ANGER and fear do things to people, and one of those things is allowing one to jump to conclusions and cloud one's judgement. I am guilty of both following the Paris terrorist attacks and so posted 'What isis really wants' after I ready the article from +The Atlantic on line. To be honest I was not comfortable with everything in the article because I have Muslim friends, coworkers, and I know for a fact they do not practice the Islam preached by daesh / isis and have no time or sympathy for them. I felt a bit guilty about posting the Atlantic article because I kept thinking about them and the lives they lead and the faith they practice. I know my Muslim friends and coworkers are not like the islamic extremist in the Atlantic article any more than my Christian family, friends and coworkers, in fact the vast majority of all Christians do not believe in or support the Christian extremism of the dominionist. I am very sorry for the fear and hatred of the Muslim community my earlier post may have caused, please forgive me. These from +Think Progress , +HuffPost Religion and +Mother Jones .......
On Monday, The Atlantic unveiled a new feature piece by Graeme Wood entitled “What ISIS Really Wants,” which claims to expose the foundational theology of the terror group ISIS, also called the Islamic State, which has waged a horrific campaign of violence across Iraq, Syria, and Libya over the past year. The article is deeply researched, and makes observations about the core religious ideas driving ISIS — namely, a dark, bloodthirsty theology that revolves around an apocalyptic narrative in which ISIS’s black-clad soldiers believe they are playing a pivotal role. Indeed, CNN’s Peter Bergen published a similar article the next day detailing ISIS’s obsession with the end times, and cited Wood as an “excellent” source, quoting a passage from his article with the kicker “Amen to that.”
Despite this, Wood’s article has encountered staunch criticism and derision from many Muslims and academics who study Islam. After the article was posted online, Islamic studies Facebook pages and listserves were reportedly awash with comments from intellectuals blasting the article as, among other things, “quite shocking.” The core issue, they say, is that Wood appears to have fallen prey to an inaccurate trope all too common in many Western circles: that ISIS is an inevitable product of Islam, mainly because the Qur’an and other Islamic texts contain passages that support its horrific acts.
In his article, Wood acknowledged that most Muslims don’t support ISIS, as the sheer number of Muslim groups who have disavowed the terrorist organization or declared it unIslamic is overwhelming. Yet he repeatedly hints that non-literal Islamic arguments against the terrorist group are useless because justifications for violence are present in texts Muslims hold sacred.
“…simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.” Wood writes. “Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet.”
Although Wood qualifies his claim by pointing briefly to the theological diversity within Islam, Islam scholars argue that he glosses over one of the most important components of any faith tradition: interpretation. Jerusha Tanner Lamptey, Professor of Islam and Ministry at Union Theological Seminary in New York, told ThinkProgress that Wood’s argument perpetuates the false idea that Islam is a literalistic tradition where violent texts are taken at face value.
“That’s very problematic to anyone who spends any of their time dealing with the diversity of interpretations around texts,” Lamptey said. “Texts have never been only interpreted literally. They have always been interpreted in multiple ways — and that’s not a chronological thing, that’s been the case from the get-go … [Wood’s comments] create the [impression] that Islam is literalistic, backward-minded, and kind of arcane or archaic, and we’ve moved past that narrative.”
Lamptey also said that Wood’s argument overlooks other Quranic verses that, if taken literally, would contradict ISIS’s actions because “they promote equality, tolerance.” She pointed to surah 22:39-40 in the Qur’an, which connects the permission for war with the need to protect the houses of worship of other religions — something ISIS, which has destroyed several Christian churches, clearly ignores.
“ISIS exegetes these verses away I am sure, but that’s the point,” she said. “It’s not really about one perspective being literal, one being legitimate, one ignoring things…it’s about diverse interpretations. But alternative ones tend to not gain any footing with this kind of black-and-white rhetoric. It completely delegitimizes them.”
