Offshoring dominion theology

While still not a mainstream ideology, dominion theology did claim one notable convert back in the 1980s. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, host of The 700 Club, and sometime Republican candidate for president, embraced the term for many years, becoming among the first of many influential Pentecostal leaders to begin adapting the theonomists’ dominion theology to fit into their non-Calvinist, charismatic form of spirituality.

Robertson eventually backed away from using the language of “dominion” to describe his own theology, I suspect because it threatened his market share among the large premillennial dispensationalist segment of the subculture. Robertson is not a “Rapture” enthusiast, but there are millions of them out there and he wants to keep depositing their checks.

Where Robertson has retreated, other Pentecostal leaders have advanced — most notably C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation, which combines dominion theology with a sort of Amway ecclesiology of multilevel marketing.

As this Pentecostal branch has risen in prominence, the original theonomist/reconstructionist, hyper-Calvinist branch of dominionism has waned a bit. Rushdoony, their guru, and Chilton, their attack-dog, are both dead. Prolific author Gary North is still trying to recover from going all in on predictions of global calamity and his head-for-the-hills survivalism a decade ago due to the Y2K bug. Other theonomists, such as Gary DeMar, remain particularly influential in shaping the legal arguments of far-right Christians at places like Liberty University School of Law, which last year sponsored his explicitly reconstructionist “2010 Sovereignty and Dominion conference — Biblical Blueprints for Victory!” (The exclamation point there is original — part of the name of the event.)

Mainly, though, those calling themselves “theonomists” have receded further from the spotlight because they’ve passed the baton. Marvin Olasky’s World magazine has taken over the thriving niche of southern-gothic Presbyterian dominionism. And Wagner’s NAR is spreading like wildfire — or like Nutrilite — in Pentecostal circles. The NAR’s message travels lighter and faster, unburdened by the baggage of R.J. Rushdoony’s weird butcherings of Kuyper, Van Til and Calvin.

With the new enthusiasm of its Pentecostal branch, dominion theology is also going international.

Rushdoony was always fairly clear-eyed about the near-term prospects for the complete “reconstruction” of America. He imagined it would take generations, maybe centuries, for his kind of Christians to take full control and establish his kind of Christian reign. But Rushdoony’s disciples see the potential for faster success in places like Uganda, where they’ve been pushing for legislation that would, as in their selective reading of the law of Moses, mandate the death penalty for homosexuals.

All of those columns and editorials pooh-poohing the influence of dominion theology were written by people who share one all-important unifying trait. Larry Ross, Doug Groothuis, Joe Carter, Ralph Reed, Ross Douthat, Lisa Miller and all the others who got the memo and wrote the assigned column all have one thing in common: None of them is a gay man living in Uganda.

Or a lesbian woman living in Uganda.

Or a straight man living in Uganda who might be perceived by others as insufficiently masculine or who might be accused by others of being overly masculine and who, thus, may wind up subject to the same oppression, intimidation and lethal injustice that the supposedly non-influential dominionists are gleefully inflicting on every GLBT person in that country.

Any gay man in Uganda could tell you that those dutifully written articles about the “paranoia” or “myths” of dominionist influence are ridiculously, disgracefully out of step with the reality of his daily life. Or at least he could tell you that if he were able to speak up without having to fear that it would cost him his life.

Oh, and there’s also this: If Jesus was telling us the truth in Matthew 25, as I believe he was, then that gay man living in Uganda? That’s Jesus. That lesbian woman or transgendered person or bisexual living in Uganda? Also Jesus.

So, you know, it might be best to put down the nails.


  • Shallot

    *facepalm*

    Whoops.  I thought it was an excerpt, so I closed it to avoid spoilers.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s old enough that it’s likely out of copyright so chances are you can find the thing in a lot of places.

  • Guest

    I need to say, we’re transgender people. Never transgendered people. Same as nobody on Earth is an Americaned person for instance; there are only American people.

