First published on Christian Converser
Along with the previous post in this series expounding the many problems that the current direction of the SCOTUS is creating, it’s time to take a fresh look at the impetus for theocracy and the divisions between different groups of orthodox / conservative Christians along theological and political lines. This is mostly over dominionism/theocracy and has probably existed in one form or another for many decades, but became more prominent in the last 50 years when it was perceived that the SCOTUS was becoming “too liberal”. The key trigger for this is said to have been not the abortion issue, but racial segregationalist practices that prominent conservative Christian groups advocated they had a right to enforce in their schools and universities. The common factor in all of this is a willingness by Christians to align themselves with political movements or parties in order to achieve their goals in society, starting with church support for slavery and segregationalism in the deep South of the US (it being well known that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed by Christian slaveholders). In the present day this is mainly with the Republican Party at all levels of the political system. The stated aim of these groups, regardless of how or what they campaign on, is a theocratic government for the USA.
Theocracy is not, of course, a new idea worldwide. It is most commonly seen today in the Islamic world under the most conservative forms of Muslim belief/adherence, but it has not been a feature in Christianity for centuries. It has strong roots, however, in the historical state of Israel, and for that reason it is completely unsurprising that modern day Christian theocracy is strongly rooted in the dispensationalist beliefs about the reinstatement of the nation of Israel in the purported near future “end times”. The counter-view is that the introduction of the “New Covenant” dispensed with the historical theocratic state as there was no longer an assumption of godly favour prevailing for only one specific nation. In the New Testament, it is clearly seen that the Gospel is to be taken to all nations, and in the dispersal of the Jewish people across the earth following the sacking of the Temple in Rome in AD 70, there was clearly a statement made about the discontinuance of the historical system of sacrifice and atonement centred around Jerusalem. Dispensationalists are obliged to perform some remarkable theological contortions in order to justify their central contention that Jews remain a separate elite group of godly believers in the New Testament era and that the Temple and its system of ritual atonement and animal sacrifices will be reinstated, let alone the specific nation of Israel.
Nevertheless, given its historical importance and theologians’ penchant for constantly reinterpreting key Old Testament scriptures, along with the challenges of a deeply apocalyptic work in the highly controversial Book of Revelation, which some early canons of Scripture omitted, it is observed that the concepts of theocracy did not take long to be reasserted in Europe and the Middle East in early BCE. This is most strongly seen in the rise of the Roman Catholic Church and the claims to supreme earthly power in the Papacy, which eventually developed into the temporal power of the popes, enforced in the Holy Roman Empire from 800 to 1806, or alternately in the Papal States from 756 to 1870. The modern day equivalency being the Vatican State established in 1929 formalising the de facto power of the Pope as it was recognised at that time over Vatican Hill. Christian nationalism as it is now known is a principal focus of particular groups of church people who advocate for theocratic ideals within generally secular states, and has become very prominent in the US as noted above., the basis for this belief being advocacy that the original foundation of the United States was intended to be as a Christian nation, and as mentioned in previous posts, in contradiction to the other main viewpoint that the Founders were proponents of Enlightenment rationalist rejection of religious viewpoints. It has gained ascendancy most prominently in the US because of their unique political system which is designed along libertarian lines to produce weak government, allowing this minority viewpoint to gain ascendancy through a political alliance with conservative parties. In other words, libertarianism has created enough of a political vacuum to allow political domination by the most wealthy group of electors who have the greatest resources available to disseminate and promote their ideology, and are also most enabled to buy political favours.
Dominionism has therefore evolved as the primary theological vehicle by which theocracy is to be achieved, which is by taking over all of the principal institutions of society in order to effect control of the governmental systems of the US. The tension between dominionist and non-dominionist groups is strongly seen, for example, in the Southern Baptist Convention in recent years where a “Conservative Baptist Network” on the dominionist side is strongly campaigning to lead and dominate the SBC’s future direction. Dominionism got a real boost during the Trump Administration and the present culture wars against “wokeism” and critical race theory in the wake of Trump’s presidency are essentially the current civil face of dominionist ideological rhetoric. Perhaps the best known strand of dominionism is the “seven mountains mandate”, taken from the title of a book by Lance Wallnau and Bill Johnson a decade ago. The “seven mountains” that Christians are to have dominion over (the phrase itself comes from dispensationalist reinterpretation of Revelation 17:9) are listed as family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government. Like other dispensationalists, seven mountain dominionists believe that applying their formula will bring about the end times. Given the fervour with which these beliefs were applied during the Trump administration, there will no doubt be a concerted push to reassert them should Trump be re-elected to a second term. The theocratic push for governance reached its zenith in the dying days of the 2016-20 Trump presidency with claims that the election was stolen from him, an irony considering that theocratics oppose democracy to its core. They may be winning their victories in the current form of the Supreme Court but appear destined in the wider scope of history to repeat the mistakes of past attempts to to create earthly godly kingdoms, likely leading the US into further civil war along the way. This would be good for not just the US but the Church as a whole, since there are so many ardent followers around the world of the Christian nationalist / dominionist beliefs without applying any sort of critical theological examination of the basis for them.