Wood, of course, didn’t accidentally invent the idea that violent passages in Islamic texts make the religion especially prone to violence, or that ISIS’s supposedly Islamic nature is evidence of deeper issues within the tradition. These concepts have been around for some time, but are becoming increasingly popular among two groups that usually find themselves ideologically opposed — namely, right-wing conservatives and the so-called “New Atheists,” a subset of atheism in the West. Leaders from both camps have pointed to violent passages in the Qur’an as evidence that Islam is a ticking time bomb. Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has regularly attacked Islam using this logic, and recently responded to questions about the Qur’an on Fox News by saying that Islam “is not a religion of peace” but a “violent form of faith.” Similarly, talk show host and outspoken atheist Bill Maher sparred with Charlie Rose last September over ISIS, saying that people who disavow the group as unIslamic ignore the supposed “connecting tissue” between ISIS and the rest of Islam, noting “The Qur’an absolutely has on every page stuff that’s horrible about how the infidels should be treated.”
It is perhaps for this reason that Fox News and several other conservative outlets fawned over Wood’s article after it was published, as did prominent “New Atheists” Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
But while these positions are widespread, Lamptey noted that they are also potentially dangerous because they play directly into ISIS’s plans. By suggesting that Islam is ultimately beholden to specific literal readings of texts, Lamptey said Wood and other pundits inadvertently validate ISIS’s voice.
“[Wood’s position] confirms exactly what people like ISIS want people to think about them, which is that they are the only legitimate voice,” she said. “It echoes that rhetoric 100%. Yes, that is what ISIS says about themselves, but it is a different step to say ‘Yes, that is true about the Islamic tradition and all Muslims.’”
Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with Raw Story on Tuesday. He argued that in addition to Wood’s piece being “full of factual mistakes,” its de facto endorsement of literalistic Quranic interpretations amounts to an advertisement for ISIS’s horrific theology.
“Scholars who study Islam, authorities of Islamic jurisprudence, are telling ISIS that they are wrong, and Mr. Wood knows more than what they do, and he’s saying that ISIS is Islamic?” Awad said. “I don’t think Mr. Wood has the background or the scholarship to make that dangerous statement, that historically inaccurate statement. In a way, I think, he is unintentionally promoting ISIS and doing public relations for ISIS.”
Awad also pointed out that Wood used “jihad” and “terrorism” interchangeably, which implicitly endorses ISIS’s argument that their savage practices (terrorism) are a spiritually justified religious duty (jihad). In addition, there is a major issue with Wood’s offhand reference to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “the first caliph in generations”: although a caliphate can be established by force, a caliph, by definition, implies the majority support of Muslims (which ISIS does not have) and caliphates are historically respectful of other religious traditions (which ISIS certainly is not).
Lamptey added that Wood’s position is demeaning, because it renders invisible the overwhelming majority of Muslims whose theologies rebuke violent atrocities. Among other things, Wood’s piece extensively quotes Bernard Haykel, a Princeton scholar the journalist relies on heavily throughout the article, who says Muslim leaders who condemn ISIS as unIslamic are typically “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion.” This stands in stark contrast to the bold statements from respected Muslim scholars all over the globe challenging ISIS’s Islamic claims, and Lamptey says such comments can be read by many Muslims as having their peaceful devotion to their own religion second-guessed by people who believe they’re simply “overlooking things.”
“[Wood and others think moderate Muslims] they’re not ‘real’ Muslims, but ‘partial’ Muslims, or even apostate,” she said. “The majority of [Muslims] do not subscribe to [ISIS’s] view of their religion. But they do subscribe to the idea of emulating the Prophet Muhammad, upholding the text, and upholding the tradition, but come up with very different end points about what that looks like.”
“It’s not like these Muslims are ‘kind-of Muslims.’ They’re Muslims who are committed to the prophetic example in the texts and the Qur’an,” she added.
Other Islam scholars say this narrative breeds suspicion of Muslims as a whole. Mohammad Fadel, Associate Professor & Toronto Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law at the University of Toronto, told ThinkProgress that these arguments entertain the notion that all Muslims are just one literal reading away from becoming terrorists.
“There already is the background … that stresses the idea that Muslims lie about what they believe,” Fadel told ThinkProgress. “That they really have these dark ambitions, but they just suppress them because of their own strategic purposes of conquest. They pretend to be nice. They pretend to be sympathetic to liberal values, but as soon as they get the chance, they’re going to enslave us all. The idea here is that they’re all potential followers of ISIS.”
“On first reading [Wood’s article] seemed to suggest that a committed Muslim should be sympathetic to ISIS, and protestations to the contrary either are the result of ignorance or the result of deception,” he said. “That’s not helpful, and potentially very dangerous.”
