Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Dominionists

The Crusaders

Christian evangelicals are plotting to remake America in
their own image


It's February, and 900 of America's staunchest Christian
fundamentalists have gathered in Fort Lauderdale to look
back on what they accomplished in last year's election --
and to plan what's next. As they assemble in the vast sanc-
tuary of Coral Ridge Presbyterian, with all fifty state
flags dan- gling from the rafters, three stadium- size video
screens flash the name of the confer- ence: RECLAIMING AMER-
ICA FOR CHRIST. These are the evangelical activists behind
the nation's most effective political machine -- one that
brought more than 4 million new Christian voters to the
polls last Novem- ber, sending George W. Bush back to the
White House and thirty-two new pro- lifers to Congress. But
despite their unprece- dented power, fundamentalists still
see themselves as a persecuted minority, waging a holy war
against the godless forces of secularism. To rouse them-
selves, they kick off the festivities with "Soldiers of the
Cross, Arise," the blood- thirstiest tune in all of Chris-
tendom: "Seize your armor, gird it on/Now the battle will be
won/Soon, your enemies all slain/Crowns of glory you shall

Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe
God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As
the far-right wing of the evan- gelical movement, Dominion-
ists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gin- grich's
Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto.
They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian ver-
sion of American history, pack the nation's courts with
judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Command-
ments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men
to have sex and women to have abortions. In Florida, when
the courts ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, it
was the Dominionists who organized round-the-clock protests
and issued a fiery call for Gov. Jeb Bush to defy the law
and take Schiavo into state custody. Their ultimate goal is
to plant the seeds of a "faith-based" government that will
en- dure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way
until Jesus comes back.

"Most people hear them talk about a 'Christian na- tion' and
think, 'Well, that sounds like a good, moral thing,' says
the Rev. Mel White, who ghost- wrote Jerry Falwell's auto-
biography before break- ing with the evangelical movement.
"What they don't know -- what even most conservative Chris-
tians who voted for Bush don't know -- is that to these Do-
minionist leaders. This movement is no more about following
the example of Christ than Bush's Clean Water Act is about
clean water."

The godfather of the Dominionists is D. James Kennedy, the
most influential evangelical you've never heard of. A for-
mer Arthur Murray dance in- structor, he launched his Flori-
da ministry in 1959, when most evangelicals still fol- lowed
Bil- ly Graham's gospel of nonpartisan soul-saving. Kennedy
built Coral Ridge Ministries into a $37-million-a-year em-
pire, with a TV-and-radio au- dience of 3 million, by
preaching that it was time to save America -- not soul by
soul but election by election. After helping found the
Moral Major- ity in 1979, Kennedy became a five-star general
in the Christian army. Bush sought his blessing be- fore
running for president -- and continues to consult top Domin-
ionists on matters of federal policy.

"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatev- er the
cost," Kennedy says. "As the vice regents of God, we are to
exercise godly dominion and in- fluence over our neighbor-
hoods, our schools, our government, our litera- ture and
arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news
media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every as-
pect and institution of human society."

At Reclaiming America, most of the conference is taken up by
grassroots training sessions that sup- ply ministers, re-
tirees and devout churchgoers with "The Facts of Stem-Cell
Research" or "Practi- cal Steps to Impact Your Community
with America's Historical Judeo-Christian Heritage." "We're
going to turn you into an army of one," Gary Cass, exec-
utive director of Reclaim- ing America, promises activists
at one workshop held in Evangelism Exp- lo- sion Hall. The
Dominionists also attend speeches by supporters like Rep.
Katherine Harris of Florida, who urges them to "win back
America for God." In their spare time, conference-goers buy
books about a God-devised health program called the Maker's
Diet or meet with a financial adviser who offers a "bibli-
cally sound investment plan."

To implement their sweeping agenda, the Dominion- ists are
working to remake the federal courts in God's image. In
their view, the Founding Fathers nev- er intended to erect a
barrier between poli- tics and religion. "The First Amend-
ment does not say there should be a separation of church and
state," declares Alan Sears, president and CEO of the Al-
liance Defense Fund, a team of 750 attorneys trained by the
Dominionists to fight abortion and gay mar- riage. Sears
argues that the constitu- tional guarantee against state-
spon- sored reli- gion is actually designed to "shield" the
church from federal in- terference -- allowing Christians to
take their rightful place at the head of the government.
"We have a right, indeed an obliga- tion, to govern," says
David Limbaugh, brother of Rush and author of Persecution:
How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity. Nothing
gets the Dominionists to their feet faster than ringing con-
demnations of judicial tyranny. "Activist judges have sys-
tematically deconstructed the Con- stitution," roars Rick
Scarborough, author of Mix- ing Church and State. "A God-
free society is their goal!"

Activist judges, of course, are precisely what the Dominion-
ists want. Their model is Roy Moore, the former Alabama
chief justice who installed a 5,300-pound granite memorial
to the Ten Command- ments, complete with an open Bible
carved in its top, in the state judicial building. At Re-
claim- ing America, Roy's Rock sits out front, fresh off a
tour of twenty-one states, perched on the flag- festooned
flatbed of a diesel truck, a potent sym- bol of the "faith-
based" justice the Dominionists are bent on imposing. Ac-
tivists at the conference pose for photographs beside the
rock and have cir- culated a petition urging President Bush
to ap- point Moore -- who once penned an opinion calling for
the state to execute "practicing homosexuals" -- to the U.S.
Supreme Court.

