A Christian Nation?

November 7, 2011Eda Uca-Dorn

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In one year USAmericans will elect the next President of the United States. Many anarchists, Christian radicals, Catholic Workers, New Monastics and others practicing anti-empire Christianities with community-oriented power nexus will say, “So what?” After all, fewer Americans are getting a piece of the (apple) pie, every 80 minutes a veteran takes his own life, and the prevailing winds have blown the spirit of revolution from the Middle East to North USAmerica in a post-colonial dream spiritually conceived in the Mary-minds of third wave feminist theologians, wherein Arabs and Muslims break the power of totalitarianism and spread freedom and democracy to USAmericans! An election? Just a choice between two evils. So what?

I too am unsatisfied by the choice between elite big business military leaders. Yet I worry that some of us (and I put myself in this camp) have sometimes mistaken the entrenched, systematic, psychopathic malevolence of USAmerican politics for being so equally distributed that we’ve treated the tepid choice between “two evils” as being no choice at all. As we prepare for the coming election (or don’t- Election? Harrumph!) it may be of use to eavesdrop on the prayers of those others unabashedly proclaiming Christ Jesus.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after. World conquest.
That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.

~Excerpt from The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action,
by former executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries, George Grant.

“America is full of good people, but something dark is loose” Michelle Goldberg warns in the introduction to her book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism 1. Goldberg’s thesis is that there is a powerful- and greatly underestimated and misunderstood- contingent of Christians in the United States who view the state as just one of the domains to be brought under the control of (their brand of) Christianity. She writes to dispel what she believes to be a myth of this movement’s location in an irrelevant fringe, perhaps somewhere in a rural farming community or suburban strip mall 2.

According to Goldberg, this movement has several key characteristics: 1. It views the Bible and the Christian faith as providing guidelines for every area of society; 2. It views the United States as foundationally a Christian nation; 3. It sees this Christian foundation as being under siege; 4. It is in a “battle to take the land- to “gain political power in order to subsume everything- entertainment, law, government, and education- to Christian [fundamentalism]”3; 5. It has managed to wage this battle without alerting the notice of those who would oppose its viewpoints- either by use of counter-cultural institutions nearly invisible to liberal USAmericans or by intentionally deceiving the wider public of their religious, political, and cultural motivations.

In each chapter of Kingdom Coming, Goldberg outlines a different arena in which Christian nationalists are at “battle”: the legislature; the family and the so-called “homosexual agenda”; the influence of science on society and law; the competition for federal funding for charitable programs; sex education and contraception availability; and the court system. For this reader, Goldberg’s most compelling and important arguments are made in shedding light on this movement’s fifth characteristic; that it has managed to wage these battles without alerting the notice of those who would oppose its viewpoints- either by use of counter-cultural institutions nearly invisible to liberal USAmericans or by intentionally deceiving the wider public of their religious, political, and cultural motivations.

One area of weakness in Kingdom Coming is a lack of precise definitions for the theologies, movements, and terms, which Goldberg seems to use interchangeably; a second edition would be benefited by a glossary. Nonetheless, readers can extrapolate that according to Goldberg, “Christian Nationalism” is the belief that the United States was at its foundation a Christian nation and ought to be restored as such, that “Dominionism” is the belief that Christians have a right (and a duty) to rule every area of society, even legislating the lives of non-Christians in Christian terms, and that “Christian Reconstructionism” is a theology which calls upon Christians to “reconstruct” every arena of society (including law, education, family, and entertainment) according to a fundamentalist reading of the Bible.

The rise of Christian Reconstructionism, is rooted in postmillennialism, a belief that the second coming of Jesus will be preceded by a 1000 year era of Christian reign worldwide. Unlike premillenniallism, which claims that Jesus’ return necessitates no condition other than the will of God, postmillennialism calls followers to create the conditions in which Jesus will return; “In preparation of the second coming of Christ, godly men have the responsibility to take over every aspect of society” 4. Readers may point out that the number of postmillennialists in the United States is quite low; in fact most Evangelical Christians identify as premillennialists. However the agenda of dominion has spread beyond its postmillennialist roots. Many premillennialists have become deeply influenced by a revisionist reading of USAmerican history. They view the United States as being foundationally a Christian nation, specially blessed by God for being as such and in peril until it returns to the safe haven of the imagined ideal society of the puritan colonialists. Believing themselves to be living in a dangerous state of God’s disapproval – “proven” by the idea that God removed His special protection from the U.S. to allow the September 11th 2001 attacks and other tragedies to occur – this once apolitical base has been galvanizing for action since the 1970s.

