Over the second half of the twentieth century, Evangelical Protestantism has been transformed from an insular world-denying religious movement into a powerful political movement currently ascendant within the Republican Party and within the federal judiciary. Dominion Theology, or Dominionism, is a movement dating to the beginning of the 1980s which is based around the view that certain forms of Christianity must dominate society and the state. Early forms of Dominionism were tied to Christian Reconstructionism, a theocratic ideology in which much of Jewish Mosaic Law would be enforced by the state. As it is practiced today, however, it is more simply the theocratic politicization of Evangelical Fundamentalist Reformed Protestant Christianity.
This goal of Christian dominance of US and ultimately global society has multifarious particular instantiations. It is described (originally by Pentecostals, including by Trump-aligned Pentecostal pastor Paula White) in terms of seven “mountains”: religion, economics, media, entertainment, (the previous two are merged in this essay, and are mostly worth distinguishing to preserve the religiously-important number seven), education, family and government.
Evangelicalism dates back to the First Great Awakening of the mid-18th century. Oddly enough from today’s perspective, it is not in itself necessarily a political movement. One of its tenets is called “activism” but this was not historically a term referring to political activity. In fact, many of those most fervently supportive of the United States’ constitutional secularism could be categorized as Evangelical. This activism carried in itself, however, the potential to negate the movement’s staid quietism.
Activism in the older Evangelical sense refers to proselytization by preaching and by action, the latter resembling left-wing mutual aid work. Parachurch organizations such as the Billy Graham Association and Campus Crusade for Christ (now “Cru”) engaged Christians in religious mobilization and became an institutional Evangelicalism in the public sphere. Through the inroad of anticommunist political activity domestically and internationally, these groups became major political pressure groups from the 1980s.
In the early 20th century, many Reformed Protestant denominations suffered internal splits into “Modernist” and “Fundamentalist” wings, with this split later spreading to the rest of US Protestantism. This split was presaged by previous liberal-conservative splits in the 18th and 19th centuries, but this instantiation of the division revolved around the acceptance of “five fundamentals” explicated at the Presbyterian Church in the USA’s 1910 General Assembly. These were the inerrancy of original biblical manuscripts, the virgin birth of Jesus, Jesus’s crucifixion as vicarious atonement for human sin, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the historical reality of biblical miracles. Modernists on the other hand were much more accepting of critical bible scholarship and advances in the natural sciences (particularly evolution by natural selection) which called these claims into question.
A major flare up in this split was the 1925 case State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, colloquially referred to as the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in which Dayton, Tennessee schoolteacher John Thomas Scopes was initially convicted and fined $100 for violating Tennessee state law which prohibited the teaching of biological evolution by natural selection in public schools. This embodied the Fundamentalist-Modernist split most notably in that William Jennings Bryan, former presidential candidate and Fundamentalist ruling elder of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, argued for the prosecution. Scopes’s conviction was abandoned by the prosecution after Scopes appealed when the Tennessee state Supreme Court recommended that continuing to pursue it would cause social disharmony. This law remained in force in Tennessee until 1967, a year before the federal Supreme Court ruled that state bans on the teaching of evolution violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in Epperson v. Arkansas. It is, however, often believed that this contest, which demonstrated the rejection by fundamentalist politicians of natural-scientific consensus in favor of religious doctrine, significantly hurt the popular prestige of religious politics.
By the end of the 1930s, Modernism was ascendant in all Mainline Protestant denominations but Fundamentalism found its home in the less-mainstream Evangelical movement, in not-explicitly denominational institutions such as Biola University and the Dallas Theological Seminary, starting a trend of right-wing ecumenism.
