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On Defining “Dominionism” and “The Cultural Mandate”:

Is It a New Anti-Christian Religion?

 

By Katherine Yurica

May 1, 2009
Updated May 3, 2009

 

Some years ago I felt the term “religious right” was accurate enough for describing a large segment of the church world’s involvement in American “conservative” politics, but it seemed inadequate as a term when one struggled to understand the theological underpinnings that were driving the movement. Questions kept surfacing such as, “Why were so many religious conservatives becoming so politically militant?” It seemed like a contradiction in terms. And it wasn’t sufficient to argue that political issues such as the right to have an abortion, the right of same sex couples to marry or concerns over the environment were polarizing the nation—for the nation was often divided over difficult issues, especially when the morality gauge tilted back and forth like a see-saw with weighted opinions on both sides.

It had to be something else that was going on in the churches that explained the new demand for political involvement. In fact, it became obvious that a new religious doctrine was being taught that urged Christians “To take back America!” not just as a political objective but also as a theological and religious necessity.

However, the ultimate goal was not always stated openly and it was only after much study over a period of years, that included transcribing over 1,300 pages of statements of religious radio and television superstars, and comparing the wording of similar passages from different authors’ books, and creating parallel columns of quotes, that I finally uncovered an unmistakable reliance among Christian Right leaders upon the teachings of R. J. Rushdoony, who as it turned out, was indeed the theological founder of dominionism.

Only then did I begin using the words dominion, dominionists and dominionism. For it had become apparent that dominion was in fact the predominant self-determined word of the movement, and that “taking dominion” was considered a religious as well as a political act. Consider that Webster’s Third New International dictionary defines “dominion” in its primary meaning:

“A supremacy in determining and directing the actions of others or in governing politically, socially, or personally: acknowledged ascendancy over human or nonhuman forces such as assures cogency in commanding or restraining and being obeyed: sovereignty.”

Thus the word dominionism grew out of the religious leaders’ own use of the term ‘dominion,’ which in turn led me to the writings of the intellectual and spiritual father of the movement: Rousas John Rushdoony. His work was picked up and broadcast by those he influenced—and over the course of time, he reached literally millions of people across America, including D. James Kennedy, the late pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, who was selected in 2005 by American pastors as the “most trusted spokesperson for Christianity,” along with Pat Robertson who also made it in the top ten.[1] Kennedy’s messages are still being broadcast by television and radio to over 40,000 cities in America and 202 foreign countries.[2]

Both Rushdoony and D. James Kennedy were repeated guests on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club show.[3] (Be aware that at the time, Robertson was reaching a projected monthly audience of 28.7 million viewers). Rushdoony also appeared on Kennedy’s television program. But Rushdoony remained relatively unknown, largely because his ideas were often transmitted without credit to him. (See my essay, published on the web in 2006, titled “Outing Creeping Dominionism,” which includes a link to the parallel—eye-opening—quotes that reveal Robertson’s failure to attribute his material to Rushdoony.) And see the Robertson/Rushdoony parallel quotes here.

It is important to understand that R. J. Rushdoony didn’t just use the term “dominion,” he also created the theological foundation for it in his writings. For instance, he wrote:

“Man was created to exercise dominion under God and as God’s appointed vice-gerent over the earth. Dominion is thus a basic urge of man’s nature…. Dominion does not disappear when a man renounces it; it is simply transferred to another person…or the state. The meek are the redeemed whom God has burdened, oppressed, and broken to harness, so that they are tamed and workable…. Man has a God-given urge to dominion, to power.” [4] (Emphasis Rushdoony’s)

In addition, Rushdoony linked the primeval Genesis account with what he called, “God’s cultural mandate,”[5] a term that is now synonymous with “Dominionism,” but more obscure in its meaning and therefore tends to be a more acceptable and “convenient” term. However, as Rushdoony described it, the words are interchangeable:

“The cultural mandate is thus the obligation of covenant man to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it under God (Gen. 1:26-28).”[6]

