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The Chalcedon Foundation in Valecito, California was founded by R.J Rushdoony in 1965 and continues to this day as a think tank devoted to the development of a school of evangelical Christian thought called Christian Reconstructionism. It is part of a broader modern theocratic movement that many writers and scholars refer to as dominionism, after the notion that a goal of many conservative Christians is to "take dominion" over all aspects of society.

The Chalcedon Foundation conveniently provides its own explanation of the notion of Christian Dominion on its web site. This is significant in part because in a media flap a few years ago some journalists and pundits engaged in a round of smears, denials and distortions in response to reporting on the contemporary politics of dominionism in the Republican Party.  Some professed ignorance, and claimed that dominionism was insignificant if it existed at all. Some questioned the motives of those of us who have written about these things. (Some of us formally responded to the more egregious smears.)

Mark Rushdoony explains "Dominion is the application of God's law over our sphere of influence. It is the surrender of every area of life and thought to God's righteous standard."  (at 2:00 in the audio). Now of course, one of the main questions is always who gets to say what that standard is?  Mark Rushdoony's father, the late R.J. Rushdoony sought to lay down the Biblical law in his landmark work, Institutes of Biblical Law.  Among other things, Rushdoony listed about the three dozen capital offenses he found in the Old Testament, which are mostly religious and sex crimes, including blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, and astrology, as well as homosexuality and adultery.  

In fairness, many contemporary dominionists do not agree with the modern application of Rushdoony's list of Biblical capital crimes.  But even as these dominionists deny that their version of Christian dominion would include the death penalty for most of the offenses (the exception usually being murder, including abortion) the question of the criminalization of homosexuality, other religions and the Biblically incorrect is a question that often goes unanswered. (Should public office be limited only to Christians of the correct sort?  

There are many variations within the dominionist movement. In an effort to achieve a broader definition of dominionism, in 2005, I observed that dominionism shares three main characteristics.  

Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.

Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.

Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or "biblical law," should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.

R.J. Rushdoony has sought to make what I have called a distinction without a difference that goes to the core of his thought:  He did this by avoiding how theonomy -- a society based on God's law -- would enforce that law.  In the video below, he insists that dominion cannot be forced on people from the top down.  And that may have been his intention.  However, he also believed that people who think as he does should be at the top. And once they get there, enforce biblical law, including the three dozen capital crimes. He defines the implementation of what he calls "God's law/word", as "love."
"We do not believe in something forced on people from top down. We believe that every Christian must work to bring every area of life and thought into captivity to Christ.  So our method is not gaining control dictatorially of the state and saying to everybody: Get in line! Go to church!  Say your prayers! But rather, by conversion and the exercise of dominion. By this means, to bring every area of life and thought into  captivity to Christ. And so evangelism is basic to this and then the exercise of dominion."

Of course, come the political hegemony or dominion of the converted, those who get to decide exactly what it is one has convert to, and whether in fact one has achieved that conversion, will depend on who is in charge in the new dominion.

If the new dominion is cast in the image of Rushdoony, if you happen to be gay, a pagan, a Jew, a Muslim, an atheist, an agnostic, an astrologer, or if the religious authorities du jour deem your views of Christianity to be insufficiently correct, you may find yourself in the stoning circle.  

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 07:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Pro Choice.

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