The Dominionist scare

Secularists are scaring themselves with a new bogeyman:  Dominionists.  That is their term for evangelicals and other conservative Christians, whom they are conflating with a tiny number of actual theocrats, which are probably fewer in number than members of the American Communist Party.  I like Michael Gerson’s account:

Evangelicals, warned liberal theologian Albert Outler, “want a society ruled by those who know what the word of God is. The technical name for that is ‘theocracy,’ and their Napoleon, whether he likes it or not, is Jimmy Carter.” When Carter turned out to be less than Napoleonic, George W. Bush was identified as “the first prince of the theocratic states of America.” Bush, according to one entirely fictional account, was converted to “Dominionism” — a kind of Christian Wahhabism — by Assemblies of God pastors who provided him “explicit coaching.”

Now the heroes of the Tea Party movement, it turns out, are also closet theocrats. “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry,” argues Michelle Goldberg in Newsweek/Daily Beast, “understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.” A recent New Yorker profile by Ryan Lizza contends that Bachmann has been influenced by a variety of theocratic thinkers who have preached Christian holy war.

As befits a shadowy religious sect, its followers go under a variety of names: Reconstructionists. Theonomists. The New Apostolic Reformation. Republicans. All apparently share a belief, in Goldberg’s words, that “Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions.”

The Dominionist goal is the imposition of a Christian version of sharia law in which adulterers, homosexuals and perhaps recalcitrant children would be subject to capital punishment. It is enough to spoil the sleep of any New Yorker subscriber. But there is a problem: Dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth. The followers of R.J. Rushdoony produce more books than converts.

So it becomes necessary to stretch the case a bit. Perry admittedly doesn’t attend a Dominionist church or make Dominionist arguments, but he once allowed himself to be prayed for by some suspicious characters. Bachmann once attended a school that had a law review that said some disturbing things. She assisted a professor who once spoke at a convention that included some alarming people. Her belief that federal tax rates should not be higher than 10 percent, Goldberg explains, is “common in Reconstructionist circles.”

The evidence that Bachmann may countenance the death penalty for adulterers? Support for low marginal tax rates.

Bachmann is prone to Tea Party overstatement and religious-right cliches. She opened herself to criticism by recommending a book that features Southern Civil War revisionism. But there is no evidence from the careers of Bachmann or Perry that they wish to turn America into a theocratic prison camp.

via A holy war on the Tea Party – The Washington Post.

A friend of mine, Nancy Pearcey, was actually accused in the New Yorker of being a Dominionist thinker.  See her response here.

Wanting a Christian influence in the society as a whole is not the same as wanting to impose a theocratic government.  And it isn’t that the Bible says Christians should have dominion over non-believers; it says that human beings as a whole have been given dominion over nature.   Christianity is not a matter of laws, as if people could be forced or legislated into being good or Christian or whatever.  It is a matter of the Gospel, of forgiveness through Christ for not being good.   All Christians, for all of their differences, know that.   To say otherwise, to stir up the public against Christians, is religious McCarthyism.

UPDATE:  Just today I came across some material on the New Apostolic Reformation movement.  OK, as some of you commenters have been warning, THAT is something to be concerned about!   I’ll try to post something on the NAR in the future.  For now, I’m just saying that a number of people who are being accused of Dominionism are not Dominionists and are not connected to the NAR movement.  I suspect that politicians who are being associated with them know nothing about their theology or their agenda but in fact are being used by these people.  Meanwhile the secularist left is accusing ALL politically active Christians as being secret members of this cult.  Just as many on the right a few decades ago accused all liberals and even moderates of being Communists.  Not that there weren’t actual Communists or actual Dominionists.  (By the way, the “Theonomists” tend to be Calvinist in their theology, though not all Calvinists are Theonomists.  The NAR Dominionists are Pentecostal in their theology, though, again, not all Pentecostalists or charismatics are Dominionists.  So Theonomists and Dominionists probably wouldn’t have anything to do with each other.  But more on all of this as I unravel it.)

A plague on both your houses

Allan Sloan, an editor of Fortune, blames BOTH tea party conservatives AND the Obama administration for bungling our economic crisis:

What the hell is going on? We thought the worst was behind us, but it wasn’t, thanks largely to fallout from the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. credit brought on us by the incompetence of our alleged national leaders.

