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Why (Dominionist) Christian intellectuals are more dangerous than Trump


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When I attended church regularly, I used to enjoy participating in Men’s Bible Study. It was a weekly opportunity for me to connect brain-to-brain with other men who knew the Bible far better than I did. They were men who were very gifted at interpreting scripture, such as how the Old Testament foreshadowed the New and how each of us could develop habits for living the good life in the 21st Century. Their wisdom was mostly employed in helping each other become good family leaders, but we would occasionally diverge into discussions of politics as viewed in light of the Bible.   

I left that church when their biases personally affected my family, which was years before Trump captured the hearts (and minds?) of religious conservatives far and wide.

When Trump arrived politically in 2015 and was lauded by so many religious authorities, I was absolutely baffled at their willingness to embrace someone so anti-intellectual, so demonstrably immersed in mortal sins of all kinds, and so willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to expand his own power and wealth. Trump was the opposite of the Christianity I thought I knew, and I thought my former bible studiers would surely be able to see through his disguise and reject him. They were much too smart (and much too dedicated to “finding truth”) to go along with his hateful and crazed rhetoric. 

Little did I know how closely Trumpism and today’s dominant form of Christian intellectualism were allied. I had concluded that the Christian voters who favored him were the ones who were the “believers” and “doers” rather than the “thinkers”, but I was grievously wrong. Just take John Eastman for one example. As former Dean of the Chapman University Law School, he is no intellectual slouch. He appeared as a regular guest on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show for many years — frequently appearing as the conservative foil to Hewitt’s liberal guest Erwin Chemerinksy (then Dean of UC Irvine’s Law School). In those days, Eastman’s positions were rooted in conservative Christian ideology, but I don’t recall hearing any radical anti-democracy opinions from him. 

Thankfully, we now have an excellent new analysis by Paul Rosenberg in Salon that finally connects the dots between Christian intellectualism and the rise of Trump. For me, the epiphany was jolting. Trump’s brand of hate-besotted authoritarianism was far closer to the totalitarian worldview that was being developed by radical Christian theologians and being promulgated steadily to conservative believers than I ever imagined. Rosenberg’s research and analysis is spot on, and his narrative style is compelling (…even though the piece is a long read). 

Unfortunately, the power of this fringe thinking emanates not from it’s resonance with actual issues facing conservative voters today. Its power comes from its proximity to scripture — regardless of how much it disregards God’s love and hope for our world, and focuses instead his hatred of sinfulness. 

I will share a few of Rosenberg’s key thoughts here, but I urge DK readers to study and absorb his thesis. The basis for much of his content comes from what he calls a “small group of researchers who have been studying … hardcore anti-democratic theology …”, including Rachel Tabachnick, Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, Frederick Clarkson, and Randall Balmer.

… the unexpected evangelical embrace of Donald Trump in 2016, culminating in the “pro-life” death cult of anti-vaccine, COVID-denying religious leaders.

If this development perplexed many on the left, it was less surprising to a small group of researchers who have been studying the hardcore anti-democratic theology known as dominionism that lies behind the contemporary Christian right, and its far-reaching influence over the last several decades.

“Christian reconstructionism is the merger of a distinct brand of Calvinism with Austrian School economics,” Tabachnick said. “In other words, it’s an interpretation of the Bible grounded in property rights.”

… the “lesser magistrate” is a heroic figure who “resists the tyranny of a higher authority” — defining “tyranny” in biblical terms … 

On the basis of their belief of what the law or the word of God is, they are allowed — on the advice, on the interposition, of a lesser magistrate — to commit acts of violence … Murdering abortion providers — or even murdering women seeking abortions — could be morally justified, with the blessing of a lesser magistrate.

The Rosenberg article is a powerful weapon in one of DK’s most important missions — to expose the lies that underpin the anti-Democratic soul of the current GOP, and to convince “reasonable” conservatives of the grave danger that awaits the world if the current crop of Republicans gains control of the U.S. government.

Share it with your red-hatted friends and neighbors. Even if most of them decide it’s too biased for them to read, you might convince one or two that they are on the wrong side of history.  

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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