  • Fraser

    Absolutely. Look how loudly they scream that the next step after gay marriage will be forcibly silencing their heroic crusade against gay oppression and forcing the Catholic Church to hold gay weddings.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah – a lot of people miss that. Being transgender is an identity, being transgendered is a process, like a becoming and you can’t ‘become’ something you’ve always been (even if/when you did not acknowledge it) :)

  • Tehanu

    I thought Stories with Heroes were for teenagers, and adult books were
    where The World Grinds Everyone Down Eventually.  Heck with *that*,…

    I thought so too, but I decided if that depressing crap was what “adults” read, I’d stick with my teenage tastes.  Imagine my surprise (and pleasure) when everything I liked in my teens in the 1960s, like The Lord of the Rings, became popular and intellectually respectable after 40 years.

  • Lori

      Overall, though, I thought Stories with Heroes were for teenagers, and adult books were where The World Grinds Everyone Down Eventually.  Heck with *that*, I’m going to go watch Utena.  

    I know that there’s a tendency for school reading lists to get stuck in the trap of thinking that serious or worthwhile = gloom, death & despair. Still, it makes me sad that your teacher apparently didn’t talk about heroism at all. Like I said, it’s Story. There’s a reason why people talk about this: http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/smc/journey/ref/summary.html

    There’s also a reason Joseph Campbell sold a bizzilon copies of The Power of Myth. I have issues with that (oy), but it sold because it was tapping into something that’s real in humans. 

  • Anonymous

    “I’m suggesting that before you start worrying about lesbian marriage in Uganda, you might give a thought to what sort of a culture is under discussion. ”

    I might go for that, except two things:

    1. We’re not talking about marriage, we’re talking about people getting killed, which is rather more urgent and,

    2. Their being killed and otherwise persecuted is being encouraged by people from my own country, which gives me rather more responsibility to react and worry than if this were just happening on its own a world away from me, as you appear to imply.

  • Anonymous

    Eh, I see we’re not engaging. I do apologize.

    This Uganda thing ticks me off no end.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    I think it works the other way too.  There’s a well-supported communication theory called the “Mean World Theory” that says the more TV news you watch, the worse you think the world is and the more scared of the world you are.  And of course, as anyone who knows an avid Fox News watcher knows, the more scared you are, the more you feel the need to develop a hostile mindset to defend against it.

  • Anonymous

    http://xkcd.com/337/

    Yeah, I do the same thing. “If someone came in and tried to hold me up, I’d just take a swing at him with this pole extension…” and so on. Did it for years– despite everyone I know going “O.o. Uh… dude? [Boss] would far, far rather have you alive than whatever is in the drawer. And so would the rest of us.” At some point, I recognized it as a somewhat selfish daydream– I get the ‘satisfaction’ of being a hero, getting hurt and/or dying, but what about everyone who relies on me, emotionally or otherwise? My dad, my little sister, my little brother, and yes, my boss(es). …And then I fell in love, and now I can’t imagine doing something so selfish and cruel to my boyfriend.

    But yes, I still go through the whole fantasies from time to time. And yes, I used to do them when I was a little kid being raised as a Southern Baptist Fundie Evangelical. Picture being martyred as a missionary, or whatever. I think it’s a symptom of having a creative mind and a twisted/dark imagination. It’s stupid to try and cut them off, that ends with twice as much stress and emotional buildup. It’s… I don’t know. Not cathartic. My friend’s ex-bandmate put it one way: “I write the songs because they’re there.” The daydreams/dreams are going to be in my head either way, why deny them?

    Anyway. I don’t think there’s any harm in them. Neal Stephenson puts it another way in Anathem. In our modern lives, we often have the story bled out of our days. We get up, go to work, come home, whatever. There’s no drama, no flair, no plot. Some of us get lost in sports, or movies, or books, and some of us have Dreams. It’s human.

    This was supposed to be two effing lines. Curse you, internet!

