How will this 'Christian' movement affect U.S. politics?
October 26, 2022
By now many, if not most, of us have heard about white Christian nationalists who want to make America great again by making sure the U.S. is a Christian nation run by Christians who are descended from the original European invaders.
But how do such nationalists relate to Christian dominionists, about whom some of us began to hear in the 1960s and '70s? And how does dominionism differ from dispensationalist theology?
This article from the current edition of The Christian Century deals with that very question. And it's well worth the time it will take you to read it. In it, you will meet Rousas John Rushdoony, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley and others.
All this talk about dominionism, dispensationalism and nationalism may sound like a strange and meaningless debate among theology students. But it's much more than that. It has to do, at base, with what kind of government Americans want and with which politicians are seeking to move the government toward their own theological choices. If we don't pay attention to all of this we will pay for our ignorance in very costly ways.
So, as the Christian Century article by Keri Ladner (a religious studies scholar) notes, "Dominionism is the belief that Christians should take moral, spiritual and ecclesiastical control over society. It has risen rather quietly in American society, and it has had no major public battles with dispensationalism. Instead, the two have come to overlap in interesting ways. . ."
"(D)ominionism has made significant inroads in American evangelicalism over the last two decades—and shaped the political engagement of the religious right.
"Christian dominionism shares with (the late Rev. Jerry) Falwell’s public-facing dispensationalism the idea of America’s divine favor. But the two depart on the key question of the fate of the world. Unlike dispensationalism’s message of social deterioration that precedes Christ’s return, Christian dominionism is postmillennial rather than premillennial. It argues that Christians can and must reform society so that it becomes progressively better. Only then will Christ return."
I mentioned Rushdoony above. He developed Christian reconstructionism. As Ladner writes, "The central tenet of Rushdoony’s teaching is that God has tasked Christians with taking dominion over society, beginning in Genesis 1:28, in which God commands humans to take dominion over the earth. While many Christians have applied this verse in the context of stewardship, Rushdoony taught that this creation mandate is really a dominion mandate, commanding humans to bring every sphere of society — as well as nature itself — into subjugation under Christ."
Ladner then asks: "What would the perfectly reconstructed society look like? Rushdoony taught that it would provide man — specifically the male gender — with the greatest possible freedom, due to the absence of a government that currently limits that freedom. A federal government would no longer be responsible for laws that govern public safety, social programs (including public schools and welfare), or just about anything else.
"Instead, society would be reconstructed so that the male-headed family and local church fulfill the roles that currently belong to the government, which would have the authority only to protect private property and punish capital offenses. Families and churches, as the cornerstones of the reconstructed society, would implement Mosaic law, with Christ as king over what would have become a Christian nation.
"Without government welfare, churches would carry the responsibility of aid to the poor, and without public schools, families would be responsible for their own children’s education. The economy would operate without any government regulation, meaning present laws requiring the integrity of consumer goods, protecting workers’ rights and disallowing exploitative financial practices would no longer be in effect. Because in a reconstructed America Christians would have brought God’s kingdom to earth through the implementation of Mosaic law, these protections would not be necessary.
"Dispensationalists and dominionists share many political goals."
Beyond all that, the article introduces us to something called the New Apostolic Reformation. Oh, my.
My point in raising all this is that it's easy to miss because many Americans -- even those active in faith communities -- don't think theologically. So I urge you to read the Christian Century piece and to find out if any of the politicians you're considering voting for in the upcoming elections is somehow tied to Christian dominionism -- and whether that's really the thinking you want your elected officials to promote. Do your own research and be a smart voter.
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FORGIVENESS -- GOOD FOR THE BODY AND THE SOUL
Why should we forgive people who injure us in some way? Well, faith traditions galore teach forgiveness as a way toward peace, so there's that. But as this RNS story reports, faith and science are in agreement about the benefits of forgiveness. The story put it this way: "When it comes to the transformative power of forgiveness, scientists and faith leaders agree on its benefits for long-term mental and physical health. It is clear that the ability to forgive — to transform anger and resentment into hope and healing — can indeed be a restorative and healing act requiring faith. But forgiveness is also backed by an ever-growing body of scientific evidence, one that refines and extends our faith in new ways. " So now you have more than one reason to forgive someone.
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P.S.: Because I spent two years of my boyhood in India, I try to stay up with what's happening there, particularly as Hindu nationalism now seeks to marginalize Islam there. But I also pay attention to my oldest friend there, Markandey Katju, a schoolmate who went on to become a justice on India's Supreme Court, from which he's now retired. He has just written this piece about why Indians should not be celebrating the choice of a Hindu to be Britain's new prime minister -- even though Britain once ruled India. See what you think. As you might imagine, Indians aren't all of one mind about the new British leader, as this Slate story explains.