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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Dominion Theology: Spare us, Good Lord.

I have always been fascinated by the way our understandings and images of God influence the ways in which we understand and shape our lives.

Even more fascinating is the way our understandings and images of God shape and inform our perspective of the way the world works and the way we order systems of government.

A few years back, I sat in a packed university auditorium and listened to Bill Clinton talk about the Government. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time he talked for over an hour, focused on the words from the preamble of the US Constitution, " . . . a more perfect union . . ." .

Not "more perfect" as in surpassing even perfection, but "perfected over time".

It was important because, in 2008, a certain Senator from Illinois, one Barack H. Obama who was running for President of the United States, had given a "Race Speech"  in front of the Liberty Bell, to give context to  some remarks made by his pastor at the time, Jeremiah White.

The title of that 'race speech' was "A More Perfect Union".

Mr. Obama said that the Constitution as written was "ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations."

He said:
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
Not perfect. Not "more perfect" as in surpassing perfection, but "perfected over time."

In the speech I heard in 2010, Mr. Clinton picked up on that theme and talked about how important it is that this perfection ought to be "forged in the crucible of disagreement and debate". He underscored the importance of having a healthy, vital two-party system of government so that, in disagreement and debate, we might perfect a government "for the people, by the people".

That foundational idea of government resonated deeply with my understanding of what it means to be a Christian who is an Episcopalian and a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

It reflects my understanding of a God who is an active participant in our lives, but one who has given us the gift of free will. And, because God made us human, flawed and faulted as we are, God also gave us the gift of Jesus who, when we fail and fall short of the mark, provides us with grace to continue to grow and change and transform, as our Baptismal Covenant says in the words of St. Paul, "into the full stature of Christ".

Not perfect. "Perfected over time."

Yes, it's messy.  The human enterprise is very messy. So are our various systems of religion. So are our systems of government.

Unless, of course, you subscribe to the ideas in "Dominion Theology".

The term "Dominion Theology" is derived from the King James Bible's rendering of Genesis 1:28, the passage in which God grants humanity "dominion" over the Earth.

Most of the contemporary movements labeled Dominion Theology arose in the 1970s in religious movements reasserting aspects of Christian nationalism.

According to Wikipedia,
Dominion Theology or Dominionism is the idea that Christians should work toward either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. It is a form of Theocracy and is related to Theonomy, though it does not necessarily advocate Mosaic law as the basis of government. Prominent adherents of Dominion Theology are otherwise theologically diverse, including the Calvinist Christian Reconstructionism and the charismatic/Pentecostal Kingdom Now theology and New Apostolic Reformation.
Understanding Dominion Theology is important if you want to know why the government has been shut down these past few days.

Dominion Theology is the animating force of The Tea Party segment of the Republican Party which has picked up the thread of the aversion of the GOP to "Big Government" and infused it with an understanding and image of God who has given "dominion" over the earth and all of the people of the earth - or, at least, to this country - to a few, select people.

Those would be Christian people.

Only those Christian people who have the "right" understanding of how God and Jesus want the world to be ordered, based on their interpretation - and only their interpretation - of Holy Scripture.

To get a theological perspective of the government shut down, consider reading this article, The Theology of Government Shutdown, which analyzes the Dominion Theology of Ted Cruz, son of a Texas charismatic ministry "Purifying Fire International" (there's your first hint) and a large faction of the Tea Party. It's very scary stuff. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that, if American Christianity has a Taliban, this is it.

Here's a snippet:
So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian "kings" who will accomplish the "end time transfer of wealth." Then "God's bankers" will usher in the "coming of the messiah." The government is being shut down so that God's bankers can bring Jesus back.

And here's the thing. When you get a lot of people together in a megachurch, you can do some pretty impressive things with your mission projects. You can feed thousands of people and host ESL classes and job training programs and medical clinics. And I imagine that seeing your accomplishments could give you the hubris of thinking we don't need a government at all to make our society run; our church can be the new government.
Yes, I said "American Taliban".

No, I'm not exaggerating.

We're talking Theocracy here.

I don't normally like to quote Pat Robertson, but an undeniable millions of people listen to him and believe and hang onto every word he says.

So, here's that "perfect union" of Dominion Theology according to Pat Robertson.
God's plan is for His people, ladies and gentlemen, to take dominion. . . .What is dominion? Well, dominion is Lordship. He wants His people to reign and rule with Him. . . but He's waiting for us to. . . extend His dominion. . . .And the Lord says, "I'm going to let you redeem society. There'll be a reformation. . . .We are not going to stand for those coercive utopians in the Supreme Court and in Washington ruling over us any more. We're not gonna stand for it. We are going to say, 'we want freedom in this country, and we want power. . . .'"
 And that, friends, is what this government shut down, at least in part, is all about.

Those "coercive utopians in the Supreme Court and in Washington" have crossed the line in providing affordable health care to millions of Americans who are the working poor - except the Tea Party calls them something different.

