and the Rise of Christian Imperialism
By Sarah Leslie
Conspiracy theorizing about the Christian Right’s supposedly “secret” agenda involves highlighting the hate-mongering and bizarre ideas of a handful of Christian Right players while neglecting the broad popularity of dominion theology.
Sara Diamond, “Dominion
The Truth About the Christian Right’s Bid for Power,”1
American churches are to a large degree defined by what they choose to rebel against. The Christian right has set itself in opposition to liberal, secular government and, as a political consequence, declared itself a buddy of big business.”
Russ Rymer, Mother Jones, Dec. 20052
The ambassador's words seemed prophetic a couple of weeks later, when a Dream for Africa draft plan found its way into Swazi newspapers, turning public opinion sharply against Mr. Wilkinson. Under the headline “British Colony or Dr Bruce Colony?” one op-ed writer in the Swazi News wrote, “Why can't he simply tell us that he wants to be given the whole country so that he can gloat to his friends overseas that he owns a modern day colony in Africa called Swaziland?”
Wilkinson Hits Wall Trying To Push 'Orphan Village'”,
Wall Street Journal, 12/19/053
For the past several decades the political Left has focused attention on the Christian Right’s political activism in America. Particularly, the Left has been highly critical of a select group of dominionists called Reconstructionists, whose aggressive verbiage, extreme Calvinist theologies, and religious political agendas have made it an ideal target for outrage. But, as Leftist researcher Sara Diamond has astutely observed, “the Reconstructionists’ religion of Calvinism. . . makes them unlikely to appeal to most evangelicals.”4 Indeed, few Reconstructionists would consider themselves to be evangelicals. Nevertheless, their influence has been considerable over the much larger group of patriotic evangelicals.
There are two other dominionist sects within evangelicalism that have escaped in-depth scrutiny from the Left. These dominionists have been able to function virtually incognito for several reasons: 1) They have been deeply embedded within the evangelical subculture; 2) They cloaked their dominionism with new terminologies and doctrines over a period of thirty years; and 3) They figured out how to package dominionism using sophisticated mass marketing techniques. Also noteworthy: these two other dominionist camps have been operating in a dialectical fashion – while one group appealed to the TBN charismatics with all of its emotional excesses, the other group carefully managed its more intellectual public image to conform to traditional evangelical standards.
This paper is a brief overview of the three main dominionist movements operating inside evangelicaldom and examines how all three of these sects are now converging around a global “kingdom” agenda. This paper is not a treatise on doctrine, nor is it an historical record, nor is it a thorough analysis of the multifarious streams of evangelical dominionism. This paper does not cover the broader issue of dominionist sects within other world religions, except for a few brief noteworthy mentions. To examine the totality of the individuals, the organizations, and their cross-linkages would require an exhaustive study which is beyond the scope of this brief synopsis. Even so, every point made in this paper could be validated by dozens, sometimes hundreds, of pieces of documentation. The inquiring reader may check out the footnotes and references.
Only a small handful of
Christian discernment and apologetics ministries, of which this writer is a
part, have been paying attention to the intersection of the dominionist
streams. The apologetic ministries fulfill a Scriptural role to examine and
expose false doctrines and teachers, and to warn other believers of heresies
Dominionism in brief
Throughout the 2000 year history of Christianity there has always been a vein of dominionism embedded in the strata of doctrines. This seam has ebbed and flowed for 20 centuries, sometimes submerged, sometimes exposed. Whenever out in the open, it has given rise to horrible abuses done in the name of Christ. In the early 21st century, once again this vein is now showing and active. Keep in mind:
- Dominionism is always an aberration of true Christian theology.
- A remnant of believers has always opposed it, often suffering a martyr’s fate at the hands of intolerant dominionists.
Traditional Christianity teaches:
The Gospel of Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross. The emphasis is placed upon repentance and conversion of individual souls. The Kingdom of God in this age is spiritual and grows through efforts of evangelism based on teaching the Bible. It is “not of this world” (John 18:36), but a spiritual rule in the hearts of men (Luke 17:20-21). Furthermore, the Kingdom of God is only finally realized upon Christ’s second return to Earth, whereby He Himself establishes His literal and physical reign.
