Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dominionism in the 21st Century

Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia
"Restoring Honor"

I am sure many of us have had some time to watch the news coverage or read up on Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C. last weekend.  True to his word the rally was largely an apolitical one (aside from many attendees).  It was, however, a religious rally.  Beck paced along the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as if he were a preacher under a tent.  Urging Americans to "return" to the religious values on which he says America was founded on.  Beck opened his speech by stating:
"Something beyond imagination is happening.  America today begins to turn back to God." 
He continued with: "My feeling right now is the country is in trouble.  And I don't see a political solution, because I think we're too divided.  I think both parties have sold their souls.  And you know, our founders, if you read their speeches and their documents and their letters to each other, when they founded our country, they all said it would happen if the people turned from God."  
It is the height of ridiculousness for Glenn Beck to say that this country is "too divided" given the empire he has built from hateful, partisan rhetoric and populist demagoguery.  Now, as if to solidify his place in conservative America, he requests a "God boot camp."  The so-called disenfranchised white, conservative Christian majority that makes up the majority of his followers eat this up.
"He's down to where we must put our faith back in God and we must get back to what we were founded on.  The true foundation of the country - that's where God comes in."  Anthony Foster, rally attendee
"This country was created by God, our creator.  The problem is, the country is becoming Godless.  [Beck] said that a lot of people have lost Christ.  The country is on the verge of becoming chaotic."  Greg Rinehart, rally attendee
"Ya gotta have faith in God or you'll fall for anything."  Ricky Martin, rally attendee 
"We're here to unite - as long as you believe in the United States of America, the Constitution, conservative values and God."  Unknown rally attendee 
I think many Americans, whether they are conservative or liberal, Christian or not, see this as a mostly innocuous gathering since it focused on religion and not the usual political rancor Beck is known for.  It probably threw many people off and placated the majority of people who otherwise would dismiss or attack Beck.  From that point of view, its quite strategic of Beck.  The problem is that much of what he says and what his followers think is dangerously un-American.  I know they would not think so and would immediately dismiss the notion without much thought, but I suppose that is what they do best.

No, the problem is that the "Restoring Honor" rally is much more like a 21st Century mass revival of Dominionism.

What is Dominionism?

Dominionism "the tendency among some conservative politically-active Christians, especially in the United States, to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action."

In his article The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy - Part Two, Chip Berlet states that it is "a tendency among Protestant Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists that encourages them to not only be active political participants in civic society, but also to seek to dominate the political process as part of a mandate from God."
"And God blessed them and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth'" -- Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
Berlet divides the Dominionists into two subgroups:
Soft Dominionists are Christian nationalists.  They believe that Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy.  They fear that America's greatness as God's chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals.  Purists want litmus tests for issues of abortion, tolerance of gays and lesbians, and prayer in schools.  Their vision has elements of theocracy, but they stop short of calling for supplanting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  
Hard Dominionists believe all of this, but they want the United States to be a Christian theocracy.  For them the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely addendums to Old Testament Biblical law.  They claim that Christian men with specific theological beliefs are ordained by God to run society.  Christians and others who do not accept their theological beliefs would be second-class citizens.  This sector includes the Christian Reconstructionists, but it has a growing number of adherents in the leadership of the Christian Right. 
I think many, if not most people in the Christian Right movement during the recent cultures wars fit into the Soft Dominionist movement as described above and they would not have an objection to this description.  While in direct opposition to secularism and liberalism they are still basically within mainstream America.  Not that they aren't a threat, but at this point we are used to them.

The Hard Dominionists, however, are a major threat to the United States of America, its Bill of Rights, the Constitution, education, science, and our tradition of secular government.  Some would balk at this notion, but the point is they do not see the United States of America as having always been a secular nation.  They would balk because they see the nation as having always been a nation created by God and has since been undermined and overtaken by liberals, socialists, atheists, homosexuals, etc.  We are the enemy and we should be destroyed.  It is God's will.  Think about that mindset for moment.  Does that sound like you want these people anywhere near the leadership of our country?

For the record; I think that the Soft Dominionist's numbers are shrinking.  This is only because of the extremism growing in our country and the rising numbers of Hard Dominionists.

They want a theocracy and they will not stop until they have it.  They are an immediate threat to diversity, progress, reason, science, secularism and America.  They use a multitude of distortions to rally support behind their cause.  They want to marginalize those they see as unfit to be full citizens.

The most repugnant manner in which the theocrats are trying to indoctrinate people is via education.  :"Get them while their young!"  The rise of Christian home schooling started within this movement.  Not satisfied with poisoning their own children they are always trying to invade public schools and teach their revisionist histories and pseudo-science.  This is when they aren't trying to outright teach Biblical Christian Law in public schools. Sharon Angle, the Tea Party candidate for Senator in Nevada and a complete fucking loon, wants to eliminate public schools all together.  Why do you think that is?

