're a polarized society, and this polarization has led to a lot of irrational fear. Of course, both Christian and secular alarmists are happy to feed on the imagined threat that the other side is about to take over. People need to calm down (and love others rather than fear them).

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