Only three short years ago, the world financial system was on the brink of disaster after Lehman Brothers went broke in September 2008. Those scary times seemed to have disappeared in the spring of 2009. But now, things are even scarier.

After the worst sell-off since the financial crisis, traders and passersby react to grim news about the stock markets and the global economy.

Our current mess is different from the Lehman-related horror because it stems primarily from politics, not economics. The previous fear-fest came about because Lehman’s bankruptcy disrupted financial markets in unanticipated ways. Today’s crisis was completely avoidable. You can blame it directly on the fools who brought our country to the brink of defaulting on its debts in the name of saving us from . . . I’m not sure what.

Yes, the tea party types bear primary responsibility — but they couldn’t have done it without the cowardice and incompetence of the Obama administration, which let things get way out of hand. This whole fiasco just enrages me. And it ought to enrage anyone who wants the United States to act like a real country rather than some third-rate failed state run by fanatical factions that hate one another. . . .[He goes on to detail why both sides are at fault.]

Now that I’ve finished venting, let me make one more attempt to be reasonable — and show how relatively easy it would be to solve our problems while allowing both the tea party and the left wing to claim victory and go home. This requires (1) that we survive the 2012 election cycle (boy, that’s going to be a blast) and (2) that the winners recognize that our current federal income tax rules and rates, Social Security benefit formula and Medicare provisions are historical and political accidents rather than holy writ handed down to Moses by the Lord on Mount Sinai.

We need more jobs, more growth and more tax revenue. Note that I said more revenue, not higher rates. There are lots of proposals kicking around that would cut rates, eliminate the alternative minimum tax and broaden the tax base by drastically reducing itemized deductions.

Only about a third of taxpayers, primarily higher-income types, itemize deductions, so only they would be affected. Do this right, and you end up with more tax revenue from high-income people (which allows the “tax the rich” types to be happy) but lower rates (which lets the tea party folks claim victory).

On the entitlement front, we modify Social Security and Medicare formulas, imposing higher costs on higher-end retirees (which would include me, should I ever retire). What’s in it for the right-wing fanatics? Those programs’ projected costs drop. For liberal wing nuts? They can claim victory because people are living longer than when these programs were introduced and will collect more benefits over their lifetime than originally intended.

Yes, rationality is out of style, and fanaticism is the new normal. But do we really want a national life like the one we’ve had the past few years? All shrieking and no thinking?

via This time, the economic crisis is no one’s fault but the government’s – The Washington Post.

What do you think about his solutions?  Tax reform that increases revenue, while lowering rates (pleasing liberals). Entitlement reform (pleasing conservatives).  Is there any way politically to adopt that kind of centrist something-for-both-sides program?

What he said vs. how it was reported

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is quoted in the Tulsa World as saying President Obama wants to “create dependency” because it “worked so well for him” as an “African American male.” Now he is getting lambasted as a racist.

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent went to the trouble of digging out the entire transcript.  Yes, he said those words, but here is the rest of what he said, in answer to a question about whether President Obama is trying to destroy the country:

“No, I don’t… He’s a very bright man. But think about his life. And think about what he was exposed to and what he saw in America. He’s only relating what his experience in life was…

“His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.

“As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man. And I understand, his philosophy — there’s nothing wrong with his philosophy other than it’s goofy and wrong [laughter] — but that doesn’t make him a bad person.”

via What Coburn really said about Obama, race, and dependency – The Plum Line – The Washington Post.

So this was in the context of Sen. Coburn defending President Obama from a “worst construction” assessment.  One might still reject the points being made, but surely Sen. Coburn comes across differently in the entire transcript from the way he comes across in the truncated quotations in the World story.  I suspect that other scare quotes we read about from various sides may have be similar to this one.

Perry leads in GOP polls–already!

Governor Perry is leading the other Republican presidential contenders, including among tea partiers and anti-tea partiers.  Romney leads him among moderates by only two points.

Rick Perry leads his Republican rivals by double digits in the first national survey taken since the Texas governor joined the race and Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll over the weekend.