The Gospel of Salvation is achieved by setting up the “Kingdom of God” as a literal and physical kingdom to be “advanced” on Earth in the present age. Some dominionists liken the New Testament Kingdom to the Old Testament Israel in ways that justify taking up the sword, or other methods of punitive judgment, to war against enemies of their kingdom. Dominionists teach that men can be coerced or compelled to enter the kingdom. They assign to the Church duties and rights that belong Scripturally only to Jesus Christ. This includes the esoteric belief that believers can “incarnate” Christ and function as His body on Earth to establish His kingdom rule. An inordinate emphasis is placed on man’s efforts; the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is diminished.
Dominion theology is a heresy. As such it is rarely presented as openly as the definitions above may indicate. Outside of the Reconstructionist camp, evangelical dominionism has wrapped itself in slick packages – one piece at a time – for mass-media consumption. This has been a slow process, taking several decades. Few evangelicals would recognize the word “dominionism” or know what it means. This is because other terminologies have been developed which soft-sell dominionism, concealing the full scope of the agenda. Many evangelicals (and even their more conservative counterparts, the fundamentalists) may adhere to tidbits of dominionism without recognizing the error. This is because dominionism has “crept in unawares” (Jude 4) to seduce an undiscerning generation.
To most effectively propagate their agenda, dominionist leaders first developed new ecclesiologies, eschatologies and soteriologies for targeted audiences along the major denominational fault lines of evangelical Christianity. Then the 1990s Promise Keepers men’s movement was used as a vehicle to “break down the walls”, i.e., cross denominational barriers for the purpose of exporting dominionism to the wider evangelical subculture.7 This strategy was so effective that it reached into the mainline Protestant denominations. Dominionists have carefully selected leaders to be trained as “change agents” for “transformation” (dominion) in an erudite manner that belies the media stereotype of southern-talking, Bible-thumping, fundamentalist half-wits.
The 3 sects of evangelical dominionism
There are three predominant sects (or movements) that propagate dominion theology which hold considerable influence over evangelicaldom.
1. SPIRITUAL WARFARE PRAYER movement: The Kingdom of God must be advanced on Earth through hyper-spiritual “warfare” activities against the devil. A veritable supermarket of verbal and physical prayer techniques such as chanting, walks, and marches are employed in this effort. Believers are told their prayer power creates spiritual “canopies” over regions, preparing the way for “revival.” In this sense, prayer warfare is seen as preparatory work so that the other two movements can build the kingdom. Recently the contemplative prayer movement – which includes meditation, fasting, and labyrinths – has been brought into the spiritual warfare prayer “arsenal.” Prayer serves as a convenient decoy for covert operations. All three sects are utilizing massive statistical databanking resources (e.g., the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs) and sophisticated psycho-social group manipulations to forge kingdom “transformation.” One key leader of this sect is Cindy Jacobs, who is closely associated with C. Peter Wagner (see below). Her website http://www.generals.org epitomizes the militant doctrines and practices of the spiritual warfare sect.
Promoting these prayer warfare activities are hyper-charismatics from the “signs and wonders” movement, which include self-anointed, self-appointed “apostles” and “prophets” who are preparing to govern the world through their “New Apostolic Reformation.” This dominionist sect is a direct offshoot of the Latter Rain cult (also known as Joel’s Army or Manifest Sons of God).9 Chief architect of this movement for the past two decades is C. Peter Wagner, President of Global Harvest Ministries and Chancellor of the Wagner Leadership Institute. His spiritual warfare teachings have been widely disseminated through mission networks such as AD 2000, which was closely associated with the Lausanne Movement. A prominent individual connected to this sect is Ted Haggard, current head of the National Association of Evangelicals.10
2. MISSION AS TRANSFORMATION movement: The words “revival,” “reformation” and “transformation” now carry embedded dominionist connotations. “Fulfilling the Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) no longer means spreading the Gospel message by speaking the Word of salvation from the Bible. The dominionist focus is placed upon the phrase making disciples, with an incorrect exegesis that is disconcertingly compulsory. Traditional mission evangelism, done one-on-one using the Bible, is being replaced with a slew of “kingdom building” corporate activities for cities, regions and nations. The disingenuous phrase “bless the nations” is often used to conceal dominionism. Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ International and Ralph Winter, founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission and editor of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement curriculum (which has taught dominionism to an entire generation of missionaries), have been among the chief architects of this movement.12
