My second article for ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal asks whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest the Australian Christian Lobby is at the forefront of the ideological holy war called ‘dominionism’.
This article has been several months in the making. Dominionism is a complex network of international organisations. While some of the more extreme groups happily speak openly about their plans to infiltrate goverments and ‘occupy’ nations, most speak in euphemisms easily deciphered by Christian fundamentalists but designed to be less threatening to those not ‘in the know’.
Apparently George W Bush (or at least his speech writer) was a master at this ‘dog whistle’ language, but is now being superseded by GOP candidate, Rick Perry. Listen out for terms like ‘worldview’, ‘spheres of influence’, ‘change agents’, ‘changing the culture’. Here’s an article which explains how it works.
When I first began researching dominionism I didn’t even suspect any links between the extremist American organisations involved in the movement and our homegrown Christian lobbyists. But, over time, it became apparent to me that there were so many links the questions really had to be asked, “Is the Australian Christian Lobby a dominionist organisation?” “Does it purposefully set out to recruit staff from within the dominionist network?” “Are there links between dominionist theology and the publicly stated goals of the ACL?”
The ABC decided to provide a contrary view from Rod Benson, a Baptist theologian.
Read the articles and you decide.
Dominionism is now being taken very seriously in the United States. Take, for example, this article from the New York Times. Perhaps it’s time we started taking it seriously here in Australia.
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg
Roads to Dominion by Sara Diamond
Chrys, an excellent article. I’m glad to see this toxic theology is finally being exposed for what it is by many prominent atheists, yourself included. Thanks.
I have a contact that seems to think that I am both a Christian and a Liberal supporter and has confided in me that he was involved for some 13 years in getting Christian candidates elected into the local state and federal seats. Greg Hunt and Martin Dixon being the people he is referring to. Greg Hunt BTW takes full responsibility for the Chaplains in schools. As for dominionism I’d like to see more evidence.
Graeme – that pretty much *is* dominionism. I’m not talking reconstructionism which is total nutters wanting to reinstate public stoning. Dominionism holds that Christians must do all they can to gain leadership of, or influence in, secular institutions so that ‘Christian values’ can be imposed on the rest of us. It’s not quite as militant as reconstructionism, but you only need to look at the Republican party in the US to see it’s no conspiracy theory there. As far as Australia’s concerned, they are not as adept, and we’re not as easy a target, but I think there is at least sufficient evidence to suggest it’s likely the ACL has absorbed many of the dominionist ideas and strategies. Consider:
1. The Christian Coalition of America which was the inspiration for the current ACL is widely recognized as a dominionist organisation.
2. An early ACL publication was called “Mandate” – referencing the fact that Christians have a ‘mandate’ to take dominion over the earth and its public institutions.
3. Many of the ACL board and staff have links to organisations which, in turn, have been linked by reputable scholars, authors, and journalists to American dominionism – including the 7 Mountains movement.
4. The 7 Mountains movement and its authors are widely recognized as dominionists. Daniel Burke from the Religion News Service says, “Experts identify two main schools of Dominionism: Christian Reconstructionists, who believe biblical law, including stoning as punishment for adultery and other transgressions, should replace secular law [note, I have not linked the ACL with reconstructionism]; and the New Apostolic Reformation, which advocates for Christians to “reclaim the seven mountains of culture”: government, religion, media, family, business, education, and arts and entertainment.”
5. The ACL’s Compass Australia program dovetails neatly with the aims of the 7 mountains movement, including its Compass program which aims to mentor young evangelists into leadership positions in key areas.
6. The ACL is publicly listed as subscribing to the 7 mountains movement.
8. ACL leaders happily speak at conventions laden with dominionist leaders (e.g. Noebel, Furgason) and/or organisations (eg Summit Ministries, National Apostolic Churches). Note, I didn’t see any Anglican or Catholic church leaders on the programme of these conferences.
9. Dominionism is heavily couched in ‘military’ terms – ‘taking territory’ ‘occupation’ or its euphemisms ‘transformation’ ;kingdom building’ or ‘discipling nations’, ‘spiritual warfare’, ‘prayer warriors’. At least three of the ACL’s senior staff have military backgrounds – two as military strategists. That’s not to say they’re planning a military takeover, but it suggests they do see this in terms of a cultural or ideological ‘war’.
10. Dominionist organisations routinely reject the social gospel in favour of attacking issues like homosexuality, abortion, stem-cell research etc. This is clearly seen in the agenda of the ACL. Jim Wallace has clearly endorsed the view that the role of Christian movements is not to follow a ‘social gospel’ but to fight against ‘systemic evil’.
11. Even those who have worked intimately with the organisation say it has ‘two face’ and is not the moderate organisation it pretends to be. In 2008 the former Victorian director of the ACL, Railton Hill, said on ABC radio: “I was disillusioned with ACL, having put in a tremendous amount of voluntary effort to that honorary position as State Director here in Victoria. I had joined, looking for a general, moderate, broad-church Christian opportunity to influence government policy. And I became convinced that we were certainly not really moderate, not towards the middle, that in fact there was a definite fundamentalist element which was influencing most of what was going on a lot of the time.”
Interviewer Crittenden: You’re saying the ACL is not it claims to be.
Railton Hill: Look essentially that was my experience and that’s why I resigned … I think it is fair to say it’s a Trojan Horse …
12. Hill is on record as saying the ACL feigns ‘moderation’ and a commitment to social issues during election periods, but between elections their focus is not on social issues, but on moral issues. This is common to many dominionist organisations
13. Dean Logan, a former ACL chief of staff backs up many of Railton Hills concerns about the ACL.
This is not all the evidence I have but I think it is sufficient to show that suggesting that the ACL may have connections with American style dominionism is justiied and far from a ‘conspiracy theory’.