In the last two months we’ve been exposed to an extreme radical agenda by far right Republicans, many of whom ran as moderates. In order to more fully explore the dynamics of religious extremism and far right politics, I interviewed Dominionist expert Leah Burton, who explains the dangerous infiltration of radical religious extremism into modern day American politics; specifically the relationship between many of these leaders’ religious beliefs and the economic and social extremism we’re seeing implemented by them.
Sarah Jones: Please describe Dominionism.
Leah Burton: The word itself holds the answer. It is about dominating. Taking over. For them it is a direct mandate from God in the Old Testament Book of Genesis Chapter 1:26-28. Defined in its simplest form, Christian Dominionism is a political approach to Christian faith and practice based on a literalistic interpretation of Chapter 1 verse 28 of the Book of Genesis. Wherein, they perceive themselves as the “Chosen” and are commanded to “subdue” the earth and “have dominion” over all living creatures.
The goal of Christian Dominionism is to abolish Separation of Church and State and to establish the United States as a distinctively Christian Nation based upon Old Testament Mosaic Law. Dominionism is an umbrella term that harbors many divergent groups claiming a foundation in Christianity. You must be “born again”…accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour…and profess your personal relationship with Christ.” All Christians are not Dominionist, but all Dominionists claim Christianity.
Sarah Jones: How would you describe your political affiliation?
Leah Burton:I have always been a registered “non-partisan”. I was raised in a Republican household – an Eisenhower Republican – that believed in the separation of church & state. I am a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. That is as close to a political label as I can define. This is not about partisan politics, it is about freedoms.
Sarah Jones: You have a book coming out that includes a discussion on Sarah Palin’s religious extremism (full disclosure: I am contributing author to this book). Can you describe for the readers how Palin characterizes Dominionism versus Mainstream Christianity?
Leah Burton: Christian Dominionists like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Scott Walker and many, many more do not recognize any other version of Christian faith that does not comply strictly to their definition of Christianity. You must be born again; accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour; and profess a personal relationship with Him – period. All others who are considered mainline Christians are considered by these Dominonists as the “wrong kind of Christian”.
Sarah Jones: Many discount Palin as non-relevant, especially given her plunging poll numbers. Where does she fits in to American politics now, if at all?
Leah Burton: Sarah Palin is, and has always been a political hot potato tossed around by those who have no respect for her and never have, but who also know that she is the key to the votes of a very vocal minority of fringe conservative voters in America. She is now at risk of being replaced by the Scott Walkers and Marco Rubios out there, who can hold this voting bloc’s interest as well, yet present with less baggage – at least to the untrained eye of most conservative voters. Whether Palin is ever elected to public office again isn’t my concern. Her influence on the campaign trail does ignite and excite the extremists who turn out in droves to fawn over her.
I call her emergence to national notoriety a twisted debt of gratitude. Why? Because without her – we would not be able to raise the volume on this discussion of Radical Religious extremism in American politics, introducing Christian Dominionism to an entire national audience. When Pat Robertson ran in 1988 no one even noticed and his politics are simpatico with Palin’s. I thank her.
Sarah Jones: Are there connections between Dominionism and far right secessionist groups, anti-government groups, and militia, and extreme corporatist agenda we’re seeing in certain states, and if so, can you explain their common cause or connection?
Leah Burton: Yes. One of the reasons I titled my book, “God, Guns & Greed” is precisely due to the incestuous nature of all these divergent interests coming together in common cause. 1) Privatize government – they are all about dismantling the services of the federal government to a skeleton and have a “you’re on your own” attitude toward the poor and downtrodden; 2) For the Dominionsts, privatization means getting out from under those pesky regulations about overtly inserting their faith into education and other institutions. For the Corporatists it means more opportunity to capitalize on new business that is no longer government run. 3) For the militias and sovereign citizen groups it means less government oversight of their self-appointed goals of policing who has a right to be here and who does not as well as stretching out into National Park lands where no one can tell them what to do or where they can tread.
Sarah Jones: How does Dominionism impact our public policy, politics, and political debate?
Leah Burton: Christian Dominionism is the Religious Right of the 1980s on steroids and they have accomplished what they strategized to do over 20 years ago – overwhelm and control the Republican Party. I yearn for the Eisenhower Republicans to return and kick some righteous a** and regain control of their Party. These extremists are squatters who have no allegiance to the GOP. They simply operate like parasites seeking to move in and set up stakes. They did this by co-opting Christianity, and they did this by infesting the GOP. They know they need to inhabit one of the 2 major Parties until they can supplant it with the Constitution Party. But until then, they literally tell their candidates, “We don’t care what Party you run in as long as you win!”