Significantly, Rushdoony added this revealing statement: “All enemies of Christ in this fallen world must be conquered.”[7]

This new muscular theology spread like wildfire and D. James Kennedy, America’s “most trusted spokesman for Christianity,” held conferences titled “Reclaim America” that attracted hundreds of believers from all over America. In 2005, he wrote this message to the conferees:

“Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.”[8]

Yet eighteen years earlier, on September 30, 1987, the same D. James Kennedy testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight, “Our television ministry engages in the same sort of activities for which the church was established, namely: the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the inculcation of His teachings; and the fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate…”[9] (Emphasis mine.) Surely, it is reasonable to assume that not one member of that congressional committee knew or understood the real meaning of “the cultural mandate.”

Kennedy added, “The Founders of this country believed that God owned the church and that God owned the state. God is letting the Government use a lot of His real estate in America.”[10]

However, in Kennedy’s use of the term “Cultural Mandate” at the congressional hearings, he was careful to make a distinction between moral and political issues. He said, “We do not speak out on partisan political issues or on candidates.” (Of course if the church had taken partisan political positions, it would have jeopardized its tax-exempt status.) Therein lies the heart of the matter and the thorny problem is whether, by adopting Dominionism and the Cultural Mandate, churches are converting the Gospel into a new political party with political goals at the same time they are maintaining their right to a tax-exempt status and in that process, also creating a new anti-Christian religion.

Similarly, Pat Robertson, also following Rushdoony’s lead, described the biblical basis for the new political religion’s agenda this way:

“Almighty God wants us to recapture the dominion man held in the beginning… Remember, at the time of creation man exercised authority, under God’s sovereignty, over everything. He was God’s surrogate, His steward or regent. …The Genesis account uses two colorful words to describe this. One… we translate ‘dominion.’ The word means to ‘rule over’ or ‘tread down,’ as with grapes…” [11]

The second biblically significant word, “Subdue,” was explained by Robertson this way:

“Man was told to subdue the earth. The root means ‘to trample under foot,’ as one would do when washing dirty clothes. Therefore…we have in part the concept of separating good from evil by force.”[12]

Robertson continued:

“God gives man the authority to govern all that is willing to be governed…He grants man authority over the untamed and the rebellious. In both instances, God gave man a sweeping and total mandate of dominion over this planet and everything in it.”[13] (Emphasis added.)

But it wasn’t Robertson or for that matter D. James Kennedy who first spun out the powerful and convincing theology: it was R. J. Rushdoony who took the most singularly important next step—a step that was to shake, shape and dramatically change Christianity into a new and militant political powerhouse. In the next step, Rushdoony linked the Great Commission of Jesus, found in Matthew 28: 18-20, to the “creation mandate” of Genesis. In a twisted perception, he wrote: “All nations are to be subdued by baptism and teaching, i.e., by regeneration and the word of God…. If men are not regenerated by Christ, and if they will not submit to His calling, to the cultural mandate, they will be crushed by His power.”[14] (Emphasis added.)

With that excursion into Christianity, Rushdoony made it clear that the alleged biblical authority for Dominionism rests on two major Scriptures—not just one. To see how his ideas materialized, we need to look at the two pertinent Scriptures. First, is the account in Genesis 1:28, which contains this instruction to Adam and Eve:

“And God...said unto them, ‘be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over...every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’” (KJV)

The second alleged biblical authorization has had an even greater impact upon Christians, but remains essentially ignored by most researchers in this field: as we have seen, dominionism is based on the “Genesis mandate,” but it is also based upon the New Testament in Matthew 28: 18-20, in a very different understanding of the Great Commission. The new interpretation requires Christians to do two things: first, “to make disciples of all the nations,” then secondly, “to baptize them.” This new explanation imposes not only a literal meaning upon the text, but creates a logical impossibility—that is, it requires Christians to baptize a political entity—like the United States of America—and to also “make disciples” of the entities it converts, which of course extends to “all the nations” of the world. But it doesn’t stop there, the doctrine also authorizes Christians to literally “teach and train,” “punish and discipline” those nations.[15]

