Since 2013 (and with growing interest, especially since Ted Cruz mounted his bid for the presidency), various authors have sought to address Cruz’ ties to the diffuse but widespread Movement known as dominionism.
But most of these various treatments seem to share common flaws—they typically focus on a few details but miss the extensive range of evidence tying Ted Cruz and his campaign to dominionism and its advocates. They also typically neglect to answer an obvious question—why is dominionism a bad thing? Isn’t it just a healthy expression of Christian engagement in the democratic process?
In the piece below, I’ve tried to address those shortcomings and also contextualize dominionism a bit.
“I believe God has raised him up for a time like this,” declares Cruz’ campaign surrogate and father Rafael Cruz, who predicts that god-anointed kings, blessed by priests, will bring about a future, great transfer of wealth, from the godless to the godly—a theme apparently lifted from the Dominionist movement known as the NAR.
“Ted Cruz’s campaign is fueled by a dominionist vision for America,” charged a recent Washington Post op-ed. “Stop Calling Ted Cruz a Dominionist,” petulantly complained a subsequent Christianity Today article.
Does Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz yearn to rule and reign over America like a God-anointed king from Old Testament scripture? Short of Cruz himself shouting it from the rooftops, who can say for sure? Still, nothing says “dominionism” quite as forcefully as “biblical” Slavery.
Back in 2011, an open letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger (concerning her radio show statement that, per Leviticus 18:22, homosexuality was an “abomination”) began, “Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law,” then popped the question,
Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
For David Barton, Cruz’ super PAC head (and the top evangelical power broker behind Cruz by one media account), this is no joke. It’s a serious question for which Barton’s website offers a serious, bible-based answer—an American may enslave both Mexicans and Canadians, but only if they’re pagans.
So, David Barton is probably a dominionist. But is Ted Cruz? Who knows. What we can say for certain includes the following:
First, various dominionists including David Barton, Rafael Cruz, evangelical organizer David Lane and televangelist Kenneth Copeland have blessed and anointed Ted Cruz (see 1, 2) in public ceremonies that look suspiciously like an evangelical answer to the sort of ceremonies held when state churches officially consecrate kings.
Next, at least five members of Ted Cruz “Religious Liberty Advisory Council” have in various ways promoted “Seven Mountains” dominionism, which encourages believers to use sneaky and covert methods take control of key sectors of society; and three are in a global dominionist movement which teaches that believers are to “invade,” “infiltrate,” and “subdue” secular society and “rule like kings.”
And Cruz hasn’t shied away from dominionist venues.
In early 2016, Ted Cruz made two high-profile appearances (1, 2) at one of the most significant dominionist churches in America, whose pastor has repeatedly over the years emphasized that a small minority of Christians as dedicated as Lenin’s revolutionary Bolsheviks could take the nation, and who prophesies a coming Christian government that may at first “seem like totalitarianism”—until Americans have been forcibly re-educated and trained to properly behave (after which things will loosen up a bit).
As if all that wasn’t enough, for several years Cruz’ own father Rafael has been on an almost perpetual speaking tour, promoting to church audiences a range of Christian nationalist history myths that motivate the dominionist movement, which itself represents something very different from honest evangelical participation in the democratic process.
“Jehovah-sneaky”—Dominion by Stealth
How is dominionism different from legitimate Christian democratic engagement? Critics often fail to address this key question.
The answer is that—while the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has allowed a flood of secret campaign money to subvert the electoral process—dominionism also subverts democracy by teaching conservative evangelicals to participate in the electoral and political process in a manner that’s fundamentally dishonest, by using stealth and deception to “infiltrate” America’s political system.
This isn’t a new thing; during the 1980s the Christian Coalition distributed the following Pat Robertson memo:
How to Participate in a Political Party
- Rule the world for God.
- Give the impression that you are there to work for the party, not push an ideology.
- Hide your strength.
- Don’t flaunt your Christianity.
- Christians need to take leadership positions. Party officers control political parties and so it is very important that mature Christians have a majority of leadership positions, God willing.
