What the disparate sects of this movement, known as Dominionism, share is an obsession with political power. A decades-long refusal to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian “dominion” over the nation and, eventually, over the earth itself. Dominionists preach that Jesus has called them to build the kingdom of God in the here and now, whereas previously it was thought that we would have to wait for it. America becomes, in this militant Biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan.
These are excerpts from Part II of an article in the May issue of Harper’s magazine, Soldiers Of Christ. I provided excerpts from Part I, Inside America’s Most Powerful Megachurch in a diary at MyDD, Onward Christian Soldiers. This post covers Part II, Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters by Chris Hedges, Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute.
After I heard an interview of Chris Hedges on Air America’s Morning Sedition, I stopped by Barnes and Noble on the way home and bought their only copy of this month’s Harper’s. The interview is not available on the Morning Sedition site, but I sent an email request that they add it to their site. I encourage everyone to make additional requests that they add an audio clip of their interview with Hedges.
The L.A. Times has a couple of recent articles that add background and context to this article:
2 Evangelicals Want to Strip Courts’ Funds: Taped at a private conference, the leaders outline ways to punish jurists they oppose.
Frist Initiative Creates Rift in GOP Base
With a couple of minor exceptions, I have refrained from any personal comments. What follows are excerpts from an unvarnished look at radical Christian evangelism:
Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, Creationism and “Christian values” form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Aside from its proselytizing mandate, the federal government will be reduced to the protection of property rights and “homeland” security. Some Dominionists (not all of whom accept the label, at least not publicly) would further require all citizens to pay “tithes” to church organizations empowered by the government to run our social-welfare agencies, and a number of influential figures advocate the death penalty for a host of “moral crimes,” including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and witchcraft. The only legitimate voices in this state will be Christian. All others will be silenced.
[Hedges footnote: When George W. Bush was first elected, Pay Robertson resigned as head of the Christian Coalition, a sign to many that Bush was the first in an expected line of regents that will herald the coming of the Messiah.
. . .
My new friends, evidently minor celebrities themselves in the world of Christian broadcasting, have come to Anaheim for the yearly convention because it is the only time they can see all the major Christian broadcasters in one place. They are picture-perfect members of a new Christian elite, showy, proud of how God has blessed them with material wealth and privilege, and hooked into the culture of celebrity and power
. . .
A bearded man dressed as a biblical prophet is pushing tours of the Holy Land. I see anti-abortion booths and evidence of fringe groups such as Jews for Jesus and Accuracy in Media, one of whose representatives hands me a report with the title “America Troops Cheer Attacks on U.S. Media.”
All the seminars and workshops are taking place on the upper floors. One seminar is entitled “Finding god in Hollywood.” Another is called “Invading Cities for Christ: The Thousand Day Plan.”
. . .
Bob Lepine, the round-faced co-host of Family Life today, a radio show broadcast from Little Rock, Arkansas, tells us that this session has been sponsored by the Family Research Council, a Washington think tank dedicated to promoting “the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.”
Editor’s note: Or an unjust, oppressive and unstable society if you are not a radical Christian evangelist.
. . .
”Deep in the nation’s capital,” [the] baritone voice [of Tony Perkins, a telegenic man who authored the American History Preservation Act] booms as the camera pans across the Washington mall, “America’s culture was hijacked by a secular movement determined to redefine society from religious freedom to the right to life. These radicals were doing their best to destroy two centuries of traditional values, and no one seemed to be able to stop them – until now.
Will Congress undo 200 years of tradition?” the video asks ominously. “Not on our watch.”
The mood of the convention is set. All Christians, everywhere, are under attack.
. . .
”Today, the calls for diversity and multiculturalism are nothing more than thinly veiled attacks on anyone willing, desirous, or compelled to proclaim Christian truths,” [Perkins] says. “Today, calls for tolerance are often a subterfuge, because they will tolerate just about anything except Christian truth. Today, we live in a time when the message entrusted to you is more important than ever before to reach a world desperate to know Christ.
. . .