Although this is a very selective and misleading interpretation of the Scripture, it is nevertheless relied upon to justify the so-called “Christianizing” of governments. In short, it is a doctrine that is forced upon the Scriptures by substituting a political entity for “a tribe,” “a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus,” “people groups,” “the human family,” “Gentiles,” “a multitude associated or living together,” or family clans.[16]

To see how other ministers utilized Rushdoony’s ideas, we need to read their presentations and see how they too not only tied it to the “cultural mandate” but linked it—utilizing Rushdoony’s reasoning— to the Great Commission. Pat Robertson expressed it this way in his book, The Secret Kingdom:

“Jesus Himself said it clearly before His ascension: ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ The commission was to make followers and learners—converts—and to teach them the principles of the kingdom. Entry into the body of believers was not enough. They were to learn how to live in this world…The invisible was to rule the visible. Christ has authority over both…. Jesus has opened to us the truths of the secret world of God! He has given us entrance into a world of indescribable power….”[17]

Then Robertson added,

“...[M]any who have been born anew by the Spirit…refrain from appropriating its power…they allow the conditions of the world to dominate them, contrary to the instructions of the Lord. The rebirth should give us the power to prevail over circumstances surrounding us.” (Emphasis is Robertson’s.)[18] [The biblical quote is from Matthew 28:18-20 New American Standard Bible].

Just in case his wording seemed unclear, Robertson carefully defined what he meant:

“It is clear that God is saying, ‘I gave man dominion over the earth, but he lost it. Now I desire mature sons and daughters who will in My name exercise dominion over the earth and will subdue Satan, the unruly, and the rebellious. Take back My world from those who would loot it and abuse it. Rule as I would rule.’”[19]

Then on his 700 Club television show on May 1, 1986, Robertson defined the biblical word dominion:

“God’s plan is for His people, ladies and gentlemen to take dominion…What is dominion? Well, dominion is Lordship. He wants His people to reign and rule with Him…but He’s waiting for us to…extend His dominion…And the Lord says, ‘I’m going to let you redeem society. There’ll be a reformation….We are not going to stand for those coercive utopians in the Supreme Court and in Washington ruling over us any more. We’re not gonna stand for it. We are going to say, ‘we want freedom in this country, and we want power…’”

Under this concept Christian Dominionists are to go into all the world to take dominion and “make disciples” teaching the disciples to “observe all” that Jesus commanded.” The Christian therefore must be willing to overthrow every non-Christian rule, law, custom or government.

As I wrote in “The Despoiling of America”:

“In other words, a measure of one’s spirituality rested upon the individual’s willingness to accept the concept of taking dominion over not only the people of America, but taking dominion over the people of the entire world. From Dominionists’ actual words, the taking of America is perceived as a violent act. Ben Kinchlow who co-hosted CBN’s 700 Club with Pat Robertson [in the 1980’s] told an audience, ‘We need to grab the American dream by the short hairs and snatch it back to where it was originally designed to be.’

“As Robertson wrote approvingly in his book, the kingdom of heaven ‘suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.’ He explained, ‘Zealous men force their way in. That’s what it means.’”[20]

Dominionism then, can be defined as the theology behind anyone who believes that the Bible requires Christians to take dominion over the nations and peoples of the world and it is often called the “Cultural Mandate” in order to hide or disguise its goals, true objectives and modus operandi.[21]

Yet the question remains, “How did dominionism spread into a world-wide phenomena?” The answer rests squarely on the shoulders of Billy Graham, the power behind the International Congress on World Evangelization, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July 1974, one year after R. J. Rushdoony published his treatise, The Institutes of Biblical Law. [22]