Granted, Fadel and Lamptey agreed that a discussion of ISIS’s apocalyptic theology is important, and were hesitant to single out Haykel. But they remained deeply concerned about the popularity of Wood’s framing, and challenged his assertion that ISIS is a “very Islamic” institution that is somehow representative of the global Muslim community.
“Yes, [ISIS is] Islamic in that they use Islamic sources to justify all their actions,” Fadel said. “But I think the question that bothers most Muslims is the idea that just because someone says they are Muslim or that their actions are representative of Islam doesn’t make it so. Just because a group can appropriate Islamic sources and Islamic symbols, and then go around doing all sorts of awful things, doesn’t mean that they get to be the ones who define for the world what Islam means.”
“Muslims who reject ISIS aren’t doing it because they’re bad Muslims. They just have a compelling version of Islam that they think is much better.”
Critics have elucidated a slew of issues with the piece, but many are rooted in quotes by Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University who Wood quotes extensively to justify his claims. When ThinkProgress spoke with other scholars in Haykel’s field, however, at least one expressed surprise at his involvement with the piece, and indicated curiosity about the scholar’s thoughts on the final product.
With this in mind, ThinkProgress reached out to Haykel, who agreed to an interview to help dispel any misconception that he is trying to score “political” points, explaining, “my approach is a scholarly one and not motivated by an agenda.” He admitted that he had initially read Wood’s article quickly — “it’s a long piece,” he joked — and declined to directly address most of Wood’s claims other than to insist the piece was ultimately “[Wood’s] argument … not my argument.” Still, he didn’t shy away from expanding on some things the author left out or possibly misrepresented, and offered a revealing examination of what’s at stake when fighting ISIS.
ISIS is ahistorical, revisionist, but not inevitableOne of the oft-mentioned criticisms of The Atlantic piece is that it echoed the inaccurate belief that since ISIS’s theology draws upon Islamic texts to justify its horrendous practices, it is an inevitable product of Islam. Haykel didn’t say whether or not he thought Wood’s article says as much, but when ThinkProgress asked him directly whether Islamic texts and theology necessitate the creation of groups like ISIS, he was unequivocal.
“No,” he said. “I think that ISIS is a product of very contingent, contextual, historical factors. There is nothing predetermined in Islam that would lead to ISIS.”
“I consider people … who have criticized ISIS to be fully within the Islamic tradition, and in no way ‘less Muslim’ than ISIS,” he said. “I mean, that’s absurd.”
Haykel’s position also helped explain several problematic constructions and omissions in Wood’s article. At one point, for instance, Wood quotes Haykel as saying, “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid.” The journalist then adds the following conclusion: “That really would be an act of apostasy.”
The implication, according to many who read the piece, is that ISIS’s theology is founded in Islamic texts that cannot be debated. Haykel, however, clarified that while he saw ISIS as rooted in authentic Islamic texts, those texts are not above interpretation, and it is only ISIS and related groups — not Islam as a whole — who would consider such challenges apostasy.
“If Muslims start criticizing these texts that ISIS is using, saying that they are no longer relevant or no longer applicable, ISIS would declare them apostate,” Haykel said. “If you start telling ISIS that following a tradition of the prophet has been abrogated, has been superseded by some other tradition or some other verse, or that it’s no longer valid, or that it applies only to the seventh century but not today because we’re modern, you will be declared an apostate on the spot by ISIS.”
The issue, Haykel says, lies in ISIS’s “ahistorical” theology, which justifies their horrific actions by essentially pretending the last several centuries of Islamic history never happened.
“This is something I did point out to [Wood] but he didn’t bring out in the piece: ISIS’s representation of Islam is ahistorical,” Haykel said. “It’s saying we have to go back to the seventh century. It’s denying the legal complexity of the [Islamic] legal tradition over a thousand years.”
To illustrate his point, Haykel referenced Mohammad Fadel, the Associate Professor and Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law at the University of Toronto, who criticized Wood’s piece in a recent interview with ThinkProgress.
“Mohammad Fadel, for instance, would say when you talk about Islamic law, you have to talk about a tradition that is many centuries old and is extremely sophisticated, that has a multiplicity of views and opinions and is not cut and dry the way ISIS presents Islam, in an ahistorical fashion, and in a completely monolithic way,” Haykel said. “So ISIS’s view of Islam is … unhistorical. They’re revising history.”
