The myth of persecution is a great cover. Christians, we are accustomed to think, are timid and loving individuals eager to turn the other cheek. In this sophisticated world of science and technology, they might appear a little naive, but they’re not really out to hurt anyone. Or at least some of them aren’t. I grew up among what would now be called Fundamentalists. Harsh to their own sins, they’d not imagine harming others. The story went that in the Roman Empire days it was open season on Christians and the oppressors liked nothing better than killing off a dozen before breakfast. That myth has largely been debunked by historians. Yes, there were some brief periods of intensive persecution, but for the most part the early Christians were left alone.
Many of the more zealous among the literalist sects today feel the loss of that mythology keenly. What can you do when you learn that your primitive ancestry wasn’t as heroic as you thought it was? For some, that myth must be kept alive today. When it is acknowledged that our world has become a smaller place because of technology, we get exposed to those who give the lie to our prejudices. Moral Muslims (despite the media portrayals), Hindus, Buddhists, and even secular humanists, abound. News, however, thrives on negativity. After all, it too is a capitalistic enterprise. We see the violence, the hatred, the bigotry. The myth lives on. Christian Dominionists have simply given up on the rest of the race. The Bible, after all, says few will be saved. And they have thrived for decades based on the simple fact that nobody takes them seriously.
I have seen the lack of compassion in evangelical eyes firsthand. A coldness that declares education to be evil since the only truth was revealed long ago in unchanging form. The word of God stands forever. It says so itself. And among the most despised of all human beings are those who study that word instead of “just reading” it. Those outside this camp know there is no such thing as “just reading.” They also know that we have no original biblical manuscripts at all and that translations are merely approximations. It’s difficult to build absolute laws on approximations. Among themselves these groups claim that legislation to treat others equally is a direct affront and insult to them. In fact, they claim they are persecuted because of the fair treatment of others. The thing about democracy is that any system can be gamed. Even Putin can be your friend, for this is the world of myth.
“Horrible things are going to happen!” shouts Grandpa Simpson. He ends his epiphany in church with the strange words “Epa, epa!” The Simpson’s Movie, among many other popular outlets, has had some fun at the expense of the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the years many people have concluded that it is ineffectual and that the heart of the government isn’t really behind it. One of the Dominionist creeds is that the government as we know it must be disbanded. Trump has been working hard at that, on his breaks from the back nine, since January. Appointing heads of agencies tasked with dismantling them, the underlying plan (not Trump’s, for he has no plan) is to take the current government apart while self-important Republicans simply can’t understand that they’re being used as pawns to be sacrificed as soon as a knight or rook comes along. Bishops don’t seem to be of much use anymore.
So when the head of the EPA cites the book of Joshua as science, some were surprised. Scott Pruitt, according to a story on BuzzFeed my wife sent me, has decided that the Old Testament is the new frontier. You have to choose who you’re going to follow. As for Pruitt and his house, it will be the Lord. And by “Lord” I mean money. Those who stand to gain by deconstructing the EPA are big businesses. Those who stand to loose? Only Homo sapiens and every other species on the planet. Although, in all fairness, rats and cockroaches have a way of thriving in our wastelands. In fact they seem to be thriving in Washington DC. I almost tripped over a rat on my way to work just the other day. They’re not just for the subway tracks anymore.
The Bible is the most abused book in history. This is what idolatry looks like. You take an object and make it a god. Nobody would be more surprised to find their words worshipped than those who wrote the Bible. Not one of them realized that their words would be taken the way that they are today. It’s pretty obvious that Paul of Tarsus would’ve taken a little more time in his letter writing had he known they’d be one day mistaken for God’s words instead of his own. And Joshua—well, we don’t even know who wrote that material. Whoever it was believed the earth was flat and that to stop a day from progressing all God had to do was hold the sun still for a day. No hot mitts needed either. This is, after all, the most powerful government in the world.
