Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence
Overview and Roots
The Christian Right has shown impressive resilience and has rebounded dramatically after a series of embarrassing televangelist scandals of the late 1980s, the collapse of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and the failed presidential bid of Pat Robertson. In the 1990s, Christian Right organizing went to the grassroots and exerted wide influence in American politics across the country.
There is no doubt that Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition gets much of the credit for this successful strategic shift to the local level. But another largely overlooked reason for the persistent success of the Christian Right is a theological shift since the 1960s. The catalyst for the shift is Christian Reconstructionism--arguably the driving ideology of the Christian Right in the 1990s.
The significance of the Reconstructionist movement is not its numbers, but the power of its ideas and their surprisingly rapid acceptance. Many on the Christian Right are unaware that they hold Reconstructionist ideas. Because as a theology it is controversial, even among evangelicals, many who are consciously influenced by it avoid the label. This furtiveness is not, however, as significant as the potency of the ideology itself. Generally, Reconstructionism seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of "Biblical Law." Reconstructionism would eliminate not only democracy but many of its manifestations, such as labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools. Women would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment beyond such crimes as kidnapping, rape, and murder to include, among other things, blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality.
Reconstructionism has expanded from the works of a small group of scholars to inform a wide swath of conservative Christian thought and action. While many Reconstructionist political positions are commonly held conservative views, what is significant is that Reconstructionists have created a comprehensive program, with Biblical justifications for far right political policies. Many post-World War II conservative, anticommunist activists were also, if secondarily, conservative Christians. However, the Reconstructionist movement calls on conservatives to be Christians first, and to build a church-based political movement from there.
For much of Reconstructionism's short history it has been an ideology in search of a constituency. But its influence has grown far beyond the founders' expectations. As Reconstructionist author Gary North observes, "We once were shepherds without sheep. No longer."
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