Dominionism

I don’t pay a lot of attention to American politics. I don’t even pay a lot of attention to Canadian politics. But I kept finding something interesting whenever I clicked on my Google+ Sparks feed for theology. About 75% of them were about American politics, specifically something called dominionism which some of the candidates have been tied to. I generally thought I had a pretty good theological vocabulary, but I had no idea what this term meant. Fortunately I finally came across this article in the Huffington Post called 5 Facts About Dominionism. It is a very interesting position, very different from the Anabaptist position and even a smaller portion of Christianity than we are.

The first question: what it is? Burke (the Huffington author) explains:

The term “Dominionism” was popularized in the 1990s by scholars and journalists, who applied it to conservative Christians seeking political power. It derives from the Book of Genesis, in which God tells Adam and Eve to have “dominion” over the Earth and its animals. “Dominionism” generally describes the belief that Christians are biblically mandated to control all earthly institutions until the second coming of Jesus.

Obviously I disagree and have frequently echoed the 500-year-old Anabaptist call for a complete separation of church and state. To me it is clearly a case of picking one verse, and one interpretation of that verse, and ignoring everything else. Even if you say that it is still a command for us today, then you have to ask what kind of dominion God wants. I’d argue that the New Testament gives us a completely different conception of power as an upside-down power of service and care, not forced domination.

Burke also answers the question of who are dominionists: very few. It is usually tied to more charismatic forms of Christianity, which is why it makes sense that it is connected with Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer (of which I’ve asked before by way of a guest post Is the International House of Prayer a Cult?) There are some in all 50 states and in some other parts of the world, again primarily where charismatic forms of Christianity are stronger.

As Burke did, I’ll express a rare case of coming to the defense of conservative Christians because no, most Christians and not even most conservative Christians are dominionists. Most conservatives don’t want to have dominion over culture. They want to participate quite actively in it and still make their views heard, but never through coercion. They don’t want the full separation that us Anabaptists do, but they definitely do not want to dominate either.

I don’t have any grand concluding thoughts on this one. It is an interesting extreme movement, which I think from a historical perspective must be understood as a backlash of the fall of Christendom. For every major movement, in this case the church emerging from the Age of Christendom, there is always a counter-movement that reinforces the older understanding but in an even stronger way. I guess that’s why I’m not really too worried for my neighbours to the south – the backlash usually doesn’t last past a generation and even then it remains a significant minority.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.