A very brief history of Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Christianity, Livin' in the USA, Religion
Tags: , ,

Jeff Gonorby Jeff Gonor, guest columnist

This is a basic primer on the history of the evangelical Christian movement in the US. I compiled it because as a life long atheist I lacked sufficient background to understand the current involvement of the radical religious right in U. S. politics.

It is provided here for other atheists who may also need background for understanding other even more radical movements, Dominionism and Restorationism. They are of interest in the current Presidential election campaign because they take these beliefs much further with a goal of transforming all parts of U.S. society including government.

With minor edits it is a shameless crib of generally accepted historical facts and statistics from a slide show at http://www.patheos.com. Patheos is a neutral to sympathetic web site on religion that also includes pagan and atheist blogs.

“Evangelical” is not the name of a denomination. It is a trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that refers to the belief that Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity. Evangelicals believe in attaining salvation through the “born again” experience, or a regeneration of the human spirit from the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals also champion the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation, and many are committed to spreading the Christian message.

The historian David Bebbington identified four central Evangelical beliefs. Biblicism: A high regard for the Bible as the ultimate authority for everything related to salvation. Crucicentrism: A focus on the centrality of Jesus’ crucifixion and its saving effects. Conversionism: A belief that people need to make an active decision of faith in Jesus.Activism: The belief that faith should influence one’s public life.

“End times” theories may also be unique to evangelicals. A 2015 poll by the Brookings Institute found 80% of evangelicals see the ongoing Middle East crisis as a sign that the Apocalypse is near.

Evangelicalism can be found in the Reformed, Baptist, Wesleyan, and Pentecostal traditions. Evangelicals are also represented within the Anabaptist, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions. Martin Luther referred to the evangelische Kirche (evangelical church) to distinguish Protestants from Catholics during the 16th-century Protestant reformation.

In the 18th century, a series of revivals in America and Britain known as the “Great Awakening” were driven by passionate preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. Their influence led Evangelicalism to become associated with revivalism — an ardent expression of Christianity that places emphasis on converting others to the movement.

During the second “Great Awakening” of the 1820s-1840s, Evangelicalism became the dominant form of Christianity in the U.S. In the 19th and 20th centuries, U.S. Evangelicalism was shaped by conflicts regarding biblical criticism and changing mores in society. Although Evangelicalism doesn’t have a leader such as a pope, the National Association of Evangelicals formed in 1942 as a way to connect and represent evangelical Christians.

Billy Graham, an American “televangelist,” became a household name by 1949, known for his influence in preaching and theology, social issues, and his association with figures such as MLK JR. When Jimmy Carter, a self-described “born again” evangelical Christian, won the U.S. presidency in 1976 as a Democrat, mainstream interest in Evangelicalism rekindled.

In the 1980s, new evangelical interest in political participation, seen in the creation of the Moral Majority, contributed to the rise of the “Religious Right” and conservative Christians as a political force. Today, 65% of white evangelical Protestant voters identify as Republicans, while 28% identify as Democrats, according to Pew Research Center.

The U.S. has the largest concentration of evangelicals in the world. According to Pew, evangelical Protestants make up 25% of the total U.S. population (total 318.9 million in 2014). There are an estimated 285 million evangelicals worldwide, comprising 13.1% of the Christian population and 4.1% of the total world population. Evangelicalism is quickly growing in Hispanic communities, which historically have been Catholic. Hispanics comprise the largest group of non-white evangelicals.
[End Patheos Text]

Eventually, a fundamentalist movement broke away from Evangelicalism in the early 20th century as a reaction against liberal Protestantism and a changing society. Dominionism: The theocratic idea that regardless of theological view or eschatological timetable, heterosexual Christian men are called by God to exercise dominion over secular society by taking control of political and cultural institutions.

A folder with PDFs of the most recent, authoritative and best resourced articles on Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism that I could find on the web is here:http://ppl.ug/pi_O5tB…­

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s the link to Jeff’s sources and supplemental reading.

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