Monday, May 2, 2016

Ted Cruz and the Seven Mountains- Part One- the origin of dominionist theology

“I’m a Christian first, American second"- Ted Cruz

As we watch the Republican party do everything they can to put down the misbegotten monster which it created in the form of Donald Trump, we must face the almost inconceivable fact that the most likely figure to replace him is the oleaginous lunatic Ted Cruz, a man hated by just about everyone who has ever had a shred of contact with him; and that is before even considering the miasma of toxic things he seems to believe.  Chief among these beliefs, inculcated into him by his deranged father, is something called "Seven Mountains Dominionism."  This doctrine is one of the most anti-American, and in fact anti-democratic political philosophies ever known, mixing a massive dose of totalitarianism with an absurd misinterpretation of Christianity which would have Jesus himself screaming in fury.  Unfortunately, given Cruz' real chance to be nominated by the Republican party, we all owe it to ourselves to understand something about this malignant doctrine; which is what I propose to do here.

R. J. Rushdoony
Our story begins with the figure of Rousas J. Rushdoony, who lived from 1916 until 2001, and is generally credited with creating, or at least being the first successful advocate of, what has become known as Dominionism.  Rushdoony has a sort of interesting history.  He was the son of Armenians who fled their homeland to avoid the Turkish genocide of the Armenian people, in which Rushdoony's older brother was killed.  Armenians have traditionally been very strong Christians. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, in the early 4th century, and continues to this day to give its name to one of the four quarters of the old city of Jerusalem; the only country to do so.

In any event, Rushdoony's parents combined their Christianity with a profound hatred of government based on their brutal treatment at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.  It is this pro-Christian, anti-government mixture that was to find expression in Rushdoony's beliefs.*

Here's a sample of the views that Rushdoony promoted:

"Since the movement's emergence in the mid-1960s, Christian Reconstruction has always been a little different from other factions of American conservatism. Not surprisingly, the movement wins attention for Rushdoony's call for the eventual end of democracy in favor of a Christian theocracy, and his insistence that a "godly order" would enforce the death penalty for homosexuals and those who worship false idols."

This doctrine's origins go back at least to the depression:

"The chief target of...economically conservative evangelical clergymen was the Social Gospel, a wide-ranging theological and social movement rooted in the late 19th century whose champions sought to fight poverty and improve the conditions of America's poorest using the government to regulate market forces...

"In 1935, Rev. James Fifield of Chicago formed Mobilization for Spiritual Ideals to address these concerns. Popularly known as Spiritual Mobilization, Fifield's operation earned the fiscal support of such right-wing philanthropists as J. Howard Pew of Sun Oil, Jasper Crane of DuPont, and B.E. Hutchinson of Chrysler...His appeal was simplistic but effective. American clergymen needed to start preaching the Eighth Commandment: "Thou shalt not steal." In this, the shortest commandment, Fifield and his followers believed they had found the biblical basis for private property and a limit to the government's ability to redistribute wealth, tax, and otherwise impede commerce... Beginning in 1949, the Christ-centered free market ideals of Spiritual Mobilization reached nearly fifty thousand pastors and ministers via the organization's publication, Faith and Freedom."

Rushdoony was an avid reader of Faith and Freedom, and drew a lot from the notions it promoted:

" Rushdoony was attracted to Faith and Freedom's consistent warnings of the dangers of a centralized governmental bureaucracy...Beyond the dangers of governmental violence, Rushdoony was also particularly attracted to Faith and Freedom's articles on public education.15 Like many conservative clergymen, Rushdoony saw public schools as hotbeds for collectivist indoctrination and anti-Christian pluralism.

It is important to understand Rushdoony's critique of public education, because it is a microcosm of his broader theological project. As a theologian Rushdoony saw human beings as primarily religious creatures bound to God, not as rational autonomous thinkers. While this may seem an esoteric theological point, it isn't. All of Rushdoony's influence on the Christian Right stems from this single, essential fact. Many critics of Christian Reconstructionism assume that Rushdoony's unique contribution to the Christian Right was his focus on theocracy. In fact, Rushdoony's primary innovation was his single-minded effort to popularize a pre-Enlightenment, medieval view of a God-centered world. By de-emphasizing humanity's ability to reason independently of God, Rushdoony attacked the assumptions most of us uncritically accept...

In Rushdoony's thought, knowledge becomes a matter of disputed sovereignty. Every thought that does not begin with God and the Bible is rebellious: "Man seeks to think creatively rather than think God's thoughts after Him. Evil is the result of man's rebellion against God…. Man's fall was his attempt to become the original interpreter rather than the re-interpreter, to be the ultimate instead of the proximate source of knowledge." Accordingly, humanity's pretence to independent knowledge becomes a matter of rebellion against God's Kingdom because "any attempt to know and control the future outside of God is to set up another god in contempt of the LORD."

I must leave Rushdoony here, if this isn't going to become the longest post in history, but I think that should give you an idea of where the doctrine of Christian Reconstruction, or Dominionism stood in Rushdoony's time.  I also want to make it clear that there were other figures that contributed to the early growth of Dominionism, but again, I can only deal with so much in a blog post.  At the end of all this, I will provide a list of links that will provide more information, if you want it.

*I want to state that, although I have read this account of the origin of Rushdoony's beliefs in a number of places, I don't know that he ever stated this connection to the Armenian genocide openly.  I haven't seen any real smoking gun evidence to link his beliefs to his parents' experiences, but it does seem to be generally accepted among his followers and opponents too.


Grung_e_Gene said...

Should be Canadian second...

isaac said...

One thing that would be funny if it wasn't so sad and scary is that I've seen people who think this nonsense should be the basis of our law screaming with their hair on fire against those imaginary people who want to impose "Sharia law." It seems to me that Dominionism and Sharia law have a lot in common, but you can't tell these folks that.

Oh yeah--some of these Dominionists who want to force us all to believe and live by their whacked out beliefs also, with a straight face, insist that they are not advocating for a theocracy. I believe I may have read once that Cruz himself is one of those.

Green Eagle said...

It is hard to understand how people could be so lacking in self awareness as to rail against Sharia law while at the same time supporting the exact Christian equivalent. Of course, even a slight serving of self awareness would inevitably result in their seeing what hateful, violent, greed maddened, pathetic excuses for human beings they have become, so their internal barriers against really looking at themselves have been built up pretty high.