Lately I have stumbled across a term or two that, although strange at first, seemed to put bones in some of the thoughts and feelings I have had for years. I grew up rather politically unaware. I am not sure if it was intentional on my parents part to not get involved, or if I was just so oblivious to those areas of life that they just passed me by. I would guess the latter. As I matured (at an admittedly rather slow pace), I started to hear political noises, but did not make much sense of them, and we eventually moved overseas, where any American noises were drowned out by local coups, kidnappings, and general strife in that country. Upon returning, my social group was Republican, but I was not sure what that meant. I somehow figured out that it meant “values”, which would assume that the Democrats did not have such things. Then I started to become aware of social causes, and realized that they were mostly pioneered by Democrats. There seemed to be some conflict with the abstract idea of values that the Republicans held, and values Democrats routinely put into practice. Now, this was still in my early adulthood. I still saw nothing wrong with despoiling the Earth, after all, it was all going to burn soon. Over the years I found myself coming back to the connection between Christian values and Republican values. Only in recent years has it occurred to me that there really is not a connection at all. Or, I should say, there should not be.
The principles taught by the Christ have nothing to do with small government, low taxes, and business autonomy. Just as he had no statement about Caesar’s rule of Israel, he makes no statement about the direction of America. So here is where the title of the post comes in. The evangelical church wants to change the world. That sounds good. They want to change it for the better. That is good too. They want to change it through the use of power, “in the name of Jesus Christ!” Hmm… That sounds a little strange. Like it or not, Evangelicalism is involved in a movement, and it’s goal is to bring the world under the dominion of the Christ. Actually, dominionism is a view held by a larger group that includes Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and several other Protestant and Catholic branches. What is interesting to me is the way that, inside the church, we are told that we are in the minority, and we are fighting to keep America wholesome against the hordes of unclean unchurched pagan sin worshipers, and it is a loosing battle. But when you look at the last two elections, the reality is obvious: it is working, and it is not a minority. The other word in the title? Christianist, as in Islamist. This movement toward power by Christians is not itself Christian. If you pay attention to the media, you will hear about the effects of power, no matter the spiritual label. There are historic bad times that were brought on by Christians in power who claimed to be led by God.
Apart from the political aspects, what are the implications of dominionism? What does “under the dominion of Christ” actually mean in everyday life? Does it mean that I dedicate my life to the following of his teachings, and example? Does it mean I surrender all my desires, to be fulfilled through relationship with God? Does it mean giving away all I have to follow this way of life? So far, dominionism does not seem to mean any of those things. It does seem to mean spending more money on things/stuff/junk that is either sold at church, sponsored by a church, written by a pastor or the current favorite conservative pundit. It does mean making sure the world around me knows that I disapprove of their falleness, without admitting to it myself. It does mean accepting every word from a pulpit, assuming that God has put that person there, not politics, charisma, selfish ambition or pride. It does mean family values is a political issue, not something to live out, in real life. It does mean equating democracy and free market economics with Christianity and integrating them with evangelistic outreach.
I agree that our culture is corrupt, but I also think that the church is corrupt and misguided in it’s attempts to force change. The real reason that the whole thing is corrupt is not because there are so many people fighting against Christianity or Christian values in our culture, but because we Christians on the whole aren’t very good Christians. All this talk and political ragging about marriage, and family, but why should anyone believe us? Have we been a good example? What is a good example anyway? Successful, nice house, friendly, good neighborhood? Is that the Christian ideal? That is the American Dream, not God’s desire for us. I am pretty sure he does not care if we have it, but he does care how we think about it, crave it, worship it, and protect it. Why do we think this way? Why do we fret about our crap, manicure our lawns, expand our borders, pray for material blessings, and bless wars? Why do we still have broken families, greedy pastors, and bitter and broken churches?
It could partly be because we believe what we are told. Are we willing to turn off our TVs and radios, and listen to God? Not just for a day or a week, but for a year? Can we stop watching movies, stop reading the newspaper, turn off the music, and turn off the Internet? Can we take a sabbatical from “church” on Sundays? Are we afraid to be alone with our thoughts, and alone with God for that long? All those inputs tell us what to think, what to believe; how can we know which thoughts are our own? Are we just picking up what someone else tossed at us? Can we trust their intent? Maybe true Christian living begins with questioning everything, even our faith. Is it really mine if I have not questioned it? Think of the questions the Christ asked of those around him and those who were following him. Am I willing to let him ask me questions?
Christianist Dominionism? It is dominion over everything but self, in the name of the Christ, who told us to love God, and love our neighbors. Oh, and to pay taxes.