Now, three decades later, you can spit in the general direction of the Cruz for President effort and hit a dominionist.
Dominionism teaches that believers are not only to engage in the democratic process—they are to use it, and game the process, to acquire political power by which dominionists can rule (“like kings,” according to dominionist guru C. Peter Wagner) over all other groups in society.
The characteristic tactic is stealth. Promoters of the so-called “Seven Mountains” mandate (or “Seven Mountains dominionism”) often use words, to describe the project, such as “sneaky,” “covert,” and infiltrate.”
(In this 2008 video, top 7M promoter Lance Wallnau explains the Seven Mountains mandate, including the idea that the project can be either overt or covert, with the latter approach patterned after an aspect of God that Wallnau calls “Jehovah-sneaky.”)
Lance Wallnau serves on the leadership team of a new NAR apostolic network—the U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, along with Dr. Jim Garlow, a 7M promoter who serves on Ted Cruz’ Religious liberty Advisory Council.
And, taking the Seven Mountains is a decidedly hostile venture. Believers are to “invade” and “occupy” like an army. One of the NAR’s newest dominionist books, co-authored by Wallnau, is Invading Babylon—The Seven Mountain Mandate. On page 97, the book devotes an entire page to the following, in large print:
We need divine strategies to infiltrate the systems of the world and to effectively work within them. Once the spiritual gates have opened to us, we need great wisdom to steward and distribute the resources God funnels our way.
Where did Rafael Cruz get his idea on the coming “great transfer” of wealth, to be brought about by God-anointed kings? The main promoters of the idea have been the NAR’s apostles and prophets, and top NAR organizer and theorist C. Peter Wagner even devoted an entire 2015 book to the “great transfer of wealth” idea.
Transforming Michigan—state-level dominion
Dominionists aren’t only targeting the U.S. presidency. Much of the movement is devoted to state-level politics. In Kansas, the dominionist governor Sam Brownback (who has close ties both to the NAR and The Fellowship, the dominionist group which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast) has slashed individual and buiness taxes, slashed government spending and “tightened welfare requirements, privatized the delivery of Medicaid, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies” and fired 2,000 government employees. The result?—lackluster job growth and a devastated public sector (Louisiana, under the dominionist governor Bobby Jindal, followed a similar program, to similar results).
In Michigan, In 2014 prior to his reelection effort, governor Rick Snyder gave a speech at a key fundraising event of Michigan’s dominionist (or “pro-theocracy”) Christian right that provides Snyder crucial electoral support. Joining Snyder at the event was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has advocated amending the U.S. Constitution in accord with the Bible and would like to forcibly indoctrinate Americans with the pseudo-history lessons of David Barton.
In the introduction to a 2012 NAR book, one of Lance Wallnau’s NAR Michigan colleagues writes,
Out governor has attended a session on the Seven Mountains led by Lance Wallnau. Our lieutenant governor is a Spirit-filled believer… Our governor has stated that he has heard what God has said about Michigan and it will be the “turnaround state” that creates a new paradigm for the nation. He acknowledges the place of God in the transformation of the state.
In Michigan, with backing from both the Koch brothers and and the Christian right, the Snyder-led “transformation” of the state has featured union-busting, the de-funding of public schools, and reckless cost-saving measures that have afflicted an entire city population (Flint, Michigan) with Lead poisoning.
David Barton—Dominionism on Steroids
Ted Cruz’ presidential campaign boasts a number of unabashed “Seven Mountains” dominionists (see 1,2) including David Barton, a key player in the dominionist movement whose work Ted Cruz has enthusiastically endorsed, who heads Cruz’ most important super PAC, and who has for over a decade promoted the maximally dominionist idea of “biblical” slavery (which I’ll get to a bit later in this story).
If ever the case were to be argued, in court, that Ted Cruz is truly a dominionist, “exhibit A” would be his endorsement of Barton, whose work has helped Americans “rediscover the founding principles of our nation” according to the Texas senator.
