JAIS MISSING THE POINT
JAIS issued a statement yesterday concerning the so-called “raid” on Damansara Utama Methodist Church’s Dream Centre in Petaling Jaya on 3rd August 2011.
In its statement
, JAIS clarified that it was not a raid as reported. Nor was there any force used during the walk about by JAIS in the Church’s premises. In its own word, it was just an “inspection”. Kinda like what PUSPAKON (sic
) is doing on all vehicles which are sold second hand.
It could then be gathered from JAIS’ statement that it was a friendly thingy. You know, the kind of visit by strangers to our house unannounced just after we have dinner with some guests where our guests were questioned why they were in our house; what did we, as hosts, say before, during and after dinner; did we, as hosts, try to proselytise (did I get the spelling correct? Sorry, I have to confirm this because before the raid, I never knew this word existed, let alone know its meaning) them yada yada yada.
JAIS director, Encik Marzuki Hussin said, among others:
Jais officers did not interrupt the event and only inspected the venue after the dinner had ended.
Accusations that Jais raided, used force and trespassed are wild accusations.
The 12 Muslims who had attended the event were only asked to provide their details and directed to attend counselling sessions.
I find this really amazing, really.
Our Honourable Prime Minister flew all the way to the Vatican to meet the Pope; shook his hand; gave the Pope a book and established a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican. Then he came back to Kuala Lumpur cutting short his family holiday because he would rather be with us, the people.
And what did some little Caliphs, defenders of the faith do? Yes. Together with the police, they “inspected” a private dinner hosted, not by the church, but by an AIDS organisation to say thank you for all the hard works and efforts put into the organisations by some people.
The point is not whether it was a raid or inspection, JAIS. Nor was it whether you entered before, during or after the dinner. Nor also whether there was any interruption. Nor whether you all were as nice as cupcakes. That is NOT the point.
The point is you had the nerve to gate-crash a private dinner on the pretext of investigating a report the details of which you were unable to give when requested. And please tell me under what authority and for what reason are the 12 Muslim guests were asked to attend counselling session with you.
What counselling? Counselling for what? For having dinner with some Christians? Judging from your rationale, the Prime Minister and his whole entourage to the Vatican might have to attend counselling to ya? Sometime ago I attended a funeral of the son of a dear friend of mine in a church. I stood up when they were singing hymns and sat in silence when prayers were being said. Do I have to be counselled too?
This is the kind of thing which is making Malaysia a laughing capital of the world nowadays. Some years ago I remember, there was a text message sent out by none other a mufti alleging that a number of kids were about to be proselytised (is my spelling correct?) at a church. It caused an uproar. But of course the good mufti was not hauled up for anything although recently a certain Penang lady was hauled up by the police for allegedly urging Christians to walk for whatever reason.
The thing which I would like to ask is this. Is there any necessity at all to do this kind of thing?
Muslims in Malaysia seem to be very weak indeed. We cannot listen to certain music group. Cannot watch MTV. Cannot go to concerts, even to concerts by the completely fagotty Michael Learns to Rock, for God’s sake!!! These guys rhymes the word “car” with “star” for God’s sake! Cannot watch certain films. Cannot tahan seeing women’s ketiak in public. Cannot tahan seeing non-Muslims eating or drinking during puasa month.
We need to be protected all the time. Otherwise our aqidah would be gone. And we would become kafir. And of course we would then all go to hell.
One question struck me. If Muslims in Malaysia are so easily persuaded to leave Islam, there must be something wrong with the state of Islam in Malaysia, isn’t it? I mean, why would the Muslims in Malaysia so easily persuaded to do so then? Perhaps then, JAIS and the all the mullahs should look into this aspect rather than blaming everything on other faiths.
A word of advise to JAIS. We are a multi-cultural-faiths society. We need to be respectful to others. It doesn’t matter whether Islam is the official religion of the country or whether it is the faith of the majority of the people in our country.