As premillennialists moved outward from their 1950s era separatism, they did so having developed highly effective institutions assisting believers through homeschooling alternatives to secular public education, right-wing political training, and Christian media. In 1984 the Coalition on Revival (COR) was founded to connect the pre and postmillennialists in mutual mission. According to the COR website, this mission is “to help the Church rebuild civilization on the principles of the Bible so God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven” 5. Whatever end-time theologies held by members of this movement, the drive for dominion “sees Americas triumphs as confirmation of the truth the Christian religion, and America’s struggles as part of a cosmic contest between God and the devil. It claims supernatural sanction for its campaign of national renewal and speaks rapturously about vanquishing the millions of Americans who would stand in its way” 6.

In her introduction, “Taking the Land,” Goldberg writes of dominion oriented political organizations which reframe (or even obscure) their religious agendas to the general public. For example, founded in 2004, Generation Joshua has trained and paid the travel and living expenses of hundreds of homeschooled children volunteering in right-wing political campaigns. Director Ned Ryun – “a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and the homeschooled son of a Kansas congressman Him Ryun” – is politically savvy enough to know that their candidates will be discredited in mainstream forums if their platforms are articulated on biblical terms alone. Thus, he teaches young campaigners first “a firm, solid biblical worldview, and then… how to communicate that in terms that the other side accepts” 7. As of 2006 all but one of their candidates had won their races.

This reframing might seem mundane; which politician doesn’t finesse his agenda to be more broadly appealing to voters? Yet it might seem more urgent to the liberal urbanites to whom Goldberg writes if they understand that the ideologies among the Generation Joshua winners such as Tom Coburn (R-OK), (who has called for the death penalty for abortionists) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) (who would like to ban gays and unmarried pregnant women from teaching in public schools) are polar opposite to their own. Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, which “[specializes] in this kind of dispersed political warfare,” is even more alarming. Again, from Goldberg’s introduction: “Christian Coalition manuals urged candidates to keep their religious agenda quiet until after they were elected. Supporters would learn who the local Christian Coalition candidates were through voter guides distributed at evangelical churches, but the general public was often in the dark” 8.

In her fourth chapter, “The Faith-Based Gravy Train,” Goldberg reveals the widely unknown doctrinal foundations of President George W. Bush’s “Conservative Compassion” platform. While many have heard this term, few have understood what it really means. According to Goldberg, it is not as is often assumed, a sugary (and perhaps meaningless) political slogan; Compassionate Conservatism is the stance that the current social safety net (made up of a mix of government run welfare programs, private agencies, and faith-based organizations) ought to be replaced by private, Christian agencies. This right-wing Christian doctrine is perhaps best championed by Marvin Olasky – “one of the chief behind Bush’s faith-based initiative” – in his books, Compassionate Conservatism and The Tragedy of American Compassion.

While faith-based charity is as old as faith itself, Olasky’s vision would do away with secular options, forcing social service workers as well as service recipients to fit into a fundamentalist Christian worldview. Under the Bush administration, billions of dollars were diverted from secular social service agencies to “sectarian religious outfits” 9. The danger of this resource diversion goes beyond the fact that these agencies often do not employ, or even treat, those who do not ascribe to their theological values. These agencies benefit from a lack of oversight with regards to measures for success in treatment and professional etiquette and in fact often set their own standards which differ widely from their secular counterparts.

