In my last post, I mentioned that some Republican candidates running for elected office have supported the theological idea of Dominionism, a belief that Christianity should exercise “dominion” over all of society, not just the traditional boundaries of religion. Those who embrace this concept include Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman. In this post, I will look at Dominionism in more detail.
Historically, Dominionism began as an offshoot of Christian Reconstructionism, a sect founded in the 1960s by defender-of-slavery Rousas John Rushdoony, a Calvinist, a philosopher, a historian, a theologian and an inspirer of the modern Christian homeschool movement. Dominionism seeks to replace secular law with Biblical law, with the death penalty for LGBT persons, stoning of heretics and witches and the like. More moderate versions of Reconstructionism began to take hold in the New Christian Right, which began in the 1970s as an effort to re-engage evangelicals in politics and fight back against the sexual revolution and the civil rights movement. Dominionism was one such version.
The etymological and Scriptural roots of Dominionism are God’s command to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” and in Isaiah 2:2, which reads: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it.” Those “mountains” in Isaiah are interpreted figuratively, not literally (evangelicals, it seems, are actually only selectively literalistic) and refer to the “seven mountains” of society: (1) family, (2) religion, (3) arts and entertainment, (4) media, (5) government, (6) education, and (7) business.
And since an overwhelming majority of evangelicals – more than 75%, according to recent surveys – believe that we are living in the End Times (the last period before the Christ returns to Earth to judge us all). Thus, the time for Dominionism is now and accounts for the flood of Christian films such as The Passion of the Christ, and the Left Behind series, of Christian businesses such as Hobby Lobby, and of Christian politicians like Ted Cruz.
Rafael Cruz’s new book, A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America, makes this theology quite clear. In it, Cruz writes: “The Bible tells us that we are the salt of the earth and light of the world… Doesn’t that suggest that our influence should touch every area of society – our families, the media, sports, arts and entertainment, education, business, and government?” Even the cover of Rafael Cruz’s book makes this very clear, with its picture of a church looming over a much-smaller American flag. Notice that not only does Cruz state the dominionist view in general, but also he lists the specific “seven mountains” in which dominionists believe.
Rafael Cruz’s views of his son’s role in all of this are literally messianic. According to the elder Cruz, Ted Cruz has been anointed messiah and king to reign over all of the “mountains” of humanity. Rafael Cruz has been his son’s primary surrogate on the campaign trail, particularly with the evangelical voters who are now Ted Cruz’s main base of support. The two have frequently spoken together, prayed together, campaigned together. When Ted was four years old, Rafael says that he told him “You know, Ted, you have been gifted above any man that I know and God has destined you for greatness.” Imagine growing up with this man shaping your thoughts, telling you, as young Ted’s dad told him, “You are the One.”
Of course, most parents have high expectations for their children, though perhaps not that high. Rafael Cruz, however, has a very specific, messianic role in mind. Consider the following event that occurred on 26 August 2012, at the Dallas/Fort Worth New Beginnings megachurch of Christian Zionist, Larry Huch.
First, surrounded by Jewish symbols including a menorah, a Jewish star on the lectern, and a shofar in his hand, pastor Huch noted that 2012 would be the year of “divine government – that God will begin to rule and reign. Not Wall Street, not Washington, but God and God’s people will begin to rule and reign.”
Then he said, “I know that’s why God got Rafael’s son elected – Ted Cruz, the next senator. But here’s the exciting thing… in a few weeks begins that year 2012, and this will begin what we call the End Times transfer of wealth… When gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grow and grow and grow… We will usher in the coming of the messiah.” (Gosh, I thought Jesus took care of that!)
Next, Rafael Cruz took the stage. He noted that in the Bible, “the king and the priest complemented each other.” He then complained (as he has many times) that most churches are focused only on the “priestly anointing” but that most should take on the role of kings going to battle: “The battlefield is the marketplace… go to the marketplace and take dominion… that dominion is not just in the church, it is over every area: society, education, government, economics.”
Citing Proverbs 13:22, Cruz peached that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” He finished by saying, “And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur.”
And that, in a nutshell, is Dominionism at its core.
Dominionism can be both mundane and profound. On the mundane level, it is not so different from the prosperity gospel preached by the likes of Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, Frederick K.C. Price, Benny Hinn, and to a lesser extent, Joel Osteen, a gospel that holds that (contrary to what Jesus had to say on the matter) God wants you to be rich. “God’s going to open up that multimillion contract,” Cruz preached at New Beginnings Church. “God’s going to open up that promotion at work.”
