Don't Call It A Caliphate

The Shariah-panic crowd is convinced of the far-fetched theory that American Muslims are involved in a sinister, secret plot to infiltrate American political institutions in order to establish Taliban-style Islamic law in the United States. But what if there actually was a religious ideology holding that only people of a certain strain of belief should run the government and were intent on replacing American civil law with their own religious views? What if two presidential candidates running high in the polls had ties to this movement? Surely the Shariah-panic crowd, with their unshakeable commitment to the separation between mosque church and state would be alarmed right?

Michelle Goldberg explains this Christian influenced political movement, "Dominionism," does in fact exist and that Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann are pretty cozy with it:

Now, however, we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences. Writing about Bachmann in The New Yorker this month, Ryan Lizza spent several paragraphs explaining how the premise fit into the Minnesota congresswoman’s intellectual and theological development. And a recent Texas Observer cover story on Rick Perry examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago. “[W]hat makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.”

In many ways, Dominionism is more a political phenomenon than a theological one. It cuts across Christian denominations, from stern, austere sects to the signs-and-wonders culture of modern megachurches. Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.

Perry has ties to the Dominionist New Apostolic Reformation, while Bachmann was featured in a documentary produced by Truth in Action Ministries, whose founder Goldberg explains, has written that "it is dominion we are after. Not just equal time ... World conquest.” Don't call it a caliphate.

Association with an Islamic-oriented group with similar political goals would be enough to end some nameless government bureaucrat's career, let alone hamper someone trying to seek a major party nomination. But conservative enmity toward "Shariah" has always been selective, more rooted in religious rivalry and tribalism than any consistent commitment to secular democracy. While institutional barriers that make American democracy resistant to radical change and the unlikliehood that Dominionism could ever really reshape American society in its image, Perry and Bachmann have some serious questions to answer about their own beliefs about the role of religion in American society.

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