"Takers" is what they are.  "Takers" who will always be dependent upon the Government. See? They need to be dependent upon "The Lord".  And, of course, they need to be dependent upon those whom God has "anointed" with power to bestow upon others who are deemed "deserving".

Our understandings and images of God shape and inform our perspective of the way the world works and the way we order systems of government.

Mary Daly said it best. "If God is male, then male is God."

And this particular male God, the God of the Tea Party, is particularly pernicious and wrathful and vengeful. He's angry about the disruption of the "natural order".  He's angry about uppity women and Blacks who are taking jobs and positions of power and authority away from White men.

He's angry about contraception and abortion.  He's angry because a Black man is in the White House. He's angry about "non-Christians" (read: Muslims and Jews) who are allowed to enter this country through a "broken immigration system".

He's angry about multiculturalsim and diversity and globalization. He's angry about gun control and hate-crime legislation.  He's angry about "global warming" and evolution. He's angry about radical egalitarianism and feminism.

He's angry about LGBT people whose perversion of the natural order is a "real and present danger" to "family values" and are tearing at the very fabric of this nation and the world.

God is one Really Pissed Off dude who is relying on His "Christian Soldiers" to bring about a "Holy War" (Jihad) against the "coercive utopians" in Big Government and return it to HIM.  Or, through them to him.

Hyperbole and exaggeration on my part?

If you don't believe that this is the line of thinking and belief - the theology and ideology - of the Tea Party, just line your headphones with fire repellent and anti-toxin agents and listen in to local radio stations which carry preachers and politicians along with their listening audiences who tune in and call in to have these conversations.

It's pretty scary, but it will give you some sense of what would otherwise appear to be utter nonsense.

Beneath the smug, arrogant tones and the sharp, angry words you'll hear lies a clear image of the God of the Tea Party.  Listen up!
Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.  —D. James Kennedy
As scary as all of this is, I keep coming back to an understanding of "a more perfect union".  Perhaps this time is all part of the "refining fire" in the crucible of democracy.

We need to understand Dominion Theology so that we don't cave into it or allow it to crush our democratic system of government.

If our legislative process is "dysfunctional" - and I believe it is undeniably so - that is so because we do not have a healthy, vital two party system. There are three parties at play here: Democrats, Republicans and The Tea Party.

We are far from perfect. We're not supposed to be. We are human beings, flawed and faulted.

Our goal is a "more perfect union" - with ourselves, our neighbor, our nation and the world.

And, a more perfect union with the God of our understanding, in whose service is perfect liberty.


Jackie said...

Just finished the terrifying "From Bible Belt to Sunbelt," by Darren Dochuk. This book affirmed everything I have observed about SoCal and the embedded religious toxicity that pervades everything. This is a pathetically conservative region, and it astonishes me that anyone thinks there is anything progressive about it. The difference between here and most of the Bible Belt is that the antediluvian theology is presented in a much more polished manner. The result is that even the "liberal" and "progressive" denominations are pretty wishy-washy. And then there is, of course, "The Family" by Jeff Sharlet, which chronicles abominations far beyond the execrable National Prayer Breakfast. This nation has gone way around the bend...

Burl said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for this concise overview of those we keep expecting to act like citizen legislators who can engage in debate about differing visions of the proper course of the nation but whose only intention is destruction. Episcopalians should find all of this very familiar since our church has been subjected to the same sort of destructive attacks for the past decade or more. It is all based in fear and the task of the faithful person, in my view, is to refrain from denial about the intention and to respond to this intention with unwillingness to engage with these folks as if they were sane or trustworthy. Their dishonesty is the only thing about them that can be trusted.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jackie - What amazes me is that so many people don't see this as a real and present danger. "Oh, we've always had whaco's, Elizabeth. They come and they go." Well, it seems to me that Dominionists have been with us for almost 40 years and have evolved into a well-funded political party with more and more people elected into government.

Reminds me of another party with religious overtones and racial hatred that took over a country and started a world war because they felt it was their God Given Right to rule the world and rid it of people whose religion and skin color was different from theirs - and therefor inferior.

And, they got into power because no one took them seriously.

When will we ever learn?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Burl - Yeppa. All sounds too familiar for Anglicans, right? They caused a real rupture in The Episcopal Church. Many of the same people are at it again in our government.

Marthe said...

Their lust for power corrupts them as absolutely as the physical lust they claim to abhor (which, by the way, is all the fault of women who damn sure must be punished for just having bodies in the first place which are, of course, the "natural" property of those males entitled to own the world) ... and, oh, just because words fascinate me, and as you know I tend to dissect them on occasion: do minions mince onions? Why, yes, of course they do, what with being actual servants in the sculleries of the lords of plunder who always figure out waaaay too late that the minions knife skills are a hazard ... rise, minions, rise before "freedom" really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Marthe. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather take my chances with the loony uber-Protestant Dominionists than be a chaplain to the murderous secular state with its sacrament of abortion, trampling of religious rights, and promotion of social evils such as "same sex marriage." That seems to be the job description of a TEC priest.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I never thought I'd ever say this but THANK YOU, xyMichael, for posting that wonderful, nonsensical, whacadoodle statement. I've actually had some people say to me that they don't believe Dominionists actually exist. Now, I can point to this post and prove that people like you actually exist. Enjoy the government shutdown. It won't last too much longer.

