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Dominionism – nothing to see here?

By Brian Morris

With the rise of Pentecostal and charismatic megachurches there’s a rational concern that a ‘literal’ belief in the Bible has led to anti-science trolls, climate denial and an anti-vax movement. But the endgame will be more serious if the trend continues to morph into a full USA-style of Christian dominionism.

Most people will roll their eyes when overzealous Christians say their life’s mission is to convert us all to be ‘Disciples of Christ’. But it’s more difficult to tolerate those who firmly believe all positions of power and authority – in government, the judiciary, media and corporations – can only be held by those spiritually committed to the ‘literal truth’ of the Christian Bible. That includes Genesis, and the whole Old Testament.

Biblical literalism underpins the growing belief in creationism – that God created everything – and it’s this belief which drives dominionism; that only Christians can govern a nation. Australasian Science in 2011 reported 31 per cent of Australians believe in creationism. With the rise of evangelism since 2011, the figure is likely much higher.

This is the basis for dominionism, an American export from the 1990s that gave birth to the US Tea Party in 2010, and the same Christian conservatives who elected Donald Trump in 2016. The Republican Party is now fully enmeshed with dominion theology which has been exported to many countries – including Australia.

 

Image from messiahsmandate.org

 

As early as 2005 Marion Maddox, professor of politics at Macquarie University – and a Uniting Church Christian – published “God Under Howard: the Rise of the Religious Right in Australia.” It flags the rise of dominionism here.

Genesis is God’s rule book, for biblical literalists. They take literally that God said, “subdue the earth” and “take dominion over it.” The influx of US evangelism includes Hillsong, and a plethora of Pentecostal churches such as Horizon Church in Sutherland NSW, whose congregation includes Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and family. Hillsong’s Brian Houston is also Scott Morrison’s mentor, and the PM runs a recognised Christian government.

Democracy is in retreat around the world, and that has been the trend over the past 13 years, according to Freedom House that monitors the rise of authoritarian governments. And authoritarianismis positively associated with a religion that is conventional, unquestioned, and unreflective.” That’s Christian dominionism.

Their ultimate goal is gain control – or at least have influence – over the “7 Mountains” of any society. The ‘mountains’ are: education, media, government, churches, business, family, and the arts. Christians who work in these areas are required to fulfil the Seven Mountains Mandate, to take control, and to execute God’s plan.

It is anything but conspiratorial to reflect on the growing influence of these fundamentalist brands of religion over the past 30 years. Islamic extremism gains international headlines with its ruthless aggression – but Christian evangelism (now morphing into dominionism) increases its political influence by flying under the media radar.

The bizarre aspect of fundamentalism is its anti-science foundations. Human evolution is seen as a hoax, and the earth is 6,000 years old – based on the alleged lifespans of biblical characters since Adam and Eve! And Australian Ken Ham built a giant Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, complete with life-size displays of humans living with dinosaurs!

In Australia, these evangelical Christians are being groomed by a host of religious lobbies to run for election in federal, state and local governments, according the Sydney Morning Herald. America is the most Christianised nation on earth; Australia is not far behind – with one of the highest ratios of fundamentalist MPs in the OECD.

That is no surprise, when we consider recruiting drives by the religious right – as seen from the Church and State crusade in February – “arming Christians for the Kingdom to come.” That is pure dominionism! Their aim is to scrap all secular policy; to make abortion and VAD illegal, and ban LGBTI people working in all church businesses.

The public is oblivious to all this – and there is no media analysis of right-wing Christian agendas. But many ‘moderate’ Christians are concerned by the anti-democratic objectives of fundamentalist Christianity.

One Baptist Church minister, Reverend Craig de Vos, says groups like ACL – the Australian Christian Lobby – are pursuing an agenda “straight out of the Dominionist theology playbook.” In 2011 ABC online ran an article “Is ACL dominionist?”, when ACL was then linked to the 7 Mountains website. Reverend de Vos continued, saying:

“The Religious Right in this country want to take over the government either by stealthy insurrection … or by more aggressive means because they feel slighted, even persecuted, because all of us godless heathens don’t share their anti-science and conspiracy-laden ideas, their selective Biblical literalism, their Taliban-like morality and their prehistoric values.”

Dominion ethos is no different to Islamic theocracies that impose Sharia Law – countries such as Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria; to name a few. The only Christian theocracy is Vatican City, which is an exclusive Catholic state – but fundamentalists want a return to Christian controlled states of the middle ages.

Dominionism is unlikely to prevail – at least in the short-term. But Australia is already a “soft theocracy”, with heavily Christianised governments at all three tiers. That is despite 78 per cent of citizens who want “to separate personal religious beliefs from the business of government.” MPs have a religious ratio far higher than the public.

The question is whether we want Australia to become increasingly secular. That means working to elect federal, state and local governments that take a strong position on the nation’s future – and to advance a progressive secular worldview. Or, if we simply don’t care, the public can acquiesce to fundamentalist Christian groups who actively recruit young Pentecostals, Creationists, and evangelicals to establish a Christian theocracy.