Islam teaches us moderation. And Islam teaches us to be respectful of others.
Now, article 11 of the Federal Constitution does guarantee freedom of religion to every person in Malaysia (even though that person is not a citizen of Malaysia). Admittedly, paragraph 4 of the said article also permits laws to be made to “control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”
I do not know whether there is any such law in Selangor. But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that it has.
Nowhere in the law it is stated that Muslims cannot eat or attend a dinner with Christians, be it in a church compound or at the zoo or anywhere else. That is why even our Honourable Prime Minister attended a dinner with the Christian sometime ago (remember the hoo-haas about removing crucifixes and stuffs?).
If there are reasonable suspicion (I repeat, reasonable suspicion – which means not any kind of grandmother suspicion) that some groups are trying to propagate whatever religious doctrine to Muslims, then by all means please take the appropriate action. Please note, I said, appropriate action, not any grandmother action.
Now what is appropriate and what is not? Well, again, we live in a multi-cultural-faiths society. Our actions must not be one which would or could give rise to disharmony. That is all.
By all means, JAIS may investigate the allegation quietly. How to do that? Well, our special branch is one of the best in the world. Recently they even managed to sniff out a plot to wage war against the King; a plot to turn this country into a communist state; and they, according to the Deputy IGP and Home Minister also managed to avoid a riot like the London riot in Kuala Lumpur. Yes. They are that good.
So JAIS, how to investigate? Ask assistance from our special branch. They will know how to sniff this kinda thing within seconds.
When all or sufficient evidence are gathered of such activities, then JAIS can go on and exercise its powers lah. Call people for statements. Arrests the people involved. Charge them in Courts. Habis cerita kan?
Better still, to be civilised, it would be better for JAIS, in the name of 1Malaysia, under those circumstances, to call up the church or group in question and confront them with the evidence which JAIS has collected. Let’s hear what they have to say. If there is not reasonable or acceptable explanation, JAIS can proceed to charge them.
That’s it. No drama. No raid. No inspection. Nothing at all.
Before I end this, one more point. Religion is a state matter. Selangor is governed by Pakatan Rakyat. I then presume JAIS is a state agency. The Menteri Besar apparently did not agree with the action. Question – why wasn’t he briefed on the “inspection”, knowing how sensitive this issue is?
As a political party, PAS, which is part of Pakatan Rakyat, also apparently disagree with JAIS’ inspection. But Hassan Ali, a state EXCO member, defended JAIS. The MB then imposed a blanket gag order.
May I ask bluntly, what the hell? Do you know what you are doing or not? If so, are you opposed or are you in favour of it? Which is bloody which?
If the MB doesn’t agree and one lone EXCO member is against that, what should be the natural consequence to that? My question is simple. What is the official position of the Selangor State Government about this whole episode. Never mind Hassan Ali. Never mind Tan Sri Khalid. Never mind PAS or DAP.
WHAT IS THE OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE SELANGOR STATE GOVERNMENT?
That many of us would like to know.
I would like to end this post with this verse. May we all get His wisdom and mercy.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O you men! surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware. (translation : Shakir)
O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (translation: Pickthal)
Ramai orang berkata sejarah tidak boleh menipu: “History cannot lie.” Namun kita jangan pula lupa bahawa manusia boleh menipu fakta sejarah sehingga hakikat sejarah dirobah dan diubah. Peristiwa lampau kita tidak saksikan sendiri, ia diriwayatkan kepada kita melalui sumber-sumber yang menceritakan apa yang telah berlaku. Sumber-sumber itu pula terdedah kepada benar dan dusta. Jika kita menerima dari sumber yang benar, maka persepsi kita terhadap sesuatu peristiwa mungkin akan benar. Itu pun bergantung kepada aliran pemikiran atau “school of thought” yang kita pegang. Jika fakta yang salah, maka sudah pasti tafsiran yang salah akan kita buat terhadap sesuatu sejarah. Pasti ada pihak dizalimi haknya.
