A new Daily Beast article by Michelle Goldberg claims that both Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have ties to a "fringe" Evangelical movement seeking world domination. Yes, I'm being serious here.
Goldberg contends that both GOP presidential candidates are part of a movement called 'Dominionism." She writes:
Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult. Most writers, myself included, who explore it have been called paranoid.
Sounding the alarm on what she sees as "the most theocratic Republican field in American history," Goldberg draws some curious comparisons. For one, she attempts to tie radical Islam to Dominionism, which, in turn, ties the beliefs underpinning both Bachmann and Perry's worldview to rabid levels of extremism:
Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.
Below, watch Goldberg explain Bachmann's take on Christianity and governance:
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Goldberg goes on to explain that Dominionism comes from a fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism. This small, extremist religious formation was founded by R.J. Rushdoony, a Calvanist theologian, back in the 1960s.
According to Goldberg, Reconstructionism advocates for replacing some elements of American government with Old Testament law. This, of course, would include imposing the death penalty for homosexuals, those who shave abortions and people who abandon Christianity, among other extremities. Indeed, these beliefs do sound more along the lines of radical Islam. In a 1998 issue of Reason Magazine, Walter Olson explains these issues in greater detail:
Those who would face execution include not only gays but a very long list of others: blasphemers, heretics, apostate Christians, people who cursed or struck their parents, females guilty of "unchastity before marriage," "incorrigible" juvenile delinquents, adulterers, and (probably) telephone psychics. And that's to say nothing of murderers and those guilty of raping married women or "betrothed virgins." Adulterers, among others, might meet their doom by being publicly stoned--a rather abrupt way for the Clinton presidency to end.
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This movement is clearly not within the mainstream of Christian America. Nonetheless, following her description of it, Goldberg begins to tie both Bachmann and Perry to Reconstructionism. When discussing Bachmann's alleged ties, Goldberg writes:
She often praises the Christian nationalist historian David Barton, who is intimately associated with the Christian Reconstructionist movement; an article about slavery on the website of his organization, Wallbuilders, defends the institution’s biblical basis, with extensive citations of Rushdoony.
But, this same webpage that Goldberg references explains that "involuntary servitude is not Biblical." In fact, Barton goes to great lengths to speak against pre-Civil War slavery. Rather than "defend" the institution, he discusses its Biblical mentions and explores them in detail. Here, Goldberg is misleading and, without a link, readers must research on their own to find the truth.
Goldberg also charges Bachmann with espousing the idea that Americans should only pay a 10 percent tax rate, a belief Goldberg says is "common in Reconstructionist circles." This accusation comes from the congresswoman's appearance in a Truth in Action Ministries documentary called, "Socialism: A Clear and Present Danger." Bachmann's words in the clip were as follows:
"What Jesus said, ‘Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God that which is God’s,’ so there certainly is a place for us to pay taxes to government. That’s legitimate. We should do that as Jesus instructs. But we render to God that which is God’s and the Bible calls for, approximately we are thinking of tithe, maybe 10 percent that we are giving to God, but beyond that we also give to charity. Jesus didn’t ask government to be the charity; he asks the the individual and the church to be charitable.”
Certainly, it is possible that Bachmann may be advocating a 10 percent tax rate here, but there is some ambiguity held within her words. This commentary is more about the government not serving as charity than it is a call for a set tax rate. A more concrete set of ideals will become evident as her campaign progresses.
Of course, Goldberg is not the first to question Bachmann's views on slavery, among other issues. And, on issues like her endorsement of the purportedly racist book "Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee," the presidential contendor may have some explaining to do. Thus far, an explanation has not been given as to why this book was posted under a "must-read" list she endorsed. Still, some of Goldberg's claims are a bit of a stretch.
She continues her writing by focusing upon similar details as they pertain to Perry and his ties to the Christian Reconstructionism movement. She writes:
Perry tends to be regarded as marginally more reasonable than Bachmann, but he is as closely associated with Dominionism as she is, though his links are to a different strain of the ideology.
Here, she focuses upon the "Seven Mountains of society" -- family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. Goldberg insinuates that those close to Perry are seeking to "infiltrate" the government (as well as these other spheres of influence) and to then control every core aspect of it. But, is that a fair assessment?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with discussing this movement and educating Americans about its existence. But, tying candidates to its fray without conclusive data, while urging Islamist comparisons seems a bit dangerous and journalistically irresponsible. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that all ideological groups seek to take part in spheres of influence -- not just Christians.
While the Christian Reconstructist movement, itself, if concerning in its most extreme forms (i.e. the death penalty for homosexuals and the like), the involvement of Christians at all levels of society, especially government, isn't a new concept. Of course, Christians wish to have their voices heard in government. But, Goldberg would be hard-pressed to find any candidates embracing the extreme ideals held among strict Christian Reconstructists.
This attempt at tying these candidates to such extremism is premature and the answers to these questions could easily be satisfied by asking the candidates themselves rather than issuing wild postulations.