It’s no coincidence that the political system in America got so top-heavy with fundamentalist Christians.
By Janet Phelan
If you stop to wonder how the political arena in the U.S. got so top heavy with fundamentalist Christians, indeed, as the social fabric began to fray under the multiplicity of stressors associated with modernization, a parallel movement of “back to fundamentals” began to emerge in all three Abrahamic religions. It is not only Islam that has birthed its own variety of fundamentalism. Orthodox synagogues are seeing a swelling of congregations, and a new strain of Christianity, which is both fiercely political as well as militant in its promotion of theocracy has emerged as a potent force on the American scene.
“The American Taliban.”
Its ideology calls for the institution of a government under Biblical law. This mandate is called “Dominionism.” Christian Reconstructionists believe that the authority to exert political control in the material world is provided in Genesis, where it is written that: “Let them [man] have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” According to CR, this dominion is also to be executed over nations, specifically the American nation, which is seen as the instrument for God’s plan to rule the world.
Heady stuff, and somewhat redolent of the belief system inherent in Islamic fundamentalism and the concomitant Sharia law. Under the mantle of a religious call to political action, CR has taken on a number of quasi- moral political issues. Not only anti-abortion, CR is also anti-welfare, anti-social programs and anti-public education.
Heaven on Earth?
The homeschooling movement was in significant part launched by Rousas Rushdoony, who was the founder of CR. Rushdoony wrote prolifically on the necessity for Christians to become politically active in order to secure the planet for the Almighty.
Wrote Rushdoony, “All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.” He continues, “Every law-order is a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare.” Rushdoony, who died in 2001, was succeeded by his son in law, Gary North, as the fountainhead of literature on CR.
North, who has a PhD in History from the University of California, has laid down both economic and social principles for theonomy, or life under Biblical law. Faithful to Deuteronomy, North calls for the reinstitution of death by stoning. He specifically refers to those violating so- called moral law, such as unchaste women, homosexuals, and disobedient children as prospects for stoning. (It has been noted, however, that lesbians would be spared as no specific reference to them can be found in the Books of Moses.) It is likely that non-Christians would also face execution.
North has also written a great deal on the relationship between God and government. He is essentially libertarian in his economic views, and promotes the abolition of most forms of taxation, except for tithing and a poll tax, which he states has foundation in the Bible. In his book, Honest Money: Biblical Principles for Money and Banking, North argues against centralized banking and the federal reserve system. He advocates a return to “hard currency,” which he sees as authorized in the Biblical mandate for “just weights and measures.”
Welfare programs are also “unbiblical,” according to Christian Reconstructionists, as is Social Security. People in need should be taken care of by the church, they argue. In fact, some proponents of CR have gone even further and declared that dependence on government for any sort of assistance constitutes “idolatry,” and is thus morally reprehensible.
Not all conservative Christian politicians agree. Alabama governor Bob Riley believes the Bible mandates him to do the opposite—raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund social programs. As reported in USA Today, Riley said: “According to our Christian ethics, we’re supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor.”
While the CR agenda may sound very fringy and extremist in nature, the reality is that Christian Reconstructionism has achieved a profound impact on the Republican Party. Due to the response to CR’s call for Christian politicization, proponents of the CR ideology can be found in a plethora of elected positions, both nationally and locally, as well as in the media, particularly talk radio.
The Republican Party has become so top heavy with the Dominionist agenda that author Daniel K. Williams has termed it “God’s Own Party,” in a book by that title. The moniker caught on. The fiscal “hands off” policy supported by Dominionism has found strong support among libertarians, many of whom may not be aware of the theonomic agenda behind the candidates they support.
Gary North himself advocated for withholding from public oversight the actual agenda of the Dominionists. As reported in a 1994 article by Frederick Clarkson,
“Gary North proposed stealth tactics more than a decade ago in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction (1981), urging “infiltration” of government to help “smooth the transition to Christian political leadership. . . .Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure, and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.” Specifically, the rallying cry of “freedom of religion” is to be used as leverage for the Christian Right to eventually eliminate other religious movements from the playing field.”
Clarkson goes on to detail how another Christian fundamentalist political group—evangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition– used similar stealth tactics to infiltrate the Republican party:
“The Christian Coalition actually proposed something similar to Gary North’s notion of “infiltration” when its 1992 “County Action Plan” for Pennsylvania advised that “You should never mention the name Christian Coalition in Republican circles.” The goal, apparently, is to facilitate becoming “directly involved in the local Republican Central Committee so that you are an insider. This way,” continues the manual, “you can get a copy of the local committee rules and a feel for who is in the current Republican Committee.” The next step is to recruit conservative Christians to occupy vacant party posts or to run against moderates who “put the Republican Party ahead of principle.”