Barton’s brand of Christian nationalist pseudo-history has for decades helped inspire America’s religious right political cadres who, aided by Koch money, have helped paralyze the national legislative agenda and, at the state level, propelled efforts to gut the social safety net, de-fund public education, deregulate industry, slash taxes on business and the rich, and force a supremacist version Christianity into the public square.
By endorsing Barton (and, Barton has strongly endorsed Cruz), Senator Ted Cruz has in effect endorsed the use of lies towards the acquisition of political power. As a secular tactic that’s as old as the hills, and the process is typically facilitated by lots of cash, passed from hand to hand in back rooms.
But as a specifically evangelical Christian project aimed at gaining political power with which to dominate all other factions and groups in society, and impose upon them a coercive and anti-democratic agenda, it’s known by another name: dominionism.
Dominionism differs from garden-variety political corruption in at least one significant way—it consecrates, claims divine sanction for, the project of putting entire populations under dominionism’s boot. And I’m not using that imagery at random. “We put our foot on Hawa’ii!” shouted one NAR dominionist at a 2009 rally aimed at the (unsuccessful) political conquest of the state in the 2010 election.
For years, David Barton has toiled to create a major body of pseudo-history designed to politically mobilize the evangelical right (and its dominionists) by informing them that America’s rightful heritage, as a “Christian nation,” has been stolen by scheming secularists and whitewashed by a huge conspiracy of American history scholars.
Along the way, Barton has also promoted something called “biblical” slavery—very distinct from historic Southern Slavery, but slavery nonetheless. By endorsing Barton, Ted Cruz has endorsed “biblical” slavery too.
The quintessence of dominionism is theocracy. And nothing says “theocracy” better than the enslavement of unbelievers, a practice carried out in an especially brutal manner by the revolutionary Islamic organization ISIS.
But America has its own, would-be theocrats who yearn for “biblical” slavery—and Barton might just be one.
Now, theocracy isn’t just about slavery and witches. It has a secular economic agenda too. Did Jesus oppose the minimum wage? Yes, says David Barton.
In addition, Barton teaches that the United States Constitution was based on ideas that the authors derived from the Old Testament, from the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Exodus, and so on.
Why push the Constitution/Bible claim? Well, if the founders got Constitutional ideas from Leviticus, it stands to reason that we might want to look to the Old Testament for our legal codes too, which is precisely what the pro-theocracy movement known as Christian Reconstructionism advocates.
It’s a line of reasoning that would have seemed eminently reasonable to the Puritans at the time of the Salem Witch Trials, and it slopes towards the community-based stoning of witches and adulterers and to biblical slavery.
In 2013, Ted Cruz enthused to Politico reporter Stephanie Simon that “David Barton is a good man, a courageous leader and a friend.” Cruz continued,
David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation…
Underscoring the point was a December 2015 appearance by Rafael Cruz and Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network during which Rafael Cruz cited David’s Barton’s myth of Peter Muhlenberg and the “Black Robe Regiment”—with Ted Cruz nodding his head in enthusiastic agreement.
In Barton’s Revolutionary War myth, pastor Muhlenberg, in the middle of a fiery sermon, throws off his black clerical robe to reveal underneath an officer’s uniform—and the men of his congregation march out from church with him to fight the British.
Back in 2011, presidential contender Mike Huckabee “joked” that all Americans should be “forced, at gunpoint no less, to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it.” In 2012, Barton was described in an NPR story as “The Most Influential Evangelist You’ve Never Heard Of.”
Now, Barton’s guiding, inspirational light shines upon the presidential hopes of Ted. In early 2016, a Daily Beast journalist called David Barton “The Evangelical Power Broker Behind Ted Cruz.”
Both NPR and the Daily Beast were on target—Barton does have clout. For an entire decade, David Barton was vice chair of the Texas GOP and served in 2000 as an adviser to the George W. Bush for President campaign. Barton was hired in 2004 as part of Bush’s get-out-the-vote reelection effort.