  • Anonymous

    Oh ye gods and little fishes, don’t ask her to use words. Trust me, one post with a link to not follow is far better than one post of four mind-bogglingly terrible paragraphs to try to scroll past and ignore.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Yeah, I do the same thing. “If someone came in and tried to hold me up, I’d just take a swing at him with this pole extension…” and so on. Did it for years– despite everyone I know going “O.o. Uh… dude? [Boss] would far, far rather have you alive than whatever is in the drawer. And so would the rest of us.” At some point, I recognized it as a somewhat selfish daydream– I get the ‘satisfaction’ of being a hero, getting hurt and/or dying, but what about everyone who relies on me, emotionally or otherwise? My dad, my little sister, my little brother, and yes, my boss(es). …And then I fell in love, and now I can’t imagine doing something so selfish and cruel to my boyfriend.

    Back in my retail days, I would occasionally practice vaulting over the counter top so I could intercept someone racing for the door.  We were forbidden from persuing shoplifters beyond that point, so if I was to stop them from getting away with their ill-gotten merchandise, I would have to move swiftly over the counter that otherwise blocked me.  And it was not just stuff from my part of the store, we had an internal door to the Hollywood video next to us, and shoplifters knew that it was harder for an employee at the counter on our side to stop them getting to the exterior door than it was to the exterior door on the Hollywood side.

    Of course, I started doing this after someone who requested to see one of our PS2 units grabbed the box off the countertop in front of me and dashed to the door, jumping in his car and flooring the gas.  It still smarts to this day that I did not gab him, yank him back inside, and deliver unto him a few blows until he dropped the merchandise. 

  • Launcifer

    Of course, rendition only works if you also tell the government that succeeds yours not to support any revolutionary activity by the citizens of any country to which you have previously sent illegally detained individuals. Just in case someone kept copies of communications or “interview” transcripts, stuff like that.

    Tony and Gordon: one hell of a double act.  

    And, who, we can’t trust Peter Cullen now? When did that happen?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    So, I arrived at church this morning for mass and saw a card table set up just outside the front door with a few people milling around it; also half a dozen young boys in suits. The latter was particularly weird–no one wears a suit to my church, least of all children. Was it First Communion week or something?

    Nope, they were delegates from the Australian (Right Wing Conservative) Christian (sic.) Lobby, trying to get signatures for their petition: The Canberra Declaration, in the same vein as the Manhattan Declaration. You know, protect our religious liberty from laws opposing hate speech; support the institution of marriage by excluding gay people from it, etc. Then it turned out that the parish priest was away, so we got the conservative assistant instead, who gave the thing a big plug in the announcements at the end of mass.

    *sigh*

    On the bright side, I saw a guy I only know a little bit but like and respect read the full text and hand back the petition unsigned, so yay comrade.

  • P J Evans

    Just in case someone kept copies of communications or “interview” transcripts, stuff like that.

    One blog I read is pointing out that the papers in Libya are surprisingly convenient for certain people, being missing some information that should be there, and having a lot more that doesn’t seem to do anything except pushing blame onto someone else. (All those letters from agencies that aren’t on their letterheads, for example.)

  • Josh

    Damn your black heart, Jessica, that song’s gonna be in my head all night now.

  • Josh

    Yeah, Lunch, I’m reminded that Fred talks a lot about that. Long before Breivik’s crimes, Fred was writing about how disturbed wingnut transmitters seem to become when someone takes their words seriously; some nice discussion threads ensued as to whether, for example, a person can indeed be a sincere “abortion is a Holocaust” believer and stay pretty much an armchair preacher rather than getting out and taking action. I think, vis-à-vis Fred’s contention, that it’s certainly possible for people (not the Limbaughs and Boehners, but mostly people in positions of less power) to believe that there are Nazi-level injustices being done and lack the courage or hope to do much about it. But many people who profess to believe winger shibboleths may indeed be doing something other than expressing their convictions when they repeat them. Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew is very good on that issue.