Maka dalam Islam, beberapa asas penting diletakkan dalam mengkaji sejarah. Asas pertama ialah kebenaran sesuatu fakta iaitu sejauh manakah sesuatu riwayat (narration) boleh dipercayai (authentic). Maka, Islam amat mengambil kira soal sumber sesuatu riwayat yang dipetik. Dalam ilmu hadis khususnya, ada bab “Rijal al-Hadith” iaitu ilmu yang mengkaji latar belakang perawi (narrators). Dikaji sifat amanah perawi, kekuatan ingatannya, kemungkinan pertemuannya dengan perawi sebelumnya dan pelbagai lagi. Kemudian, riwayat yang dibawa itu akan dibanding dengan para perawi lain yang lebih dipercayai untuk dinilai. Demikian susahnya sesebuah hadis hendak mencapai darjat “sahih”. Malangnya, apabila ilmu hadis tidak diambil berat, ramai penceramah termasuk ustaz dan ustazah yang membaca hadis palsu dalam ucapan mereka.
Dalam Islam, maklumat sejarah biasa sekalipun tidak diketatkan syaratnya seperti hadis, namun soal sumber yang dipercayai itu tetap penting. Ini terutama apabila membabitkan maruah atau tuduhan terhadap pihak-pihak tertentu. Muhammad bin Somil al-Salma dalam tesisnya “Manhaj Kitabah al-Tarikh al-Islamiy wa Tadrisuhu” (Metodologi Penulisan Sejarah Islami dan kajiannya) menyebut: “Riwayat sejarah apabila berkaitan hukum syar’i seperti halal dan haram, atau berkaitan mencerca seseorang Muslim, mempertikaikannya, atau memberikan gambaran buruk mengenainya kepada orang lain, maka mestilah dipastikan kedudukan perawinya dan dikenali pembawa beritanya” (m/s 227. Mesir: Dar al-Wafa/1408H).
Ya, ini sebenarnya berasaskan arahan Allah dalam al-Quran: (maksudnya) “Wahai orang-orang yang beriman! Sekiranya datang kepada kamu orang yang fasik membawa sesuatu berita maka periksalah dengan teliti, agar kamu tidak menimpakan musibah kepada suatu kaum tanpa mengetahui keadaannya menyebabkan kamu menyesal atas perbuatan kamu itu”. (Surah al-Hujarat: 6).
Ini penting, ramai yang menjadi mangsa cemuhan dan tohmahan hanya disebabkan sumber yang khianat dan menyeleweng dalam menyampai sesuatu berita. Dalam kehidupan seharian yang watak-watak masih hidup pun, banyak penipuan fakta, pembohongan dan fitnah dilakukan. Apatah lagi apabila membabitkan mereka yang sudah tiada, tentu pembohongan lebih mudah dilakukan. Umpamanya, betapa banyak maklumat sejarah yang menipu tentang pertelingkahan yang terjadi antara sahabat Nabi s.a.w sehingga lahirnya mazhab Syiah yang mempercayai fitnah sejarah terhadap sahabat-sahabat Nabi s.a.w.
Ramai yang menjadi mangsa diburukkan oleh sumber sejarah yang tidak amanah. Antara yang dimangsa Khalifah Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan yang diburukkan oleh sumber sejarah seburuk-buruknya. Sehingga Munir Ghadban menyebut: “Aku tidak berpendapat bahawa adanya suatu peribadi di dalam sejarah Islam yang terdiri daripada kalangan para sahabat yang awal, yang ditarbiyah dengan tangan Rasulullah s.a.w dan mereka hidup dengan wahyu langit, (tidak ada) mereka ini yang diperburukkan, dibohongi tentangnya dan didustakan kepadanya seperti yang dilemparkan kepada Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan r.a. (Munir al-Ghadhban, Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, m/s 5. Damsyik: Dar al-Qalam/ 1410H).
