(Note: This is Part 5 is an 8-part series: Read Part 1: Dominion Theology in American Politics: The Radical Right Under Spotlight
Rousas Rushdoony, in the 1970s, was active in drawing the attention of the Christian Right to reprints of works by Confederate Southern Presbyterian theologians of the mid-nineteenth century, like Robert Dabney, James Henley Thornwell and Benjamin Morgan Palmer.
The books were very widely read and reviewed, especially in circles of the conservative Christian right. Some American scholars in the 1980s also renewed interest in assessment of the writings of the Southern Presbyterian Confederate theologians. The Historian Eugene Genovese described the Southern Army as "God-fearing, Bible Reading, hymn-singing Confederate Army," in which the institution of slavery was considered grounded on orthodox Christian principles. Genovese promoted the Theological War thesis of the Confederate Southern theologians. He drew historical links between Southern religious tradition and the Southern Agrarians.
James Oscar Farmer in his award winning The Metaphysical Confederacy attempted to win sympathy for the Confederate theologians by pointing to the relevance of their theology in thepresent day of common anxiety about the effects of industrialization and the "civilization we have created." He, along with the historian Eugene Genovese, were of the opinion that a more careful assessment of Confederate theology would clear a lot of misconceptions which resulted in the general impression of its inferiority to Northern intellectual culture. Genovese criticized the anti-southern bias in American scholarship and pointed out the continued relevance of Confederate theology in the present era. He drew a link between mid-nineteenth century Southern theologians like Robert Dabney and Christian Reconstructionist writers of the twentieth century such as M.E. Bradford and John Shelton Reed. In Genovese's analysis, Northerners and Southerners, in the period leading to the Civil War, emerged as culturally distinct peoples with the Civil War being the consequence of cultural division between a Christian South and a North that had fallen away from the traditional American Christian heritage.
Genovese stressed that the major division in the American polity which led to war was that of division between conservative Christians and radical progressives. He considered the abolitionist controversy to have been incidental only to the fact that the Southerners happened to believe that Slavery was God-ordained, even if many present day Christians disagree. Thus, for the South, the war was "holy war" against Northern infidels rather than primarily between slaveholders and abolitionists.
It seems evident that the model of biblical religion which became the "traditional American religion" espoused by the South derived its inspiration mostly from the Old Testamentary patriarchal tradition of Abrahamic covenant which conferred on Israel the special status of "Chosen People" and, thus, a racial-ethnic elite among heathen nations. The strong emphasis on the Old Testamentary worldview (rather than the New Testamentary) in Dominion Theological circles is exemplified by the famous "Roy's rock" incident of June 2001 (already mentioned) in which Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court, had a two and half granite monument of the Ten Commandments set up in the Alabama state courthouse in Montgomery, with the connivance of James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries. This emphasis on the Old Testamentary worldview goes back to the early Puritan settlers of the Massachusetts Bay and is expressed in the "Chosen People" religiosity prominent in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant circles, and which found jingoistic expression in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.
The justification of slavery, social inequality and resistance to industrializing modernization in Southern culture is that which looks to the "old time religion" of the Abrahamic ethnic-racial covenant as its ideal model of faith for religious society. We find strong strains of the Old Testamentary ethnic-racial covenant way of thinking among the early Puritan settlers, expressed in terms of its parallels with the religious nationalism of the ancient Hebrew nation in the invasion and genocidal dispossession of "wicked heathen" Canaanite races (it is not surprising, therefore, that the factually groundless British Israelism movement would attract wide followership among Americans of Anglo-Saxon descent in the eighteenth and nineteenth century era of westward expansion on the North American continent).
John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, displayed the typical pattern of manifestation of the Old Testamentary Abrahamic covenant religiosity, which explicitly expresses the idea of Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans as "Chosen Race," with a special destiny manifest (i.e. evident) in the circumstances of discovery of the "New World," a seventeenth century Canaan-land flowing literally with milk and honey.
In his lay sermon "on boarde the Arrabela on the Attlantick Ocean, Anno 1630," John Winthrop said, "America has been providentially chosen for a special destiny…Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into covenant with him for this work, we have taken out a commission…We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when tens of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies…that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the Lord make it like New England…we shall be as a city upon a hill, (with) the eyes of all people upon us…"
The intertwining of religious "orthodoxy," in the Christian Right (especially among Anglo-Saxon Protestants, the so-called WASP), with slavery, racism and ideologies of social inequality arises from the "Chosen People" religious syndrome which developed among religious Puritan settlers in the circumstances of colonization of the American continent and subsequent Westward expansion.
The ruthless subjugation of "inferior races," derives its moral justification from the Old Testamentary precedent: a fact which explains the Southern conviction that its racist ideology and slavery are God-ordained ( Deut. 7:2: "And the Lord thy God shall deliver the heathen to thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thous shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them…Thou shalt have no mercy upon them…").
5. Frederick Clarkson: The Rise of Dominionism–Remaking America as a Christian Nation
6. Sebesta and Hague: The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South
7. Chip Berlet: What is Dominionism? Palin, the Christian Right, & Theocracy
8. 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 Here)