The Guardian 13 April, 2005

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Dominion over heaven and earth

Are you familiar with Dominionism? Itís also known as Christian Reconstruction or "Kingdom Now" theology. No? Well, you probably will become so.

In his 2004 book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, US writer Kevin Phillips explained that Dominionist theology "called for seizure of earthly power by Ďthe people of Godí as the only way by which the world could be rescued.

"Prayer and evangelism were not enough; a Christian-led political and social reformation was necessary because Christ will not return to earth until a revived church has set the scene."

Such a belief provides ideal motivation for a right-wing religious coup against the people of the United States, by anti-democratic, ultra-conservatives convinced they are carrying out the will of God. Phillips certainly found it alarming.

He pointed out that Bush had picked the Reverend Jack Hayford, a California charismatic, to give the benediction at the Fifty-fourth Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral. Hayford is "a supporter of Christian Reconstruction or Dominionism".

Further, noted Phillips, Anthony T Evans of Dallas, who shares with Hayford an adherence to "Kingdom Now" or Dominionist theology, was a speaker at the pre-inaugural Washington Prayer Luncheon in January 2001.

Interestingly, that Prayer Luncheon was sponsored by the ultra-reactionary (and filthy rich) head of the "Moonies" cult, the "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon. The event was "choreographed by former Bush assistant Doug Wead".

Apparently anxious not to be thought alarmist, Phillips voiced his (and othersí) concerns with some caution: "A president convinced that God was speaking to him, some pundits surmised, might through Dominionism start to view himself as an agent called by the Almighty to restore the earth to godly control."

Now thereís a pleasant thought!

Indeed, the way the religious right is performing in the USA today, threatening to impeach judges for upholding the Constitution and similar outrageous actions, you could be excused for thinking they had mass popular support.

But ítisnít so. They may have helped to get George Bush re-elected (although electronic electoral fraud would seem to have played a bigger role) but the religious right does not enjoy the support of the majority of US citizens.

Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan notes: "Reading the press, you get the impression that almost all Americans are devout Christians, people who believe in a literal heaven and hell and spend their idle moments devouring the "Left Behind" novels about the end of the world.

"This isnít true ó and itís getting less true all the time. While evangelical Christians are a significant political force, they are probably only a fifth of the country, and not all of them are politically conservative: Only 14 percent of voters in an exit poll for the presidential elections in 2000 characterised themselves as part of the "Christian right".

"In fact, polls show that the United States is becoming less religious. Only about 60 percent of Americans say religion is important in their lives.

"The United States is still a predominantly Christian country, but it is no longer an overwhelmingly Christian one. And more and more Americans are either non-religious, unchurched or subscribe to non-Christian religions." (Salon, April 2005).

But the religious right can still cause a lot of trouble for the majority of Americans, as was shown by their baying for blood after the sad but surely merciful demise of the unfortunate Terri Schiavo. In a "permanent vegetative state" as the result of brain damage, Mrs Schiavo had been kept alive (if that is the right word) through feeding tubes and so forth for 15 years.

Her husband Michael now has a family by his long-time girl friend. However, when Michael Schiavo obtained a court order to stop the hospital from continuing to artificially sustain his wife, the Christian right went ballistic.

Terriís parents, "advised" by Father Frank Pavone, national director of extremist "right to life" (i.e. anti-abortion) group Priests for Life, tried to get another court to reverse the decision but the Court refused.

This prompted the various religious fanatics who had adopted the Schiavo case as their own to attack the independence of the judiciary, and to make inflammatory speeches threatening the judges involved with dire consequences.

Violence against judges is nothing new in the USA, overrun as it is with injustice and gun-nuts. Recently a judge in Atlanta, Georgia, was shot and in Chicago another judgeís family was murdered.

President George W Bush himself entered the fray, not on the side of the US judiciary but predictably in support of the position of the religious right. In a pretty speech about building "a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others", he managed to completely ignore his own record of presiding over the execution of 152 human beings in Texas when he was governor.

Naturally, he also ignored all the people killed on his orders in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Instead he proclaimed, with monumental hypocrisy, that "The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak".

Which, actually, is just what the Court did when it ordered Terry Schiavoís life support be disconnected, allowing her to finally die without further interference from religious fanatics.

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