Begitu juga Khaliah Harun al-Rasyid yang dikaitkan dengan pelbagai cerita buruk dan lucu kepadanya seperti dia sering ditipu oleh Abu Nuwas. Sedangkan Abu Nuwas itu seorang penyair yang sering memuji arak dan wanita. Syair-syairnya memuatkan keruntuhan moral. Kata Ibn Khaldun (meninggal 808H): “Adapun apa yang dipalsukan oleh hikayat; mengenai Harun al-Rasyid yang selalu meminum arak dan mabuk seperti mabuknya seorang kaki arak —Allah memelihara daripada itu semua! Kita tidak pernah tahu dia seorang yang berbuat jahat. Mana mungkin ini semua, sedangkan dia dalam keadaan sering melaksanakan tanggungjawab agama dan keadilan sebagai khalifah, seorang yang mendampingi ulama dan auliya`, selalu berbincang dengan al-Fudail bin `Iyad, Ibn al-Sammak dan al-`Umari, selalu berutusan surat dengan Sufyan al-Thauri, menangis mendengar nasihat mereka, berdo`a di Mekah ketika tawaf, kuat beribadah, menjaga waktu solat dan hadir solat subuh pada awal waktunya”. (Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldun, m/s 17, Beirut: Dar al-Fikr/t.t)
Sebab itu, sesiapa yang menuduh atau menghukum orang lain hanya kerana terpengaruh dengan riwayat sejarah, tanpa membuat semakan dan kajian seperti yang al-Quran arahkan, maka dia berdosa dan akan dipertanggungjawabkan di hari akhirat kelak kerana menfitnah dan menuduh tanpa asas.
Setelah kita mendapat sumber yang diyakini, maka itu tidak mencukupi sebaliknya kita perlu melihat teks sejarah itu secara kritis. Perawi yang amanah mungkin juga silap dalam periwayatan. Maka, sikap kritis terhadap matan atau teks amat perlu. Bahkan, jika kita tidak mampu mengkaji kesahihan sumber sekalipun, kita boleh menggunakan nilai-nilai kritis dalam menilai sesuatu fakta. Umpamanya, saya selalu contohkan bagaimana sesetengah penceramah suka bercerita kisah ucapan Panglima tentera Islam di Andalus, Tariq bin Ziyad ketika mengucapkan kata-kata semangat kepada tenteranya: “Ke mana tempat lari? Lautan di belakang kamu, musuh di hadapan kamu. Tiada bagi kamu-demi Allah- melainkan sifat benar (kesetiaan) dan sabar”. Kononnya selepas itu Tariq membakar kapal agar tentera Islam tidak dapat ke mana-mana lagi melainkan berperang terus. Kisah dijadikan kebanggaan sesetengah penceramah. Padahla kisah ini patut dikritik. Hanya mereka yang lemah minda sahaja yang menjadikan kisah dalam versi ini sebagai lambang keberanian dan kepahlawanan. Riwayat ini ditolak; pertamanya; cerita bakar kapal tiada sumber yang boleh dipercayai daripada mereka yang berada pada zaman tersebut. Mereka yang selepas itu yang menyebutnya.
Keduanya; kisah itu boleh menggambarkan kebaculan tentera Islam yang terkenal dengan kepahlawanan dan kesanggupan menyeberang laut untuk membuka Andalus. Seakan jika Tariq tidak lakukan demikian mereka akan lari dari medan jihad. Ini bukan sifat tentera Islam yang membuka Andalus. Ketiga; Apakah wajar bagi Tariq yang merupakan panglima tentera yang bijak untuk membakar harta kerajaan dan kekuatan tentera Islam iaitu kapal yang boleh digunakan untuk membuka negeri yang lain pula. Kalau Tariq melakukan pembaziran demikian, tentu dia akan diambil tindakan oleh kerajaan Islam. Di sana banyak lagi persoalan yang boleh ditimbulkan untuk membuktikan ketidak benaran kisah ini. Justeru itu, Mahmud Syakir yang merupakan tokoh sejarahwan Islam mempertikaikan kisah ini di dalam buku kecilnya Al-Muntalaq al-Asasi fi al-Tarikh al-Islamiy. Sesiapa yang ingin pendetilan bantahan terhadap kisah ini boleh merujuk kepada buku tersebut.