  • Shallot

    Tehanu:  Love your handle.  :)  If only Earthsea had gotten as good a treatment as Lord of the Rings…

    Lori:  Sorry for making you sad.  I do love stories; my brain’s full of them.  While I prefer mythology, any stories with Truth in them are good, and that includes most of the classic books on my high school list.  And I understand why we didn’t talk much about archetypes in high school–the teachers were too busy trying to get us to cite sources and write coherent essays.  I did deeper analysis in college, but never had a lesson on Campbell’s monomyth.  (Maybe it was uncool a decade ago?)  I learned about that from my dad’s Masks of God series, which I snatched whenever I was bored.

  • arc

    Politicians and their associates all over the world have some tendency to, let us say, paint reality in particular colours.  A couple of acquaintances of mine have worked for politicians or other groups active in political circles, and while they’re well-motivated individuals who want they best for everyone, they love the cut-and-thrust of campaigning, predicting their opponents’ counter and coming up with a sound-bite to counter that, etc.  It becomes a game.

    The propaganda game is either accepted without question as the game everyone plays, or people justify playing it because the end justifies the means.

    Propaganda/marketing is always questionable in my view, it reduces everything to slogans and treats people as stimulus-response boxes.  But it becomes odious once it becomes outright lies – and there’s no boundary stone to mark outright lies from rosy-tinted spectacles and suppression of messy detail.

    I think it’s got to such a stage in America where in many political actors’ eyes, the other side is so much bad news that ends-justifies-the-means justifies distortion to the point of outright lying.  Either that, or it’s quid-pro-quo – the other side is doing it, so we need to do it too.

    Of course, in the case of the extreme religious right lying, we have it on record that they think there’s really nothing wrong at all in lying to the heathen.

  • WingedBeast

    What I find odd about the whole “Tiller was like Hitler” crowd after his murder was that they all expressed both their heartfelt belief that, yes, Tiller was as evil as Hitler, but no, it wasn’t right to kill him.

    Come on.  If you were in position and you had the inkling that killing Hitler would stop the Holocaust… wouldn’t you?

    So, what they’re really saying is “Hey, we didn’t expect anybody to be so crazy as to really take us at our word.”

  • WingedBeast

    What I find odd about the whole “Tiller was like Hitler” crowd after his murder was that they all expressed both their heartfelt belief that, yes, Tiller was as evil as Hitler, but no, it wasn’t right to kill him.

    Come on.  If you were in position and you had the inkling that killing Hitler would stop the Holocaust… wouldn’t you?

    So, what they’re really saying is “Hey, we didn’t expect anybody to be so crazy as to really take us at our word.”

  • ako

    But yes, I still go through the whole fantasies from time to time. And
    yes, I used to do them when I was a little kid being raised as a
    Southern Baptist Fundie Evangelical. Picture being martyred as a
    missionary, or whatever. I think it’s a symptom of having a creative
    mind and a twisted/dark imagination. It’s stupid to try and cut them
    off, that ends with twice as much stress and emotional buildup. It’s… I
    don’t know. Not cathartic.

    I know what you mean.  Fantasies are one of those areas where spending too much time and energy trying to get my thoughts and feelings to be what I’ve decided they should be ends up creating more stress and unhappiness.  So I make sure that the rational part of my mind is consistently capable of going “In reality…” when it comes to making actual decisions (such as “In reality, trying to find the traffickers and personally beat them up will almost certainly lead to me being either killed, or injured and in prison, and won’t actually stop them from trafficking underage girls”), and letting myself have the fantasies as entertainment and emotional release. 

    And a lot of it seems to connect with my love of certain types of stories, and wanting to imagine myself in the middle of them.  I like stories of adventure and heroism with dark and twisted bits and dramatic sacrifices, and I like to imagine myself being the hero.  Real life involves a lot of “I need to get groceries this weekend, what phone company should I go with, does laundry day need to be today or tomorrow?, better take my vitamin, go to bed early because I have work tomorrow and don’t want to be too tired to function” stuff, and imagining myself in the middle of a good story can make dealing with all of that less dull.

  • P J Evans

    So, what they’re really saying is “Hey, we didn’t expect anybody to be so crazy as to really take us at our word.”