3. PATRIOTIC AMERICAN movement: Patriotic dominionists, most of whom are not Reconstructionists, teach that political action will advance the kingdom of God in America. Using the vehicle of Christian media, they have taught evangelicals for the past three decades that America is a Christian nation and needs to return to its roots. Almost every evangelical in the pew has been influenced in one way or another by this sect. Patriotic dominionist leaders and their organizations have been closely interlocked financially and politically with the conservatives from the political Right. The secular conservatives purport to uphold morality, which appeals to evangelicals. The combined force of conservatives and evangelicals flexes its political muscles in Washington. One of its most powerful leaders is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Patriotic dominionism was widely disseminated through the activities of Jay Grimstead, founder of Coalition on Revival (COR). From its earliest inception COR managed to successfully bring together key leaders from all three dominionist sects, including the Reconstructionists, to promote the most ruthless doctrines of dominionism.15
Dominionism goes global
Since the latter half of the 1990s the three major dominionists sects have openly converged into an ecumenical force. These three branches of dominionism are linked historically at many levels, and there is solid documentation to support the idea that the current convergence was planned and intentional.17
While Leftists focused their attentions on political dominionists in American politics and what was going on in Iraq, the three movements went global. This new confederation of dominionists has been rapidly advancing its kingdom across the globe through “economic, social, political and spiritual transformation.”18 To achieve this paradigm shift, the global dominionists have employed sophisticated psycho-social methodologies, statistical research, socio-economic development tools, marketing research, strategic planning, assessments, databanking and monitoring, and technical assistance. They are also aggressively forming alliances with national and international governments, corporations, individuals, private agencies, philanthropic groups and other entities. Below are some key examples of this rapid convergence around a global kingdom worldview.
1. Global “spheres.” Observers from the Left were infuriated when the Coalition on Revival political dominionists cranked out documents during the 1980s addressing a Christian worldview in seventeen “spheres” of life and ministry – education, health care, the family, the arts, sciences, law, media, government, business, etc. This is because COR didn’t just write a philosophical statement. COR “determined that it is mandatory for all Christians to implement that worldview in society, particularly as it applies to the dominionist interpretation of the Great Commission.”19 These spheres didn’t disappear when COR began to fade off the radar screen. They have a new life. The worldview sphere documents have now gone global by becoming incorporated into mission agendas. Mission groups are now partnering with national and international governments, business corporations, NGOs, humanitarian entities and others to build their kingdom in the cultural spheres of selected nations around the globe.
2. The 3-legged stool. The dominionist’s kingdom must be advanced on Earth by gaining control of governments (State), utilizing business (Corporations) and partnering with social sector (Church) institutions. New bridges are being built based on triangular relationship between all three sectors of society. The Church is forming partnerships (or collaborations) with State and/or Corporate interests in order to implement dominion. Peter Drucker, the management guru, was instrumental in overseeing the implementation of this agenda – to create a three-legged “healthy society” globally – via Rick Warren of purpose-driven fame. Warren was mentored by Drucker, as were a number of other evangelical leaders such as Bob Buford of Leadership Network. Buford trained an entire generation of aspiring megachurch pastors in Drucker’s social philosophies. The megachurches are based on the Drucker corporate business model. Drucker’s ideas also undergird the faith-based (Church-State) movement which has been politically championed by the neoconservatives in Washington.21 Dominionism is significantly breaking down the walls between Church and Corporations (see point 4 below). In brief, the three-legged stool of dominionism looks like this:
CORPORATE + STATE = Fascism
STATE + CHURCH = Faith-based
CHURCH + CORPORATE =
the Merchant Church
3. The phenomenon of Rick Warren. Rick Warren has single-handedly accomplished more to bring about a public convergence between the three sects of dominionism than any other individual. Warren received his doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary under the tutelage of his advisor, C. Peter Wagner of the spiritual warfare dominionists.23 Dubbed “America’s Pastor” by the media, he is now embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign to set up a model of Peter Drucker’s “healthy society” in Rwanda, ostensibly under the banner of missionary and charitable endeavors. Warren has launched a grandiose plan to “transform” Africa – to “cure AIDS,” “end poverty” and “fulfill the Great Commission.” Warren transcends evangelicalism. He easily moves in internationalist circles (Aspen Institute) and aligns himself with rock stars (Bono). Warren has audaciously called for a “Second Reformation” based upon his global P.E.A.C.E. Plan, which is a study in dominionism.24 Leftists who fret over Warren’s foray into AIDS25 may miss the more serious dominionist ramifications of his overall global plan. Warren intends to amass the world’s largest volunteer “army” of “one billion foot soldiers” to implement his global P.E.A.C.E. Plan.26
