As a nation, our attention has been captured by the ominous threat of ISIS extremism and its vicious enforcement of Islamic Sharia law. Meanwhile, few have taken notice of the stealth movement of Christian Dominionism, or Christian Reconstructionism, taking root inside the Republican Party.
In simple terms, Dominionism proposes that Christians have the God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. In other words, Christian Sharia law. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, like Rousas John Rushdoony, Gary North and David Chilton, it has long had an influence on the Religious Right’s education and political organizing.
It is not surprising that Ted Cruz, a prime example of Dominionism, chose to announce his run for the presidency of the United States at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Cruz’s father says his son will bring the world to the “end of times” and was born to this purpose.
The goals of Dominionism are reducing the federal government in size and power, having churches assume responsibility for welfare and education and having the U.S. Constitution conform to biblical law. Specifically, Dominionism says:
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▪ The use of the death penalty should be greatly expanded to include adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution and to those who perform abortions.
▪ The only valid legislation, social theory, spiritual beliefs and economic theories should be derived from the Bible.
▪ Income taxes should be eliminated. (No Internal Revenue Service!)
How have such radical religious concepts been able to impact the fringes of the Republican Party and find some degree of acceptance within the core of the GOP?
In the 1970s, the Republican political strategist Paul Weyrich founded the Heritage Foundation and used it to begin the process of targeting conservative Christian churches to engage them with the Republican Party.
In 1979, Weyrich coined the term Moral Majority, which was championed by the television evangelist Jerry Falwell, who was successful in rallying millions of voters for the Republican cause.
In August 1980 in Dallas, Texas, Weyrich said, “We are now talking about Christianizing America in a political context.”
Following the demise of the Moral Majority, the 1990s witnessed the birth of the Christian Coalition of America, led by Christian evangelist Pat Robertson. During the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush, called God’s man for America by some, the Christian Coalition of America distributed 70 million voter guides to conservative churches throughout the United States. All this was accomplished under the leadership of executive director Ralph Reed.
Listen carefully to or read the words of politicians such as Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin and you will hear tones of Christian Dominionism. Go to a Tea Party website and you will find the same.
Christian Dominionists leave no room for other views or policies, and religious freedom is for Christians only and their brand of Christianity.
Have we, as a people, forgotten the wisdom of our founding fathers? President Thomas Jefferson, in 1802, wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of the state of Connecticut to answer its questions concerning church/state issues. President Jefferson’s letter contained the following famous and wise words, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence the act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
Today within the Republican Party, there are those who seek to distort the true meaning of the separation of church and state as an effort to secularize our nation. Calls for declaring the United States a Christian nation and making Christianity the official religion of America are moving forward at the state and national levels.
Lest we forget, the Constitution of the United States declares that we have both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
The writer, a Princeton resident, holds master’s degree in religious education from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He is a former associate director of the Department of Campus Ministries for the Missouri Baptist Convention and a former director of Christian education for the Baptist Convention of New England.