In 2005, a bill (S.520), sponsored by nine Dominionist Christian Senators and put under consideration by the Judiciary Committee, would have declared God as the sovereign source of American law, liberty, and government.
It provided for the removal of any Federal judge who does not adhere to it's religious strictures. "We The People" would be replaced by "God" as the origin and fundamental principle behind America's liberty and law.
If you are alarmed by this, and wonder how this would be reconciled with the Constitution's proscriptions against religious tests and the establishment of a state religion, the strict fundamentalists behind this Act are not concerned. At the the 2005 conference, "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith", Dominionist Activist Howard Philips said, "...if this legislation is enacted, it could produce a constitutional crisis. Frankly, my friends, that's exactly what we need."
Dominionist Christianity calls for just this kind of change in secular America. They don't want a seperation of church and state. They want a Christian state, and though they call it a re-instatement of religion, it would establish formal protections for Christianity unprecedented in US history.
The Dominionists have found a home in the national Republican Party (all the bill's sponsors are from the far right of the GOP), but they are diligently promoting their agenda at every level of civil society, from school boards to mega-churches to think tanks. And, previously, within the Bush White House.
The Dark Shadow of the Enlightenment
The roots of this movement go back to 16th Century Calvinism, preachers and theologians in the 1700s, 19th century rabble-rousing charismatics, and maverick biblical scholars a hundred years ago. It was given its first coherent world view by English and American Dispensationalists in the early 20th century.
But what we see today is a new brand, arising from the defeat of Goldwater in 1964; deeply political, and more anti-modern than any of its antecedents.
The excesses of the 1960s, and in particular liberation theology and the rise of a new social agenda of civil rights, multiculturalism, and understanding sexual identity, were a horror to fundamentalists and evangelicals, and, up to a point, mainstream Christians.
John Lennon's declaration that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the street rhetoric of the left that elevated Marxism while trashing traditional Americanism, the wholesale contempt among the young for the strictures of religion -- it seemed to a generation raised on Depression tragedy and World War patriotism to be some great Godless insurrection.
After the downfall of Nixon, and the perceived failure of Republican moderate policies to counter this "culture war", GOP organizers Richard Vigurie, Paul Weyrich and Howard Philips asked a marginal television preacher, Jerry Falwell, to help defeat liberal Democrats by appealing to religious traditonalists. They called their organization the Moral Majority, gave it a reactionary social engineering agenda, and it worked wonders for the GOP.
Their "Southern Strategy" was to appeal to millions of southern Democrats, a fearful, mostly middle-class audience who took the radical left's polemics about revolution and societal transformation very seriously. This audience flocked to the message of "a return to Christian values", even as those values became unrecognizable as the historic religious ethos of tolerance, compassion, and charity.
The movement made the reputations of Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggert and others, spinning off right-wing activist organizations like the successful Council for National Policy. Founded by original Majority Board Member Tim Lahaye, it wedded politicians, evangelicals and wealthy benefactors in a cabal for religious hegemony strategies.
Their meetings are secret, and members include Tom DeLay, Jesse Helms, and James Dobson. George W. Bush gave an as-yet-unpublished speech there in 1999. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have attended CNP meetings. ("Kingdom Coming", M. Goldberg, 2006, pg 12)
The Evangelical Right campaigned successfully, learning as they went, and targeted prominent liberals like Teddy Kennedy, George McGovern, and Frank Church, enjoying some success in defeating candidates.
They re-defined the terms of the debate, successfully smearing liberals and secular humanists as latte-swilling, Volvo-driving, unpatriotic elites.
Nonetheless, in what has become an historic anomaly, they greeted Democrat Jimmy Carter as one of their own, providing critical support in winning his election, in what was the last convergence of social liberalism and Christian fundamentalism in US political history.
Even more evangelicals were thus brought into the political process in 1976. But Carter dismayed his conservative brethren with his personally generous style of Christianity and frankly progressive policies. It came to a crisis with his call for a "homeland" and "human rights" for Palestinians, causing a rift with Christian Zionists like Falwell.
They took out full-page ads, in the name of all evangelicals, condemning any "effort to carve out of the Jewish Homeland another nation or political entity." ("Christian Zionism in US Middle-East Policy" (excerpt), Donald Wagner, originally published in Holy Land Studies, vol 2 No 2, Mar 2004).
The Christian Zionists have a philosophy interwoven with Dominionism's, and believe in the necessity of Jewish return to Biblical landsin order to fulfill end-times prophecy.
"...I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if - if we're the generation that is going to see that come about."
-- Ronald Reagan
Reagan was the first real triumph for both the Christian and ideological Right. He said what Christians wanted to hear, and advocated a return to "traditional values".
He wrapped Christianity in an American flag, disarming his critics and confounding his political enemies, who underestimated the deep distrust and antipathy conservatives feels toward 60s ideals.
In 1980, when Reagan took office, we were entrenched in a 35 year-old cold war mentality, and took Communism for granted as an adversary whose powers and bellicosity had diminished over time. Reagan re-engaged, seizing on historic opportunities, and gave the Christian Right a "Satanic" enemy who could be defeated.