[Illinois evangelist and radio host James] McDonald quotes liberally from the book of Revelation, the only place in the New Testament where Jesus (arguably) endorses violence and calls for vengence against nonbelievers. It is, along with the apocalyptic visions of St. Paul, the movement’s go-to test. Rarely mentioned these days is the Jesus of the four gospels, the Jesus who speaks of the poor and the marginalized, who taught followers to turn the other cheek and love their enemies, the Jesus who rejected the mantle of secular power.
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He reminds us, quoting theologian Peter Berger, that “ages of faith are not marked by dialogue but by proclamation” and that “there is power in the unapologetic proclamation of truth. There is power in it. This is a kingdom of power.” When he says the word “power,” he draws it out for emphasis. He tells the crowd to shun the “persuasive words of human wisdom.” Truth, he says, does “not rest in the wisdom of men but the power of God.” Then, in a lisping, limp-wristed imitation of liberals, he mocks, to laughter and applause, those who want to “share” and be sensitive to the needs of others.
McDonald leaves little doubt that the convention is meant to serve as a rallying cry for a new and particularly militant movement in Christian politics, one that is sometimes mistaken for another outbreak of mere revivalism. In fact, this movement is a curious hybrid of fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, conservative Catholics, Charismatics, and other evangelicals, all of whom are at war doctrinally but who nonetheless share a belief that America is destined to become a Christian nation, let by Christian men who are in turn directed by God.
. . .
The strange alliance in this case is premised upon the Dominionist belief that Israel must rule the biblical land in order for Christ to return, though when he does, all Jews who do not convert to Christianity supposedly will be incinerated as the believers are lifted into heaven; all this is courteously left unmentioned at the breakfast. The featured speakers include Avaraham Hirschsohn, who is the new Israeli minister of tourism, and Mechael Medved, a cultural conservative and a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. Medved is also one of the most prominent Jewish defenders of Mel Gibson’s biopic The Passion of the Christ.
. . .
The Christian writer Kay Arthur, who can barely contain her tears when speaking of Israel, professes that although she loves America, if she had to choose between America and Israel, “I would stand with Israel, stand with Israel as a daughter of the King of Kings, stand according to the word of God.” She goes on to quote at length from Revelation, speaking of Jesus seated on a throne floating about Jerusalem as believers are raptured up toward him in the sky.
. . .
I speak as well with an Israeli woman, who introduces herself as Marina. She has long blonde hair and is wearing knee-high leather boots. Marina, who emigrated to Israel from Holland and lives on a cooperative mango farm near the Sea of galilee, says she is “embarrassed” to be at the convention. “These people are anti-Semitic,” she says, speaking softly as conventioneers move past the large Israeli display space. The demonization of Muslims and Palestinians by the speakers makes her especially uneasy. I ask her why the tourism ministry is here in the first place. “Money,” she says. “It is all about money. No one else visits Israel.”
. . .
Dobson is perhaps the most powerful figure in the Dominionist movement. He was instrumental three years ago in purging the moderate chairman of the NRB from his post and speaks frequently with the White House. He was a crucial player in getting out the Christian vote for George W. Bush.
. . .
He likens the proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis, has backed political candidates who called for the execution of abortion providers, defines embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism,” and urges Christian parents to pull their children out of public-school systems. He has issued warnings to the Bush Administration that his extremist agenda must begin to be implemented in Washington and by the federal courts if the Republican Party wants his continued support. Dobson apparently believes that he is without sin.
. . .
I can’t help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when we were his age, and he was then close to eighty, we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”
He gave us that warning twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major Americcan institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire. At the time, it was hard to take such fantastic, rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930’s. Mussollini’s “Corporatism,” which created an unchecked industrial and business aristocracy, had appealed to many at the time as an effective counterweight to the New Deal. In 1934, Fortune magazine lavished praise on the Italian dictator for his defanging of labor unions and his empowerment of industrialists at the expense of workers. Then as now, Adams said, too many liberals failed to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians came, these people would undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state. Adams had watched German academics fall silent or conform. He knew how desperately people want to believe the comfortable lies told by totalitarian movements, how easily those lies lull moderates into passivity.emphasis added
Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right’s persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral vlues not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on the places where homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first “deviants” singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next.