Is ISIS Islamic?Haykel expanded on some of his comments from Wood’s piece, but he also fervently stood by others, especially his belief that ISIS is, in fact, an Islamic group. Wood’s article includes the following paragraph citing Haykel as he expressed frustration with people — including President Barack Obama — who disavow ISIS as “unIslamic”:
But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”Haykel told ThinkProgress he still supported these claims, although he explained he was specifically referring to two groups of people who declare ISIS unIslamic: Muslims he says are “just ignorant” of Islam’s legal and political history, and Christians who engage in what he called “the Christian tradition of interfaith dialogue” and declare Islam a “religion of peace.”
Haykel singled out CNN talk show host Fareed Zakaria as an example of the former, who recently said ISIS’s public execution of a Jordanian pilot by burning him to death — which at least one prominent Muslim cleric in the Middle East also decried as “away from humanity, much less religions” — is “entirely haram,” or forbidden in Islam.
“That’s actually factually wrong — the burning apostates is in the [Islamic] legal code,” Haykel said.
(Zakaria, for his part, also took a swipe at Haykel in a Washington Post Op-Ed on Friday, saying the following of the scholar’s rejection of those who decry ISIS as unIslamic: “Haykel feels that it is what the 0.0019 percent of Muslims do that defines the religion. Who is being political, I wonder?”)
Still, Haykel said his frustration with people of faith who try to disavow religious extremists is not limited to Islam.
“[They] present Islam as ‘Oh, Islam is a religion of peace,’” Haykel said. “Well, what does that mean? I mean, Christianity is sometimes a religion of peace, and sometimes a religion of war, depending on what time we’re talking about. There’s no such thing as a religion of peace.”
“Islam doesn’t have a monopoly on violence, neither does Christianity. There are people who do things in the name of a religion and who really believe that they are doing God’s bidding. I think the Crusaders, when they were killing Jews and Muslims, really thought that this is what God wanted of them. Just like ISIS, today, when it does the killing of Shiites and Sunnis they consider to be apostates, really feel that they’re doing God’s bidding. They’re genuine believers.”
Haykel readily acknowledged there are numerous Islamic scriptures “that advocate a more kind of pacifist, less violent, and, in fact, an even tolerant and open-minded [religion that is] accepting of, let’s say, non-Muslims.” But he concluded that the texts ISIS pulls from still exist within the Islamic tradition, thus making them Islamic.
“ISIS draws inspiration from Islamic traditions and Islamic texts — a very particular reading of that tradition and those texts — and it should be described and labeled as an extremist Islamic movement, or an Islamist [political] movement,” he said.
ThinkProgress challenged Haykel’s assertion that people who declare ISIS unIslamic are unschooled in Islam, pointing to a lengthy letter signed by over 120 prominent Muslim leaders and scholars that refers to the Islamic State only in quotation marks and repeatedly rebukes their beliefs as “forbidden in Islam.” Several of the signers have openly declared ISIS unIslamic, and Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam — the highest official of religious law among Sunni Muslims in Egypt, the most populous state in the Middle East — told CNN in February that “everything ISIS does is far away from Islam. What it is doing is a crime by all means.” Dar al-Ifta, the premiere school of Islamic law and thought Allam oversees, has also launched a campaign asking journalists not to call ISIS the “Islamic State,” preferring instead “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” or QSIS, which intentionally removes the word “Islamic” from the title.
Despite this, Haykel insisted this is actually a qualified critique by the scholars, not a wholesale rejection of ISIS as unIslamic. The difference, he contends, is in their approach.
“[The people who signed the letter] are not actually in the quote that I was mentioning,” Haykel said. “The [Islamic] jurists … of the world are not saying that ISIS is unIslamic, but that they have a perverted interpretation of Islam. But [ISIS is] rooted in Islam, and they are Muslim, and they are just either Muslims in grave error or they are Muslims who have strayed into heresy. People who actually know the tradition and who are engaging with this group from within the tradition are not in any way singled out in that quotation. It’s only people who say that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam — it’s unIslamic.”
