Introduction and A Short History of Theocracy, Dominionism and Christian Nationalism in America
(This is part of a growing series Children of a Lesser God: Dominionism and Christian Nationalism Heresy Exposed )
Dominionism and Christian Nationalism are an integrated set of complex and subtle beliefs that all rotate around the idea of how “Christians” are to interact and allegedly influence society, culture, non-Christians but most importantly… government. Although there is tremendous diversity in this huge movement, I want to focus here on the foundational core beliefs that power this theology in all of its many forms. Despite its growth and enormous popularity I believe that Dominionism and Christian Nationalism are contrary to scripture and sound doctrine and are greatly damaging the the hope of Christ and the ministry and call of the true Church. Although Dominionism and Christian Nationalism seem like a new movement it really borrows from some ancient and forgotten heresies and simply re-brands them. This heresy subtly pushes multiple theological errors that individually seem small, but together contribute to a whole that is utterly horrible and eternally damaging.
Specific Dominionist beliefs have been steadily and silently creeping into wider Evangelicalism in America since the late 1940s. They are becoming so quietly normalized that most Evangelicals identify and hold many Dominionist sentiments without recognizing their history or source. For one example, most Evangelicals are unaware that the entire Homeschooling Movement was driven by Dominionism and swept in other Dominionists’ beliefs with it. The very definition of Evangelicalism is changing so much due to Dominionism’s growing influence that it has only fading resemblance to its former sentiments, values and identity from just 25 years ago. In only a few years there may be the complete unification of Dominionist theology and ideals into American Evangelicalism, and as a result a complete separation of American Evangelicalism from historic Luther and Reformed Protestantism. This is no longer a small fringe movement by a few crazies, Dominionism and Christian Nationalism are the driving and defining force of American Evangelicalism today.
The Difficulty in Identifying Dominionist and Christian National Beliefs and Leaders
Recognizing and identifying Dominionist and Christian national beliefs is difficult for a few reasons. Few people self-identify with these movements or even realize the beliefs they hold are anything but core Evangelical or Conservative. Some Dominionist leaders were ex-communicated for heresy or faced public outcry as early as 1948, so there are no card-carrying members of either movement; and many key groups work secretly or at least quietly and keep their events and member rolls secret. If you asked many of their leaders point-blank if they were Dominionists, many would even deny involvement (I have a record of many doing this). Dominionism doesn’t hold up under direct scrutiny so when scrutiny is encountered, the words change to protect the guilty. To stay more hidden Dominionists and Christian Nationalists have developed their own special language and “dog-whistle” phraseology and this language changes as individual points are challenged and are exposed. The many Dominionists organizations rarely openly identify with that theology, but frequently hide in plain sight under the guise of organization names that frequently include the word “Family”, evoke America or patriotism, or espouse some “moral” purpose.
To make it even more challenging, most founders of specific Dominionist tenants are mostly completely unknown to the Evangelical public and pastors and depend on more well-known preachers to popularize their beliefs. R.J. Rushdoony the father of the Home-school Movement, is utterly unknown to most parents who home-school their children. This is a common thread among all Dominionist and Christian National tenants, and some of the original sources are surprising and few like those from Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s lasting influence on wider Evangelicalism are surprising.
There is extreme diversity in the background of its adherents as well. Dominionism has found strong sympathy and brought surprising groups together that have been long theologically opposed drawing huge followings from Calvinists, Evangelicals, Mormons, Pentecostals, Catholics and even the Moonies. Each of these seemingly theologically irreconcilable groups have also brought to Dominionist/Christian Nationalist movement their own influence, unique sub-versions and even language. As a result, there is disagreement among Dominionists and Christian Nationalist groups on both points and the degree to which they should be implemented. The deceptions of Dominionism and Christian Nationalism are slippery fish, but I will grab a few, and focus here not on each branch, nor their most extreme beliefs, but the more subtle core beliefs and theology that unite them together.
