Tag: dominionism

Give Kim Davis a break; she’s just a pawn in the Dominionist revolution

kim davisBy Alan Bean

Hey liberals, lay off of Kim Davis!

It’s not her fault.

Every authority figure in her moral universe is telling her the same thing: God hates gay marriage and God’s will trumps human law.

Kim believes it because everybody she respects is saying it.

There is something noble about the stand she’s taking.  Kim isn’t the moral equivalent of Rosa Parks or Dietrich Bonhoeffer; but she thinks she is because Mat Staver, the lead attorney with Liberty Counsel, tells her so.

mattstaverjpgMat Staver isn’t a household name, unless your household lives on the fringes of the culture war.  Just prior to the Supreme Courts’ Obergefell decision that made marriage equality a guaranteed right under the US Constitution, Mat Staver was anticipating the worst . . . or, from his perspective, the best.

This would be the thing that revolutions are made of. This could split the country right in two. This could cause another civil war. I’m not talking about just people protesting in the streets, this could be that level because what would ultimately happen is a direct collision would immediately happen with pastors, with churches, with Christians, with Christian ministries, with other businesses, it would be an avalanche that would go across the country.

In Mat Staver’s imagination, the Kim Davis case is the snowball that will spark the avalanche he is praying for.  Mat would love nothing more than to split America in two, essentially reprising the Civil War.

Staver hails from a section of the country where most folks believe the world is 6,000 years old, that evolution is a myth, that the Bible is free from error or contradiction, that men should exercise their God-given authority over women, that gay marriage is the ultimate sin against God, and that states should be free to make and enforce laws in harmony with this Southern consensus.

That’s why Mat Staver is up to his elbows in the fight for teaching “intelligent design” in the nation’s public schools.  He will exploit any issue on the fault-line separating “pagan” and “Christian” values because his goal is to make the world safe for the conservative Southern consensus.

Kim Davis is often described as an “Apostolic Christian”.  Several branches of the Christian family that favor the term “apostolic”, but the reference is most likely to a form of Apostolic Pentecostalism that traces its origins to the New Testament apostles, believes the King James Version of the Bible is the final authority on every subject, and encourages modest clothing while discouraging women from wearing makeup or cutting their hair.  (This explains why Kim Davis doesn’t look like most of the women in your office and, while I’m on the subject, her domestic travails are irrelevant to this discussion.)

Kim’s religion explains her opposition to gay marriage, but does it account for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on pain of incarceration?  Apostolic Christians have traditionally respected the authority of public officials and Davis would have faced no recrimination from her congregation if she had followed the law, especially if the marriage license business had been delegated to subordinates.

Kim is taking her stand because the authority figures in her world are guided by a revolutionary political-religious-legal philosophy.  While we’re focusing on Kim we are ignoring the folks behind the scenes who are driving the action.

Mike Huckabee is in on the game.  He calls Kim Davis a civil rights hero who understands the US Constitution better than most liberal politicians.

Marco Rubio says we should find a way to protect the right of public officials to hold true to their religious views.  What way might that be?

In fact, of the seventeen Republican presidential candidates, only two (Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham) believe that Kim Davis should do her job or resign.

Jeb Bush doesn’t like where his base is headed, but he can’t say so.  Instead, Jeb is praying for a via media to emerge:

“It seems to me there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and for, now that the law is the law of the land, for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is.”

But there is no middle ground here.  The Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution states that when state and federal laws conflict, federal law prevails.  As James Madison argued, if the nation had tried to build a society without a supremacy clause of some kind, “it would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members”.

Mat Staver disagrees.  So do most of the Republican candidates in the presidential race.  Although most people haven’t heard of “Dominionism” or “Christian Reconstruction”, or “The New Apostolic Reformation”, the basic assumption at the heart of this complicated movement is beginning to take hold in conservative America.

Dominionism, narrowly defined, has a limited following on the Right, but the basic tenets of this revolutionary worldview are leavening conservative America: the notion that there is a clearly definable “biblical worldview”, the conception of America as a nation founded by and for Christians; the demonization of the public school system; the assumption that free market capitalism is a biblical concept, a rejection of the theory of biological evolution; and a visceral antipathy to homosexuality and the gay rights movement.

(If you want to learn more about Christian Dominionism, read my primer on the subject, and check out Sarah Posner’s piece on how this philosophy is being taught at Liberty University Law School (Mat Staver’s home base).

Poor Kim Davis doesn’t understand much of this slice of recent history, but her attorney is on the cutting edge of the Dominionist movement and he understands it very, very well.  Mat Staver tells Kim that she is a Christian martyr; and Kim believes it.  She is a pawn in an enormous chess game that few Americans, conservative or liberal, appear to understand.

Ted Cruz, like his dear old dad, is a committed dominionist.  That’s why he is auditioning to be regarded as Kim Davis’s biggest fan.

“Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny,” he said. “Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. . . . I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally.”

Ted is fully aware that none of this makes sense if we are playing by the secular interpretation of constitutional law that currently drives the American legal system.  But Ted is marching to a different drummer; talking and thinking as if the dominionist revolution was already over and the Supreme Court can be trumped by biblical teaching (as interpreted by people like Mat Staver).  If people like Cruz repeat their talking points loud enough and long enough, people like Kim Davis will begin to believe it.

Kim the County Clerk is surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses repeating the same talking points.

In the America described in political science classes and the America that prevails in the courtroom, Kim Davis doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.  But Mat Staver doesn’t belong to that America.  Mat’s heart has been captured by an America that lives on the far side of the revolution.