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday afternoon, Perry, who launched his campaign Saturday in South Carolina, attracts the support of 29 percent of likely Republican primary voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sits in second place with 18 percent. Bachmann garners 13 percent support.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who placed second in Ames, receives 9 percent support. Businessman Herman Cain trails him with 6 percent support, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 5 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum and ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman round out the field with 1 percent. . . .

Perry holds a strong 39 percent to 21 percent lead over Bachmann among voters who identify with the Tea Party, an influential constituency for which the two candidates will compete. Perry holds a 27 percent to 24 percent lead over Romney among voters who do not consider themselves members of the Tea Party. The same survey two weeks ago, however, put Romney ahead of Perry among this group by double digits.

The Texas governor wins the plurality of conservative support, topping Romney, 33 percent to 16 percent. Bachmann attracts 14 percent support from this group. Perry also appears competitive among moderates, a group Romney typically claims in national polls. The former Massachusetts governor edges Perry, 27 percent to 25 percent, among this group.

via RealClearPolitics – Perry Leads Republican Field in National Poll.

This sounds like a rush to positive judgment, as if Republicans are so eager for an alternative to the prior slate that they are jumping on the Perry bandwagon.  I haven’t even heard him speak yet, and I suspect the same can be said of lots of his other supporters.   He is making gaffes, but the key is whether he will be a teflon candidate, on which nothing sticks, or a velcro candidate, on which everything sticks.  Surely, though, Republicans need time to take his measure.

The Ron Paul alternative

Ron Paul, the pro-life anti-war libertarian, took second place in the Iowa straw poll.   Michelle Bachmann beat him by only 200 votes, and yet her showing is being hailed as making her a contender.   Paul is attracting much more support than he received the last time he ran for president, which was considerable.

So why does the media continue to ignore him?   Why does the punditocracy refuse to treat him as a legitimate contender?   Isn’t that a case of the media actively shaping and controlling an election, rather than covering the voters’ genuine political options objectively?

Jon Stewart: Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?.


The Middle-Earth election guide

The Wall Street Journal and John McCain started it by calling Tea Partiers “hobbits.”  Timothy Furnish develops the parallels:

The first leg on this journey is figuring out what the Ring represents in modern political discourse. Since the Tea Party is trying to cast it into the fire, it must be American government spending and debt (which includes deficits, of course). That would make Congressman Paul Ryan Frodo since he knows more about that burden than anyone; and thus Samwise Gamgee must be John Boehner because he helps Frodo and he cries a lot.

Merry and Pippin, the other two major hobbits, would thus have to be Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor — although the thought of McConnell’s mug on a 1-meter tall hobbit frame is a nightmare on the order of Tolkien’s visions of massive tidal waves and giant spiders.

Who advises the hobbits — as well as the other characters in this conservative’s Middle-Earth? Mainly Limbaugh the Grey, sent by the Valar to contest the will of the Dark Lord by inspiring all Men and Elves via three hours of daily radio programming and special advisory scrolls known as newsletters.

He’s assisted in this role by our world’s Elrond — Charles Krauthammer.

Both urge resistance to the Dark Lord….wait for it…George Soros. (Sorry, making Obama the “Dark Lord” would not only send a thrill up Chris Mathews’ “racism” antenna, it would give BHO far too much credit.) “Soron” hopes to seize the Ring of Debt for himself in order to transform the Middle-west and the rest of America into Mordor with a view — also known as Greece. Soron is, however, a bit distracted at present with this $50 million lawsuit brought by a Witch Queen.

Obama, then, is relegated to the role of Saruman — trying to be in charge, hoping to seize the Ring for himself, but really only doing the Dark Lord’s bidding: undermining capitalism, hosting Haradrim religious dinners at the White House, and playing golf on Sunday mornings.

via PJ Lifestyle » The Middle-Earth Guide to Campaign 2012—Updated.

Soros, Sauron, “Soron”!  That’s perfect.  See the rest of the post, in which Furnish gives roles to Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and on and on,  to the last dwarf.

Do you have any additions or corrections?  Those of you on the liberal side of things, can you construct something similar from the Democratic point of view?