A Short History of Theocracy, Dominionism and Christian Nationalism in America
Dominionism has its deepest roots in the enormous revival of the Klu Klux Klan from 1915-1930, when MILLIONS of people, about 15% of the entire US male population became full fledged members of the Klan. Originally founded in 1865, the second KKK was not just a racist movement it was deliberately and specifically a religious and moral one. It was re-founded and driven by Pastor William J. Simmons providing new “stands” against immorality, drinking, Jazz music, and public displays of affection. Of course these were in addition to the classic anti-immigrant and always popular racist rants, but the new emphasis was on Godly morals. It was not uncommon for KKK “Night Riders” to bomb and burn white saloons, beat drunks, even beat couples for kissing, in addition to the old classics of lynching random blacks. This second round of the KKK was not centered on poor whites of the South as you may imagine, its greatest membership was white professionals, farmers and factory workers of the Mid-west. In some areas 40% of the population joined the Klan, especially in Indiana and Ohio. There were enormous and surprising Klan communities in Buffalo NY, Detroit MI and Orange County CA. You can read more about the lasting and tragic impact of the unique 1915-1930 Klan religious “revival” and its influence that still lingers today here.
The specific theology and goals of the Dominionist and Christian Nationalist movement fueled by general KKK sentiments became much more focused in the immediate post WWII world political climate. The US victory in WWII, the Civil Rights Movement, the growing threat of Soviet Union and the fear of Nuclear War would greatly shape and refine their beliefs and theology. Unknown to each other Rev. Franklin Hall and Rev. Sun Myung Moon (of the “Moonies”) can both date their first foundational Dominionist beliefs to 1946. Both Moon and Hall would soon go off the deep end theologically and mentally, Moon into believing he was the second coming of Christ, and Hall into a bizarre theology and heresy of space aliens, but not before both gathered a large array of followers. Although neither would retain their direct influence, their indirect influence would be enormous and lasting, and both have tenants that thrive and extend to wider Evangelicalism up to this very day.
The history of Dominionism is filled with many unknown influencers. Their sometimes crazy and often initially unpalatable theology was most often later pruned and made more acceptable, and then promoted in new form by other more “respectable” and popular figures, a process that still continues today. Billy James Hargis, Oral Roberts and Gordon Lindsay latched on to Franklin Hall’s new theology in the late 1940s and would make it more acceptable for wider public support. Hargis had an enormous radio audience across 500 stations and combined KKK theology with Franklin Hall’s. Oral Roberts also inspired by Hall but who was not racist like Hargis, crossed from radio to television soon after Hargis did, but soon passed in him popularity on TV. Dominionist ideals were first condemned in 1949, and both Hargis and Roberts would face heat from their denominations (Hargis was excommunicated in 1955) but both found new organizations and theological breathing room. Lindsay would follow Hall into both his bizarre theology of aliens, and then in obscurity.
If you don’t remember Oral Roberts, he was known for meeting a 900-foot-tall Jesus who commanded him to build an enormous hospital and cure cancer. The hospital eventually went bankrupt, and he never cured cancer. He also told his followers that if he didn’t raise $8 million extra one year, God would take him “home”. God seems to have forgotten his threat after Mr. Roberts failure, as he left him on this earth another 22 years. But Roberts would inspire both the Heresy of Prosperity and Dominionist heresy’s among millions of people and especially Pentecostals.
If you don’t remember Hargis, he was America’s first Televangelist and founded the Religious Right with his group the Christian Crusade in 1950. Hargis aggressive fundraising efforts would directly inspire the Johnson Amendment. His theology was a combination of KKK’s with Franklin Hall’s, but without the hoods and flaming crosses. Hargis co-created the false and racist tract that rock music was demonic, which resulted in mass album burnings in the 1970s that endured through the 1980s. Hargis later resigned after being caught for sexual abusing with both male and female students. After his resignation, the Religious Right which had been fighting the Rock Music, Civil Rights Amendment and School Desegregation and lost on all 3, began distancing itself from openly racist and anti-Catholic KKK rhetoric in the mid to late 1970’s.
The four most well-known Pastors in the US in mid 1950s through 1970s era were Billy Graham, Dr. Norman Vincent Peal, Oral Roberts and Billy J. Hargis, and surprisingly they were all strong Dominionists from its earliest days. Billy Graham would repent of Dominionism in the early 1960s, but would retain some elements his entire life, and pass-on an even stronger Dominionist bent to his children. Peale would write books that topped the New York Times best seller list. Roberts and Hargis dominated radio and TV with daily programs. Dominionist ideals and other heresy were injected quietly into millions of households every day for over 30 years.