The lack of “evidence-based” treatment practices in many of these facilities, Goldberg says, is no mistake: “Evidence doesn’t mean the same thing for the Christian nationalists as it does for others. After all, they’ve already rejected materialistic naturalism – they’ve already rejected science – as a basis for knowledge” 10. In chapter 5, “AIDS Is Not the Enemy,” Goldberg quotes Pam Stenzel, once member of Bush’s task force on abstinence education to the Department of Health and Human Services at the Reclaiming American for Christ conference in 2003 regarding whether her sex abstinence program worked: “You know what?” she said, “Doesn’t matter. Cause guess what. My job is not to keep teenagers from having sex…” What is her job? “To tell kids the truth!” “I don’t care if it works, because at the end of the day I’m not answering to you, I’m answering to God!” The enemy of the faithful according to Stenzel is not AIDS, HPV, unplanned pregnancy, or even teenage sex: “My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy God and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy.” “Of course,” Goldberg adds, “Stenzel isn’t just teaching her child” 11; during Bush’s first term, the federal government spent almost one billion dollars on “chastity” programs and 30 percent of school based sexual education programs taught abstinence only.

Most USAmericans, though Christian, are not Christian nationalists and would find political subterfuge and the allocation of government resources to unproven or even dangerous “services” abhorrent. Goldberg explains that by using terms like “Compassionate Conservatism,” and working through organizations like the Christian Coalition, Christian nationalists have been able “to communicate on two levels, with a vague anodyne message for most Americans, and a more precise, coded one for the evangelical right” 12.

What is the future of this influential movement? Interestingly, Goldberg (without apparently noticing so) describes a shift in the Christian nationalist movement into what Harvey Cox would call the “Age of Spirit.” In chapter two, “Protocols of the Elders of San Francisco: The Political Uses of Homophobia,” she details the use of ecstatic worship of voters in Ohio against same sex civil unions. Rapturous dance and healings were paired with sermons against the so-called “homosexual agenda;” one pastor cried out, “I see the Holy Spirit anointing you as you vote for life, as you vote for marriage, as you vote for the pulpit” 13. Yet it seems that for Goldberg the nuances between Christian fundamentalism and Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity are irrelevant. She argues that that the coalition of Christian nationalists – mobilized by the virulent and reactionary teachings of widely influential men such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and D. James Kennedy – continues to broaden beyond the wooden churches of austere protestants who view themselves as the new puritans to the lush, ecstatic worship of Pentecostals and the suburban pedestrianism of boxy megachurches.

In this analysis, the idea that one type of USAmerican fundamentalism might be dying is beyond the point: the virulent aims of Christian nationalism have infected a broad spectrum of Christianities and those with political training have succeeded in placing disproportionate numbers of their ranks in positions of power so that their political ideologies would live on beyond the relevance of any single fundamentalist brand or institution.

An aside: When in the 1950s, M. King Hubbert announced his theory of Peak Oil (the peak and subsequent decline of oil production) the decline of oil production in the United States seemed inconceivable. This was because production was about to peak: it was within a few decades that USAmerica was producing more than ever before and, as Hubbert rightly predicted, than ever again.

Was then the George W. Bush era of Goldberg’s analysis “peak Christian nationalism”? Was it the high point of power, influence, and efficacy for Christian nationalists? Did the election of President Obama along with the rising tide of a new generation of political participants indicate that in certain key “domains” Christian nationalism have lost their grip? Or three years later, and in the midst of terrible malcontent, are the powers of Christian nationalism back on the rise? And how will the tea party movement continue to help shape political dis/course? Only time will tell. Whether the radical elements of the Republican Party – such as Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry – ultimately win the nomination, their rise to a measure of legitimacy on the national stage points to their profound movement-based power. This is a power we must understand if we are indeed to participate in shaping our country in the years to come.

  1. see page 22
  2. ibid, pp. 29-30
  3. ibid, p. 2
  4. ibid. p. 37
  6. Goldberg, p. 6
  7. ibid, p. 4
  8. ibid. p. 14
  9. ibid. p. 107
  10. ibid. p. 127
  11. ibid. p. 136
  12. ibid. p. 110
  13. ibid. p. 52
  • http://profiles.google.com/emanationster Sara Harding

    This is scary stuff, and a timely message, because a financial crisis can allow such fringe, fascist movements to gain support with their promise of spiritual and social stability. Blackwater Blackshirts are probably just waiting to step in when the local police “fail” to stop the protests. I hope not. Chris Hedges has a similar book out, and from the sample, looks like there is evidence for a good case. http://books.google.com/books?id=jFjzEaloM9sC&printsec=frontcover&dq=chris+hedges&hl=en&ei=44W4Tp6hDY3PgAeol92vBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • Amaryah Armstrong

    A timely and thought provoking peace. While I think voting in this country is for little more than show, I still think we have to do it as a sign of being committed to political struggle, though it can’t ever be all we do.