Key within the Evangelical Fundamentalist tradition is its view of the Apocalypse. An admittedly outdated poll by the Pew Research Center from 2010 reveals that 41% of the US believed at the time that Jesus would return to earth by the year 2050, with 23% saying this will “definitely” be the case and 18% saying this will “probably” be the case. A combined reading of the Christian Bible’s Gospel According to Matthew, First Epistle to the Thessalonians and Revelation of John create a view of this Apocalypse called Premillennialist Dispensationalism in which Jesus will physically return to Earth from Heaven and subsequently oversee a thousand-year period of kingship (premillenialism) with the view that there are ages, or dispensations, which God has sorted history into, with our current Dispensation of Grace starting with the destruction of Herod’s Temple and ending with the establishment of a future theocratic Kingdom on Earth (dispensationalism).
Religion is big business. The popular Prosperity Theology sees preachers telling their flocks that donations are an act of faith which will make the donor wealthy and even cure illness, and this almost karmic view is used to support free-market economics. Corporate freedom of worship is also a constitutional means of denying workers their rights. As Karl Marx pointed out in 1843, where there is greater material alienation in an economy, there is greater religiosity. However, this section shall mostly focus on Dominionism and economic imperialism.
A proto-formation of modern Evangelical politics can be seen in the influence of clerics in US anticommunism. The premillenialist dispensationalist apocalypticism historically interacted with the quietist tendency to produce a view that long-term politics are unnecessary and that all that is necessary is to convert the world to Christianity and fight its enemies as aggressively as possible. These two goals overlapped in the Cold War as can be seen by large-scale conversion in Korea and Vietnam, and in the close tie today between Evangelical proselytization in the Middle East and the US’s conflict with Iran and its Axis of Resistance, with protecting and promoting Christianity in Iran being viewed as a more important goal than doing so in the far more repressive anti-Christian Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies. This imperialist usage of Evangelical apocalypticism is closely intertwined with Christian Zionism.
A futurist view of the Book of Revelation is one which views with apocalyptic imagery in the book as prophecy of the future end times. This has been merged with the Christian Zionist view in works like The Late Great Planet Earth to create the view that, for example, giant metal locusts with human faces are attack helicopters which will be involved in an apocalyptic battle between the modern State of Israel and its enemies at Mount Armageddon, with Evangelicals today often taking pilgrimages to Israel and visiting sites they believe will be involved in the end times. This view that a hawkish foreign policy in favor of Israel is commanded by God (against the native population, including the Christian minority), sacralizing the militaristic wing of US imperialism, is tremendously dangerous to the entire Middle East and world.
Even Zionist Jews like former Ohio State Treasurer and Federal Representative Josh Mandel can work within the Dominionist movement through the points of unity of supporting Israel and opposing Iran, although it should be noted that this apocalyptic narrative involves the killing and possible damnation of Jews who do not convert to Christianity.
This religious type of somewhat fetishistic philosemitism which allies with Jews because of their religious importance to Christianity has a long history in Christianity (itself an outgrowth of Judaism) and more specifically Protestantism, as can be seen in the English Commonwealth unofficially overturning the country’s longstanding ban on Judaism in 1656. Many Evangelicals today Judaize their practice to the extent of holding Passover seders and blowing shofars at Trump rallies. The apocalypticist view of the irrelevance of long-term politics does have a remnant however in the rejection of climate change as a serious political issue, if it is even accepted as possible for humans to interfere with God’s world in such a way.
Evangelical (most prominently Pentecostal) missionary work plays a major role in US imperialism just as Catholic and Anglican missionary work have for European powers. This has been a conscious political strategy by both clerics and politicians to combat anti-imperialist tendencies ideologically and to bind third world states to US Dominionist political forces. Proselytization in Brazil has led to up to a third of the population converting to Evangelical denominations with this population playing a key role in the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the election of Jair Bolsonaro.
Support for Evangelical missionary work and activism to combat Marxism-Leninism and Catholic Liberation Theology has been a matter of official state policy by the US since being proposed to President Nixon by Nelson Rockefeller in 1969. Evangelical proselytization and mutual-aid-style religious activism thus became firmly transformed into a political activism on the basis of anticommunism and support for US economic interests in the third world.