But we’re not paying attention to Mat Staver, his friends at Liberty Counsel, and the dominionist movement that shapes their thinking.  We’re arguing about the merits and demerits of a simple county clerk who is being manipulated for ideological purposes.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ

XXX TED CRUZ 2016 HDB327.JPG A  HKO USA VAWhen Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University reaction on the left was predictable.  Some suggested that Liberty students were only in their seats because attendance at chapel is mandatory at Liberty. Liberals don’t like Ted and the feeling is mutual.

Libertarian response was mixed.  Ted’s political career is funded by billionaire libertarians Charles and David Koch, he despises Obamacare, and he wants to abolish the IRS.

Libertarians haven’t forgotten that Cruz’s famous filibuster speech against Obamacare was studded with Ayn Rand quotations.

Who could ask for anything more?

But hard core, “objectivist” libertarians are baffled by Ted’s fervent embrace of the religious right, in general, and his staunch opposition to abortion, in particular.  Why, for instance, did a lifelong admirer of Ayn Rand announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University?

Ayn Rand hated philosophical compromise as much as she hated Jesus; and she hated Jesus very, very much.  Consider this oft-quoted line from her novel, The Fountainhead:

The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent.  He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves . . . this is the essence of altruism.

Jesus and Ayn share one quality: consistency.

Rand asserted that nothing beyond the demands of the detached and independent ego really matters.  Altruism, living in response to the needs of others, was thus the worst kind of heresy.  When we live in service to others, she taught, we become slaves.

Randian objectivists wish Ted would lose his religion so they wouldn’t have to qualify for their support.  But everyone, even libertarians, appreciate that Ted’s career arc would plummet to earth if he trampled on the cross.  In America, we are free to disagree with Jesus on every important point, so long as we’re singing “Oh How I Love Jesus”.

A cynic would assert that Ted Cruz embraces both Christ and anti-Christ because he is a pragmatic politician. But you can’t understand the Junior Senator from Texas apart from the culture that shaped him.  Religious superstars from Dwight L. Moody to Billy Graham embraced Wall Street for the same reason Ted Cruz courts the Koch brothers–publicity is expensive.

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

The best way to impress the wealthy is to tell them how wonderful they are, and Ayn Rand made a comfortable living singing paeans to the powerful.  They were the only people that mattered to her; everybody else she called ‘looters’, ‘moochers,’ and (when she was feeling kind) ‘parasites’.

Not all wealthy people enjoy praise and adulation, of course, but most of them do. Charles and David Koch love Ayn Rand and Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter because they speak rapturously of the wealthy and contemptuously of everyone else.  No surprises there.

Ted Cruz grew up in a religious subculture in which Christianity and laissez-faire capitalism dovetailed neatly.  Mainstream evangelical Christianity soft-pedals Jesus’ teaching on money, greed and solidarity with the poor because, while no one was watching, we became a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America.  If you think this is overly-harsh, check out the Sermon on the Mount and you will see the problem.

But this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ goes deeper than political pragmatism and the lure of mammon.  Ted Cruz isn’t just a conservative Southern Baptist who occasionally shows up at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; he is also an enthusiastic Dominionist.

This stealth enterprise goes by a variety of names: the Reconstructionist Movement, Dominionism or, more recently, the New Apostolic Reformation (I have written extensively on this subject).

Dominionism is rooted in the “presuppositional” theology of Cornelius Van Til and the political-religious musings of Rousas John Rushdoony.  (If you are unfamiliar with Cornelius and Rousas, this primer will come in handy.)

Think of it as the Reformed doctrine of election on steroids.  Rushdoony put it like this:

“The purpose of Christ’s coming was in terms of the creation mandate… The redeemed are called to the original purpose of man, to exercise dominion under God, to be covenant-keepers, and to fulfill “the righteousness of the law” (Rom. 8:4) . . . Man is summoned to create the society God requires.”

The theological category of “election” makes the marriage of Christ and anti-Christ possible.

Both Randian objectivists and Christian dominionists contrast the glories of “us” with the depravity of “them”.

It’s an anti-Christian species of Calvinism.  The wealthy and the powerful have the right to dictate to the poor and the powerless because, well, they’re so super.  Dominionists associate this authority with God (from whom all blessings flow).  For Randian objectivists it’s the law of the jungle: If the makers don’t rule the takers, the takers will rule the makers, and we can’t have that.  Both conservative Christians and anti-Christ objectivists dream of that great day when the elect will triumph and the unworthy will get a richly-deserved comeuppance.

I am not suggesting that everyone associated with the religious right thinks this way. They don’t.  But culture war logic ensures that conservative critics of this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ will be consigned to the outer darkness.

Liberals, for their part, don’t know enough about Ayn Rand or Christian Reconstructionism to discern the elephant in the room.  Besides, it’s too easy to lampoon politicians like Ted Cruz if you’re working with a liberal audience.  You can make jokes about Liberty University students compulsory attendance at the Cruz announcement speech in twenty quick seconds flat.  Liberty students wearing Rand Paul T-shifts is a great five-second sight gag.  So why do the hard work of answering hard questions that no one is asking?

Mainstream analysis, desperate to sustain the illusion of objectivity, eschews in-depth analysis of anything.  Cruz kicked off his campaign at Liberty University in an attempt to court religious conservatives.  End of story.  The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ rarely gets a mention on CNN or CBS.  It sounds mean-spirited and it smacks of liberal bias.  We don’t want to lose more conservative viewers to FOX.

But our silence comes with a price.  Ted Cruz holds this marriage of convenience together by pretending that neither Jesus nor Ayn Rand were serious.

They were; and they are.