September 24, 2011

The Terror of Dominionism

One of the reasons I’m frightened by the religious right stems from the emergence of Dominionism.  Until recently, Dominionist views were considered elements of fanatical fringe groups, but today, with two republican presidential candidates professing links to such organizations, it’s clear that the influence of this philosophy is expanding.  This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the mainstream media, which has begun to write extensively on the topic.

Dominionism takes its mandate from Genesis 1:28, in which God tells Adam and Eve to:

Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  

Devoted Dominionists, in the words of Time Magazine’s Jon Meacham,

“…believe it their obligation to control (the hard-line term) or influence (the softer version) what are called the ‘seven mountains’ of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family and religion.  The more extreme elements of this movement seek conquest and theocracy.  Others insist they want only to transform the culture into something more in keeping with God’s kingdom of justice and mercy.”

There is a lot to be frightened by this.  If not countered, Dominionism’s desire to transform—which extends even into realms of education and family life—would result in a kind of religious policing typical of some Islamic countries.  But ignoring this obvious incompatibility with the First Amendment’s prohibition on the free exercise of religion (or no religion), an equally disturbing problem is that Dominionism’s version of justice and mercy is based upon the Mosaic Law, rather than Christ’s teachings. 

Influenced by the radical Christian Reconstructionism espoused by RJ Rushdoony, Dominionists seek to replace our legal system with the 613 strictures of Leviticus, including its call for the death penalty to homosexuals.  Its purists also defend slavery.  In reference to the Old Testament’s acceptance of this immoral practice, Rushdoony writes in his Institutes of Biblical Law, “The law here is humane and also unsentimental.  It recognizes that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so.”  He goes on to say, “God’s laws concerning slavery provided parameters for treatment of slaves, which were for the benefit of all involved.”

Ignoring the weighty issues of Dominionism’s single-minded desire for control, my greatest concern is that it completely misconstrues what Christ attempted to accomplish during his ministry, which was to overturn much of the Mosaic Law.  Leviticus was meant to influence its followers to love God and to love God’s children, but it fails in this regard.  Instead, its adherents fear God as vengeful and jealous and, in lieu of brotherly love, it focuses on the intricacies of a law that has no soul or charity.  That’s why, near the end of His ministry—when His rebuke was most strident—Christ loosed His indignation against scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! likening them to painted sepulchers that were decorous on the outside, but full of filth and decay. 

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