  • Andylewis

    For many anarchists, christian radicals etc.. not voting isn’t about saying “so what”, it’s about resisting “The Political Illusion”, the idea that every problem has a political solution, this is related to a critique of technology, every problem has a technological solution.

  • Eda Uca Dorn

    Andy, yes, I think The Myth of the State As Savior and Elections as Confession of Faith explains that view beautifully and I don’t do it justice here. I have been part of communities that chose not to vote and I could have done a better job at explaining that view. I didn’t do it due diligence in part because so much of that view is already articulated among those to whom I was writing (and many of you would articulate it much better than I) so I kind of wanted to get to what is almost never spoken of which is the danger and consequences of ignoring those who do manipulate the political system very well. In reviewing Goldberg’s book I just wanted voters and nonvoters alike to know about a particular threat operating in the electoral/political system. How one engages it is up to her. I am in agreement with much of The Myth of the State and I am also waking up in my own political consciousness to the idea that it’s all much more dynamic than one ritual act or strategy in a binary system: one can choose not to vote and still come to appreciate that it does matter whether the lesser of two evils wins where one is an ineffectual military moderate who will no doubt support killing and pillaging while the other is an effective radical who will do the same re: killing and pillaging AND attempt to bring the country backwards to a mythological puritan state while being not only a tool but a champion of racism, sexism, and colonialism. Do I treat voting as a ritual/symbolic act? I do. I also live in areas where elections are more or less predetermined to go to a Democrat and what I do or don’t do will have little effect on the outcome. If I lived in an area where there a Christian Dominionist could win, I’d campaign against him. I’d even campaign for a Democrat at the expense of my ritual, ethical, intellectual purity if it meant keeping a Christian Dominionist out of office. (And believe me, I’d feel tremendous, wrenching guilt campaigning for anyone who would support killing, which is to say, any “winable” candidate.)

    • http://twitter.com/thejoeturner Joe Turner

      Eda, I don’t understand your last few sentences. In my country those who refused to vote were castigated because of the risk of far-right politicians winning in some districts. If they win and I didn’t vote for them, that isn’t my problem and I am not responsible. Any other moral explanation suggests that voting (or not voting) on my conscience is not required and that the only moral option is the least-worst candidate. Which is an oxymoron given that the system is supposed to work as far as it does by taking a majority poll of people voting on their conscience. If a ‘good’ candidate loses out to a poorer one, then surely it is his fault for failing to secure more votes than the ‘bad’ candidate rather than my fault for refusing to vote for him.

  • Andylewis

    The electoral/ political system, itself is a threat, not just groups like right wing christians tapping into that power. There are always arguments for voting to keep the great threat at bay. Last presidential election Jim Wallis admonished christian radicals that “the threat was too great this year.” He wanted the far christian left to get out of their binary thinking and vote to save Democracy. To me the issue is less about preserving some sense of my own purity; it’s more about realizing that democratic, political, electoral, rights based systems in and of themselves ultimately hold no potential for liberation and freedom, quite the opposite, they are means of oppression. Those systems are the enforced framework through which some of the best known liberatory struggles have chosen to engage, many struggles have chosen not to engage with that framework and others have been somewhere in between. In and of itself the political realm is the enemy of liberation and freedom.

    • Amaryah Armstrong

      “In and of itself the political realm is the enemy of liberation and freedom.”

      But this is not really true. It is against the backdrop of the political realm that protest or resistance has any meaning. It is against the backdrop of the perversion of politics that protest is possible. To suggest that an abolition of the political is the only way to liberation is not only short-sighted, but ignores how radical movements get leverage against domination and oppression in the first place, which is through engagement in the polis which is most faithfully found in resistance or protest against their perversion.

      • Andylewis

        The Polis is perversion.

