Saturday, April 14, 2007

Dominionism - A threat to us all

A variant of American fundamentalism of which we all should become aware is dominionism.

You won’t find many espousing this form of Christianity using the term dominionism, but perk up your ears when you hear anyone using Genesis 1:26 as a rationale for political action:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

I am ashamed to admit that during my Bible College days, one of the authors I enjoyed was Francis Schaeffer, someone whose work promoted an aggressive, assertive, muscular Christianity that went so far as to push existentialists to the point of suicide and to suggest Christians should exercise God’s dominion in secular society by taking control politically. His work has since been used by people like Pat Robertson and others with dominionist leanings.

You will also find clues to the dangerous nature of this theological viewpoint whenever someone suggests that democracy itself and religious pluralism are unacceptable.

As Chris Hedges says in his newest book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,

“All Americans, ­not only those of faith, ­who care about our open society, must learn to speak about this movement with a new vocabulary, to give up passivity, to challenge aggressively this movement's deluded appropriation of Christianity and to do everything possible to defend tolerance. The attacks by this movement on the rights and beliefs of Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays, lesbians, women, scholars, scientists, those they dismiss as "nominal Christians," and those they brand with the curse of "secular humanist" are an attack on all of us, on our values, our freedoms and ultimately our democracy. Tolerance is a virtue, but tolerance coupled with passivity is a vice.”

Some friends and family members wonder why I write about and am concerned about such issues. It's not just that I am, much like a reformed smoker, trying to rectify errors in my past (although, to be honest, there probably is an element of truth in that proposition). It's that my reading of history has utterly convinced me that dangerous ideologies often exercise undue influence in democracies because of our mistaken interpretations of freedom of speech and tolerance (see my earlier blog entry

Whenever I detect ideological intolerance - secular or religious - my antennae go up immediately and I ready mysefl for battle. This, I believe, is the way it should be. Pluralism and democratic ideals should never obscure the importance of vigilance and the courage to defend those without the means or ability to defend themselves. Just as vigilance is important in the struggle against cancer, so too is it critically important in the never-ending battle against fascism, bigotry, hatred, racism, and sexism.

If, as Jesus is purported to have said in the gospels, "The poor you have with you always," then it is equally true that the dangerous are with us always. As, just as we should give to the poor, we should stand up courageously to those who would gladly obliterate our freedoms.

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