Another intimidation piece directed at journalists and researchers who write about dominionism, back in August. It’s in the Washington Post, which is a nice gig if you’re trying to intimidate people.
Here we go again. The Republican primaries are six months away, and already news stories are raising fears on the left about “crazy Christians.”
One piece connects Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called “The New Apostolic Reformation,” whose main objective is to “infiltrate government.” Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of “dominionists.”
The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees. But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world.
Maybe some on the left do, but the authors of the articles in question do not, so it’s bloody unfair to imply that they do. It’s an intimidation move.
This isn’t a defense of the religious beliefs of Bachmann or Perry, whatever they are. It’s a plea, given the acrimonious tone of our political discourse, for a certain amount of dispassionate care in the coverage of religion. Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they’re Christian. One-third of Americans call themselves “evangelical.” When millions of voters get lumped together and associated with the fringe views of a few, divisions will grow. Here, then, are some clarifying points.
But the writers in question took the requisite care. They didn’t lump all evangelicals with dominionists – on the contrary: they point out that to dominionists, plain old evangelicals are way too lukewarm. And dominionists, unfortunately, are not “a few.”
Evangelicals generally do not want to take over the world. “Dominionism” is the paranoid mot du jour. In its broadest sense, the term describes a Christian’s obligation to be active in the world, including in politics and government. More narrowly, some view it as Christian nationalism. You could argue that the 19th- and early 20th-century reformers – abolitionists, suffragists and temperance activists, for example – were dominionists, says Molly Worthen, who teaches religious history at the University of Toronto.
Well you could, but equally you could argue that anti-abolitionists and anti-suffragists were dominionists. Just as not all evangelicals are dominionists, so not all 19th century Christians were abolitionists…to put it mildly; in fact abolitionists, Christian and otherwise, were a tiny minority, despised by almost everyone. It’s endlessly irritating the way contemporary Christians claim credit for abolitionism when it would make vastly more sense for them to admit blame for pro-slavery.
Extremist dominionists do exist, as theocrats who hope to transform our democracy into something that looks like ancient Israel, complete with stoning as punishment. But “it’s a pretty small world,” says Worthen, who studies these groups.
Mark DeMoss, whose Atlanta-based public relations firm represents several Christian groups, put it this way: “You would be hard-pressed to find one in 1,000 Christians in America who could even wager a guess at what dominionism is.”
Seriously?! She quotes a PR guy on the subject as if his views were disinterested scholarship?
Washington Post, where are your editors?