        • primaltruth

          There is value in taking part in a demiocratic system to vote according to conscience for actualizing a greater good. On the other hand, there is no real full democracy, there is only a very limited expression iof that in political society. Some good alternatives to other choiices can about through this. But generally there will be minor difference or a choice between two or more thuings for what is the lesser evil. And what for, when there are greater things to consider?

          The whole point of pursuing a primitive sort of simplicity for seeking the stable way humanity as a whole survived well until modern times. Some in civilization now might feel we should be congratulating ourselves on our success with a high human population of billions. But how is that going to work out? Warfare will grow with diminishing resources and depletion of what we are unnaturally dependent on. Returning to the right balance is very desirable. Some would seek that now, but for many that hold out from that it will be too late for having satisfactory survival when large centers of civilization experience the effects of collapse.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Lewis–I just wanted to affirm this. I think it is interesting that the electoral system is seen as the primary/best means for liberation when so many struggles for freedom in human history have taken place outside of elections or heck when elections didn’t even exist. That said, the majority of Eda’s article actually isn’t about voting. It’s about a movement that distorts the gospel and that is seeking to use an oppressive system in ways that are even more oppressive. I actually don’t think the most effective way to resist that kind of thing is at the polls. As I said to my comrades in Sweden, we ought not be waiting until it looks like a racist, fascist group might win an election to get riled up…at that point its too late because it is clear they have already successfully propagated a narrative that is compelling to vast numbers of people. Instead we ought to be finding ways to do be doing truth-telling and counter-acting those narratives before proponents of various forms of Christian nationalists get off the ground.

  • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

    Isn’t fear-mongering about the other party a common tactic to increase voter turnout? Is this significantly different?

    By the way, here’s Mark’s “10 reasons for not voting”

  • Eda Uca Dorn

    Andy, I totally agree with the principal of what you’re saying. You’re absolutely right. If you notice, I state right up front that the system is entrenched in evil and that both “options” are bad options. I also state that in the last comment that my purpose isn’t to dissuade anyone from their position around voting but rather to inform everyone about a serious (and ignored) “enemy of liberation and freedom”. Even if all parties do harm, to claim that they all harm the same is to ignore how different ideologies harm differently. If you believe that Michelle Bachmann and Denish Kucinich harm 100% the same way just there is a huge overlap and because they are tools/users of the same system, I’m not sure you’ve appreciated the differences in their influence, ideologies, and movements. (I’m also not sure if you read my article, hahaha.) Also, to me, especially as a woman of middle eastern heritage and a convert to Christianity, there are dire differences of consequence between a Christian Dominionist winning and an ineffectual moderate winning. (I think this is the case regardless of sex/gender/ethnicity/nationality but I’ll just speak here from my own embodied location, since that all politics is autobiographical anyway.) Again, how this would effect my own participation in the political process is theoretical because I live in ineffectual moderate land. Still, trust that as my brother in Christ you love me and wouldn’t heap burdens on me that you yourself are not going to bear (i.e. I would insist that the larger picture of entrenched evil is more important that your lived experience of oppression which is not my lived experience) nor would you tell me to ignore my experiences and truth. We can both hold a piece of the puzzle when we don’t insist on uniformity of truth claims/strategies. Thanks!

    • Eda Uca Dorn

      sorry meant to say- “just BECAUSE there is a huge overlap”.

    • Andylewis

      “We can both hold a piece of the puzzle when we don’t insist on uniformity of truth claims/strategies.”

      We may be holding different pieces to different puzzles though. I see this as more of a discussion about which puzzle to work on. Lived experience can’t be separated from the context no matter what puzzle we’re working on. To me it’s more a question of what narrative is being privileged. It seems like you are privileging the political narrative over and above the liberation narrative.

  • Eda Uca Dorn

    Of course, Nichola Torbett brings in this idea of widening the lens for our truth claims/strategies in her last JR article!

    • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

      Yes, I see the similarity. But it seems to me that you both had rather weak reasons for your convictions (about pacifism or nonvoting), which didn’t stand up to the challenges you later encountered. It’s a mistake, though, to conclude from this that sticking to pacifism or nonvoting is about preserving our own “purity”. There are deeper, more compelling reasons for taking these stands, inspired by Jesus’ own choices and actions.

