Dominion theology has impacted political views and threatens to influence domestic and foreign policy decisions by masquerading as evangelical patriotism.
Why do some conservative, evangelical Christians view the building of mosques and Islamic centers in America as a threat? Why do certain political candidates decry “Sharia law” but demand the posting of the Ten Commandments in courthouses? What do some evangelicals mean when they refer to the “Kingdom of God?” These questions describe an eschatological interpretation referred to as Dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism, or Kingdom First.
This is why many evangelical leaders and politicians, in part, fervently support Israel. In a fusion of religion and foreign policy, it helps explain theological imperialism, used, for example by leaders such as George Bush, to excuse foreign Middle East adventurism as an element toward global democratization. Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, states that Bush was “converted” to Dominionism, “a kind of Christian Wahhabism.”
Is there a Bible Basis for the “New Israel” Concept of Belief?
Dominionist evangelicals believe that the Christian Church is the “New Israel,” an age that began in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus. Bible passages such as Matthew 24ff are used to support this view, including the erroneous notion that St John’s Apocalypse was written prior to A.D. 70 and actually describe contemporary events. It is generally accepted, however, that John’s “revelation,” written on the island of Patmos, is dated to the period of Emperor Domitian.
Kingdom First adherents also believe that Jesus’ references to the “Kingdom of God” were characteristic of a worldly kingdom, not a spiritual state or relationship with God. The Great Commission, referenced by Christ several times, never assumes an earthly kingdom: no Bible passages support this. But Christians believing that it does are the very ones insistent on the full application of Old Testament law in a civil society. This becomes part of building the kingdom of God on earth and includes conforming secular, civil law with biblical law.
One of the “signs” of the end times is that the Gospel will be preached throughout the world. Those that follow Dominion theology assume this to mean that the world will be reflective of biblical laws, including Old Testament proscriptions. Thus, certain passages in Leviticus are used to fight gay rights.
God has Never Forgotten His Chosen People
Many of the Old Testament prophets speak of Israel’s redemption and restoration. Zephaniah speaks of Israel’s future at the end times declaring, “…I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors…I will give you renown and praise…When I restore your fortunes before your eyes…” (3.19-20) Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones (37.1ff) also speaks of restoration. The Jews are the “apple of God’s eye.” (Zechariah 2.8)
Other passages clearly state that God’s people will be restored. There is no biblical evidence that demonstrates that the Christian Church is the “New Israel,” supplanting the Jewish people. In fact, St Paul devotes part of his letter to the Romans (chapter 11) to this very subject. Dominion movement adherents, however, see America and American democracy as part of the “New Israel” mission.
They interpret the “pursuit of happiness” as part of that vision, viewing multiculturalism as a threat. Thus, Islam in America must be opposed, according to their thinking. To attract broad conservative appeal, especially among evangelical Christians, they spread erroneous views of Sharia law and other Muslim beliefs. Tony Adkins, writing in the Tea Party Tribune, for example, states that, “Shariah Law’s main ‘mouthpiece’ and organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, has as its goal the downfall of the West…” Additionally, comparative religious studies become taboo.
Theological Imperialism and the Spreading of Democracy in the World
Christians that follow the Reconstructionist view interject theological perspectives into foreign policy, equating the kingdom of God with democracy as a political system favored by God and part of the divine order. Gary North, a prominent figure in the movement, wrote that, “When Christianity adheres to the judicial specifics of the Bible, it produces free market capitalism.”
Dominionists have a poor historical or cultural understanding of the Middle East and Islamic beliefs. Although often referred to as “biblical literalists,” they tend to cling to allegorical interpretations of biblical “end times” conclusions. Thus, the “Arab Spring” is viewed as a positive step toward a more democratic Middle East.
This kind of conclusion fits with a kingdom of God approach that is focused on American-style democracy. Such thinking divorces Islamic belief and practices from existing tribal cultures in the Middle East. Democracy as part of the “New Israel” global mission presupposes that extremist beliefs in Islam can be defeated by so-called Western views. One clear example is the rise of extremism in Egypt involving groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Israel’s right to exist is viewed more in eschatological terms rather than real-life considerations. Conservative politicians are concerned with obtaining Jewish votes in American elections but profess friendship for Israel based on underlying theological principles. Those same politicians have no trouble equating the American global “mission” with the ideals of a Christian “New Israel.” Senator James Inhofe’s seventh reason for supporting Israel, for example, is that Israel has a right to the land because “God said so.” Inhofe states that, “This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.”
Building the kingdom of God revolves around a union of church and state. Political leaders like GOP candidate Michele Bachmann, for example, do not believe in the idea of separation of church and state. Dominionists support private and home-schooling efforts and want to do away with the Department of Education. They oppose gay rights and maintain that the legal system is grounded in Old Testament laws.
Secular Misunderstanding of Dominion Theology
Secularists view such evangelicalism as extremist but fail to appreciate the theological implications. These implications go far beyond a denial of global warming or, as Bachmann has stated of herself, that God speaks through personal revelation. They impact foreign policy views that focus, largely, on Israel and the Middle East, but for the wrong reasons. In 1989, Hal Lindsey wrote that, “Unchecked, the Dominion Theology movement among Christians could lead us – and Israel – to disaster…”
In 2011, the movement has capitalized on widespread social discontentment, blaming economic problems on moral decay. Any hint of liberalism is attacked as “Socialism,” including social justice efforts. Adherents of Dominion theology profess to be biblical literalists in everything except the example of Jesus’ ministry to the poor and sick as well as eschatological interpretation. Thus, its political leaders are determined to repeal health care reforms; GOP frontrunner Rick Perry believes that Social Security is a hoax. Perry’s attack on Social Security cannot be minimized given the fact that he wrote about it in 2010.
Well-meaning Christians often have no idea that they are supporting the Reconstructionist or Dominionist agenda. Writing in the National Review, David French attempts to debunk the “fears” of Dominionist thinking by disingenuously using examples that do not illustrate the theological dangers of the movement. For example, he talks of Francis Schaeffer’s pro-life message but has probably never read any of Schaeffer’s philosophic works. By ignoring the underlying theology of the movement, French misses the crux of the argument. Although it would be wrong to use the movement solely as a political barometer, Americans – and especially evangelicals, should be aware of what shapes the views of key political candidates.