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Wed

06

Aug

2008

The “Pulpit Initiative” and other Dominionist Machinations
Wednesday, 06 August 2008 15:51
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

The legal minions of Christian Dominionism have been busy for some time finding ways pastors can use the pulpit for political purposes. The Alliance Defense Fund, a group of lawyers dedicated to realizing the dominionist goal of marrying church and state, has taken another step in that direction:
The Pulpit Initiative Reclaiming pastors’ constitutional right to speak Truth from the pulpit

On Sunday, September 28, 2008, we are seeking pastors who will preach from the pulpit a sermon that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture. The sermon is intended to challenge the Internal Revenue Code’s restrictions by specifically opposing candidates for office that do not align themselves and their positions with the Scriptural truth. By standing together and speaking with one voice, it is our hope to recapture the rightful place of pastors and churches in American life. [italics added]
Do those “Scriptural truths” include the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that sanction selling one’s daughter into slavery, stoning to death non-virgin brides, people who work on the Sabbath, and those who wear clothes made of two different threads? How about Paul’s scriptural edict in First Timothy: “suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence”?

No doubt the ADF’s pocketed pastors will cite Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26–27 as proof positive of their bible-based socio-political position. They will, of course, forget to tell the flock that Romans was penned by the same St. Paul who had those “enlightened” thoughts about women’s divinely ordained place in the scheme of things.

“Scriptural truths” one and all, are they not? Or does one get to pick and choose which biblical passages are true and which aren’t? If so, what are the criteria for such judgments?
On July 11, 2008, the propaganda organ of Don Wildmon’s American Family Association ran an article titled “Wildmon: Prop. 8 vote crucial in culture battle”:

The Arlington Group, a coalition of about 60 pro-family groups and ministries, will stress the importance of the November 4 vote in California on Proposition 8, a proposed constitutional amendment that would protect traditional marriage. To do that, pastors will be encouraged to use one Sunday in September to focus on the sanctity of marriage. Churches also will be encouraged to take up a special offering which will go toward the fight for marriage in California. [italics added]

The article reeks with the desecration of language at which dominionists are so adept. Chris Hedges discussed “logocide” in his 2006 book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America:

Dominionists and their wealthy, right-wing sponsors speak in terms and phrases that are familiar and comforting to most Americans, but they no longer use words to mean what they meant in the past. They engage in a slow process of “logocide,” the killing of words. The old definition of words are replaced by new ones. Code words of the old belief system are deconstructed and assigned diametrically opposed meanings.


“Protect traditional marriage.” What does “protect” mean? If gay and lesbian couples marry, will heterosexual couples stop? If that were the case, then prohibiting same-sex marriage would “protect” heterosexual marriage. But that is not the case. Heterosexual couples still marry in Massachusetts and California. In fact, heterosexual marriage in those states has been totally unaffected by marriage equality. So one has to conclude that by “protect” dominionists mean reserve a civil right to a civil institution for some people and deny it to others: the definition of discrimination.

“Traditional marriage.” In biblical times a “traditional marriage” was arranged, and often involved more than one “wife” and several concubines. David’s eight wives, except for Mikal, are listed in 1 Chronicles 3:1-5, and his ten concubines are referred to in 2 Samuel 15:16. Thanks to those good old biblical times, for most of the next two millennia “wives” were deemed little more than the property of their husbands. Are those the biblical “traditions” dominionists want to preserve and protect?

The “sanctity of marriage.” What does “sanctity” mean, and to whom? In September 2004 – during the height of dominionists’ pre-election campaign to “save traditional marriage” – the Barna Group, a Christian marketing-research organization, issued a report titled “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians.” It documented that “among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.” Barna also documented that “nearly one-quarter of the married ‘born agains’ (23%) get divorced two or more times.” The struggle of gay and lesbians Americans to secure the right to a legal, civil marriage clearly demonstrates their belief in the “sanctity” of the institution as well as their respect for it. Can the same be said for those twice-divorced born-againers, many if not most of whom support the dominionist campaign to “protect” the “sanctity” of marriage.

A “special offering.” Not only do the members of the Arlington Group want the pulpit politicized, they want the worship service turned into a fund-raising event for a political cause: a clear expression of the dominionist goal of marrying church and state, with the state as the “traditional” subservient wife who adheres to St. Paul’s edict in First Timothy.

The “fight for marriage”? It is the gay and lesbian couples who are fighting “for marriage.” Dominionists, on the other hand, are fighting against marriage and to weaken the institution by excluding people who want to support it. The gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry are also fighting for the institution by expressing their faith in it. Dominionists, on the other hand, are using it as a political toy and, thereby, demeaning and trivializing it.