“When David Barton talks, conservatives listen,” explained the New York Times in a 2011 story that probed Barton’s influence within the evangelical right that comprises the biggest single voter block in the GOP’s base; Barton’s 2011 backing for Ted Cruz’ successful bid for a U.S. Senate seat representing Texas was doubtless very important, maybe even essential, in getting Cruz to where he is now—his steely eyes trained on the White House.
Ted Cruz has long moved in the sort of elite conservative evangelical circles Barton circulates in—in 1999, an astonishingly precocious twenty-nine year old Cruz, then a Bush campaign aid, brokered a key lunch meeting between leading co-architect of the modern religious right and new right Paul Weyrich (who co-founded the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation, and ALEC) and top Bush for President campaign leader Timothy Goeglein.
Cruz and Goeglein won Weyrich’s support for Bush (they talked for hours, recalled Goeglein in his mémoire) and so helped the Bush campaign lock down support of the religious right in advance of the 2000 election. Joining the Bush for President effort, as a campaign adviser, was David Barton.
Like father, like son—leading up to the 1980 election, Ted Cruz’ father Rafael served on the Religious Roundtable—a precursor to the Moral Majority that Rafael has described as a Christian version of the Tea Party, which mobilized religious right voters and helped loft Ronald Reagan into the White House.
David Barton’s central claim is that America was founded as an expressly Christian nation based on a “biblical worldview.” And what does that “worldview” entail according to Barton?
One interesting aspect is that, since 2003, Barton’s Wallbuilders website has featured an article, written by a board member of one of Barton’s Wallbuilders organizations, that claims the Bible justifies “biblical” slavery including the right of believers to enslave non-Christians (this isn’t simply my own take—as I’ll describe shortly, one of America’s leading relevant academics concurs).
The Wallbuilders article cites the founding manifesto of the overtly theocratic (or “theonomic“) Christian Reconstructionism movement—which fuses a Koch-brothers style radically libertarian economic agenda with a plan to impose Old Testament civil law—for example, by instituting the death penalty (perhaps by stoning) for adulterers, homosexuals, blasphemers, un-chaste women, and witches.
And, some movement leaders also hope to one day institute certain forms of “biblical” slavery. It’s in the Bible.
It’s not just that Barton has endorsed Ted Cruz and Cruz publicly endorsed Barton, nor is it just that David Barton is heading the most important 2016 election pro-Cruz super PAC.
And it’s not merely that Barton can be seen, at a 2013 pastors gathering in Iowa, along with Rafael Cruz, laying hands on Ted Cruz—presumably to designate the junior Texas U.S. senator as one of God’s anointed who will, Rafael Cruz has suggested, facilitate a great wealth transfer from the godless to the godly.
The Once and Future Christian Nation
The most important thing is that Ted directly endorses David Barton’s discredited history work, and that Cruz’ top campaign surrogate Rafael Cruz has for several years been on an ongoing national speaking tour during which he frequently promotes American history fabrications lifted directly from Barton.
Examples abound: Rafael Cruz declaiming Barton history lies at billionaire televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s church, or spouting them at Christian Zionist John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church, and so on.
Rafael Cruz does this so prolifically that one critical liberal interest group has dubbed him the “poor man’s David Barton.”
Few historians would dispute that Christianity, and Christian values, were woven into the fabric of American culture, including its political culture, since the nation’s founding. But Barton goes much further.
David Barton has made a career of rewriting American history with such extreme “creative” license that one persistent, thorough critic has openly identified Barton as a “liar for Jesus” (Barton seems to have chosen not to contest the characterization) and devoted several entire books to debunking Barton’s pseudo-historical accounts, which assert that America was founded as an expressly Christian nation.
The Jefferson LiesLies
Dramatically underlining that point, in 2012 Barton’s most recent book, The Jefferson Lies, was pulled from book stores by Thomas Nelson (“basic truths just were not there,” said the publisher) due to criticism over the book’s numerous historical inaccuracies. Barton’s book depicted Jefferson as an orthodox, pious Christian.
While Jefferson did approve of Jesus’ moral message contained in the New Testament, so adamantly did he reject the Bible’s numerous accounts of miracles that Jefferson created his own 84-page version of the Bible (the Jefferson Bible) which omitted the Old Testament altogether as well as all the miraculous events mentioned in the New Testament.