This has caused our policies, laws, elected officials and judges to be peppered with Old Testament Mosaic Law influences and the signs of that grow more brazen and obvious with each passing day.
Sarah Jones: Right now, we’re seeing the result of several Governors who appeared to be “moderates” but once in office began implementing severe and extreme measures. What characterizes a political Dominionist; i.e., what should people look for?
Leah Burton: I decided to use Christian Dominionism as an umbrella term to describe this bible-based cult. And yes, it has all the hallmarks of cults. Dangling under this umbrella are many groups who don’t all see eye to eye but agree that Genesis Chapter 1 verse 28 made them “the chosen” who must go forth “and take dominion over all things that walk, crawl and swim on the earth” for Christ. It is said that it is the largest non-denominational religious sect in America that no one has ever heard of. People should look for this devout set of criteria I outlined as 3 parts above. If you do not have a born again birth certificate…well…you might as well be an Atheist. And they feel the same about Catholics and Mormons; it isn’t just the WICCANS they don’t recognize.
Sarah Jones: Are there political leaders you know to be Dominionists, other than Sarah Palin?
Leah Burton: There are thousands in our school boards, city governments, state legislatures and national offices. My co-researcher and I are compiling a product that will connect these dots between not only the politicians, but the corporations, services and non-profits as well. It is extremely enlightening. I mentioned a few names earlier but let me add a few more: Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint, Bob McDonnell, John Thune, Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Mike Pence, and again – this list is voluminous!
Most recently we have become familiar with another “Palin candidate” in Scott Walker, the reckless Governor of Wisconsin. Like when Palin made this statement as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, “I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can’t”. Sound familiar?
Like Palin and many others, Walker was raised in a Dominionist Baptist church in Colorado Springs, CO where his father was a minister. He adheres to the same religio-political tenets. He is public speaker to a group called the Christian Businessmen’s Connection that is a front group for the Family/Fellowship that Jeff Sharlet writes about.
This group also has ties to the Council for National Policy, a secret cabal of Dominionist and uber-conservative profiteers that has secret handshake meetings off the beltway near D.C.; it was founded by Tim LeHaye of the “Left Behind” book series and the Rapture and the End Times. There is far more information that links Walker to known Dominionist groups and patrons, but this gives you a good firm idea of the extent of his connections.
Sarah Jones: What can people do about the dangers facing our government due to Dominionism?
Leah Burton: Without a doubt, there are more moderate Americans than there are extremists on both sides of the aisle. But it is this majority that tends to not want to get involved. They hate politics. Many don’t vote. Our right to vote is the single most powerful weapon we have to fight back against extremism.
The days are gone where we had the luxury of arguing liberal vs. conservative ideology. With the overwhelming takeover of the GOP it is now impossible for many Republicans to vote for their own Party. This is now about FREEDOM vs. THEOCRACY. The religious zealots have left us no choice. And knowledge is power. We must spread the word and alert each other to this very serious and powerful Movement that is “hiding in plain sight”.
Sarah Jones: What inspired you to start the webinar series and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Leah Burton: The sense of urgency that 2012 is just around the corner and the dismal turnout in the 2010 elections by voters who most likely could have saved the House from becoming a Republican majority must be reversed. Had we not lost the House, we would not have poked a stick in the eye of Islam with the King hearings; we would not have endured a very poor reading of the Constitution on the House floor instead of getting down to the business of growing jobs and reigning in our budget; or be enduring the attacks on public education funding in favor of charter schools…I could go on. It would be easier to answer it the other way around. What would make me feel would be that this webinar would not be necessary – there is so much at risk.
Sarah Jones: What do you view as the ideal outcome of your work?
Leah Burton: That the Christian Dominionists are relegated to their real Party, the Constitution Party (it is all available online and their Preamble says it all); that the moderate Republicans come back so we can get back to work making progress through compromise; that we avert this close call with theocracy and preserve our democratic republic; that the wall of separation of church & state is reinforced with indestructible integrity and clarity to avoid this insanity; and finally to never endure this embarrassment and humiliation on a global stage again.
What I want is simple – A free country full of pride, prosperity and compassion for our fellow citizens for generations to come.
Leah Burton is a the author on the upcoming book, “God, Guns & Greed”: Palin’s Vision for America & the New Conservative.” She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which is an organization that is fighting Christian Dominionism in the U.S. armed forces, in addition to working under contract with the California Council of Churches which represents the interests of 1.6 million mainline Christians, spanning 51 denominations, where she works collaboratively to provide information about the dangers of extremism in Christianity and to secure a separation of church and state. Leah is debuting her Webinar Series, “Dominionism 101: Where Church & State Collide” this Saturday.