It has now been thirty-five years since the historic Lausanne Covenant was signed and ratified, but it was the engine that launched the “Lausanne Movement.” And the Lausanne Congress was called by Time Magazine, “… the widest ranging meeting of Christians ever held,”[23] with 2,700 participants from over 150 nations. The delegates overwhelmingly signed the covenant which essentially affirmed the cultural mandate: “that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty” and they pledged “to make disciples of every nation, and permeate non-Christian society,” which they found to be “tainted with sin” calling “some of it …demonic,” and declaring that “the gospel…insists on moral absolutes in every culture.”[24]

Then on April 29, 1985, Billy Graham made the following statement on the 700 Club:

“The time has come when evangelicals are going to have to think about getting organized corporately…. I’m for evangelicals running for public office and winning if possible and getting control of the Congress, getting control of the bureaucracy, getting control of the executive branch of government. I think if we leave it to the other side we’re going to be lost. I would like to see every true believer involved in politics in some way shape or form.”

It appears that ultimately, R. J. Rushdoony managed to influence the entire church world: his theological ideas spread through thousands of churches—but most of those churches didn’t know his name.

Nevertheless, influential ministers like Pat Robertson and D. James Kennedy did. And when the whole evangelical church world, including Billy Graham, began interpreting the two verses that constitute the basis for Dominion Theology the same way Rushdoony did—then the entire evangelical church world adopted his theology, his ideology, and his doctrines on those two verses! They adopted Dominionism and the Cultural Mandate—and it was a new anti-Christian theology that threatens not only the future of the United States, but also the future of every nation in the world. May the good people sitting in our church pews start cleaning up their churches by putting this false doctrine into a strong box, locking the door, and dropping the box and the key into the deepest sea! Christianity is about love not power.

 

Endnotes:

 


 

[1] In a Barna survey of American pastors, reported by Jane Lampman, “A mission to ‘Reclaim America,’ The Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2005. Posted at: http://www.yuricareport.com/Dominionism/MissionToReclaimAmerica.html

[2] See for example: http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/Truths_That_Transform/archives.asp?bcd=2009-4-28

[3] See the article titled, “Dominionism,” at the Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominionism quoting Professor of Religion, William Martin, and William Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books, 1996, at page 354.

[4] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973, at pages 448-450.

[5] Ibid. pages 724-726.

[6] Ibid. p. 724.

[7] Ibid. p. 725.

[8] Quoted by Bob Moser, “The Crusaders, Christian Evangelicals Are Plotting to Remake America in Their Own Image,” Rolling Stone Magazine, April 7, 2005. See also Jane Lampman, “A Mission To ‘Reclaim America’” Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2005.

[9] “Federal Tax Rules Applicable to Tax-exempt Organizations Involving Television Ministries,” Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives, October 6, 1987, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1988 at page 63.

[10] Ibid. p. 68.

[11] Pat Robertson with Bob Slosser, The Secret Kingdom, Bantam Books, New York, 1984. At pages 198-201.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973, pp. 729-730.

[15] Ibid. at page 729. Here Rushdoony cites an obscure source for his rendering of this verse: R. C. H. Lenski from The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1943), see pp. 1170, 1172 for Lenski's rendering.

[16] See “Greek/Hebrew Definitions” where the Greek word “ethnos” is stated to have been used 165 times in the Bible and is defined at: http://bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G1484/ethnos.htm

And see also, “The New Testament Greek Lexicon,” which shows that “ethnos” is translated as “Gentiles” 93 times, as heathen five times, as nation 64 times and people twice. http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=1484

[17] Pat Robertson with Bob Slosser, The Secret Kingdom, Bantam Books, New York, 1984. At pages 198-201.

[18] Ibid. at pages 51-52.

[19] Ibid. at page 201.

[20] Ibid. at page 82.

