By Paul Varnell
The May issue of Harper’s Magazine has a fascinating article by reporter Chris Hedges about the most recent convention of the National Religious Broadcasters, an organization of some 1,600 Christian radio and television broadcasters who claim to reach nearly half the U.S. population.
The focus of Hedge’s article is the extent to which the NRB has been taken over by an aggressive strain of evangelical Christianity called “dominion theology” or Dominionism.
Traditional evangelical Christianity was politically quiescent. It assumed that conditions on earth would steadily deteriorate until finally Jesus would return to set things aright, destroy evil, reward good Christians and establish a 1000 year reign on earth. The individual Christian’s duty was to live a virtuous life and help others achieve salvation by example and personal witness.
The text for that view was the biblical legend in Matthew 4:8-10 where Satan tries to tempt Jesus by offering him dominion over “all the kingdoms of the world” if Jesus will worship him. Jesus refused this offer of earthly power saying that one should worship God alone.
By contrast, Dominionism reverses this eschatological model. It postulates that Christians must establish “dominion” over the world, that is, must seize political power to establish a Godly kingdom on earth. Only when the way has been prepared for him will Jesus return for his 1000 year reign. Dominionists ignore Matthew 4:8-10, but draw heavily on the violent, surrealist vengeance fantasies of Revelation.
Hedges notes that a number of prominent evangelical groups like the NRB and the Southern Baptist Convention have been taken over by Dominionists in recent years and he names Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family as “perhaps the most powerful figure in the Dominionist movement.” Whether or not Dobson is a Dominionist, Hedges says he has compared advocates of gay marriage to Nazis and, like Dominionists, Dobson opposes every element of gay equality.
The primary Dominionist goal is establishing the Ten Commandments as the basis for the U.S. legal system. For some Dominionists this includes harsh penalties such as execution for “anti-Christian” moral crimes such as witchcraft, blasphemy, apostasy and sodomy. When you learn that many also think all citizens should pay “tithes” to churches to support their social programs you begin to realize the close similarity to fundamentalist Islam.
Nor should anyone be deceived by occasional assurances that homosexuals would not be punished. What is usually unstated is that anyone engaging in homosexual behavior would be punished. So homosexuals are safe only so long as they do not engage in homosexual acts.
Although Dominionism is an old doctrine, one of the forces behind its current revival is a Presbyterian fundamentalist named Rousas John Rushdoony who advocated a “Reconstructionist Christianity” that promotes the legal imposition of the entire Levitical law code.
In 1973 Rushdoony published a nearly 900-page commentary on the Ten Commandments called “The Institutes of Biblical Law.” The chapter on the Seventh Commandment (adultery) includes eight pages on homosexuality (pp. 419-427) for which he advocates the death penalty.
According to Rushdoony, “We are in the midst of a homosexual revolution aimed against Biblical faith and morality. … Homosexuality is thus the culminating sexual practice of a culminating apostasy and hostility towards God. The homosexual is at war with God, and, in his every practice, is denying God’s natural order and law. … God’s penalty is death and a godly order will enforce it.”
Worse yet can happen to a society that allows homosexuality to flourish, according to Rushdoony. “When a people reaches a certain level of moral depravity, punishment ceases to be particular and becomes national. The civil order has lost its ability to act for God, and God then acts against that order. In other words, there is punishment, but the punishment is from God and the people or nation shall fall.” In short, Rushdoony is promoting an Old Testament-based collectivist mentality.
Hence the urgency among Dominionists to oppose the social freedoms of our society and particularly against homosexuals because their own personal survival and the survival of the nation are at stake. The peril is dire and the hour is late because “the mind and appearance of Western countries have been radically infected by the parasitic homosexual culture.” And that was in 1973 already.
It is easy to tell from even these brief excerpts that Rushdoony writes with an a tone of authority and a rhetoric of apocalyptic urgency. While his name is not widely known and his writings are not widely read, you can be sure that the major figures in the Dominionist movement have read Rushdoony.
So when you hear about the destructive effects of homosexuality, how homosexuals are in rebellion against God and how we need to reinstate penalties for homosexual acts, it is entirely possible that you are hearing someone influenced directly or indirectly by Rushdoony and his “Reconstructionist Christianity.”
By Paul Varnell