Jefferson constructed his cliff-notes bible, quite literally, as a cut-and-paste operation—by slicing out selected scripture, from the Bible, with a sharp implement (perhaps a pen-knife).
The most damaging criticism of Barton’s The Jefferson Lies probably came from an evangelical coalition which arranged a boycott of the book because of its alleged whitewashing of Thomas Jefferson’s views on race and his record as a slave owner.
Secular liberals were scathing too. “In a sane era, Barton would be peddling hand-typed manifestos on a street corner in his hometown of Aledo, Texas,” quipped a writer for The Atlantic during the controversy.
One of Barton’s early books claimed that the current constitutional understanding of church/state separation was exactly the opposite of what the founders intended, but that’s hardly the most outlandish of his positions.
Then, there’s the slavery article.
Joy of “Biblical” Slavery
I first covered the Wallbuilders pro-slavery article in July 2010 and revisited the subject in 2011. And I’ve been mentioning this in stories up into 2015.
Meanwhile, David Barton’s star has risen high indeed. He’s now close to a sitting U.S. senator who might just become the next president of the United States.
The Wallbuilders article in question is written by Stephen K. McDowell, one of the current board members (as of 2014, according to its 990 IRS tax form) of the nonprofit 501(c)(3) wing of Barton’s organization (Wallbuilders Presentations). In turn, Barton serves on the board of McDowell’s Providence Foundation. Barton and McDowell heartily co-endorse each other’s books.
The first 6 footnotes of McDowell’s article (which appears to have been excerpted from McDowell’s blatantly dominionist 2004 book Building Godly Nations) cite theologian R.J. Rushdoony’s monumental work The Institutes of Biblical Law in which Rushdoony spelled out, in extreme detail, how biblical law could be applied in all spheres of modern society.
The McDowell article explicitly spells out the four “Types of Slavery Permitted by the Bible.” Number four?—”pagans could be permanent slaves.” As justification, McDowell cites Leviticus 25:44-46:
As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you… You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves.
Though the permanent enslavement of unbelievers might seem a bit harsh, McDowell’s theological argument goes like this—slavery was not in God’s original plan but entered into the world with sin, which was born from the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Accordingly, God provided some slavery guidelines, lest things get out of hand. Writes McDowell,
laws concerning slavery provided parameters for treatment of slaves, which were for the benefit of all involved… The Biblical slave laws reflect God’s redemptive desire, for men and nations.
McDowell’s argument tracks, quite precisely, those of leading Christian Reconstructionists such as R. J. Rushdoony.
Rushdoony is widely considered the father of the Christian Reconstructionism movement, which promotes radically laissez-faire economics, hopes to abolish most functions of the federal government, and aims to establish the death penalty for myriad infractions of biblical law including adultery, homosexuality, idolatry, blasphemy, witchcraft, un-chastity (female intercourse before marriage), and “incorrigible” teen rebelliousness.
Stephen K. McDowell appears, along with Rushdoony and other top Christian Reconstructionists, in the several hour 1999 CR video series “God’s Law and Society”—which provides “a comprehensive look at how biblical law can be applied to bettering American society” (the entire series is now on Youtube).
David Barton’s own Wallbuilders website article on the issue of slavery directly links to McDowell’s article, referring readers to it “For more information on this issue” (slavery). Barton also heartily endorses McDowell’s new book The Bible: America’s Source of Law and Liberty.
In writing this story, I was gratified to discover that one of the leading secular scholars of the Christian Reconstructionism movement, University of North Florida professor Julie J. Ingersoll, included, in her 2015 book on the movement, a take on McDowell’s Wallbuilders article that’s nearly identical to the one I’d articulated in 2011 but with somewhat more nuance. Writes Ingersoll,
“By promoting McDowell, and by extension Rushdoony, Barton promotes a biblical worldview in which slavery is in some circumstances acceptable. This worldview downplays the dehumanization of slavery by explicitly arguing that God condones it in certain circumstances”—page 205, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, by Julie J. Ingersoll, Oxford University Press, 2015.