[21] Many times Robertson and other dominionists tried to avoid using the word “dominion;” for example in a series with Francis Schaeffer, who originally appeared on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson in 1982 neither Robertson nor Schaeffer used the words “Dominionism” or “dominion” in the interview series, instead, they used the word “dominant” when asking which culture was dominant in the United States: the Christian culture or the humanistic culture, they asserted the humanistic culture was the dominant force in America and “Christians” had to regain dominance.

Additional significant quotes:

Tim La Haye appeared on the 700 Club show in a clip with Phyllis Schlafly and “predicted on September 25, 1985 that if all 110,000 evangelical, fundamentalist, and Pentecostal churches would sponsor one person per church to run for office and win, that in a decade they would hold every office in the U.S. At the time, he said there were only 97,000 public offices in the U.S. so “we would have more Christians in office than there are positions.” By 1994, for the first time in forty years, Republicans regained control of Congress.

http://www.yuricareport.com/Dominionism/TheDespoilingOfAmerica.htm#_edn14

Jerry Fawell appeared on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club show on April 24, 1986 and made essentially the same statement that LaHaye made one year earlier. See above Tim LaHaye quote.

[22] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973.

[23] http://www.lausanne.org/about.html

[24] The Lausanne Covenant (1974) at http://www.emnr.org/lausanne.html

 


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Is It "The End of Christian America"
or the Beginning of The Pilgrim's Progress?

By Katherine Yurica
Revised April 21, 2009

Newsweek published a well written, brilliant, but flawed
piece, in that it prematurely assumes the Christian
religious-political movement has arrived at a “failed”
crossroads when in fact, it is growing into a worldwide
phenomenon. Titled “The End of Christian America” and
dated April 13, 2009, Jon Meacham’s article makes
it clear that “rumors of the death of Christianity are
greatly exaggerated.” However, he apparently accepted
the latest statistics that show fewer people think America
is a “Christian nation” along with the fact that the percentage
of Christians is shrinking from 86 percent in 1990 to 76
percent now, which is taken as the harbinger that predicts
the end of the dream that would establish an American
Christian state.

 

See Our Directories:

Dominionism Directory, Religious Right

Articles by Katherine Yurica

 

See Damon Linker's Excellent Article:
All Good Things

 

Blackwell’s Un-American Scheme:
 
Under the Guise of “Character and Civic
Renewal” Ohio State Foists a Religious
Moral Code upon Its Citizens

by Katherine Yurica

J. Kenneth Blackwell has stepped to the
forefront of the American culture wars. He has
posted his official endorsement of a 20-point
religious moral code claimed to be “a shared
vocabulary of character-building ethics” on Ohio’s
official Secretary of State web site. Blackwell
wrote, “Character is the cornerstone of American
citizenship. And good citizenship is the foundation
of community. But to a lot of people, civic renewal
means the opportunity to not only religionize our
government, but, as we shall see, to create a new
religion that is decidedly not Christianity. Instead,
it is an opportunity to convert our citizens into docile
followers of a new authoritarian rule.

(Includes a linked glossary of definitions of terms
plus parallel columns
that compare the text.)

Blackwell's Scheme:
Ohio State's Religious-Moral
Code Deciphered
In Parallel Columns
Annotations by Katherine Yurica

 

Blackwell's Scheme:
Glossary of Terms
From Ohio State's
Religious-Moral Code

 

See also "Cult of Character" by Silja J. A. Talvi

 

Faith Under Fire, Part 1
Gothard Juvenile Center Investigated

By Karen Hensel

The News 8 I-Team first broke the news that
a faith-based juvenile center in Indianapolis has
changed its policy on spanking. The policy
changed to "no spanking" after the mother of a
10-year-old girl who spent the last 10 months
in the center complained.

 

Faith Under Fire: Juvenile Center
Investigated
Station WISH-TV Indianapolis
Indiana Directory of Investigative
Articles
From the outside, the Indianapolis Training
Center has all the appearances of an upscale
hotel. But insiders say what drives the center
is a combination of faith and fear.  Follow this
continuing News 8 I-Team investigation. 
Scroll down to read the latest stories.


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