In keeping with dominionist logocide, Wildmon went on in the One News Now article to claim that the institutions of marriage and the family as well as society itself would collapse if civil equality won the day in California on November 4. In that, he echoed James Dobson – another self-appointed spokesman for God – who, in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire stated that if gay and lesbian Americans were allowed to marriage, the world would end “as it was in the days of Noah.”

There’s good reason the two men share the same rhetoric. They’re both members of the Arlington Group, an organization dedicated to Christian dominionism. People for the American Way offers some insights:

The Arlington Group (AG) is the newest coalition of the leaders of Religious Right groups brought together by right-wing strategist Paul Weyrich and Don Wildmon, head of the American Family Association, to coordinate activities. The group is widely credited with being the driving force behind the effort to put marriage protection amendments on the ballot in 11 states in the 2004 election. …

Membership: Members include the heads of 75 (as of September 2006) Religious Right groups such as Paul Weyrich, Don Wildmon, James Dobson, and Gary Bauer. …

The Arlington Group describes itself as a “powerful coalition of leaders from the pro-family community, [that] develops and executes national and grassroots strategies to: protect the traditional institution of marriage, increase respect for every human life, limit judicial activism, and act on other moral issues of concern.” …

In 2005, the Group threatened to withhold support for the President’s proposed Social Security reforms if Bush did not actively work to pass a federal marriage amendment banning same-sex marriage. … [links added]

Theocracy Watch – “a partner project of the
CRESP Center for Transformative Action at Cornell University” – has much more to say, especially about Paul Weyrich. In 1977, Weyrich co-founded Christian Voice. Two years later founded – with Jerry Falwell – the Moral Majority. Weyrich coined the phrase “Moral Majority” which was neither “moral” or a “majority.”

Among Weyrich’s other organizations is the Free Congress Foundation. According to Theocracy Watch (and the Anti-Defamation League), Weyrich and his FCF advocate the dominionist agenda. That agenda can be summed up in a few words: Biblical edicts the dominionists decide are literal and valid combined with their concocted version of Christian dogma should have supremacy – dominion – over all secular laws, including the United States Constitution. From Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America:

Dominionism is a theocratic sect with its roots in a radical Calvinism. … It teaches that American Christians have been mandated by God to make America a Christian state. … America bcomes, in this militant Biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan.

Under Christian dominionism, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the 10 Commandments form the basis of our legal system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Labor unions, civil-rights laws and public schools will be abolished. Women will be removed from the workforce to stay at home, and all those deemed insufficiently Christian will be denied citizenship. …

The death penalty is to be imposed not only for offenses such as rape, kidnapping and murder, but also for adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality, astrology, incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, “unchastity before marriage.” …

The moral calculus no longer revolves around the concept of universal human rights, now its center is the well-being, protection and promotion of “Bible believing Christians.”

For dominionists, all other religions and any political view other than theirs are Satanic. Weyrich made that clear when he launched a “Christian boycott” of the military because Wicca was recognized as a legitimate religion. From Weyrich’s “‘Satanic’ Army Unworthy of Representing United States,” Free Congress Foundation press release, June 9, 1999:

Until the Army withdraws all official support and approval from witchcraft, no Christian should enlist or re-enlist in the Army, and Christian parents should not allow their children to join the Army…

An Army that sponsors satanic rituals is unworthy of representing the United States of America … The official approval of satanism and witchcraft by the Army is a direct assault on the Christian faith that generations of American soldiers have fought and died for...

If the Army wants witches and satanists in its ranks, then it can do it without Christians in those ranks. It’s time for the Christians in this country to put a stop to this kind of nonsense. A Christian recruiting strike will compel the Army to think seriously about what it is doing.

Obviously Mr. Weyrich has no idea what Wicca is or what it isn’t, nor does he understand what “freedom of religion” means. Does he really believe the Army “sponsors satanic rituals”? Weyrich’s assertions are grotesque exaggerations and flamingly flatulent: characteristics the rhetoric of Christian dominionists share. That could be because it’s commonly scripted behind closed doors?

Weyrich, Wildmon and Dobson are members of the Council for National Policy: the star-chamber in which Christian dominionists and their wealthy right-wing sponsors plot and plan how to take over of the United States and make it their own theofascist domain.

Never heard of the Council for National Policy? That’s not surprising. It’s a highly secretive organization. Subversive organizations usually are. Members never talk about what goes on behind closed doors. Some of what is known is available here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Do the words “shadow government” come to mind?