The doctrines of this political faith should also be considered. The Chicago School neoliberal economic policy which started its Latin American growth in Chile is stuck to Evangelical Prosperity Theology as it has been spread. Evangelical religious conventions happen on a Pan-American basis with Dominionist politicians in Latin America also being more supportive of US-led Pan-American institutions like the Organization of American States, which excludes left-wing states opposed by the US, Venezuela and Cuba.
Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was an early Latin American Evangelical head of state who was put in power by a 1982 coup and was militarily supported by the US and Israel. His religious conversion from Catholicism five years before the coup was to the Gospel Outreach Church (for whom he worked as a private school teacher in those five years), an Evangelical congregation from California which grew out of the Jesus Movement there in the 1960s and 1970s. It is worth noting that the term “born-again Christian” comes from the same milieu. The term is related to the Baptist practice of Believer’s Baptism and the Pentecostal concept of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which have long had purchase in the Evangelical movement, in that they create a firmer distinction than most denominations have between those simply born into the faith and those who confirm they are explicit true believers when grown (a “Cultural Southern Baptist” is less likely to exist than a “Cultural Catholic”).
The primary political goal of the Ríos Montt administration was the destruction of Guatemala’s Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemaleca rebel movement, in keeping with the function of Latin American Dominionism as a force combating left-wing anti-imperialist forces hostile to the US. As with historical colonialism by the Catholic powers in the Western Hemisphere, this new religious politics was assimilationist and violent towards Native Guatemalans, with the resulting violence being treated as genocide by the Guatemalan state in 2013.
This anticommunist foreign influence has been particularly effective in South Korea since the Korean War. This war changed the social and political activity of Christianity (particularly Protestantism) from the opposition to Japanese imperialism to the support of US imperialism, with Evangelical politicians and political clerics in the ROK generally taking a hardline anti-DPRK pro-US stance. Intensive Evangelical missionary activity from the US has in fact made the South about 30% Christian, with this growing group having enough power that it comes into conflict with the country’s Buddhist majority. The Republic of Korea now has the largest number of Christian missionaries of any country besides the US, and these now engage in proselytization in Latin America and the Middle East just as their US coreligionists do.
The Korean Conflict also has also had an effect on Dominionism in the United States. Early post-war theocratically-inclined anticommunist groups like the John Birch Society have functioned as think tanks for the Christian Right and the US right in general. The JBS itself has produced conservative activists and clerics like Phyllis Schlafly and Tim LaHaye. From Korea, the heterodox Unification Church has created structures like the Washington Times newspaper which provide a platform to spread Dominionist political positions, and has cultivated religious intellectuals who help develop theory for US Dominionist institutions. Their member Dr. Jonathan Wells has worked for multiple parachurch organizations developing a theory of intelligent design with which to replace evolutionary biology in education.
A key feature of the development of Dominionist foreign policy has been the sacralization of the US military. Not only does religion inform politics but now politics informs religion. Charitable parachurch organizations emphasize the benefits that specifically military veterans gain from them, religious services are held on military holidays, sermons generally use military news and stories to teach religious messages and joining the military is presented as a fundamentally Christian endeavor to teenage boys. The worldwide military hegemony of the US is treated as an essential part of the triumph of Christianity today. Contrasting with the general wariness towards postsecondary education among Evangelicals, an entryist policy towards the Military Academies has been pursued. This has been most successful in the Air Force Academy, where coerced Evangelical ritual (even mandated viewing of Christian films) has been successfully carried out and non-Evangelical cadets and officers have been reduced in number. The Air Force has since been the US military branch most resistant to including LGBT troops. Such entryist tactics are particularly successful in the military compared to legacy educational or media outlets due to the significant power of individual officers, with violation of an officer’s religious demands being a potential felony for subordinates.