      To someone with quite solid reasons for following Jesus in these ways, “widening the lens for our truth claims/strategies” sounds like a new and creative way of saying “watering down the truth,” or “being open to the lesser evil.”

  • Eda Uca Dorn

    To be fair to Andy, who (unlike me) actually wrote an article on voting, I think there is a more interesting conversation on voting to be had at his article’s page. Go for it! By the way, I think the gendered distribution of comments here is telling (if not predictable). I think women are responding to the content of the article (which again, not really about voting per se) because the consequences of this movement will be written all over their bodies and men can read the article and miss that point (or tacitly accept the consequences) for interest in “more important” matters.

    • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

      Okay, perhaps you should clarify your point in the article. Are you simply providing information? It looks to me like you are using scary information to advocate participation in the electoral process. Is that mistaken?

      Please don’t assume other people’s intentions based on gender. I’m sure you’re aware that such assumptions will not further mutual understanding or dialogue.

      • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

        I agree with you about the end, which returns to electoral politics. This line seems to me to directly encourage participation in the political process (even voting for Obama), “Did the election of President Obama along with the rising tide of a new generation of political participants indicate that in certain key ‘domains’ Christian nationalism have lost their grip?”

        Encouraging a different narrative (or just telling the truth) sounds good. Do you think we need to understand the various false narratives in order to present a better narrative, i.e. the truth? Isn’t one unique and excellent aspect of the truth that it remains one and the same, while falsehoods are constantly being invented and reshaped to appeal to changing popular tastes?

    • Eda Uca Dorn

      Hey Andy! I wasn’t sure if there were two different Andys but in any case I was trying to point people to your excellent article since it deals so well with the questions being raised. I love that they came out at the same time. Whatever our view on the elections, how can we *not* say *something* about it, considering the flurry of coverage elsewhere! Blessings:D

  • Anonymous

    I just want to note, that I don’t actually see Eda’s article as one about voting. Yes the article prefaces with the election, in part, I think, because this is where the agenda of the Christian nationalists is most apparent. But beyond that initial paragraph, 90% of the article is about another narrative about Christianity and politics that is dominating the systems that do affect people’s lives right now. What, if anything, can Christians like us who carry a different radical message do or say in response? Not voting is one kind of response (and it is one that I practice). But constructing a more compelling narrative, one that points to the truth of who Jesus is and his example of engaging systems of power, including govt, seems to me to be an even bigger task to which we ought to be paying attention to. You don’t just do that around election time. We need to be speaking to brothers and sisters who might be swayed by this kind of vision of the church and the kingdom and resisting this narrative all the time.

    • Anonymous

      Engaging systems of power? Christ never did that.

      • Anonymous

        I guess I wasn’t clear. By engaging systems of power, I don’t mean that Christ was a politician or that he used the oppressive systems to his advantage. But he did confront, challenge, question, ask and resisted, and tried to expose oppressive power when it was present. He also went to his brothers and sisters and provided a different narrative for understanding who God is, what God wants and what it means to be a follower. Jesus didn’t say, “Eh, he’s a Pharisee–I’m not going to bother talking to him.” He knew the original intention for the law was being distorted and he sought out those who propagated that distorted view of the law and debated with the on it and attempted to show a different way. That is what I am talking about. All of those things are ways of engaging the powers around him.

        • Anonymous

          Would you be kind and please point me to examples from the Gospels? Thanks!

          • samuel

            the most obvious systems of power Jesus engaged were the Pharisee’s and the purity code. The Pharisees had the power to define the Judaisms of 1st century Palestine, and his condemnations of the Pharisees (you brood of vipers) was a core critique of their authority to lord it over the people, and much of the sermon on the mount is a reinterpretation of their vision of the Torah. The purity codes were undermined by his welcome of Samaritans, of Lepers, and of sinners (particularly women). Other systems he engaged were the temple system (cleansing the temple, casting out the money changers, and predicting that the temple would be torn down) and the power systems of wealth and money, critiquing lenders, the rich, and those who built barns rather than share with the poor. From Jesus’ first sermon (release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind) to his debate with Pilate, he confronted systems of power and oppression.

