Dominion Theology in American Politics: Influence of Reconstructionist Dominionism in Christian Right Circles (Part 4)

Submitted by RWMaster on Sat, 11/26/2016 - 07:16
Ten Commandments

"Roy's Rock"

(Note: This is Part 4 of an 8-part series: Read Part 1:Dominion Theology in American Politics: The Radical Christian Right Under Spotlight

Read Part 3: Origins of Dominion Theology in American Politics:  Southern Agrarians and the Christian Reconstructionists (1930s-1960s

The claim by  Christian Reconstructionists that they do not advocate political action would appear merely playing to the gallery given their recent hobnobbing with potentially revolutionary right wing groups like the League of the South. Karen Armstrong, former nun and writer, flatly warns of a potential for fascism in Christian Reconstructionist thought, while Chip Berlet puts it bluntly that the Reconstructionists are a "new form of clerical fascist politics."

The supporting fact to Armstrong's and Berlet's views is that Christian Reconstructionists have been influential in radical Christian Right political activism. Christian Reconstructionists like Reverend Joseph Morecraft, Reconstructionist influenced individual and group Right activists like Howard Philips, Herb Titus (Moore's attorney and vice-presidential candidate of Constitution Party in 1996), Alan Keyes, Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America and Focus on the Family were the leading players in partnership with Roy Moore's Foundation for Moral Law in the 2004 drafting of bill for the infamous Constitution Restoration Act which allowed local, state and federal officials to acknowledge "God as sovereign source of law, liberty or government" outside the oversight function of the Supreme Court.

Radical Right activists deliberately ignore the fact that the U.S. constitution was deliberately framed to the exclusion of a concept of religious or Christian nation. The concept of separation of Church and State was pivotal in the minds of men like James Madison who framed the U.S. Constitution. There was deliberate  design to perpetuate the early break with the seventeenth century Massachusetts Bay Colony which extended the right of participation in politics only to Congregational Church members with Congregationalism established as State religion. Religious intolerance in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had led to conflict and "swarming" of non-Church members to form new colonies.

In 1635, for instance, the Massachusetts Bay Puritans expelled Roger Williams, a Puritan minister, who had challenged certain Church doctrines and policies. Williams and his followers settled on Rhode Island, which soon became self-governing, with an elected governor and a representative assembly. Rhode Island followed the example of Plymouth Colony by implementing complete separation of Church and State and guaranteed freedom of religious worship and association (the colony even had a few Jewish settlers).

Thus, the impression being fostered by some in the Christian Right that a theocratic constitution which does not provide for strict separation of Church and state was the "vision of the founding fathers" is grossly misleading. Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which specifically prohibits religious test for public office holders, is unambiguous in its vision of a religiously pluralistic society. It may be true, as Christian Reconstructionist leader Reverend Byron Snapp insists, that, "…at no point in Scripture do we read that God teaches, supports, or condones pluralism," but the U.S. Constitution evidently disagrees with "God" and the Bible!

The Christian Reconstructionists, also, often raise eyebrows with the view that Civil Rights is opposed to biblical principles. God's design, according to the Reconstructionists, was for social inequality. It is noteworthy, in our understanding of the origins of Dominionism in present day Christian Right circles, that both Singer and Weaver, and later Rushdoony, enjoyed significant support from the wider American religious right, and that many of the leaders of the Christian right were originally influenced by Christian reconstructionists. In the 60s, in which what came to be known as the New Christian Right was yet to emerge, the leaders of the Evangelical bloc had identified, in the long standing tradition of Southern Christian "piety," with the opposition of the Reconstructionists (under whose influence they came) to Civil Rights.

In the 60s and 70s era of Civil Rights movements, when it was not yet contrary to the norms of political correctness to express racist views, leaders of the Evangelical Christian Right, like Jerry Falwell (founder of Moral Majority) spoke openly in support of racial segregation. Jerry Falwell, in a 1958 sermon, argued that racial integration would lead to contamination of thewhite race (he would, only much later, retract his statement).

While present day Evangelical Christians self-consciously avoid self-identification with racism, it had, in the era of Civil Rights struggle, been unable to distinguish itself from the traditional Southern Christian racist heritage, as the Bob Jones University vs. United States case  illustrates.

As one of the founding leaders of the New Christian Right, Paul Weyrich, (co-founder of Christian Voice) admitted, "…the Christian Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision…what got us going…was the attempt on the part of the IRS to rescind tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies."

The Bob Jones University, a Protestant Fundamentalist institution founded in 1927, did not begin admitting black students until 1971 (and only then married ones). The school had, also, placed a ban on admission to white applicants in interracial marriage or white applicants known to advocate interracial marriage. The Christian Right actively supported Bob Jones University in its official racist policy. The emergence of the so-called New Christian Right was directly from the circumstances of alienation of Southern Democrats during the desegregation era, especially after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Barry Goldwater campaign, which led to the defection of Southern Christian leaders to the Republican Party.

Nixon's  "southern strategy" in the early 70s, which took advantage of Southern Christian disaffection over Civil Rights legislation, ensured the defection of the entire Southern elite to the Republican party.

Read Part 5: Dominion Theology in American Politics: Revival of the Theological War Thesis of the American Civil War in the 1980s

Further Reading:

1. A Christian reconstructionist primer

2. Moses' Law for Modern Government: The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement

3. Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right

4. Frederick Clarkson: The Rise of Dominionism–Remaking America as a Christian Nation

5. Sebesta and Hague: The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South

6. Chip Berlet: What is Dominionism? Palin, the Christian Right, & Theocracy

7. Sara Diamond: Dominion Theology: The Truth About the Christian Right's Bid for Power

JohnThomas Didymus is the author of "Confessions of God: The Gospel According to St. JohnThomas Didymus" (Read a Free Three Chapters Excerpt)

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