Being a figure mediating between different groups within the US right, Donald Trump has managed to simultaneously present himself as a correction to the excessively interventionist Middle East policies of Bush and Obama, and as a pro-Israel anti-Iran fanatic. During his term, he had to balance the Neoconservative and Dominionist foreign policy and the isolationist one against one another when there was a substantial conflict, but still the first overwhelmingly won out. Only a few personal interventions by nationalist Trump affiliates like journalist Tucker Carlson could lead to a setback for the pro-Israel anti-Iran hawks. The Trump administration saw the first direct US military strikes against the central government and its international militias in the Syrian Civil War, saw a campaign against the Popular Mobilization Force in Iraq, and saw the direct assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani (along with Iraqi General Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis). The Trump Administration pursued a greater effort towards combating the Axis of Resistance politically as well, reneging on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in regards to the Iranian nuclear energy program and creating an international campaign to ban Lebanese Hezbollah’s non-military political activities as terrorism in more countries. Latin American intervention has even been justified through the claim that Pink Tide governments are controlled by Hezbollah, merging politics surrounding Israel with the enforcement of free market economics in the rest of the Third World
This is not to say that Evangelical Protestantism is inevitably wedded to Dominionist politics. There are individuals in the left-wing governments of Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela who hold to political ideologies completely hostile to the more common Dominionist one. There are US Evangelicals who vote straight-ticket Democrat. However the politics and religious doctrines of Dominionism are tied together in such a way that an understanding of US imperialism in Latin America and East Asia would be incomplete without an understanding of the religious basis of Dominionism. The right social and political context turned an evolution within Protestant theology into a complex international political force.
A final note on the economics of Dominionism is that it is not evenly supported by all sections of the bourgeoisie. Corporate and individual bourgeois donations to Dominionist political campaigns and parachurch organizations are especially concentrated in the real estate sector whereas the financial sector overall and the media sector tend to be hostile to them. This hostility is explained in terms of the ideological conflict in the Media and Entertainment section below.
Subsequently, major forms of worldly politics engaged in by Evangelical clergy were opposition to the feminist Equal Rights Amendment and opposition to the early gay rights movement in the 1970s and 80s. This latter opposition would become far more effective once the AIDS pandemic struck the US, and an early example of transatlantic theocratic politics can be seen in US Evangelical support from Ian Paisley’s Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign.
The true start of Dominionism in mainstream US politics, however, can be seen with a group of movements surrounding Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, a major intellectual and organizational leader of the Christian Right (founding the Moral Majority, Heritage Foundation, and Liberty University). He started his political career earlier, however, in the 1960s as an opponent of the racial integration of public education. This should not be viewed as a non sequitur attack to taunt his modern-day followers with, that their hero was a racist. Rather, it is a significant indicator of the extent to which much of the Christian Right’s political infrastructure has taken over and sublated the old anti-integrationist movement with similar motivations in the fear of all that is solid melting to air in society from old community and child-rearing institutions to be reordered by modern liberalism. The fundamental conservative fear of the destruction of the better past also occurred at the same time within Catholicism. Vatican II created the modern form of the Catholic Right in the 1960s and 70s through its endorsement of religious liberty for non-Christians even to the point of accepting political secularism and deciding that simple ossification is an unacceptable strategy in response to social development which dissolves old structures.
While the massive increase in private school attendance with the support of state governments which occurred in the 1960s was a deliberate act of resistance against the racial integration of public schools starting with Brown v. Board of Education, this escape from the institutional acid bath of liberal society now takes place in terms of preserving faith from secular education (it is to be noted that the 1960s era of federal court enforcement against racial segregation in public schools was contemporary with federal court enforcement of bans on compulsory worship in public schools) and the public education system’s opposition to their view of traditional gender roles and the more recent legitimization of non-hetero sexualities. Dominionists in state government will often engage in fighting retreats to preserve their preferred forms of public education but it is in fact in state subsidy of private education where, in the absence of a true theocratic state, their medium-long term hope lies.