Maka ketajaman minda dalam melakukan textual criticism atau kritikan matan adalah sesuatu yang penting dalam mengkaji sejarah. ‘Abd al-Rahman Fakhuri dalam membincangkan sejarah pertelingkahan para sahabat mengatakan: “Sejarah bukan sekadar suatu cerita yang dicampakkan di tengah jalan, yang penulisnya memilih apa yang dia suka dan meninggalkan apa yang dia tidak suka. Sesungguhnya terdapat dua kaedah kritikan yang mesti dibuat terhadap setiap riwayat sejarah sebelum dibuat keputusan untuk menerima atau menolaknya. Pertama: Mengkritik sanad, ini bermakna mengkaji para perawi dan pembawanya. Dipastikan dari sudut kesinambungan sanadnya adalah sahih dan terselamat daripada sebarang kecacatan yang tersembunyi. Perbincangan secara panjang lebar telah diperkenalkan oleh ahli hadis dan para pengkritiknya (pengkaji hadis), tidak mengetahui ilmu ini melainkan mereka sahaja. Kedua: Mengkritik matan (teks)”. (‘Abd al-Rahman Fakhuri, Muqaddimah Miftah al-Jamaah, m/s 77, Mesir: Dar as-Salam/1990M).
Setelah melalui dua proses di atas, barulah tafsiran terhadap sesuatu fakta sejarah boleh dibuat. Siapa yang hendak diangkat menjadi wira dan siapa pula yang hendak diangkat menjadi musuh atau pengkhinat, banyak bergantung kepada tafsiran. Setiap orang mempunyai aliran dan sudut pandangan yang tersendiri. Namun, di sana ada perkara yang jelas lagi terang antara baik dan buruk, malaikat dan syaitan, Tuhan dan Iblis yang setiap pihak wajib akur kepada nilai yang sama itu. Di sana ada fakta yang kabur atau sesuatu yang boleh diberikan pelbagai tafsiran. Boleh dilihat baik dari satu sudut, mungkin tidak baik di sudut yang lain. Juga, baik pada sesetengah pihak, buruk pada pihak yang lain.
Umpamanya, dalam masyarakat feudal yang taat membuta tuli kepada Sultan dan raja Melayu akan menganggap Hang Tuah sebagai tokoh dan wira. Tindakannya menculik Tun Teja juga mungkin dipandang mulia. Namun dalam masyarakat yang merdeka dan bertamadun, Hang Tuah —jika benar watak seperti itu wujud dalam sejarah — akan ditafsirkan sebagai manusia berjiwa hamba, dangkal, tiada bermaruah dan tidak berprinsip. Perbezaan nilai, membezakan tafsiran.
Apa pun seorang Muslim yang mengkaji fakta sejarah hendaklah akur kepada firman Allah dalam Surah al-Nisa 135: (maksudnya) “Wahai orang-orang yang beriman! Hendaklah kamu menjadi orang-orang yang sentiasa menegakkan keadilan, lagi menjadi saksi (yang menerangkan kebenaran) kerana Allah, sekalipun terhadap diri kamu sendiri, atau ibu bapa dan kaum kerabat kamu..”.
Kita hendaklah akur kepada apa yang benar dalam sejarah dengan memberikan tafsiran yang adil tanpa khianat. Nilai pertimbangannya ialah nilai-nilai keadilan sejagat yang diputuskan oleh al-Quran dan al-Sunnah.