Jackie said...


Why do you believe same-sex marriage is an evil? This is a sincere question. A stable, loving covenant benefits everyone, and just as the marriage of two heterosexuals has not deleterious effect on you, the marriage of two men or two women does not impart one whit of "evil" on you.
Further, no one, and I mean no one, has made a sacrament (an outward sign of an inward grace) of abortion. it is always a tragic choice, but it must remain just that; a choice. And trampling of religious rights? This sort of fulmination is erupting all over, but really, where the clause was put in place 1. to ensure individual religious freedom, and 2. to protect minority religions from being trampled by a state established worship model, more and more it seems that it is serving to guard our nation from the theocratic imaginings of those who would make this some sort of (ultra conservative) "Christian" nation.
What is it you fear "xyMichael?" Truly, what do you fear?

MarkBrunson said...


Please, get help. Seriously. Not being snide or cruel.

What you're saying reflects a serious disconnect with reality. Before you harm yourself or others (any more), get help.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, I thought this might happen as I considered whether or not to post Michael's comment. I really don't want my blog to turn into a battle ground. I mean, it's fine if it's a fair fight but it's not really fair to Michael. It's so obvious that he's seriously theologically impaired.

But, you know, Michael asks for it by writing something like this, so, just this once, as an experiment, alrighty then, game on.

The ball's in your court, Michael. Speak.

Anonymous said...

"It's so obvious that he's seriously theologically impaired."

Well, I am theologically impaired in that I believe that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle and a belief in God's immutability. These "impair" me from believing that God "can do a new thing" if by that one means that God contradicts Himself and His Revelation to humanity.

I'll be happy to respond, but I'm a bit busy today. Let me address one point right now from our hostess,

"I've actually had some people say to me that they don't believe Dominionists actually exist. Now, I can point to this post and prove that people like you actually exist."

The rantings you have referred to here from the Dominionists are far from the theologians I read in the matter of church and state: Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bellarmine and the middle scholastics, and John Courtney Murray. Like much of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, I hear tinny echoes of Catholic teachings made far more intelligently and accurately centuries ago, mixed with the parochial concerns of the present day.

Next up, the Episcopalian "sacrament" of abortion.


Anonymous said...


To tackle the "sacrament" of abortion...

"Further, no one, and I mean no one, has made a sacrament (an outward sign of an inward grace) of abortion."

Well, I didn't literally mean that this secular society made abortion into a sacrament. But to the extent that proud pro-choicers such as TECsters rejoice in the act of abortion as the exercise of an important civil right, it does kind of serve as a secular surrogate for a sacrament. By "chaplain," I meant that TEC stands as a proud member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and numerous TEC clergy are "out and proud" pro-choicers celebrating this society's crimes against the unborn. That would include this blog host and your cleric Katherine Ragsdale:

"These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done."

TEC is quite pleased by the hellish fury unleashed upon 50 million of the unborn by Roe v. Wade, Doe V. Bolton, and kindred legal decisions. Calling TEC chaplain to a murderous secular state seems apropos to me.

Next up tomorrow, same-sex marriage.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

xyMichael -

Yes, I am the representative of The Episcopal Church on the National Board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, where I also serve on the Program Committee and the Advocacy Council

I also serve with a life long member of TEC, former member of Executive Council, heterosexual married man with children and grandchildren who also serves as Treasurer.

And, the RCRC Coalition Council has another stellar representative from TEC - a heterosexual married woman with children and grandchildren.

No one of us thinks abortion is a sacrament - secular or religious. We think, as the official statement from TEC describes it, that abortion is a tragedy but it is a woman's decision, made in collaboration with the man who impregnated her, her family, her doctor and her clergy.

Just because one very public member of TEC thinks it abortion is a blessing does not mean we all do. She has a right to her position, based on her experience of women who have needed an abortion and were able to obtain one. She is right from her position, but she does not represent the stated position of TEC. Catholics for Choice, who are on our board, do not represent the official position of the RCC, but they are right from their position, they just don't represent the "official" position of their church. And, Hugh Hefner does get to speak for all heterosexuals like you, even though he holds a majority heterosexual male position about sex and promiscuity.

Oh, and BTW, no one really cares what you think about "same sex marriage" or, as we like to call it "Marriage Equality".

I promise you: If you send something for me to post, I will not post it.

I promise you: Everyone knows what you think. And, no one cares what you think. Really. Seriously.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, I am still monitoring comments. I didn't print yours because I don't print anonymous comments.

As for Michael, he's a regular troll. He shuts down conversation regularly because he's not interested in conversation, just telling you how right he is and how wrong everyone else is who doesn't believe what he believes.