4. Marketplace ministries. Corporate business ventures are cloaking themselves in missionary garb to enter a nation and effect change. Creating an outpost for new corporate markets in undeveloped Third World countries, particularly those rich in natural resources, is being done in the name of “kingdom-building.” In order to establish a spiritual aura for these activities, a high-tech Global Day of Prayer was established in May 2005 by the Spiritual Warfare sect working together with Rick Warren.28 This annual event is designed to promote the dominionist agenda worldwide. Corporate “marketplace ministry” expansion is being done with claims of sustainable development, free-trade, and other community development activities that could screen the dominionist agenda. An influential marketplace mission organization is Transform World, which is one of the most patent examples of dominionism.29 Mission groups are taking up the quest for corporate expansion and financial gain by linking with business corporations, who are taking up the “mission” to expand their markets in the name of kingdom-building. Meanwhile, C. Peter Wagner has cooked up a new definition of ekklesia (Gk. church) to fuse the Church with the Corporate workplace.30
5. Militant rhetoric. There is a notable increase in the stridency and urgency of “strategic level” prayer warfare rhetoric which is linked to global “transformation” (dominionism).33 False prophets regularly pump out new “prophecies” and “decrees” to shore up the kingdom mandate. These “prophecies” function like oracles – they are a major avenue for communicating “God’s plan” for the next step in kingdom-building. False apostles have been anointed, appointed as leaders of regions around the globe, and charged with wielding the king’s authority. The doctrines of the New Apostolic Reformation have been promulgated throughout the mission movement by C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Bill Hamon, a group known as the “Kansas City Prophets,” the Vineyard Fellowship, and many others. At the highest echelons these organizations all have interlocking boards of directors. Two noteworthy internal organs for disseminating false prophecies and new doctrines include The Elijah List and Joel News.
6. Neoevangelical and neoconservative allies. The December 2005 issue of Mother Jones magazine was devoted to examining the Patriotic dominionists. It included an article about the National Christian Foundation, a philanthropic group linked to neoconservative organizations. This brief article called attention to a vast network of interlocking boards of directors and financial ties between neoconservatives and neoevangelicals.35 The website www.mediatransparency.org explores Patriotic dominionist financial ties to neoconservative groups,36 but it does not delve into the considerable linkages between the other two sects and the neoconservatives. Some of the bonds between these individuals and organizations go back over half a century, and some connections are alarmingly anti-semitic.37 Corporate acts of charity, especially through the influence of the philanthropic groups, are supplanting the traditional doctrine of “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3). Marketplace transformation is also forging many new political alliances. Dennis Peacocke of COR is an influential marketplace transformation leader who is also a member of the International Coalition of Apostles (the spiritual warfare dominionists).38 Peacocke, who easily moves in all three sects, has suggested changing global economic structures.39
7. Whose kingdom come? There has been a significant rise of cross-pollination between evangelical dominionists and New Age Theosophists.41 Since the late 1970s there has been a closeted fraternization between dominionists and Theosophists for the purpose of finding common ground for the future. Both groups seek to bring in a “Christ” figure to solve the world’s problems. Both groups have grand utopian plans to create “peace” on earth. During the past decade, the two groups began borrowing doctrinal terminologies from one another and working on common theologies. The events of 9/11 gave a new impetus to this effort.42 Jay Gary, who has been a leader within all three sects of dominionism has had close ties with the Theosophists43 and is adopting new theologies, including a hybrid of preterism called “transmillenialism.”44 Bob Buford of Leadership Network (mentioned in point 2 above) has been working since the mid-1990s to create a youth culture based on “emergent” theologies called the Emergent Church – a mixture of New Age paganism, eastern mysticism and evangelical dominionism.45 And Patriotic Dominionist leaders have long-standing, close ties with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who has his own messianic kingdom ambitions.46
8. The stewardship deception.
“Transformational Covenant”48 by Luis Bush is a key document which
outlines the new theology of stewardship dominion. Bush has held very
influential positions in the mission movement as a leader in AD2000, World
Inquiry, and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He now serves as the
international facilitator of Transform World. By linking a reinterpreted