Again, it’s debatable as to what exactly these scholars were doing in their letter, but Haykel noted an important religious nuance that frames his view: while there are theoretical issues for insisting on the “Islamic” nature of ISIS, which claims to be a subset of Sunni Islam, the reason many Sunnis resist calling the group unIslamic may be theological.
“Some Muslims are reticent to engage in a hereticization of ISIS because they feel that in doing so they would be doing what ISIS is doing,” he said. “ISIS is in a very strange and unique position among Sunnis in its kind of very deliberate and rapid and wanton use of hereticization of other Muslims. In other words, ISIS is constantly saying that Fadel and others are not Muslim, because they don’t agree with them. Sunnis don’t normally do that. Historically they don’t do that … You try to say that they’re errant Muslims, … that they’ve strayed from the straight path. Not to put them outside the veil of the religion.”
It’s about more than religionClearly, there are spiritual barriers to combating ISIS with religion. Their uniquely twisted theology draws on Islamic texts, yet their revisionist approach ostracizes them from the broader Muslim community. Haykel said the difficulty in shutting down ISIS, religiously speaking, isn’t limited to theological hurdles, but largely stems from something else he says Wood declined to quote him on: the current geopolitical situation facing the world’s Sunni Muslims.
“The Sunni Muslim community, under normal circumstances … [historically] had mechanisms for silencing or eliminating extremists who would emerge from among them,” Haykel said. “[But] Sunni Muslims feel really beleaguered today … It’s very hard for Sunnis to say, today, ‘Let’s go and fight ISIS militarily,’ when you also have, let’s say, the Assad regime killing hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims, or Iran and its forces in Iraq and Syria and Lebanon also attacking Sunnis at the same time. In a world where a lot of people are attacking Sunnis, it’s hard for Sunnis to say ‘ISIS is the only bad group.’”
“In other words, ISIS is a bad group and [Sunnis] don’t agree with it, but there are also other bad groups that are just as bad if not worse — at least in terms of [number of people] killed.”
Haykel said this sense of being under siege, when combined with several economic realities, is primarily why “a small sample of people” find ISIS’s ideology attractive. To the few who are able to get past ISIS’s obsessions with violence, their black-flag-waving conquests offer a sense of purpose — and, frankly, employment — amidst an otherwise frustrating existence.
“The reason ISIS emerged clearly has to do with the chaos in Iraq, the disenfranchisement of the Sunnis of Iraq (which is the result of the American invasion-occupation), and the chaos in Syria (which is a regime that has also disenfranchised Sunni Muslims),” he said. “We have two big Arab countries, side-by-side, both in chaos, both with large Sunni populations that are disenfranchised … With a lot of young men who have no prospects for employment and feel marginalized. And who then identify their sense of humiliation and marginalization with the larger Muslim world, which they claim is also being marginalized and being humiliated.”
“Let’s say you were an Iraqi, and you’ve had your entire family wiped out by the Shia government of Baghdad. Or you’ve seen your sister raped, or your brother tortured. Then you feel like you have nothing to lose, and the only way to respond to this is to resort to violence. And ISIS provides a ready-made ideology and package and movement to express that sense of rage.”
This powder keg of issues is difficult if not impossible to defuse with theology. Yes, understanding ISIS’s religious motivations — which is undoubtedly the most illuminating offering of Wood’s article — is important if for no other reason than to understand how the group sees itself and its actions. There is a possibility of engaging them religiously, for instance, and Wood himself suggests that ISIS may have an ideological alternative in the “quietest” Salafi movement, or Muslims who share some similar theological views to ISIS but prefer to recuse themselves from politics.
Haykel, however, was skeptical about whether even this group could have any real impact on the psyche of self-righteous ISIS recruits.
“There are bits of the argument where [Wood] says that other types of Salafis, the quietists, could be an alternative to the jihadists,” Haykel said. “You know…Maybe, maybe. Perhaps.”
Haykel also expressed doubt that the issue of ISIS could be fixed with guns alone. Haykel told ThinkProgress he was opposed to American military intervention in the region, particularly the use of ground troops, which he believes would likely backfire. Instead, he argued the world needs a broader, longer-term plan to address the multiplicity of issues that fuel extremism in the region, where bad religion is just one among dozens of daunting concerns facing millions of impoverished Muslims.