"The other side knows we've got strongholds in the executive
and legisla- tive branches," Cass tells the troops. "If we
start winning the judiciary, their power base is going to be

To pack the courts with fundamentalists like Moore, Domin-
ionist leaders are planning a massive media blitz. They're
also pressuring Senate Ma- jority Leader Bill Frist -- an
ally who's courting support for his presidential bid -- to
halt the long-standing use of filibusters to hold up judi-
cial nominations. An anti-filibuster petition circulating
at the conference blasts Democrats for their "outrageous
stonewalling of appointments" -- even though Congress has
approved more nominees of Bush than of any presi- dent since
Jimmy Carter.

It helps that Dominionists have a direct line to the White
House: The Rev. Richard Land, top lob- byist for the
16-million-member Southern Baptist Con- vention, enjoys a
weekly conference call with top Bush advisers including Karl
Rove. "We've got the Holy Spirit's wind at our backs!" Land
de- clares in an arm-waving, red-faced speech. He takes
particular aim at the threat posed by John Lennon, denounc-
ing "Imagine" as a "secular anthem" that envi- sions a fu-
ture of "clone plantations, child sacrifice, legalized
polygamy and hard-core porn."

The Dominionists are also stepping up efforts to turn public
schools into forums for evangelism. In a landmark case, the
Alliance Defense Fund is su- ing a California school dis-
trict that threat- ened to dismiss a born-again teacher who
was evan- gelizing fifth-graders. In the conference's open-
ing ceremony, the Dominionists recite an oath they dream of
hearing in every classroom: "I pledge al- legiance to the
Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it
stands. One Savior, cruci- fied, risen and coming again,
with life and liber- ty for all who believe."

Cass urges conference-goers to stack school boards with Do-
minionists. "The most humble Christian is more qualified
for office than the best-educated pagan," says Cass, an an-
ti-abortion activist who led a takeover of his school dis-
trict's board in San Diego. "We built quite a little grass-
roots machine out there. Now it's my burden to multiply
that success all across America."

Cass points to the Rev. Gary Beeler, a Baptist minister
from Tennessee who got permission for thousands of students
to skip class and attend weeklong events that he calls "old-
time revivals, with preaching and singing and soul-saving
and the whole nine yards." Now, with support from Kennedy,
Beeler is selling his house and buying a mobile home to
spread his crusade nationwide. "It's not exactly what I
planned to do with my retirement," he says. "But it's what
God told me to do."

Cass also presents another small-town activist, Kevin McCoy,
with a Salt and Light Award for lead- ing a successful cam-
paign to shut down an anti- bul- lying program in West Vir-
ginia schools. Mc- Coy, a soft-spoken, prematurely gray
postal work- er, fought to end the program because it taught
tolerance for gay people -- and thus, in his view, consti-
tuted a "thinly disguised effort to promote the homosexual
agenda." "What America needs," Cass tells the faithful, "is
more Kevin McCoy=B9s."

While the dominionists rely on grass-roots ac- tivists to
fight their bat- tles, they are backed by some of America's
richest entrepreneurs. Amway founder Rich DeVos, a Kennedy
ally who's the lead- ing Republican contender for governor
of Michigan, has tossed more than $5 million into the col-
lec- tion plate. Jean Case, wife of former AOL chief Steve
Case -- whose fortune was made largely on sex-chat rooms --
has donated $8 million. And Tom Mon- aghan, founder of
Domino's Pizza, is a major source of cash for Focus on the
Family, a mega ministry working with Kennedy to eliminate
all public schools.

The one-two punch of militant activists and big money has
helped make the Dominionists a force in Washington, where a
growing number of congressmen owe their elections to the ma-
chine. Kennedy has also created the Center for Christian
Statesman- ship, which trains elected officials to "more ef-
fective- ly share their faith in the public are- na." Speak-
ing to the group, House Ma- jority Whip Tom DeLay -- a win-
ner of Kennedy's Distinguished Christian Statesman Award --
called Bush's faith- based initiatives "a great opportu- ni-
ty to bring God back into the public institutions of our
coun- try."

The most vivid proof of the Christianizing of Capitol Hill
comes at the fi- nal session of Re- claiming America. Rep.
Walter Jones, a lanky congressman from North Carolina, gives
a fire-and- brimstone speech that would have got- ten him
laughed out of Washington thirty years ago. In today's cli-
mate, however, he's got a chance of passing his pet project,
the Houses of Wor- ship Free Speech Restoration Act, which
would permit ministers to endorse political candidates from
their pulpits, effectively converting their tax- exempt
churches into Republican campaign headquar- ters.

"America is under assault!" Jones thunders as his aides dash
around the sanctuary snapping PR pho- tos. "Everyone in
America has the right to speak freely, except for those
standing in the pulpits of our churches!" The amen chorus
reaches a fever pitch. Hands fly heavenward. It's one
thing to hear such words from Dominionist leaders -- but to
this crowd, there's nothing more thrilling than getting the
gospel from a U.S. congressman. "You cannot have a strong
nation that does not follow God," Jones preaches, working up
to a climactic, passionate plea for a biblical republic.
"God, please -- God, please -- God, please -- save Amer-

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