The CNP uses secrecy. Dominionists use fear. Their rhetoric is filled with ominous predictions of impending doom and divinely ordained punishments if the movement’s ideas are not blindly accepted and acted upon. The “enemies of God” are identified and demonized – gay and lesbian Americans head that list – and the faithful are called upon to engage in a holy war to save “Christian America.” As Wildmon wailed, “‘If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I’m afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost … If the homosexuals are able to defeat the marriage amendment … then the culture war is over and we’ve lost – and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society.”

Wildom and the rest of the dominionist leaders see only black and white. It’s either their way, or utter doom. They prey on people’s fears and exploit their weaknesses. They claim they and they alone know “God’s” will and what’s right and wrong for everyone, and offer simplistic, bumper-sticker answers to complex questions. They play the victim while relentlessly victimizing others. They are the worst humanity, religion and politics have to offer. As Chris Hedges noted, “radical Christian dominionists have no religious legitimacy. They are manipulating Christianity, and millions of sincere believers, to build a frightening political mass movement with many similarities with other mass movements, from fascism … to the ethnic nationalist parties in the former Yugoslavia.”

The Alliance Defense Fund’s “Pulpit initiative” – which implies only their pastors can speak “Truth” – and the Arlington Group’s blatant call to use their pastors’ pulpits and collection plates for political purposes attest to the dominionist agenda. They also suggest… desperation.

Most of the leaders of Christian dominionism are … old and out of touch. Reading their propaganda one would think America’s youth are embracing evangelical doctrine, fundamentalist ideology and dominionist ideas. They’re not. In fact, America’s youth is moving in exactly the opposite direction and have been for some time. An October 2006 New York Times article reported the exodus:

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers

Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves. …

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation. …

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”

So what did the evangelical and dominionist elders blame for teens’ mass exodus?

Certainly not themselves or their message of intolerance, hate and bigotry:

I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.

Certainly not their hysterical preaching that everyone who disagrees with their extremist agenda is innately evil and the cause of all the world’s evils:

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians. – Pat Robertson

Certainly not the preposterous anti-knowledge, pro-ignorance claims made by prominent leaders of the dominionist movement:

The Bible is the inerrant...word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc. [italics added]
– Jerry Falwell

Nope. They blamed popular culture and, of course, played victim once again citing “a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion.”

Cynicism? One of the keynote speakers at the gathering reported on by the Times was the then president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard. He’d been an outspoken critic of gay and lesbian Americans – and especially their desire to marry – until his extra-marital, drug-fueled homosexual trysts with a male prostitute were made public. (Click here. It seem Rev. Haggard was talking about himself and was quite serious about sending him that $1000.)

And who could be cynical about the holier-than-thou who advocate amending the U.S. Constitution to make gay and lesbian Americans permanent second-class citizens? Such an effort is backed by pillars of morality and honesty such as the two senators who “named themselves as co-sponsors of” the Marriage Protection Amendment:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who was arrested June 11, 2007 on charges of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport terminal, is co-sponsoring the amendment along with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

Craig, who entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, was detained and charged for attempting to engage in sexual activity with a male undercover police officer. His arrest and plea became public two months later. At that time, Craig attempted to withdraw his plea and enter a new plea of not guilty. To date, his efforts have been denied by the courts.

In July of 2007, Vitter was identified as a client of a prostitution firm owned by the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, commonly known as The DC Madam.

Every poll shows America’s youth – ages 18-30 – overwhelmingly support equality for gay and lesbian Americans, including the civil right to a civil marriage. In November 2008, Californians will vote on Proposition 8 which, if passed, would amend the state’s constitution and ban the same-sex marriages that are now legal in California. A statewide Field Poll conduced the week of July 15, 2008 found that “if the election were being held now, more voters say they would vote No (51%) on Prop. 8 than would vote Yes (42%). … By age, opposition to Prop. 8 is greatest among younger voters under age 30, as well as among ‘baby boomers’ in the 50 – 64 age bracket.”

Today’s youth are media savvy. They can see through frauds and charlatans, and they’ve had enough of the hate, irrationality and what can only be called the blind (and blinding) arrogance so ubiquitous in dominionist rhetoric.

To be sure, dominionists will not go extinct. They will change their name and, like a virulent pathogen, lay low until they sense an opportunity to break out and infest the body politic again. Those who have used religion to feed their megalomania and further their own hate-based political and social agenda have always existed. Their names are among history’s most infamous, then and more recently.

During the Bush administration, dominionists and the Council for National Policy have had carte blanche. In many ways they have steered the ship of state. That administration is coming to an end. It’s time for religion to again become one of many passengers on the ship, not its captain.
 
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