Postpremillennial politics

Postpremillennial politics September 29, 2011

Sharp-eyed students of American pop-eschatologies may have noticed an inconsistency in the views I’ve attributed to Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The previous post cites a couple of examples of Bachmann repeating the sorts of conspiracy theories popular among “Bible prophecy” premillennial dispensationalist fans. Yet in an earlier post — “If Michelle Bachmann doesn’t want to be regarded as having close ties to dominionists then she should stop hiring them” — I noted that her campaign staff includes prominent theonomist Peter Waldron. “Reconstructionist” theonomists like Waldron are post-millennialists who reject the “prophecy” schemes of premillennial dispensationalists.

How can I simultaneously detect both pre- and post-millennial influences on Bachmann’s campaign? Doesn’t that mean I’m contradicting myself?

Well, it would mean that — but only if Michele Bachmann’s theology is assumed to be coherent and internally consistent, rather than a contradictory and incoherent hodge-podge of American evangelical notions. The short explanation is that contradiction and inconsistency on Bachmann’s part does not constitute contradiction and inconsistency on the part of anyone who notices it.

The longer explanation probably requires a more substantial future post exploring the postmillennial eschatology of dominion theology and how it relates to the premillennial pop-eschatology now dominant among American evangelicals. The former tends to be optimistic and utopian, the latter pessimistic and fatalistic about the future. The two views are opposites, yet many evangelicals hold to aspects of both — a dissonance reflected throughout evangelicals’ political engagement in America.

For a case study of exactly that tension writ large, see Ken Burns’ upcoming PBS miniseries Prohibition.

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