Public education’s role as a bastion of organized labor should also not be overlooked. The demonization of teachers’ unions is an important aspect of rightist opposition to unionization. Pro-LGBT activism from organized educational labor is a fear which regularly features in the push for state support for homeschooling and private education over public education. The merger of anti-labor ideology and Christian theocratic ideology has even created a religious exemption in federal law from paying labor union dues if one holds to an anti-labor religious doctrine.
Private education and homeschooling serving as an Evangelical life-raft protecting one from the currents of history is especially important as Mainline Protestantism, historically accommodating to public education (even seeking to enforce its dominance over Catholic private education), is declining. It provides a safe haven as all that is holy is profaned, and protects believers’ children from the feared concomitant anomie.
MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
For every form of news or entertainment media which exists, Evangelical institutions have constructed a corresponding Christian form. Popular music’s counterpart is Contemporary Christian Music. Sesame Street’s counterpart is VeggieTales. The broadcast television role is filled by the Christian Broadcasting Network. Netflix’s counterpart is Pureflix, which makes a significant departure from the anodyne content of most of Christian media.
Pureflix’s prominence started began with the 2014 film God’s Not Dead, which portrays the dangers of secular education through the character of a truculently anti-religious university professor who requires his students to sign a statement of atheism or face him in the film’s climactic debate in order to pass the class. He is initially portrayed as an atheist until in a moment of fury he reveals that he in fact believes in the Christian God and hates him due to personal tragedy. Thus too are most of the other non-Christian characters portrayed: as socially-powerful bigots who attempt to oppress Christians, and as people who secretly believe in Christianity but merely act in rebellion against its God. While it may seem unnecessary that I have explained the plot of a critically- and popularly-panned evangelical drama in an essay on politics, in it are adumbrated many of the suppositions and motivating fears of Dominionism which feature in this essay.
The creation of specifically Christian media fulfills a similar desire to protect one’s family and community from social anarchy as the creation of private Christian education. Secular media is feared by many conservative people to be developing in a way which spreads atheism and violations of their patriarchal social tradition such as feminism, homosexuality and transgender identities. This secessionist instinct is carried into politics.
Conservative US Evangelicals may privately condemn Catholicism as heretical or even Satanic, but their ideological overlap has meant that in the current political circumstances, the two movements are intertwined and allied, with some Protestant conservatives such as JD Vance, Republican senate candidate from Ohio, actually converting to Catholicism as part of their politics. Jerry Falwell is often credited as almost the sole ideological and organizational author of the Christian Right, but the influence he drew from Europe’s older and more-established Catholic Right should not be understated. Conservative Catholic journalist Paul Weyrich, having been involved in Republican youth politics and Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in the 1960s, was Falwell’s closest Catholic ally. Opposition to or at least skepticism of the liberal-leaning Second Vatican Council with a desire to pull the church back to its more rightist past has been a core part of the Catholic Right, which in Weyrich’s case was represented early on by his conversion from Roman to Eastern Catholicism. This division within Catholicism into right and left in many ways mirrored the split in US Protestantism four decades earlier, with the right of both movements converging.
Weyrich’s Catholic form of the Christian Right was developed by upper cadre of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party Laszlo Pasztor who also served as the Republican Party’s ethnic outreach director at a time when the main method of promoting conservative Christianity was through Cold War anticommunism which emphasized the atheistic nature of Marxism-Leninism and implemented such measures as adding Christian slogans to US money and to the flag’s Pledge of Allegiance.
This Catholic borrowing can be seen in Dominionism’s political ideology in which goals it organizes toward. The main supercategory is the state preservation of lifelong monogamous heterosexual marriage, including the restriction of sexual behavior outside of this context. In the era of Evangelical quietism, this was not nearly as much of a political goal of Protestant clerics as it was for Catholic ones (for example, in Ireland, the ban on divorce has been seen traditionally as an anti-Protestant measure). Those who did participate in politics mostly focused on mere anticommunism. Since Roe v. Wade, the opposition to abortion has been led by the highly Catholic Federalist Society. This has made political Protestants support appointment of conservative Catholics as federal appellate court justices, viewing their religious affiliation as a guarantee of their political platform without having to ask. Opposition to gay marriage, opposition to abortion, opposition to embryonic stem cell research and opposition to mandatory coverage of birth control by employer health insurance or even to the legality of birth control at all have been phrased by Evangelicals in terms of borrowed from the Catholic Theology of the Body.