* Prof Madya Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin bekas mufti Perlis dan pensyarah Universiti Sains Malaysia.
With Representative Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Ames, Iowa straw poll, and Texas Governor Rick Perry’s triumphal entrance into the GOP presidential primary, there’s been a sudden spike of attention drawn to the extremist religious beliefs both candidates have been associated with – up to and including their belief in Christian dominionism.(In the Texas Observer, the New Yorker, and the Daily Beast, for example.) The responses of denial from both the religious right itself and from the centrist Beltway press have been so incongruous as to be laughable – if only the subject matter weren’t so deadly serious. Those responses need to be answered, but more importantly, we need to have the serious discussion they want to prevent.
For example, in an August 18 post, originally entitled, “Beware False Prophets who Fear Evangelicals”, Washington Post religion blogger Lisa Miller cited the three stories I just mentioned, and admitted, “The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees”, then immediately reversed direction: “But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world.” Of course, she cited no examples to bolster this narrative-flipping claim. More importantly, she wrote not one more word about the real concerns she had just admitted.
Dominionism is not a myth
“What In Heaven’s Name Is A Dominionist?” Pat Robertson asked on his 700 Club TV show, one of several religious right figures to recently pretend there was nothing to the notion. Funny he should ask. In a 1984 speech in Dallas, Texas, he said:
|“What do all of us do? We get ready to take dominion! We get ready to take dominion! It is all going to be ours – I’m talking about all of it. Everything that you would say is a good part of the secular world. Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance – it’s going to be ours! God’s going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ.”
Furthermore, C Peter Wagner, the intellectual godfather of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), actually wrote a book called Dominion! in 2008. Chapter Three was entitled “Dominion Theology”. When pressed, Peter likes to pretend that his ideas are just garden-variety Christianity, based on Genesis 1:26, in which, before the fall, God gives Adam and Eve dominion over the natural world – a far cry from dominion over other people, who did not even exist at the time, as evangelical critics of this dominionist argument have repeatedly pointed out.
Dominionism is not new
Dominionist ideas have circulated throughout the religious right for decades prior to Robertson’s 1984 speech. A primary source was the small but influential sect known as Christian Reconstructionism, founded by R J Rushdoony in the 1960s, which advocates replacing American law with Old Testament codes. Centrists like Miller make the mistake of thinking that the small size of Rushdoony’s core of true believers is the full extent of his influence. But this is utterly mistaken. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in Daily Beast, “Rushdoony pioneered the Christian homeschooling movement, as well as the revisionist history, ubiquitous on the religious right, that paints the US as a Christian nation founded on biblical principles. He consistently defended Southern slavery and contrasted it with the greater evils of socialism.”
A second source traces back to the roots of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s, long rejected by orthodox evangelicals because they contradicted scripture and denied primary agency to God – which is why they insist that Christians must actively establish church dominance over all of society, because God can’t do it alone.
The Latter Rain was denounced by the Assemblies of God – the largest American Pentecostal church – in 1949, not solely for dominionist ideology, but for a variety of related beliefs and practices. When similar teachings and practices re-emerged in the guise of the New Apostolic Reformation 50 years later, the Assemblies of God denounced them again in 2000.
This time, however, many Assemblies of God congregations have increasingly accepted the NAR influence. Sarah Palin’s long-time church in Wasilla is one such congregation. The most clear-cut example of NAR dominionism is the so-called “Seven Mountains Mandate”, which holds that dominionist Christians should control the whole world by infiltrating and dominating the “Seven Mountains” of culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.
Dominionism is not a left-wing fantasy
A number of authors made charges similar to or derived from Joe Carter, web editor of First Things, who wrote: “The term [“dominionism”] was coined in the 1980s by [sociologist Sara] Diamond and is never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”
However, at the same time Diamond was working on her dissertation – published as the book Spiritual Warfare in 1989 – evangelical writer/researcher Albert James Dager was taking similarly critical aim, though from a different direction. In 1986 and ’87, he published a multi-issue essay “Kingdom Theology” in the publication Media Spotlight. In that text he also used the terms “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion” Theology. In 1990, Dager, too, published a book, Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion.