The man next to me on the bus is reading his Bible. At one point in my life that would’ve made me feel safe. I would’ve known that the person next to me was committed to the same value system as mine—love for all, peace, equality, and acceptance. Now, however, I see that Bible and I’m afraid. You see, I’m reading Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so scared. Hedges’ book was published a decade ago. What he wrote about then is coming true now and it’s because the elites of society—university folk and all—don’t take the radical religious seriously. In their delusional ways, they assume all will be well. If you think like that, read this book.
Dominionism is fascism dressed in Christian garb. It has no room for tolerance. It teaches that those outside its circle are to be ignored at best, and murdered without compunction at worst. This is not exaggeration. It is their teaching. It’s like that computer game that used to come with Macs where a time-traveling dinosaur collected the eggs of other species to save them from the coming asteroid. You could kill other dinosaurs without guilt because you knew they were going to die in 20 minutes anyway. That is very much the way Dominionists feel about you and me. We aren’t saved—their word is “Christian”—God has rejected us, and therefore we deserve to die. Many of them stockpile weapons just for this reason. Their goal, not at all hidden, is to take over the United States and make it a Christian nation. Already many in the houses of Congress are their candidates. They have a president who shares their values. We should be very afraid.
Hedges does a very good job providing the statistics that back his assertions. There is no question that this is real. Those who blithely vote Republican out of fiscal conservatism have risen to the bait. Trump has proved that once and for all. These “Bible believers” do not value or treasure love. They treasure treasure (many of them are very wealthy) and what they desire is power. Tolerance, in their view, is evil and compromising with the literal Satan in which they believe. Their Jesus does not love. He fights. And he fights for white, straight, privileged men. If you’re willing to forsake sleep, read this book. And if you think it’s exaggerating read the headlines.
Christian dominionists emulate the Roman Empire, it seems. The Viewpoint in last week’s Time magazine, entitled “In God We Trust,” points out several of the objectives of the dominionist camp. Taking their cue from a decidedly modern and western understanding of Genesis 1, this sect believes the human control over nature to be a divine mandate in which our species dominates the world, with divine approval. As Jon Meacham points out, that dominion does not end at other animal species, but includes control of the “non-Christian” as defined by their own standard. This non-negotiable “Christianity” is a religion guided by utter selfishness and self-absorption. So thorough is this directive that those indoctrinated in it cannot recognize Christians that do not share its perspective as part of the same dogmatic species. It is a frightening religious perspective for a nation founded on the principle of religious freedom.
Rehearsing the rhetoric from Rick Perry’s “the Response” rally, Meacham rightly points out that when dominionists quote the Bible it is most important to note what the Bible does not say. Herein lies the very soul of the movement—filling in the void where God does not talk with human desires and ambitions. As any good marketer knows, however, packaging can sell the product. Introduce a rhetoric that claims to be biblical to a nation where most people have never read the Bible and smell the recipe for success. People want to believe, even if what they think they believe is not what it claims to be. Christianity is claimed by so many vastly differing factions as to have been drained of its meaning. This is the danger in the game of injecting religion into politics. Surely the Perrys and Palins and Bachmanns know what they believe, but they do not say it aloud, for their Christianity does not coincide with the various forms of the religion advocated by the churches historically bearing the torch of Christ’s teachings, insofar as they might be determined.
Dominionism is nothing new. Even the most pristine believer must see that Constantine had more than a warm fuzzy feeling in his heart when he adopted a foreign religion and fed it to his empire. No, Christianity was an effective, non-violent means of control as well as a way of achieving life after death. Rome was nothing without dominion. The parallels with the United States have been noted by analysts time and again. As we watch the posturing of political candidates wearing some form of their faith on their sleeves, the unsuspecting never question what might be up those sleeves. It is fairly certain that when the parties sit down at the table and the cards are dealt, it won’t be Bibles that we find scattered there. This is not a kingdom of God’s making. When dominionists take over all others must scan the horizon for the advent of the Visigoths who will not be dominated.