But in his second term he alienated the then-emerging neo-cons and Straussians, who were fomenting for a second American Empire (to be built on the ashes of the former Soviet Union, and with the momentum and mandate of Christian voters and organizers).
He backpedaled, brought in traditional, pragmatic professionals like Kissinger and James Baker, preferring a legacy of effectiveness to grandiose risk-taking. The religious Right stuck with Reagan, but formed strategies for a better method to push their agenda.
The more fundamentalist core of the Christian Right found a champion in 1988 in Pat Robertson and came out in droves for his presidential campaign. It was a watershed event in several key respects.
Robertson was and is an extremist Dominionist, and moved those radical ideas into the mainstream.
Sociologist Sara Diamond defines Dominionism as the belief "...that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns." Dominionsism is in fact a set of ideas that are a subset of Christian Reconstructionism. Reconstruction holds the more extreme position, calling for the dismantling of civil law, and the elevation of Old Testament bible law.
Morality is enforceable, they say, including "moral" crimes like blasphemy and apostasy, and the death penalty is required. Not to dissuade (a corrupt Enlightenment idea) but rather because an offense against God requires vengeance.
Robertson's brand of Dominionism is scarcely less extreme. It calls for spiritual and physical mastery over the earth and all of its resources, by devout Christians, going so far as to advocate reckless exploitation of the environment, since the return of Christ makes careful stewardship a denial of his divinity.
Robertson's campaign became the first openly Christian Nationalist Presidential campaign, and the first to advocate a transformation of the Republicans into a religious party. His supporters didn't kowtow to realpolitik, and the received wisdom of Eisenhower-era experts.
They declared a new Christian vision for America, and were unafraid of declaring themselves on the side of God. They learned the ins and outs of presidential campaign work, how to out-organize, out-maneuver, and, significantly, how to attack.
Unfortunately for the Christian Right, Robertson was nuts. He ranted about the Illuminati and the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy, declared that secular Jews were conducting an "assault on Christianity", and his campaign failed. He has since descended further, blaming 9/11 on lesbianism, and calling for the assassination of duly-elected South American political leaders.
"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after.
Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after.
Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after.
Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
That's what Christ has
commissioned us to accomplish."
-- George Grant
former executive director
of Coral Ridge Ministries
from "The Changing of the Guard"
From the campaigns and political activity of the 1980s emerged groups like Gary Bauer's Family Research Council and Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition in 1989. It was the CC that developed the modern strategy for Dominionism, and put its beliefs into practice.
They became grassroots organizers within the Republican party and ran local campaigns on an unprecedented scale, achieving success routinely and training others how to win spots on school boards, city councils, and in state legislatures.
Where honest expression of position was a liability, they advocated "stealth " candidacy. Reed himself is infamous for saying: "I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag." --Ralph Reed, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 11/9/91
The essential document for the Christian Coalition was evangelical philosopher Francis Schaeffer's book "A Christian Manifesto" published in 1981. Again, Sara Diamond gives a concise description of what the book demands of Christians:
"The United States began as a nation rooted in Biblical principles. But as society became more pluralistic, with each new wave of immigrants, proponents of a new philosophy of secular humanism gradually came to dominate debate on policy issues. Since humanists place human progress, not God, at the center of their considerations, they pushed American culture in all manner of ungodly directions, the most visible results of which included legalized abortion and the secularization of the public schools."
The upshot is that only the truly righteous should hold public office, teach our children, make policy, and enjoy civil liberties. "Righteousness" as a criteria is problematic, given the 2,000 Christian sects and denominations that each claim a monopoly on Christ's Truth. Presumably the internecine battles, usually waged on ecumenical councils and among theologians, will be settled somehow, prior to the commencement of public executions.
How Dominionists hope to succeed
"The entire Christian nationalist agenda ultimately hinges on conquering the courts. A remade judiciary could let state governments criminalize abortion and gay sex. It could sanction the reinstitution of school prayer and the teaching of creationism and permit the ever greater Christianization of the country's social services. It could intervene on the right's behalf in situations like the Schiavo case. It could intrude into the most intimate corners of American's private lives."
-- ("Kingdom Coming", M. Goldberg, 2006, pg 155)
Patrick Henry College is an as-yet-uncredited American university founded in 1998 by Michael Farris, a home-schooling advocate. Farris, who considers public schools “godless monstrosities”, was asked by conservative politicians to create a source for conservative interns and political operatives.
It aims to produce Christian politicians who are Bible-literalists, and "who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values". They believe Christianity is "only true faith and path to heaven, and that tolerance of other faiths (is) a bad thing.", and that "all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity".
At least seven of the 100 Bush White House interns were Patrick Henry graduates, and interns worked for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. One worked for senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and others worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
22 members of the US Congress have employed at least one as interns.
Two graduates are at the FBI, another works for Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, home schooling his children. Janet Ashcroft, wife of the former Attorney-General, is a college trustee.