While his main focus was doctrinal error and non-Christian practices and influences, Dager’s work traced dominionism back to the 1940s and even earlier. Many more have followed in his footsteps since then. If you Google the words “dominionism” and “heresy”, you’ll get more than half a million hits. It should be obvious to anyone that conventional conservative Christians have big problems with dominionism – if only the United States’ establishment media could figure out how to use Google.
Dominionism is not an imprecise catch-all term
Despite lingering definitional differences that are common with relatively new terminology, those who study dominionism and related phenomenon in a political framework have an increasingly common and precise terminology that most writers and researchers share. Researcher Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates provided a very useful guide, “The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy”, which addresses issues of terminology from several different perspectives – for example, between “generic dominionism” and specific dominion theologies.
Berlet also draws a distinction between “hard” and “soft” dominionists. “Soft Dominionists are Christian nationalists,” he writes. “They believe that Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. They fear that America’s greatness as God’s chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals … Their vision has elements of theocracy, but they stop short of calling for supplanting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” Hard Dominionists add something more to the mix: “They want the United States to be a Christian theocracy. For them the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely addendums to Old Testament Biblical law.”
Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionists clearly fall into the hard dominionist camp. But the NAR seems to straddle the soft/hard division. On the one hand, they clearly do claim that conservative Christians are ordained to run the world, not just US society. Thus, the Seven Mountains Mandate. On the other hand, Wagner and others have argued that the Seven Mountains is compatible with democracy. The state of Hawaii shows how: Early in the 2010 election cycle, both the Republican and the Democratic frontrunners for governor were associated with the NAR. That changed when long-time Congressman Neil Abercrombie joined the race on the Democratic side, and eventually won the race handily. But for a while, the NAR came tantalisingly close to realising their dream, at least in one state – not just to win power, but to occupy all the possible paths to power.
What’s more, in a recent article at Talk2Action, Rachel Tabachnick draws attention to another hedge on Wagner’s part, quoting from Dominion! In a section entitled “Majority Rules”: “If a majority feels that heterosexual marriage is the best choice for a happy and prosperous society, those in the minority should agree to conform – not because they live in a theocracy, but because they live in a democracy. The most basic principle of democracy is that the majority, not the minority, rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.”
This, of course, is utterly false in a liberal democracy, such as the United States. Liberal democracies combine majority rule as a general governing principle with a framework of rights protecting individuals in political minorities from persecution, political repression, and the like. The fact that Wagner so utterly misunderstands the foundations of American democracy shows just how dangerous such “soft” dominionism can be. This same lesson can be drawn from Uganda as well, where several different strains of dominionist theology have combined to bring that nation to the verge of passing a law that will make homosexuality punishable by death. Such is the nature of illiberal dominionist “democracy”.
Europe’s bloody theocratic wars
This brings us, finally, to the serious discussions that dominionists and their enablers, like Miller, are trying to prevent. The first of those is about the very nature of American democracy. For nearly 200 years, Europe was torn apart by a series of religious wars and their bloody aftermath – the major reason that the United States was founded as a secular republic. We’re potentially on the verge of forgetting all that history and suffering through it again, just as we’re now suffering through forgetting the lessons of the Great Depression. Those centuries of war began with the German Peasants’ War of 1524-26, in which more than 100,000 died; continued through the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War on the European continent; and lasted until the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). This was the bloody European history of religious intolerance and strife that many, if not most, American colonialists were fleeing from when they came to the New World.