The world has been plunged into crisis with the coronavirus pandemic, and a rise in fundamentalism. According to Demo Finland – the Finish democracy-watch organisation – almost 70 per cent of the world’s population now live in non-democratic states – a rise of 20 per cent in just the last ten years!

We need to stress again that authoritarianism is underpinned by religion. Australians need to decide whether they prefer a progressive secular future, or to continue our trend to elect fundamentalist MPs and to further Christianise our three tiers of government. Both the LNP and ALP leadership remain obsessed with pandering to the illusory “Christian vote.” This alone perpetuates our status as a ‘soft theocracy.’

But taking political candidates from Pentecostal and evangelical churches and packing more Christians into parliament puts a distinct strain on a viable democracy.

Religious freedom is indeed a civil right for all – including the true public majority who do not practice a particular religion, and who do not want any form of religion forced upon them. The problem with overzealous people of faith is they claim spiritual superiority to “know God’s plan.” Really? How? We do need to avoid religion becoming weaponised to assert Christian dominionism – with its ultimate aim to kill democracy and enthrone Jesus.

Brian-Morris-0-Head-Shot-150x150 Brian Morris – World travel shaped Brian’s interest in social justice — wealth, poverty and religion in many countries. His book Sacred to Secular is critically acclaimed, including from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. It’s an analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm it does. It’s a call for Australia to become fully secular. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason. Brian is also a director with the National Secular Lobby.

 

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14 comments

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  1. Ken

    I agree with you Brian the endgame will be more serious if Australia ends up like the US of A.

  2. Phil Pryor

    If we hope to become civilised, still a good idea, we must stop the drive of the ultra ignorant superstition driven idiots who live in worlds that never existed. It allows them to contrive rules, laws, regulations, attitudes, that are ridiculous, strict, erroneous, devious, dangerous, regressive. It is obvious that every major and minor religion “knows” that all the other ones are wrong, that there is no god out a foreign inferior place, that they alone are righteously correct, can claim to be saved, blessed, assured, anointed, sent, gifted and other lies. EVIL. There is not a fingerprint, photo, confession, signature, stat.dec., interview, criminal charge, NOTHING, of some astral fraud and fantasy figure. Any political figure, suspect enough these days, who claims enhancement of a religious kind, is a fraud, crook, deluded dickhead, would be plantation owner, freak of fantasy, your enemy.

  3. Grumpy Geezer

    I know several rusted on Tory voters who defy all challenges to their delusions, refuse to engage in logical debate and are wilfully blind to all of the manifest shortcomings of their favoured RWNJs.

    Dominionism though may be the key to loosening their blinkers. I’m going to give it a go.

  4. Harry Lime

    If anyone cared to have even a cursory read of the New Testament, these pentecostal fuckers like the Liar are the polar opposite of their hero Jesus,and everything he was ever reported to have said.Funny how they worship at the altar of mammon whilst espousing ‘Christian’ principles.Hypocrisy is far too good a word to describe these very sick people.They represent everything that is wrong.To repeat,Morrison is dangerously unhinged,and is almost certainly being manipulated by certain dark forces in the shadows,or at the very least by his warped imagination.
    They can all go fuck themselves.

  5. Ken Robinson

    I totally agree, if we do not stop this blatant attack on our country and way of life now before it is too late, then it will be convert or die like history has shown.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Scott Morrison was raised in the Presbyterian-Uniting Church. He only became involved in Horizon when he moved to the Shire following his preselection for the seat of Cook in 2007.

    Just like he was a rugby man (an Easts follower), until he moved to the Shire. This “beloved Sharkies” stuff is new.

    https://www.afr.com/rear-window/footy-weathervane-scott-morrison-the-phoniest-prime-minister-of-all-20190416-p51eiy

    Seems to me Scott gets involved in things that he thinks make him sound good. Sincere belief and loyalty or just another marketing exercise?

  7. Matters Not

    Probably a good example of the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life as theorised by Goffman

    … best way to understand human action is by seeing people as actors on a ‘social stage’ who actively create an impression of themselves for the benefit of an audience (and, ultimately themselves).

    … we take on roles, in relation to other team-members and carefully manage the impressions we give-off in order to ‘fit in’ to society and/ or achieve our own personal goals

    The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life – A Summary

    And there’s more.

    Unfortunately because audiences are constantly on the look-out for the signs we give off (so that they can know who we are) ‘performers can stop giving expressions, but they cannot stop giving them off’.

    We generally tend to think of performances as being of one or two types – the sincere and the contrived. Not a lot of sincerity with Morrison as Jenny well knows.