    I seem to recall that some of them have said exactly that, in response to one or another person doing exactly what they had said they wanted.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So, what they’re really saying is “Hey, we didn’t expect anybody to be so crazy as to really take us at our word.”

    I seem to recall that some of them have said exactly that, in response to
    one or another person doing exactly what they had said they wanted.

    P J Evans:

    It’s almost like they know they’re playing with fire, but refuse to give up their matches when asked for them.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    And? You say that like it’s a bad thing, but if you think about it — the Antichrist must fulfill the prophecy, rise to power, and bring about the end of the world. It’s the only way that Christ will return to Earth and establish the Millennial Kingdom. 

    Quite frankly, if you do anything to oppose the Antichrist, you’re actually rebelling against God on His throne.

    @JohnKni:  You could just as easily say that opposing any evil is wrong because that evil leads to the Antichrist coming to power and thus to the Second Coming.

    I don’t see how fighting evil could be a bad thing. And if God is opposed to our doing so–whether by fighting for justice or by performing various acts of mercy and compassion–on the grounds that it’s stopping him from taking over the world and establishing Paradise, then He who is supposed to be the very incarnation of justice and mercy is, essentially, opposed to Himself.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    And? You say that like it’s a bad thing, but if you think about it — the Antichrist must fulfill the prophecy, rise to power, and bring about the end of the world. It’s the only way that Christ will return to Earth and establish the Millennial Kingdom. 

    Quite frankly, if you do anything to oppose the Antichrist, you’re actually rebelling against God on His throne.

    @JohnKni:  You could just as easily say that opposing any evil is wrong because that evil leads to the Antichrist coming to power and thus to the Second Coming.

    I don’t see how fighting evil could be a bad thing. And if God is opposed to our doing so–whether by fighting for justice or by performing various acts of mercy and compassion–on the grounds that it’s stopping him from taking over the world and establishing Paradise, then He who is supposed to be the very incarnation of justice and mercy is, essentially, opposed to Himself.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

     I mean, I certainly understand that you can’t underestimate the power of informing others. But I have no idea how to do it, or how one person can make a difference. That’s what really gets to me these days – I am so frustrated over everything that’s going on, but it seems like just one person can do very little to change the momentum of our society.

    That’s how I feel. Actually making a difference in any issue seems to be an exercise in futility. I don’t like coming to that conclusion, either…but modern advocacy seems to involve a lot of traveling and a great deal of money, neither of which are possible for me.

  • P J Evans

    People throwing cigarette butts out their car windows during a Santa Ana condition (high winds with very low humidity), because they don’t want the inside of the car to stink. And then they complain about the cost of fighting wildfires.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you, and that’s a perspective that represents the way I view this issue. However, from the perspectiveof a premillennial dispensationalist — someone who literally believes in a prophecy that the Antichrist must rise, subjugate the entire world, and be swept away (along with all living beings) by bowls of wrath and judgment from God — trying to stop that prophecy (by fighting against evil) is wrong.

    You can see that in the Left Behind books that are being deconstructed on this site. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a series of books told from the perspective of people living during the End Times, and it shows how they deal with the Rapture (an extra-Biblical concept in which God magically transports all children and PMD Christians to Heaven), the rise of the Antichrist, and all of the bad things that follow.

    The main characters form a group called the Tribulation Force who gather to study their version of the Biblical book of Revelation and allegedly fight against the Antichrist.  However, they spend the first part of the series actually assisting the Antichrist (they complain about it, but they still take jobs and money from him, and help him by covering up his criminal behavior before his rise to power and supporting his propaganda) and almost the entirety of the rest running around having adventures while doing very little to actually help other people suffering under the Antichrist’s regime. They don’t do anything to stop the prophecy; they make no attempt to warn people outside of their inner circle about what’s going to happen and they basically just sit back and watch it all unfold.

    The moral lesson that you have to draw from this is that you shouldn’t try to subvert God’s plans even if they involved tyranny and the end of the world. The main characters — who are thinly-veiled stand-ins for the authors — accept that the prophecy is immutable and it pretty much unfolds exactly how it was preordained in the first book. The main characters have no effect on anything, and the clear implication is that this is how things should be. Don’t fight the evil in the world because it’s part of God’s plan, and don’t fight God because you cannot win.