It was also this bloody history that gave rise to the development of classical liberalism, affirming the individual right to religious liberty and replacing the top-down theocratic justification of the state with Locke’s concept of the bottom-up social contract, based on the consent of the governed. The ideas that Locke perfected took generations to develop. Religious tolerance, for example, began as simply a matter of pragmatism: unless people stopped killing each other for differing religious beliefs, war in Europe would never end.
But gradually, the idea took hold that tolerance was a positive good, and key to this new perspective was the recognition that torturing someone to change their beliefs could not produce the desired result of a genuine heartfelt conversion. Thus, the moral rejection of torture – another feature of classical liberalism – had its roots in the evolution of the idea of religious liberty. The idea of utterly forgetting the prolonged bloody history that the United States was born out of is no laughing matter.
The same could be said of the myth that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, with laws based on the Bible. Of course most Americans were Christians at the time, but the leading intellects were decidedly less so, much more influenced by Enlightenment thought. There were many, such as Jefferson, who were better described as Deists, who believed that God had created a rational universe, but did not intervene supernaturally thereafter. They deliberately used terms like “the Creator” and “Nature’s God” to affirm their distinctive, non-Christian view.
Moreover, God was not mentioned at all in the Constitution, and religion was only mentioned to exclude its influence, stating that no religious test should be required for office. Finally, US law was based on British common law, not the Bible. The Supreme Court itself is a common law court, following common law precedents and practices. And British common law traces back to Roman law, which first came to England centuries before Rome adopted the Christian religion.
Of course the intolerant religious right wants us to forget this. How else could they ever gain power, except through massive forgetting of who and what the United States really is? Not to mention who and what they are: the most fundamental enemies of the United States, who would, if they could, return us to the centuries of blood before the US was born, the nightmare out of which the United States awakened.
Theocratic thinking threatens the US today
There are very immediate consequences that flow from the theocratic mindset. You’ll note, for example, that the “Seven Mountains” of culture do not include science. That’s not because dominionists intend to leave science alone, but rather because they see no need to dominate what they can simply cut off, ignore and deny. If science tells them that homosexuality is an inborn trait, why fight that in the realm of science when politics, the media, religion and education offer much, much better places to fight? After all, who says that education has to be based on facts? The same holds true for evolution and global warming as well, not to mention the workings of the economy.
One rightwing denier of dominionist influence, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, even framed his attack as “An unholy war on the Tea Party, while another denier complained that instead of describing the Tea Party as a movement united around concern about big government, many journalists seem to be trying to redefine the colour red by overlaying religious intent and purpose on the movement.
Yet the dominionist connection to the Tea Party goes far beyond just the two candidacies of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Ron Paul, whose extreme anti-government positions helped to fuel the emergence of the Tea Party, has much deeper dominionist connections than either of the two new darlings. During his first term in Congress, one of his aides was Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, and a leading Reconstructionist in his own right, who has written extensively on so-called “Biblical Capitalism”, an ideology profoundly at odds with traditional Biblical-based teachings on economic justice.
While libertarians once traced their descent from John Locke, and more recently from the deeply anti-Christian Ayn Rand, Reconstructionism represents an increasingly important foundation for their views. A recently released sociology study, “Cultures of the Tea Party”, found that Tea Party supporters are characterised by four dispositions: “authoritarianism, ontological insecurity, libertarianism, and nativism”. Since traditional libertarianism was purportedly the opposite of authoritarianism, this highlights how radically libertarianism has changed – a conclusion that’s echoed by the 2011 Pew Reaserch Political Typology Poll, which found that religious and economic conservatives had completely merged into one single group since 2006 and all previous polling.
What this means in the long run is far from clear. But it strongly suggests a solidfying outlook with deep Reconstructionist sympathies that actually looks at government failure to deal with major issues, such as restoring the economy, as a positive good. If faith in American institutions collapses entirely, then who wouldn’t give Biblical law a shot? The more loudly such people proclaim themselves patriots, the more loudly they cheer for US collapse. It’s not just Obama they want to fail. It’s the very idea of America.