But on the more profound level, Ted Cruz’s role is to “take dominion” of the governmental “mountain,” thus effectuating a Bernie Sanders-like “wealth transfer,” except the transfer is not from the 1% to the 99%, but from the wicked to the righteous.
Not surprisingly, all this is a mission from God. Rafael Cruz’s worldview is deeply informed by (and sometimes copied word-for-word from) the pseudo-historian, often-discredited, David Barton, who now directs Ted Cruz’s Super PAC, which has raised over $30 million from just four extremely wealthy individuals, and who was previously the chair of the Republican Party of Texas.
Before spending billions to elect Ted Cruz to the Senate, Barton wrote a series of books on the founders of the United States, all roundly condemned by actual historians. For example, even though Jefferson was a noted deist who was suspected of atheism in his lifetime, Barton claims in his book on Thomas Jefferson – The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson – that Jefferson was in fact a pious, evangelical-style Christian. (I guess Barton never saw Jefferson’s Bible, constructed by Jefferson in the later years of his life by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages indicating that Jesus was divine.) Barton’s book was voted “ the least credible history book in print” by the History News Network website, and was pulled by its otherwise respected publisher, Thomas Nelson. The book is now available from World Net Daily, a far-right conspiracy website. When challenged by historian Robert Alley, Barton admitted that there were no primary sources for eleven quotes he attributed to Madison, Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.
Yet despite all of this, Barton’s view is now commonplace on the far right: the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation, by Christians, with Christian principles dictating public policy.
It is easy to see how Barton’s bogus, revisionist history connects with Rafael Cruz’s Dominionism. First, Barton is himself a dominionist. He said in 2011 that “If you can have those seven areas, you can shape and control whatever takes place in nations, continents and even the world.”
Second, Dominionism is not about creating a new republic, but about restoring the America that once was. As Rafael Cruz writes in A Time for Action, “…although many people think otherwise, the concept of separation of church and state is found nowhere in either the Declaration of Independence of the Constitution or the United States of America.” Dominion is thus restorationism.
Third, Cruz has often echoed Barton’s own ideas, including that our system of taxation is contrary to the Bible. This idea may help to explain why Ted Cruz believes we should rid ourselves of the IRS. Good luck with that one! Barton also believes that public education is a communist plot invented by John Dewey (who in reality was a fierce anti-communist, but facts have never stood in the way of David Barton).
Finally, as weird as dominionism may sound to non-Christians and even to main-line Christians, it is now well within the mainstream of the Christian Right. Prior to the Cruz family, (Rafael, Ted, and Heidi) its political standard-bearers were Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin.
Now, everything I have said so far has been mostly about Rafael Cruz, not Ted Cruz. Frankly, I do not really know how much of this Ted Cruz believes, but I do have my suspicions. It is interesting to note that even innocuous statements by Ted Cruz can be read in multiple ways. For example, Cruz wrote the epilogue to his father’s book in which he penned: “If our nation’s leaders are elected by unbelievers, is it any wonder that they do not reflect our values? … If the body of Christ arises, if Christians simply show up and vote biblical values, we can restore our nation.”
Read one way, this is just a Christian version of Donald Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan. But read another way, “restoring our nation” has a very specific dominionist meaning if one believes that America was once a Christian quasi-theocracy. And not many candidates describe their campaign as trying to have the body of Christ arise.
Whatever Ted Cruz’s religious views, however, those of his father are relevant in their own right. He stumps for his son all the time, David Barton has his hands on some of the largest purse-strings in Republican politics, and many of Ted Cruz’s supporters are animated by a theological vision of America that will restore “kings” to power at the End of Days, of whom Cruz is apparently one that has been so anointed. One of those supporters is Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Bickle believes acceptance of gay marriage is a sign of the End Times, has described Adolf Hitler as one who was sent by God to go after Jews who did not convert to Christianity, and has called Oprah Winfrey’s tolerance and popularity a precursor to the apocalypse.
The word “Dominionism” may not roll off the tongue of political pundits, but given its shocking ambitions, maybe that is part of the problem. Dominionism is truly scary stuff for all who value liberty and the separation of church and state, particularly when a person such as Ted Cruz wants to be President of the United States. I cannot believe that I am writing this, but I would vote for Donald Trump in a heartbeat if he and Ted Cruz were my only options. Of course, such a option is the same as giving a condemned man the choice between being executed by hanging or by a firing squad.