Ingersoll is clear: “Barton promotes a biblical worldview in which slavery is in some circumstances acceptable.” One of the permissible forms of slavery, per Ingersoll’s reading of the article?—”non-Christians can be held in non-voluntary perpetual slavery.” (page 205)
But Ingersoll isn’t alone. From an almost diametrically opposing viewpoint, a 2008 undergraduate Regent University thesis that seems to favor Christian theocracy, titled “GOD IS JUST: A DEFENSE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT CIVIL LAWS,” favorably cited Stephen McDowell’s interpretation “biblical” slavery too.
It’s important to recognize that McDowell and the Christian Reconstructionists aren’t just writing pointless academic commentaries on biblical scripture. They’re writing scripturally-derived guidelines for the radical reconstruction of society, along “biblical” lines.
But why is this so important?
Well, Barton’s lifetime endeavor has been the wholesale fabrication of American history—a decades-long propaganda effort to convince evangelicals that scheming secularists and non-Christians have “stolen” America’s rightful heritage and birthright and hounded God from the public square.
It’s the key narrative that has motivated America’s politicized religious right—the movement which now dominates numerous state legislators, that propelled the Newt Gingrich-led takeover of congress in 1994 and the Tea Party-driven takeover of congress and the senate in 2010, that has blocked proactive national legislation to address a wide range of pressing issues, from campaign finance reform to climate change.
In short, David Barton’s pseudo-history has helped to politically paralyze the most richest and powerful nation on Earth.
Barton’s books, videos, presentations, and “walking tours” of the capital undergird and support a right wing narrative of cultural complaint (a modern-day American analog of the post-WW1 German Dolchstoßlegende) which motivates a range of constituencies on the Christian right inclined to back Ted Cruz.
One is the Christian Reconstructionism movement, another is the closely related Christian homeschooling movement. The first is tiny, the second considerably bigger.
Then, there’s the charismatic movement, which is huge. Barton has close ties to perhaps the most aggressive and ideologically extreme current in the charismatic movement, the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation movement.
NAR leaders are the most active promoters of the dominionist “Seven Mountains” mandate, which calls upon believers to “invade,” “infiltrate,” and develop influence and control in seven key sectors of society: government, business and finance, media, education, arts and entertainment, religion, and the family.
Longtime top NAR theorist and organizer C. Peter Wagner has called upon believers to “take dominion over everything” and describes establishing “dominion” as a process of “subduing” in which his movement becomes “the head not the tail” and NAR members rule “like kings.”
In 2005, shortly before her successful bid to become governor of Alaska, the future 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin was blessed and anointed by a Kenyan NAR apostle (and friend to Peter Wagner) named Thomas Muthee, whose church planting empire in sub-Saharan Africa had been financed by the Wasilla, Alaska church where Muthee blessed Sarah.
Shortly before blessing Palin, Muthee made a short speech in which he called upon believers to “invade… infiltrate” the “Seven Mountains.”
The Cruz campaign includes (on its Religious Liberty Advisory Council) at least two New Apostolic Reformation apostles (Samuel Rodriguez and Jim Garlow) and one NAR prophet (Bishop Harry Jackson). All three have either directly promoted the “Seven Mountains” dominionist idea (Jackson, Garlow) or (Rodriguez) have helped lead an organization which pursues the 7M agenda (the evangelical Benham brothers, also on Ted Cruz religious liberty council, have also promoted the 7M mandate).
David Barton exists and operates amidst the confluence of these three movements—Christian Reconstructionism, the Christian homeschooling movement, and the NAR, and his work appeals to all three.
Barton is far from the only one writing falsified Christian nationalist pseudo-history, but he is by far the most important out of such authors because he’s so prominent and prolific, and now because… Ted Cruz.
