America doesn’t need a Christian Ayatollah


For decades people have referred to the Christian right and the political influence it has had on the Republican Party. Although often linked to the anti-abortion movement, reducing its agenda to this single issue is a mistake. Its goal is nothing less than the replacement of constitutional law with biblical law.

The idea of ​​replacing or directing all laws and other facets of society under a singular Christian focus is represented by a movement called Dominionism. It is sometimes called Seven Mountain Dominionism because it seeks to control family, education, religion, media, entertainment, business, and government with fundamentalist Christian ideas and doctrinal demands.

The origin of this movement is the work of RJ Rushdoony (1916-2001) who transmitted the idea of ​​Christian reconstructionism, providing his biblical rationale for political action throughout American society. His work began to embolden others to move from the pulpit into the public square and by the 1980s the movement had taken firm root within the Republican Party and was recognized by no less than Ronald Reagan.

Although the Catholic Church has long had experienced members who have sought to influence political discourse, called Catholic Fundamentalists, Dominionism is primarily a Protestant movement that has found common cause with Calvinists and Pentecostals and others. In his efforts to dissolve the denominations under a singular effort, he created the New Apostolic Reformation to coordinate and mobilize the effort of Dominionism. It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump sought their support in 2016 when he was running for president.

There is not enough space in this column to describe all aspects of Dominionism and its ever-increasing influence on American politics. Nor can a Protestant denomination be used as a basis for the fundamentalism of Dominionism because there are schisms over ideas related to the Second Coming. But some fundamental aspects can be discerned.

Dominionism believes that the United States is and should be a Christian nation, with no tolerance for other religions or faiths; that the biblical law based on the ten commandments is the singular foundation of all law; and that the Constitution must be interpreted solely on this basis. Importantly, proponents believe that the United States should be a theocracy guided moreover by religious leaders rather than leaders elected by popular vote.

An example of this type of government is seen in Iran with its ruling ayatollah. And a dive into the beliefs of Dominionism demonstrates a disdain for democracy in favor of minority government by Christian rulers. In sum, the Dominionism movement would replace your vote with their leaders’ interpretation of fundamentalist Christian doctrine applied to law and politics.

If that sounds a bit far-fetched, the following politicians prioritize Dominionism at the heart of their actions: Michelle Bachman, Ted Cruz, Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin. And, there are more right-wing politicians and preachers who are heavily influenced by or at the center of Dominionism.

One area in which dominionism has been very visible is in education. The explosion of home schooling and private Christian schools is evident. Hillsdale College gained influence through the creation of Christian curricula used as the basis for education in conservative states, while training teachers to indoctrinate students in Christian nationalism on campuses across the country.

Using the guise of “parental rights,” this clearly anti-gay effort undermines the vitality and effectiveness of education by whitewashing slavery, banning books, and redirecting teachers to only talk about accepted forms of Christian nationalism. And those who oppose this heavy hand of Christian fundamentalism are accused of denying “religious freedom” to those who would impose their will on American government, education, business, and life.

What we are seeing from the Supreme Court of the United States is the rise of dominionism into law. What pro-lifers often fail to realize is that when a specific religious principle becomes law, it opens the door to increasingly theocratic decisions that threaten the foundations of democracy. Therefore, the separation of church and state was and is key to the continuation of our country’s history as the largest democracy in the world.

Understand what has been unleashed by the Christian right and ask yourself if you will vote to save democracy or let our country fall into theocracy like Iran. Consider whether people who would use their church as a political platform still deserve to be exempt from paying income tax.

The United States does not need a Christian Ayatollah, but the danger of that happening is more real than you might think.

Robert Schwaninger lives in Alton and can be reached at [email protected].


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