More on Christian Dominionism

About a week ago, I put up a post about Michelle Goldberg’s article in The Daily Beast about Rick Perry’s and Michele Bachmann’s ties to the Christian Dominionist movement.

Yesterday, the online publication ReligionDispatches.org published an article by Peter Montgomery responding to Lisa Miller, who writes about religion at the Washington Post and at the WaPo-0wned Newsweek. In her piece, Miller attacked what she sees as unwarranted attacks on Christian evangelicals by lefties in the media. Here is a snip from her opening paragraphs:

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. …
Nonsense, Montgomery replies (in a nutshell). He takes Miller’s flawed reasoning apart point by point:

It’s true that political reporters can stumble when covering religion, but Miller is making a more sweeping charge: that “leftists” and journalists are unfairly hyping the influence of far-right leaders and painting all evangelicals with the same brush. She doesn’t make the case.

Miller links to recent in-depth articles from the Texas Observer, The New Yorker, and The Daily Beast, but doesn’t really engage substantively with any of their reporting. Instead, Miller gives a pro forma acknowledgment that the stories “raise real concerns” about candidates’ worldviews while portraying the articles broadly as evidence of unfair attacks on evangelicals from a hysterical anti-Christian “left.” She calls dominionism “the paranoid mot du jour.”

It may be the “word of the day,” as journalists continue to educate themselves and their readers on this particular strand of thinking, but that doesn’t mean an investigation of the role of “dominionism” in religious right rhetoric and strategy is a paranoid project. (The urge to investigate, or to interpret, can be too easily dismissed as paranoid. But if not for such “paranoia,” what exactly would the role of journalists be?)

… It may be true, as evangelical leader Mark DeMoss says in Miller’s story, that “you would be hard-pressed to find one in 1,000 Christians in America would could even wager a guess at what dominionism is.” But it’s certainly not true of the leaders of the religious right political movement. Their followers are hearing dominionist teaching whether they know it or not.

In recent years, there has been a very visible embrace by traditional religious right leaders of the rhetoric of “Seven Mountains,” a framework attributed to former Campus Crusade for Christ director Bill Bright. It puts dominionist thinking in clear, user-friendly lay language. The “Seven Mountains” of culture over which the right kind of Christians are meant to have dominion are business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. …

The language has been used by Pentecostal leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, a group that sees itself creating a new church and an army of spiritual warriors who will hasten the return of Christ by taking dominion over the earth. But the Seven Mountains framework has also become a sort of lingua franca among the religious right, forming the basis for Janet Porter’s May Day rally on the mall last year as well as the National Day of Prayer and Jim Garlow’s Pray and Act campaign. The Family Research Council and prominent religious right figures like Harry Jackson and David Barton all use the language.

In other words, this is not a movement dreamed up by people with no understanding of Christianity who simply want to stir up fear of conservative evangelicals. The increasingly widespread use of “Seven Mountains” rhetoric reflects an effort by a broad swath of conservative evangelical leadership to adopt a shared set of talking points, if you will, to unite theologically disparate elements in common political cause to defeat the Satanic/demonic enemies of faith and freedom: secularists, gays, liberals, and the Obama administration.

C. Peter Wagner is the founder of the New Apostolic Reformation and author of Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World. His official bio says “In the 2000s, he began to move strongly in promoting the Dominion Mandate for social transformation, adopting the template of the Seven Mountains or the 7-M Mandate for practical implementation.” Wagner was an endorser of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer-rally-cum-presidential launch and dozens of members of the New Apostolic Reformation were involved in organizing and speaking at the event.

In an online conversation about her article, Miller criticizes coverage of the movement’s excesses, saying “that clips in which ministers shout ‘harlot’ over and over are likely to inflame more than they are to elucidate,” saying that “the left needs to search its soul, as it were, and see that it’s guilty of the same kind of demonizing that one sees on the right.” That is just one of several false equivalences Miller lays out, and it’s an irresponsible assertion.

I agree that it can be uncomfortable to watch Lou Engle screaming from a stage, but it is even more uncomfortable to see him in a leadership role with other religious right leaders and members of Congress, as he was at the Family Research Council’s “prayercast” asking God to defeat health care reform. Engle, who declares that “the church’s vocation is to rule history with God,” introduced Michele Bachmann at that event.

Miller seems unfamiliar with, or uninterested in, the extent to which dominionist and reconstructionist thinking is reflected in the worldview of Michele Bachmann. … It is not some kind of guilt-by-association stretch to ask what it means that Bachmann describes Christian Reconstructionist John Eidsmoe as a mentor and major influence on her thinking. Neither is it surprising that Rick Perry’s political prayer rally would bring greater attention to the extremist nature of the event’s sponsors and speakers, which has been extensively documented.

I think it’s safe to say that if a Democratic candidate for President had ties to ANY Muslim religious figures at all — much less any who were as extreme as Lou Engle or C. Peter Wagner or John Eidsmoe — Republicans would be screaming bloody murder about sharia coming to the White House. Indeed, all you have to do is look at the hysteria on the right about utterly false stories that Pres. Obama is a closet Muslim or that he was not born in the United States, and you know for certain what the response would be among conservative Republicans if Obama had ever expressed admiration for the Taliban or if an Islamic extremist had ever endorsed Obama for President or introduced him as a speaker at a meeting of radical Islamists. Knowing that, it is intellectually dishonest — as well as irresponsible — of Lisa Miller to dismiss those who call attention to Christian Dominionism and its influence on evangelicals and social conservatives.

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