“I see ISIS as a symptom of a much deeper structural set of problems in the Sunni Arab world,” he said. “[It has] to do with politics. With education, and the lack thereof. With authoritarianism. With foreign intervention. With the curse of oil … I think that even if ISIS were to disappear, the underlying causes that produce ISIS would not disappear. And those would have to be addressed with decades of policy and reforms and changes — not just by the west, but also by Arab societies as well.”
Taken together, Haykel’s comments appeared to argue that effectively combating ISIS will require more than discerning what “ISIS wants,” theologically speaking. Instead, it also requires a deep, abiding dedication to providing what most Muslims in the region want, and what Wood only briefly addresses in his article: stability, jobs, education, and, most of all, peace.
Religion News Service
(RNS) In recent weeks, an arcane and scary-sounding religious term has crept into the lexicon of the 2012 campaign, tripping from the tongue of everyone from MSNBC broadcaster Rachel Maddow to conservative Christian leader Ralph Reed.
Depending on whom you ask, "Dominionism" either signifies a Christian plot for world domination, or the latest liberal bugaboo.
Here are five facts about Dominionism to help you decide for yourself:
What is "Dominionism"?
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.
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; 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.
Who are "Dominionists"?
Very few Christians identify themselves as "Dominionists." But experts say the New Apostolic Reformation has gained traction among charismatic Christians and Pentecostals under the influence of C. Peter Wagner, a church-growth guru and prolific author. Prominent "apostles" in the NAR include Lou Engle, co-founder of TheCall assemblies and Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo.
Where are Dominionists?
Experts say the New Apostolic Reformation has chapters of "prayer warriors" in all 50 states and in foreign countries where Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity are popular. Membership numbers are difficult to ascertain, however, since adherents are not required to officially join any church, seminary or ministry.
Some experts say Dominionism is more a school of thought than a social group. Its influence can be seen in textbooks that portray the Founding Fathers as devout evangelicals, in an anti-gay bill in Uganda and in the home-schooling movement, they say. Evangelical experts, however, say they see no evidence of Dominionist thought among conservative Christian elites.
When did Dominionism arise?
Christian Reconstructionism is the brainchild of the R.J. Rushdoony, a Calvinist theologian who died in 2001, leaving behind several dense tomes and a small band of followers. The New Apostolic Reformation traces its roots to several Pentecostal movements that proliferated in the second half of the 20th century.
Why are people talking about Dominionism now?
The topic has bobbed up almost every four years since evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson, who has espoused Dominionist ideas, ran for president in 1988. During the 2008 election, for instance, a video surfaced of a pastor active in the New Apostolic Reformation praying over Sarah Palin, raising questions about her involvement with the group.
In August, several pastors affiliated with NAR helped organize and delivered speeches at Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prayer rally in Houston. Perry is expected to need strong support from conservative Christians in his run for the presidency, as is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has expressed admiration for writers accused of espousing Dominionist ideas.
Many conservative Christians dismiss the attention on Dominionism as liberal fearmongering. They wish to participate in American culture, they say, not dominate it.
Evangelicals are mobilizing for the midterms.
The goal of these gatherings is to drum up outrage over recent political skirmishes, including the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, and to persuade believers that their religious freedoms are under attack by ungodly forces. During one recent event, which was shown in churches across the nation, speakers likened the situation of US churchgoers to Christians beheaded by ISIS in Syria. "We see the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies," said David Benham, whose planned HGTV reality show was canceled after his fiercely anti-gay remarks came to light. "What's happening with swords over in the Middle East is happening with silence over here in America."
The campaign dates back to March, when United in Purpose, a nonprofit funded by wealthy evangelical Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, convened a Voter Mobilization Strategy Summit near Dallas. At the event, churches and conservative Christian political organizations forged a strategy to mobilize voters for the 2014 midterms. United in Purpose, a behind-the-scenes technology and communications group with deep dominionist ties, also shared a variety of tools including videos and voter mobilization apps. (One app allows pastors to compare their membership rosters with voter rolls, so they can better guide their flock to the polls.) The Family Research Council and Texas-based Vision America, which played a key role in the summit, then began hosting policy briefings for pastors and staging lavishly produced voter mobilization events that were broadcast live to churches and groups across the country.