Things are constantly changing in the current presidential race. Hermain Cain was big news six months ago, but now few remember who he is. The Republicans to watch in the upcoming presidential race are, arguably, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry.
All three have some major problems with their electability; Romney’s hypocrisy regarding the health care bill is still remembered by many, Michele Bachmann still continues to make false claims about vaccines causing mental retardation, and Rick Perry’s corruption is mind-blowingly widespread.
Perry refused to grant Cameron Todd Willingham a stay of execution in 2004, which led to his death. Willingham was convicted of murder and arson after a fire in his home killed his three children. Numerous forensic scientists disputed the outcome due to faulty evidence, notably Dr. Craig Bayler, but Perry refused to listen. After several other top forensic scientists agreed with Bayler’s analysis, a committee was formed to determine if the execution was unjust. Perry intentionally dismantled the committee before they could come to a verdict.
The Stranger recently reported that Perry also took a $500,000 campaign contribution from AT&T and in return pledged his support for their merger with T-Mobile. In fact, he has become rather well known for the favors he does for those who donate to his campaign, giving out roughly $16 million worth of government grants and no-bid contracts to his top eight campaign donors.
Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as dominionism.
Dominionism is an ideology centered on the idea that Christians have a godly mandate to rule all of society. Its influences reach from religious-right education to radical right-wing political movements, but it seems just so over the top that most people cannot take it seriously. Now that we have one of the most theocratic Republican fields in election history, suddenly the concept of dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences.
In August the Texas Observer ran a cover story on Perry that examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that formed about a decade ago.
“[W]hat makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.” They often reference the “Seven Mountains” of society: family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. These are the nerve centers of society that God or his people must control.
Dominionism is much more political than it is religious. It can apply to both tradition filled sects and to the South’s famed mega churches. One of the closest comparisons in modern day would be the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.
Dominionism’s roots can be found in a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, which was founded by R. J. Rushdoony during the 1960s. It openly advocates replacing American law with the tenets of the Old Testament. This includes the death penalty for homosexuality, abortion, and even apostasy, the renouncement of a religion by an individual.
Obviously the appeal of Reconstructionism was quite limited, but Rushdoony didn’t stop there. He began pioneering the Christian homeschooling movement as well as propagating revisionist history which claims that the U.S. was a Christian nation founded on biblical principles.
Rushdoony’s most wide-sweeping and influential idea was the concept of dominionism.
George Grant, the former executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries wrote: “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.” Coral Ridge Ministries has since changed its name to Truth in Action Ministries.
On her campaign website Bachmann recommended a book co-authored by Grant, titled “Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee”, which depicts the civil war as a battle between the devout Christian South and the “Godless North.”
Bachmann often references the works of anti-abortion activist Francis Schaeffer who held seminars on Rushdoony’s work and helped disseminate his ideas to a larger evangelical audience.
She claims the Christian Reconstructionist John Eidsmoe “had a great influence on me.”
Bachmann routinely praises the Christian nationalist historian David Barton, who is intimately associated with the Christian Reconstructionist movement. An article about slavery on the website of his organization Wallbuilders defends the institution’s biblical basis, with extensive citations of Rushdoony.
The New Apostolic movement had a dominating presence most recently at The Response, a massive prayer rally Perry hosted in Houston, Texas earlier this year with over eight members of The Response’s leadership team having ties to the New Apostolic movement.
To quote a sermon from a close friend of Perry’s, the New Apostolic pastor Tom Schlueter: “we’re going to infiltrate [the government], not run from it. I know why God’s doing what he’s doing…He’s just simply saying, ‘Tom I’ve given you authority in a governmental authority, and I need you to infiltrate the governmental mountain.”
The idea that two of the three current leading candidates in the Republican race intends to tear down the concept of separation of church and state is not a pleasant one, but it is one that we must come to terms with and deal with appropriately.