I know there is an unwritten rule that Facebook is not a proper forum for political evangelism. But neither is Facebook like Fox News where the absence of a Fairness Doctrine allows right wing conservatives to spread whatever noxious doctrines they choose without concern for correction or rebuttal.
And so I am here to confess that despite the best of intentions I recently had a rather unpleasant Facebook face-off with a proselytizing in-law who is also, I am afraid to say, a Christian Dominionist.
Dominionists get their name from the Bible: “And God blessed Adam and Eve and said unto them: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’"
It’s a Bible passage that is sometimes used to attack environmentalists and environmentalism, which dominionists consider to be a kind of nature-worshiping paganism that puts the birds and the trees above the “dominion” of human beings and so is contrary to God’s design for a human-centric creation.
Frederick Clarkson, author of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America, says that dominionism derives from a “Reconstructionist theology” in which “Biblical Law" is the basis for “reconstructing” society in ways that create the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Reconstructionists believe that the Bible governs all areas of life, says Clarkson, including government, education, law, the arts and other areas not usually included among traditional moral issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion.
Says Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton: "The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law."
More broadly, says Clarkson, Reconstructionists believe that there are three main areas of governance: family government, church government, and civil government.
“Under God's covenant, the nuclear family is the basic unit,” says Clarkson. “The husband is the head of the family, and wife and children are ‘in submission’ to him. In turn, the husband ‘submits’ to Jesus and to God's laws as detailed in the Old Testament. Civil government exists to implement God's laws. All three institutions are under Biblical Law."
This theocratic system of separation of powers and checks and balances goes by the name “theonomy."
And in this theonomy things get dicey when we learn that central to Reconstructionism is “capital punishment under Biblical Law,” says Clarkson, in which doctrinal leaders such as R.J. Rushdoony call for the death penalty for a wide range of offences not currently listed as capital crimes, including: apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, "sodomy or homosexuality," incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, "unchastity before marriage."
As Rushdoony says: "God's government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them."
With that as background, the "debate" with my theocratic in-law, if you can call it that, began when she linked to a Fox News segment that reported on an Iranian court that had just sentenced some poor guy to death for the "crime" of heresy when the individual converted from Islam to Christianity.
I normally bite my tongue. But in this instance, the hypocrisy of my theocratic in-law complaining about theocratic Islamic mullahs putting someone to death for violations of religious orthodoxy was just too obvious and thick to let go by.
And so, after "Carry Nation" (a pseudonym, obviously) posted her link to Fox News, all hell broke loose when I observed:
Ted Frier: That's what happens when there is no separation between church and state.
Carry Nation: Ted.....c'mon you're not serious are you?
Ted Frier: I am not surprised you did not take my response seriously, Carry, because the consequences if you did would be catastrophic for your worldview.
Carry Nation: Ted, when I said "c'mon are you serious" I was referring to "where's the compassion" for this guy rather than a discussion of separation of church and state. Has Focus on the Family or any other Christian institution ever persecuted or threatened any non-Christians?
Ted Frier: Fair enough. But what horrifies you in the story out of Iran is the bitter fruit of theocracy, where a minority Christian was the victim -- this time. We would have to ask Muslims in this country if they feel threatened by the rising tide of religiosity, especially after a company like Lowe's pulled its funding for a cable show that did nothing more than portray Muslims as just plain folks, or the near riots that ensued against the building of a mosque in NYC near Ground Zero. I feel for the guy in Iran, I really do, but he is not the victim of secular progressivism but of theocracy, where no wall between church and state exists.
Carry Nation: What horrifies me in this story is that this man is condemned to die simply because of his faith. Separation of church and state allows freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. Secular progressivism IS a threat to faith. Just ask the Catholic Church regarding the issue of contraception.
Ted Frier: I will bet that the Christian pastor who is about to become a martyr for his faith wishes he was escaping FROM the religion of his executioners right about now. And I did not say that secular progressivism was not a threat to the power of the Catholic bishops to enforce their faith by making contraception illegal. I only said secularism posed no threat to the 98% of Catholics who use birth control despite their bishop's teachings and who might otherwise be executed for their defiance if they had the misfortune to live in a place where church law was the law of the land, as it is in a place like, say, Iran.
At that point the line went dead.
Then, a few hours later another post appeared from Carry Nation. It was a link to a clip from the Dennis Prager radio program in which the right wing host began the segment by reading from a listener’s letter addressed to a Democratic brother-in-law named Joe.
“Does it bother you, Joe,” Prager read, “that the Democratic Party depends for electoral victory on the votes of single women, and also the black vote?” This support is predicated on the belief, Prager continued, that Democrats will use government to help these groups with their problems while Republicans won’t, because they’re racists or something.
At this point Prager then attempted one of those “I hate the sin but love the sinner” kind of triple-axel, double toe-loop maneuvers for which right wing conservatives are so famous, when he said being single was a “social pathology” but claimed he meant no disrespect to single people who as individuals he said were clearly not “pathological.” Yet, the meaning of his insinuation could not have been more clear. He was trying to say that the Democratic Party itself must be pathological if it is dependent on the votes of a constituency who in Prager’s view collectively represents a “social pathology.”
Thus, I answered my in-law:
Ted Frier: Does it bother me that the Democratic Party is "dependent on electoral victory" on single women and "the black vote," as Dennis Prager asks? No, not particularly. No more so than I am bothered by the fact that when white supremacists or members of the John Birch Society vote they tend to vote Republican. And while I know Prager says it isn't "meant to be offensive" when he says being single is a "social pathology" that is "bad for society" -- since he knows so many fine and upstanding single people, priests and nuns for instance who have taken the vow of celibacy -- I am not sure how Prager can say that being unwed is a "social pathology" but that there is nothing "pathological" about unwed people.
The only answer I got this time was another post announcing my in-law was planning to attend “An Evening with Dennis Prager & Adam Carolla” that very night – front row center.