At the encouragement of an anonymous colleague and friend, who has given me access to software that allows me to create infographics, I’ve been thinking about ways to put the software–Adioma–to good use. The first infographic I created features a set of six anti-proselytizing principles. I released it on Twitter, and I expanded on the its substantive content in the blog post “Empowerment against Evangelization: Countering Conversion Attempts by Asserting Moral Autonomy.”
This first infographic and its pro-autonomy script resonated beyond what I expected, and I felt encouraged to work on others that might add some value to public discussions of religion, politics, and related issues. On Twitter, I floated the possibility of creating a sort of lexicon of terms for people who lack intimate familiarity with the Christian Right. As you can see for yourself if you click below, the tweet generated enthusiastic discussion.
It quickly became clear to me, however, that different responders had very different ideas about what sort of a lexicon would be most desirable. And it became even more clear that any attempt at a comprehensive lexicon would be well beyond my capacity, to say nothing of the fact that it wouldn’t even come close to fitting on an accessible infographic. Even a very general lexicon of terms necessary to understand the Christian Right began to seem to me like too much for a single infographic, so I started to think in terms of narrower themes.
And voilà, the fist infographic to derive from the lexicon discussion is now here! What I came up with is a beginner’s guide to understanding Christian dominionism.
I decided to tackle this topic because I’ve seen a great deal of confusion around it on Twitter, including misunderstanding and conflation of terms, and, sometimes, in conjunction with a general conspiracy theorist’s impulse to look for one overarching umbrella organization or “puppet master” to rule them all, extremely distorted oversimplifications along the lines of “dominionism = CNP = the Family = Russia.” Please, for the love of freedom fries, don’t indulge in that kind of nonsense.
As for the infographic below, feel free to download it, print it out, post it, share it, and generally to distribute it in any way you like. I offer the content freely, but if you find it valuable and can afford to, I would greatly appreciate a pledge of a few dollars a month or more via Patreon to keep my work sustainable.
I will mostly let this infographic speak for itself as a device to help readers orient themselves to the topic, enabling them to do further research on their own. But there are a few things I would like to say about it before concluding this post. As for the term “dominionism” itself, it derives from an illiberal reading of Genesis 1:26, which in the King James Version of the Bible reads:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Perhaps the most salient point is this. In my view, it’s important to distinguish between Dominionism with a capital D and dominionism with a lowercase D. There are authoritarian Christians who would not apply the term “Dominionist” to themselves, but we can still describe them as dominionists because they practice a theocratic politics.
There are also specific Christian ideologies whose adherents do describe themselves as Dominionists. These come primarily in Reformed (Christian Reconstructionism) and charismatic (Seven Mountains) varieties. On the ground, the waters get quite muddy quite fast, as in popular practice there can be a lot of mixing and matching of views that emerged in distinct communities.
Charismatic beliefs and practices and Calvinist theology seem to be mixing more and more these days, and it’s important to note that most Christians who could be described as evangelicals believe in spiritual warfare. They believe there are literal demons exerting influence over particular places and particular people, and that prayer and exorcism are important Christian practices, because, whether we want to be or not, all of us are caught up in this supposed spiritual battle that is ostensibly discernible for those who, thanks to the Holy Spirit, “have eyes to see.”
This is related to what I have elsewhere described as a politics of Providentialism, which entails reading spiritual realities into real-world events and which certainly contributes to real-world violence. While this is certainly the case in North America, it is also important to note the extent to which Pentecostalism and other radical charismatic Christians, and with them charismatic forms of dominionist politics, have been sweeping the global South in the wake of decades of right-wing missionary efforts.
One very visible and deeply troubling result of this is the backing of Brazil’s right-wing authoritarian leader Jair Bolsonaro primarily by Brazil’s Pentecostal and other charismatic Christians, who have now become a very dangerous illiberal political force in that country.
Differences in eschatology, or the branch of theology that considers the “end times” and the apocalypse, characterize different branches of Christian dominionism, and that is why I’ve included some related terms in this infographic. I did not want to get too deep into the weeds regarding such things as dispensationalism, and, in the probably still most popular scheme among U.S. evangelicals, premillennial dispensationalism, the arguments about whether the Rapture will happen before the Tribulation, or in the middle of it, or after it. This is, after all, a beginner’s guide. Readers can follow up on the topics presented on their own from here
Finally, for those who want to learn more about the theocratic threat to democracy and human rights we face, Christian nationalism, and the various kinds of dominionist movements that are influential today, I would like to recommend checking out the work of the following researchers and research organizations:
As always, too, the voices of survivors of radical evangelicalism are valuable. Check out the work of those featured on this website under Ex-Evangelical Conversations, and find more on Twitter by searching hashtags such as #exvangelical, #EmptyThePews, #RaptureAnxiety, #ChristianAltFacts, #ExposeChristianSchools, and #ExposeChristianHomeschooling.
Finally, remember that friends don’t let friends call Christian dominionists “fake Christians.” That framing is both inaccurate and harmful to democracy (note that the latter link is to a Playboy article).