In 2007, journalist and author Frederick Clarkson summed up the importance of what Barton does in his trenchant essay History is Powerful—Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters:
The notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is a central animating element of the ideology of the Christian Right. It touches every aspect of life and culture in this, one of the most successful and powerful political movements in American history. The idea that America’s supposed Christian identity has somehow been wrongly taken, and must somehow be restored, permeates the psychology and vision of the entire movement. No understanding of the Christian Right is remotely adequate without this foundational concept.
Target: Global Dominion
The dominionist movement is hardly restricted to the domestic U.S. At their conferences, representatives of the biggest evangelical U.S.-based aid and relief agencies boast of carrying out large scale ground-level indoctrination programs to teach the “Biblical worldview” to the populations of entire African nations—a “worldview” which comes heavily freighted with the ideological preoccupations of the American religious right.
While sub-Saharan Africa is an area of especial strength for the dominionist movement, dominionists also claim to be spreading their teachings through China’s state-endorsed Christian church, the “Three Self” movement. They’re on the move in India—and in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong as well. They’re consolidating their influence in Brazil. Russia was targeted decades ago, when the Soviet Union collapsed (see 1, 2).
Back in 2011, when Rick Perry launched his 2012 presidential bid with a prayer rally dominated by C. Peter Wagner’s dominionist NAR apostles and prophets, apologists from the Washington Post (Michael Gerson) and the New York Times (Ross Douthat) scurried to downplay gathering media concern about the issue, which kicked off with a scandalous Texas Observer story on Rick perry’s NAR ties and culminated in dual full-length interviews (1, 2), concerning the New Apostolic Reformation, on Terry Gross’ WHYY public radio show Fresh Air.
A movement that could fit in a phone booth?—Pooh-Poohing dominionism
In his Washington Post column, George W. Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson—whose career (like that of Michael Cromartie, mentioned below) began with the ministry of “born again” former Nixon Administration lawyer and hatchet man Charles Colson (who had been mentored in his faith by Doug Coe, longtime head of the dominionist Washington, D.C. network known as The Fellowship)—minimized dominionism by suggesting it was restricted to the tiny (but widely influential) Christian Reconstructionism movement.
So puny was dominionism, claimed Gerson, that despite its “cosmic ambitions” it “is a movement that could fit in a phone booth.”
Joining Douthat and Gerson in the pooh-poohing (1, 2) of dominionism was Washington Post op-ed writer Lisa Miller, whose column “‘Dominionism’ beliefs among conservative Christians overblown” called Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation movement a “previously unknown group,” in apparent ignorance of the slew of popular books NAR movement leaders had been churning out over the past decade, or the fact that in 2008 she’d written an enthusiastic tribute to one of Wagner’s dominionist African NAR colleagues.
As it happens, both Michael Gerson and Ross Douthat, together with the NYT’s David Brooks, serve on the advisory council of the Faith Angle Forum— an effort to educate elite journalists about religion and politics that is headed by a man, Michael Cromartie, who is closely associated with the anti-environmentalist wing of the dominionist movement, has participated in a wildly successful effort to export the dominionist “biblical worldview” to the developing world, and who for years has been an advisor to the leading dominionist (and fossil fuel industry funded) coalition for global warming/climate change denial, the Cornwall Alliance—which in 2010 launched a major initiative aimed at convincing evangelicals that that environmental concerns were being stoked by a vast, shadowy satanic conspiracy, which aims to rule the world, called the “Green dragon.”
The Cornwall Alliance is headed by a man named E. Calvin Beisner, with whom Cromartie co-authored the influential anti-environmentalist tract “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship.”
The “Resisting the Green Dragon” initiative was fronted by a pseudo-academic book and a several hour video series featuring David Barton and three members of Ted Cruz’ Religious Liberty Advisory Council—Tony Perkins, pastor Jack Hibbs, and Bishop Harry Jackson.
In the 1980s, Calvin Beisner served as general secretary to the Coalition on Revival, an ecumenical Protestant neo-fundamentalist front group, dominated by Christian Reconstructionist leaders (according to one top COR participant), that mapped out how biblical law could be applied in 17 different spheres of society. Later, with the PR savvy of Campus Crusade for Christ head (and Fellowship leader) Bill Bright, those 17 spheres were pared down to the “Seven Mountains.”