    The site owner calls these the Worst Books in the World and — just for that — I have to agree.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you, and that’s a perspective that represents the way I view this issue. However, from the perspectiveof a premillennial dispensationalist — someone who literally believes in a prophecy that the Antichrist must rise, subjugate the entire world, and be swept away (along with all living beings) by bowls of wrath and judgment from God — trying to stop that prophecy (by fighting against evil) is wrong.

    You can see that in the Left Behind books that are being deconstructed on this site. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a series of books told from the perspective of people living during the End Times, and it shows how they deal with the Rapture (an extra-Biblical concept in which God magically transports all children and PMD Christians to Heaven), the rise of the Antichrist, and all of the bad things that follow.

    The main characters form a group called the Tribulation Force who gather to study their version of the Biblical book of Revelation and allegedly fight against the Antichrist.  However, they spend the first part of the series actually assisting the Antichrist (they complain about it, but they still take jobs and money from him, and help him by covering up his criminal behavior before his rise to power and supporting his propaganda) and almost the entirety of the rest running around having adventures while doing very little to actually help other people suffering under the Antichrist’s regime. They don’t do anything to stop the prophecy; they make no attempt to warn people outside of their inner circle about what’s going to happen and they basically just sit back and watch it all unfold.

    The moral lesson that you have to draw from this is that you shouldn’t try to subvert God’s plans even if they involved tyranny and the end of the world. The main characters — who are thinly-veiled stand-ins for the authors — accept that the prophecy is immutable and it pretty much unfolds exactly how it was preordained in the first book. The main characters have no effect on anything, and the clear implication is that this is how things should be. Don’t fight the evil in the world because it’s part of God’s plan, and don’t fight God because you cannot win.

    The site owner calls these the Worst Books in the World and — just for that — I have to agree.

  • Launcifer

    @P J Evans: You’re right, of course. It’s suspicious and oh-so convenient, just like the reports of British Embassy staff shredding official documents before they left Tripoli. Then again, it’s pretty much precisely what I expect the Blair goverment was actually doing at the time, but maybe that’s the pooint.

  • Lori

    Lori:  Sorry for making you sad.

    @Shallot: YOU did not make me sad. Your English teacher made me a little sad, but that’s not on you. :)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Is it just me or are the people who scream loudest about phantom muslim terrorists wanting to force Sharia law on us poor innocent westerners often Dominionists?

    It’s definitely not just you.  I’m just not sure whether they’re doing it out of projection or professional jealousy (“How come them furrin commiemuslimofascists get theocracy and WE DON’T?!?”.  :)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That’s how I feel. Actually making a difference in any issue seems to be an exercise in futility. I don’t like coming to that conclusion, either…but modern advocacy seems to involve a lot of traveling and a great deal of money, neither of which are possible for me.

    Which explains why so many Dominionists seem to support economic policies that ensure only they have the money to do such advocacy, and anyone poorer than them will just have to deal.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That’s how I feel. Actually making a difference in any issue seems to be an exercise in futility. I don’t like coming to that conclusion, either…but modern advocacy seems to involve a lot of traveling and a great deal of money, neither of which are possible for me.

    Which explains why so many Dominionists seem to support economic policies that ensure only they have the money to do such advocacy, and anyone poorer than them will just have to deal.  

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    You can actually do a lot in your local community, which is where I believe real change starts and grows from.  You’d be surprised at how much federal policy is swayed by local and state policy.  For example, the new fuel economy regulations would have never happened if California hadn’t adopted ones first, and then convinced other states to join them.  I’m part of a Transition group (http://www.transitionnetwork.org/) in D.C., an international movement that looks to localize everything – businesses, food production, etc. – while drawing on knowledge of lessons learned around the world. I call it “learning to rely on yourself and neighbors for energy instead of fossil fuels.”


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