As recently as April 29, 2010, Glenn Beck had David Barton, a "historian" from WallBuilders, on his radio program.  The following is Beck's introduction of Barton:
"I brought David Barton in from WallBuilders because I really, truly believe that David Barton is, he's a guy who I really think has been put in his place, in his position for a reason and, you know, David, everybody has a time and I have a feeling your time is gut tells me you are one of the important men in America for this message today."  
Beck's listeners immediately buy everything Barton says.  To be sure; its utter shit.  Barton is hack.  One "fact" after another has been debunked.  His continual misquotations of Founding Fathers are unethical.  Even Arlen Specter took a shot at this guy:
Probably the best refutation of Barton's argument simply is to quote his own exegesis of the First Amendment: "Today," Barton says, "we would best understand the actual context of the First Amendment by saying, 'Congress shall make no law establishing one Christian denomination as that national denomination.' "In keeping with Barton's restated First Amendment, Congress could presumably make a law establishing all Christian denominations as the national religion, and each state could pass a law establishing a particular Christian church as its official religion.
Arlen Specter, 1995, Defending the wall: Maintaining church/state separation in America
Chris Rodda does an excellent job of just destroying David Barton's work at Talk2Action.  I won't bother to reiterate it here, but I urge you to check it out.

As another example of the misquotations that Dominionists use I will quote Rodda's work in dismantling a proposed Whereas clause in a piece of Alabama legislation known as HJR 415: Recognizing Easter Week as Christian Heritage Week in the State of Alabama.  Check this out:
In another of HJR 415's "Whereases," the resolution's author had the audacity to use a quote from a court opinion that was in reality a statement strongly affirming that "church and state" were "totally severed by our Constitution," and calling this severance "one of the great controlling foundation principles of our system of government.
"WHEREAS, the Illinois State Supreme Court, in the case of Richmond v. Moore, in 1883, boldly declared in its judicial decision that, Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind.  It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian',"
This is the entire passage from which the above quote was plucked:
"Although it is no part of the functions of our system of government to propagate religion, and to enforce its tenets, when the great body of the people are Christians, in fact or in sentiment, our laws and institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind.  It is impossible that it should be otherwise, and in this sense, and to this extent, our civilization and institutions are emphatically Christian, but not for the purpose of compelling men to embrace particular doctrines or creed of any church, or to support one or another denomination by public burthens, but simply to afford protection to all in the enjoyment of their or unbelief." 
/slow clap

In another example of life under the Dominionist cross the Family Research Council had the following response after a Hindu priest offered an invocation before Congress:
"While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principles of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage...Our founders expected that Christianity -- and no other religion -- would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples' consciousness and their right to worship.  They would have found it utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference."  
I respond with the words of President George Washington:

To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island.
While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and happy people.
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
G. Washington

The point of all this is to state, in no uncertain terms, that the religious awakening that Glenn Beck wants to evoke in America is abhorrent.  He may have included what appeared to be a diverse group of religious people on his stage, but there is only room for one religion at the end of the day.  He attacks President Obama's religion as "Black Liberation Theology" the day after his "Restoring Honor" speech and sees no disconnect there.  After attempting to invoke the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. he immediately tells Fox News "Obama is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim.  People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity."

"People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity."

A lot of people don't recognize Mr. Beck's version of Christianity.  Quite a lot more don't recognize Christianity in general.  Does that mean these should be attacked and marginalized as well?

All this is moot, of course, since President Obama has not said a word about what type of Christianity he subscribes to.  Beck is taking excerpts from Obama's two autobiographies and projecting his disdain and fear of President Obama (and quite possible the Civil Rights Movement) and assigning Obama with this supposed extreme form of Christianity.

How long before the relatively liberal Episcopalians aren't recognized?  The Lutherans? Catholics? Jews? Muslims? Hindus?  Mormons?  This is the exact reason the First Amendment of the United States of America clearly states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances."  
I feel like I constantly have to repeat myself by quoting that.  It is simple. It is clear. It is unequivocal.

The manner in which the Dominionists indoctrinate others is via revisionist history.  They makes wild claims liberals and secularists are the ones revising history to take God out of the Constitution, but all anyone has to do is read it to see they are lying.  They take excerpts of quotes to distort the original meanings and prop them up with actual quotes from Founding Fathers that were, undoubtedly, Christian.  Again, as I said in an earlier post, it does not matter if all or none of the Founding Fathers were devout Christians (and to be clear many were not), but they saw fit to ensure that this country would not be destroyed via a state established religion that always ends up persecuting others.  They do not understand the history upon which this country was founded.  They don't want to understand it because it does not fit their agenda.

This isn't just an issue that should give pause to atheists, agnostic, non-Christians, etc.  Everyone should be paying attention to this, but they are not.  Most people just gloss over it when they watch the news.   The problem is that this is how they are taking hold.  There is no one at the gates to stop them.  Atheists, while a growing number in America, are not politically powerful.  Moderate Christians are either asleep at the wheel or afraid to challenge them.  They need to stand up and say enough is enough.  If they don't do anything to stop the spread of Christian Nationalism and Dominionism they may find themselves in the wrong church a few decades from now.  You know what? I just realized that is exactly why Beck has been attacking social justice churches.  It has nothing to do with "socialism."  Social justice churches have tendency to be moderate.  They are the front line between moderate religion and the theocrats who want dominion over all.