In fact, a theocratic or theonomic order is diametrically opposed to the freedom from government control advocated by libertarians. It appears that the Dominionists have utilized the libertarian focus on a laissez faire economic policy for their own political ends.
Dominionists generally see the United States not as a country established on the tenets of religious freedom but rather as a Christian nation, poised to take center stage as God’s vehicle for theonomy. Along with these perceptions comes a forceful support for the state of Israel. Dominionist churches have, in fact, financially supported settlements in Israel for years.
Like the stealth tactics discussed above, this support for the Jewish state may have subterranean roots. As Gary North writes in The Unannounced Reason Behind American Fundamentalism’s Support for the State of Israel:
“In order for most of today’s Christians to escape physical death, two-thirds of the Jews in Israel must perish, soon. This is the grim prophetic trade-off that fundamentalists rarely discuss publicly, but which is the central motivation in the movement’s support for Israel. It should be clear why they believe that Israel must be defended at all costs by the West.”
In other words, the flood of money and political support from the Christian Right into Israel may be crassly seen as ensuring Christian salvation at the cost of Jewish obliteration.
Who Are the Dominionist Politicians?
For starters, let’s consider Ron Paul. Paul has been the lightning rod for libertarians for several decades. His ties to Dominionists are, however, strictly sub-rosa. In fact, Paul has a decades- long connection with CR heavy weight Gary North, who worked as a research assistant for Congressman Ron Paul the seventies. North was recently featured as preparing the home schooling curriculum promoted by Ron Paul.
Michele Bachmann’s relationship with Dominionism is fairly high-profile. Bachmann has close ties with Truth in Action ministries, whose former leader George Grant stated the following Dominionist creed: “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures.”
Bachmann has promoted the idea that the only taxes that should be levied are the Biblically authorized 10%. She has repeatedly referenced philosopher Francis Schaeffer, whose anti-abortion campaign also influenced Randall Terry, the founder of the militant anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue . Schaeffer also held public seminars to disseminate Rushdoony’s ideas.
Rick Perry, who along with Bachmann and Ron Paul also sought the Republican nomination for US President in 2012, has connections with a somewhat different strain of Dominionism, called New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which comes from the Pentecostal tradition. NAR speaks of taking over the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society: family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education and business.” Writes Forrest Wilder in the Texas Observer, “These are the nerve centers of society that God (or his people) must control.”
It is not only the openly Dominionist politicians who are running with the CR agenda, however. As Clarkson stated in his 1994 article, “Christian Reconstructionism’s ultimate moment may or may not arrive; however it has had tremendous influence as a catalyst for an historic shift in American religion and politics.” Clarkson went on to state, in a sentence that was virtually prophetic, given the current manifestation of power in the Christian Right, “Christian Reconstructionism is largely an underground, underestimated movement of ideas, the rippling surface of which is the political movement known as the Christian Right.”
In fact, the “rippling surface” has become a tsunami. As reported in Theocracy Watch, “Before the midterm elections of 2006, dominionists controlled both houses of the U.S. Congress, the White House and four out of nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court. They were one seat away from holding a solid majority on the Supreme Court.” Today, Dominionists have virtually taken over the Tea Party and their philosophy can be seen manifesting in multiple Republican party heavy weights, some publicly associated with Dominionism and others simply promoting its message: former US Senator and 2012 Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, US Senator Ted Cruz, US Senator Rand Paul, former Presidential candidate and Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, to name a few on the national scene. On local levels, politicians waving the CR banner are legion.
Dominionism constitutes a radical departure from traditional Christianity, in which believers await Christ’s return for a millennial reign. CR teaches that the world must come under Biblical law before Christ will return. Along with its inherent bias towards unchecked capitalism and disregard for the needy, Christian Reconstructionism provides a philosophical underpinning for world domination by rich, Christian American males.
As George Grant wrote in The Changing of the Guard , Biblical Principles for Political Action: “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest.”
In a world increasingly dominated by United States and its political agenda, these words might raise a level of concern. If the Dominionists have their way, we may see the old battle cry of “Making the world safe for democracy” morph into its opposite: “Making the world safe for theocracy.”