The Fellowship, and The Gathering
Ross Douthat, who in 2014 (amidst criticism) publicly apologized for speaking at a fundraiser for a major dominionist legal group, and Michael Gerson have also been, along with David Brooks, repeat speakers at the elite, invitation only yearly event known as The Gathering.
The Gathering represents the bulk of private philanthropic funding for the dominionist movement and was launched, as a community and an event, from a 1985 meeting of “friends” at the Arlington, VA mansion known as “The Cedars” that’s owned and operated by The Fellowship, headed by Doug Coe.
The Fellowship, which hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast, was the subject of two consecutive books, in 2008 and 2010, by journalist Jeff Sharlet (see this Fresh Air NPR interview concerning Sharlet’s first book on The Fellowship).
Top leaders in The Fellowship such as Doug Coe and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren (a frequent The Gathering speaker in the 2000s) have publicly urged Christians to follow Jesus with the level of dedication shown by the followers of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao.
In repeated appearances at The Gathering in 2008 and 2009, to solicit funding for his Faith Angle Forum program, Michael Cromartie boasted of having hand-picked journalists for top reporting slots at venues such as the Washington Post and described his project as the evangelical “infiltration” of the media.
At one of Cromartie’s The Gathering talks, during the question and answer period, religious right consigliere and publicist Peb Jackson, whose many dominionist hats have included working closely with Rick Warren, and serving on the boards of the Family Research Council and the far-right Council for National Policy, declared (audio), about Cromartie’s Faith Angle Forum,
It’s great to see these consequential opportunities here, and for a few bucks—this guy is one of the most effective returns on investment. I think it’s, probably it’s like $150,000 bucks, and he needs 70 or 80 [more]. He doesn’t even have a secretary and he’s making these big changes…
The biggest philanthropy at the yearly The Gathering event is the National Christian Foundation, which now dispenses upwards of $1 billion a year in grant money and is also probably the biggest anti-LGBTQ rights funder in America.
The matter with Kansas, revisited
In his widely influential 2004 book “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” writer Thomas Frank correctly assailed the baleful influence of plutocratic elites such as the Koch brothers in the Sunflower State (and, by extension, nationally) but trivialized at least one-half of the equation, the existence of a major movement of politicized and radicalized evangelicals which by 2000 had according to a national survey built “strong” or “moderate” influence in the majority of state GOP party structures.
While the small government, pro-business libertarian ideology promoted by the Koch brothers has achieved deep traction among American conservatives (and among more than a few liberals as well) in the decades since the Kochs launched their grand social engineering project to remake the American political and ideological landscape, the abiding influence of the politicized Christian can’t be so easily discounted.
In 2011 a former Republican career congressional staffer declared that the GOP is now “full of lunatics” and posited that “the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism (which is a subset of the decline of rational problem solving in America) may have been the key ingredient of the takeover of the Republican Party.”
These sort of complaints have been coming from conservative apostates fleeing the radicalizing Republican Party since the late 1980s. In 1992 Barry Goldwater, the original libertarian, warned that the religious right threatened to take over the (formerly secular) GOP and warned “If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”
Despite Goldwater’s warning, and the still-growing dominance of the religious right in the Republican Party, politics continues—just a very different sort of politics.
That Ted Cruz is now being billed as an acceptable (just barely) “establishment” candidate in opposition to Donald Trump in the battle for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination is manifest evidence of how very far things have gone.
While great pains were taken to obscure Sarah Palin’s extensive ties to the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation movement during the 2008 election, Ted Cruz’ tie to dominionism and its varying manifestations (the NAR and Christian Reconstructionism) are very publicly on display for anyone who bothers to look.
Cruz’ candidacy is being powered by the same sort of Christian right political activists who drove Pat Robertson’s quixotic 1980s bid for the White House. Back in the 1980s, the theocratic undercurrents to Robertson’s campaign were seen as disturbing and