          • http://markvans.info markvans

            Just to echo what samuel is saying…

            The Temple wasn’t simply like a Cathedral. It was, for the most part, the civil, economic, and religious center of Israel. For Jesus to occupy the Temple (read Luke…he enters Jerusalem, prophesies judgement, cleanses the Temple, and proceeds to preach there until he is handed over the authorities and executed). I am going to write a series of articles about Jesus’ occupation of the Temple in coming days…

          • Anonymous

            In regards to the Temple, Jesus upholds the Temple as the House of His Father.

            Joh 2:16 He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’

            This, again, clearly means He does not despise the institution: The Temple, but what some people do with this institution (the merchants). He held the Temple (as a place and as an institution) in a very high place: The HOUSE OF MY FATHER.

            It also makes me think about those that say that a temple (church) is not a special place. They say: “God is in each one of us, we do not need a special place of worship”. And they are in part right but clearly, that’s not what Jesus was all about.

          • http://twitter.com/thejoeturner Joe Turner

            I don’t do proof-texting, but am curious what you make of John 2:19. What is the Temple he refers to?

          • Anonymous

            Can you please first answer, What does proof-texting mean?


          • http://twitter.com/thejoeturner Joe Turner

            well proof-texting is just giving a proof based on a biblical text – as you’ve done above.

          • Anonymous

            Oh! OK!

            In the context of Joh 2:16 Jesus speaks of the physical place where the merchants are located. He is throwing them out of there (the Temple) and saying that it is the House of His Father. even the disciples understand it this way.

            Joh 2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’

            After that, when He talks to the Pharisees he refers to His body.

          • http://twitter.com/thejoeturner Joe Turner

            Do you not think it a reasonable interpretation that Christ is claiming he is the temple, that any spiritual power invested in buildings is now invested in his body?

            I don’t believe in holy land. No such thing, no evidence that the church was ever intended to be a physical space whatsoever.

          • Anonymous

            Well… You see… He says it clearly: ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’

            In this instance it’s pretty clear that He is referring to a “real” place outside of Himself. The “things” He wants out are the doves (real living animals that occupy a real space).

            But later He refers to His Body as the Temple. So, yes, our own bodies are holy in themselves.
            However, even His body is within a physical space.

            The thing with not acknowledging a Holy Space is that we are physical beings. We have physical bodies that occupy physical space.

            The Church is the Body of Christ and as such it must gather to praise God. In the gathering we will occupy a space which will be holy at the time of the gathering. Beyond that I’m catholic and I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We (Catholics) will leave the Eucharist at Church after mass and thus I do hold that the Church is a holy place in as much as Christ is present, physically present, inside. If we couldn’t meet in a building dedicated for such thing the Eucharist would be completely consumed during mass and the place will be holy only during our gathering in it.

            If I am saying something that goes against the teachings of the Church I recant.

          • http://twitter.com/thejoeturner Joe Turner

            Mi_Fe, you’re entitled to believe in anything you like, no recanting necessary.

            For the record, I don’t believe in any of that stuff.

          • Mi_Fe

            Hi Joe,

            I recant in freedom. There is no action of the free human will more powerful than that.

          • Anonymous

            Hi Samuel!

            We see things differently. Jesus engaged persons (many times only a person). He did not engaged “systems”.

            When He scolds the Pharisees He does so not to go against “the system” but to exposes their hypocrisy. He did not condemn the Pharisees just because they belonged to (or were the holders of) “the system” but because of their hypocrisy. If fact He upheld their authority to teach the Law.

            Mat 23:2 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
            Mat 23:3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they
            do not practise what they teach.

            Clearly Jesus was not against “the system”: the Seat of Moses, which is the institution. He
            upholds the institution and the authority of the Pharisees because they sat on the Seat of Moses. However He warns against their hypocrisy (they don’t do as they say).

            In regards to the Temple the same thing happens. He engaged the money changers not the institution of the Temple. He worshipped and preached there, in the Temple. As a Jew He offered sacrifices there, in the Temple. He had no issue with the Temple itself as an institution.