  8. wam

    The % of my ex-students from Kormilda, from last century, that have succumbed to the American bible bashers, that are beamed morning noon and night, into the homes in towns and settlements is scaringly high certainly above 90% on facebook. One is quite au fait with her ancestors not being in heaven because they didn’t know jesus yet daily talking about the people she will see in heaven and how she prays for me to find HIM so I can go. In the 70s when students were telling the truth(or not??) about misdemeanors they would add ‘true, god and the bible’. Never thought about till now but that effectively closed the discussion The real crux is religious freedom to practice in complete secrecy. Someone in media has to pose question of the politicians on the old testament a 4 corners, a QandA, that ignorant presenter of 60seconds or a science show. There are zillions of things that could be questioned The god of the Bible is Jewish,Christian and Muslim Why are women and their tempting parts that forced Adam to break his vow (why did she get expected it wasn’t her vow)unable to be priests? But alright as goods and chattels It is a book written as if the writers were the only people, but the continents? Of course the earth was flat and the heavens revolved and rain only comes down. Noah the animals would dead in a couple of days and what about flora? Whatever unless something is done the mob mentality of sing song happy flappy dancing god will do it for you will be fixed with a critical mass so that nothing can be done without god ps How about jews and Muslims and their pork and oysters surely some scholar will admit these are no longer toxic?

  9. Canguro

    To bastardise Hamlet’s famous soliloquy: to believe, or not to believe, that is the question. If the belief serves a purpose, no amount of rational argument to the contrary is likely to shift it. How many fundamentalists, Q-Anon adherents, Trump acolytes & devotees, GW deniers, or rusted-on LNP supporters et al, are swayed by rational arguments that ultimately suggest their belief systems are cracked and that they’re frankly full of shit, vis-a-vis their ideation and adherence to their crackpot sense of how things really are and what’s best for the person and the planet? Not that many, I’d suggest.

    It’s a very odd phenomenon, this thing called ‘human beliefs’.

    Self-interest trumps all in most cases; Morrison being a prime example of abrogation of the potential function of an intelligent brain in favour of personal benefit. If it serves his purpose to chug a beer, don another baseball cap, hang out with rugby league boofheads after the match, suck up to Brian Houston, turn a blind eye to the egregious failings of the majority of his cabinet colleagues, then so be it, as long as he can continue to pull in the half-mill salary, and how good is that? Of course he’s an a-grade hypocrite and a total failure as a public servant who ought to be putting the interests of the country front & centre before his own, but that’s where we’re at in these degraded times.

    When I worked in Korea I knew a woman in her mid-thirties; highly educated with a pair of master’s degrees in music, her father the 2IC of the country’s education system, she a classical pianist who’d performed in Seoul’s equivalent of the Opera House; she told me that when she was in her twenties she had a spiritual crisis and realised she had to choose a path for her future.

    She said the choice came down to Buddhism – the country’s traditional religion – or Christianity, now claiming close to 50% of South Koreans as adherents since the influx of American missionaries post-Korean War and the ongoing presence & influence of the USA. She chose to join a mega-church ala Hillsong, because, as she said, Christians are saved and go to heaven after death, and all other religions are doomed to hell. I asked her about the Buddhists, one of the world’s oldest and certainly the most psychologically astute spiritual belief system. Nope, she said, theyr’e fucked… no hope for them either.

    It was a salient lesson in how otherwise intelligent people can believe the dumbest of things if it serves their purpose.

  10. Andrew J. Smith

    Interesting but one would suggest that the origins of the Tea Party was Koch supported astroturfing with focus upon freedom, liberty, low taxes, small govt. etc.

    The evangelical or conservative Christianity roots in the GOP were also ‘planned’ (set against the recent decline of Christianity to <50% of population) by the Heritage Foundation’s Paul Weyrich who co-opted Jerry Falwell to create the ‘moral majority’ round Reagan’s time to develop a malleable Christian voting bloc round key issues e.g. abortion, that Falwell had no previous issue with.

    It’s about using cultural icons or movements like Christianity, by nativist conservatives, targeting ageing and/or regional constituencies. However, like we observe in the US and Australia, other nations have adopted the same to aggressively promote autocratic white Christian nationalism e.g. Russia, Hungary and Poland.

  11. king1394

    What I find scary about the born again christians is their belief in an afterlife of perfect bliss combined with the determination that the way to achieve it is mass worship. The earth exists to be trashed, other human beings,let alone other living things, are not their concern. Anything from the bible that suggests stewardship, charity, or peace and tolerance is ignored. A very strange mindset that appeals to a surprising number of people

  12. Michael Taylor

    Just doesn’t make any sense to me, kingy.

    Some people belong on a different planet. A barren one with lots of minerals should suit their needs.

  13. Kaye Lee

    It must be a very needy omnipotent being that requires worship if you ask me.

  14. LOVO

    In all the civilisations previous to ‘ours’ there are, arguably, two things that contributed to their undoing..
    1: Inequality
    2: . Religious control of Government
    P. S. Wot kaye said⬆

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