            Again, with Pilate, Jesus comfronted Pilate, not “the system”. In fact He tells Pilate that his authority comes from “above” (from God).

            Joh 19:10 Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’
            Joh 19:11 Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

            Pilate represented the Roma Empire. Jesus teaches:

            Mat 22:17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’
            Mat 22:18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?
            Mat 22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius.
            Mat 22:20 Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’
            Mat 22:21 They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’

            Thus He had no issues with the Roman Empire (supporting it with taxes), but only with persons (with Pilate when he talked with Pilate and with the Pharisees when He talked to the Pharisees and with the sinners when He talked with them and so on).

            Jesus did not engage “systems”, He engaged persons. And I believe that if He walked amongst us today He will have no issue with voting or not voting at all!

  • JamesH

    Thanks for this overview/interaction with Goldberg’s book!
    You framed much of your discussion of Christian dominionism in terms of state politics. If I understood you you’re saying we should be concerned/aware of them because of their growing influence on state politics (and the negative impacts that might have on the country), and we should consider engaging state political processes in some way to stop them. I wonder though if it is more fruitful for us to frame the discussion of Christian dominionism in terms of the church? After all, these are people who claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ (well, they may not consider some of us to be ‘true’ Christians. . .), which sorta makes this an in-house issue. I guess I am not first and foremost scared or offended about what they might do if they get hold of the reigns of power, I’m more concerned that they’ve so seriously misunderstood the Way of Jesus. Perhaps instead of campaigning against them we should see them as erring brothers and sisters, and address them on theological and spiritual terms?

    On another note, I’m curious if you think we should be just as concerned about political forms of Islam, some of which sound pretty similar to Christian dominionism?

    • Chelsea

      I appreciate your insight that in addition to this being an important political issue, it is also an “in-house” church issue. Today is the Feast of Christ the King, a day celebrated by many Christian churches, and an official Catholic feast instituted in 1925, to remind Catholics that no earthly ruler is our supreme ruler after Mussolini came to power in Italy in 1922. The Gospel reading for today is Mt 25:31-46 (which Jesus and Matthew based on Ezekiel 34), where Jesus declares that that he is the ultimate lord and judge, who will judge all people based on what they did for him, through what they do for the least of these. Christian dominionists, who seek to make Jesus into an earthly king who dominates through violent “Christian” political power on earth, neglect and violate the least, the victims of economic injustice, defining them as a problem to be controlled if they are non-Christian, ignoring that Jesus himself said they are Christ. In doing so, they violate Jesus’s self-concept as a gentle, heavenly servant/shepherd-king. If we are to prevent these goats from blaspheming the name of God and installing their idol King Jesus into a position of state power, in whatever time we have left before Jesus returns and throws them to the fire, we have to be better sheep. The Church is infested with imposters precisely because the true Church, the church that exists by mission (doing justice) as fire exists by burning, is lukewarm. The sheep have to be better shepherds.

  • http://diostube.com/ videos cristianos

    “One Nation under God”, America used to be, but the reality now days is different, too many Satanist Churches, thousands of thousands killings of innocent little babies per year, politicians are removing God symbols from schools and communities, the effect of Sodom and Gomorrah on population including evil laws, killing of thousands of Innocent people around the world, and the list of sins grows and grows. We as Christians must wake up, ask God for mercy, place our lives in order before, and makes a big difference on society. Pray, pray, we must pray. God bless

    • Anonymous

      Nahhh… USA was never a christian nation, not now , not before (do you think it was “christian” when abortion was outlawed, but racism was enforced, or when black people was subject to slavery, or when quakers were hanged because of “illegal preaching”, or when native americans were killed because of “Manifest Destiny”?). And dont think that writing God or 10 commandments (why not the sermon on the mount? is that bad that peacemakers are blessed?) will turn this or any other nation more “christian”. The very idea of a “christian nation” is quite blasphemous. And centuries of official christendom should make it clear.

      And as someons who calls himself christian and holds a lot of contempt for the USA (mainly because of its foreign policy) I find this mixture of christianity and nationalism (it’d be equally bad with any other nation) revolting, insulting and divisive.

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