The “seven mountains of Babylon” metaphor itself raises an important point when it comes to Christianity, sexuality and gender. Christianity has a long history of tying political opposition to itself with unrestrained female sexuality. If one abandons the futurist view of Revelation, one can see that the book is quite clearly a polemic against the polytheistic Roman Empire. It was the Babylonian Empire which destroyed the ancient Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament, and Rome is referenced in the New Testament in multiple points with the derogatory sobriquet “Babylon”. In Chapter 17 of the book is a “terrible whore” dressed in purple and gold (colors of the Roman emperor) drunk on the blood of the Christian martyrs and the filthiness of her fornications riding a beast with seven heads like seven hills/mountains (Rome of course being a city upon seven hills) who fornicates with all the great kings of the world (given Rome’s cosmopolitan nature and imperial dominance). Anti-Christian politics are represented by the archetype of the redoubtable obstreperous woman.
This trend continues with early Christians condemning one another’s religious heterodoxies by accusing one another of sexual deviance, and it is no recent accident that LGBT sexuality in schools is the main sin which is used by modern Christians to condemn public education. Even today the implication to one’s political opponents are pedophiles is a go-to political insult among Christian rightists, manifesting in an extreme form in movements like QAnon.
All her life, US Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been a member of a cult called People of Praise. Again, the term “cult” in this context should not be read as a term of abuse, but rather a technical sociological term referring to organizations which control the lives of their members. People of Praise has close control over the financial and romantic lives of its members, especially female members. Initiates are placed under “spiritual leadership” of higher-ranking members of their sex, with female spiritual leaders being know as “handmaids” until 2017 (at which time Justice Barrett was undoubtedly being considered as a Supreme Court nominee given Scalia’s recent death and Ginsberg’s cancer). People of Praise adopted the term in 1971, 14 years before the release of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, so inferences of influence shall be left to the reader. This is a primarily Catholic organization but is intended as a lay community with which to bring together Protestants and Catholics in religiously virtuous intentional communities, even borrowing charismatic Pentecostal rituals such as speaking in tongues.
Justice Barrett is far from alone in being a religious conservative in a major appellate court position. Christopher Dietzen, statewide judge in Minnesota from 2004 to 2016, was himself another member of Barrett’s organization, People of Praise. Since the Supreme Court banned states from completely banning abortion with Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has been the fundamental judicial battle of Dominionism. Since its 1982 foundation, legal NGO The Federalist Society has made opposition to abortion one of its main goals. The influence of this organization must not be understated; forty-three of the fifty-one appellate court nominees by Donald Trump are members as are six of the nine Supreme Court justices (including both of Trump’s appointees: Barrett and Kavanagh), with Reagan Federalist Society appointee Antonin Scalia being replaced upon his death by Trump Federalist Society appointee Brett Kavanagh. Samuel Alito, writer of the recently leaked decision to overturn Roe v Wade, is himself a member.
Justice Barrett was scouted as a Federalist Society prospect from at least her first year of law school, with this pipeline creating a supply of judges ready to be appointed whenever a vacancy appears. This is a major strategy of Republican governmental power which is enacted by trying to prevent judicial nominations from being completed and leave vacancies during times of minority (often by filibustering, inspiring a liberal opposition to the filibuster’s existence) while putting a high value on getting through judicial nominations when Republicans possess both a Senate majority and the Presidency. This has resulted in an unusually high number of appointments during Trump’s 2017-2021 term, with many of the younger justices of this batch almost certain to be ruling for decades, and Barrett herself potentially ruling into the 2050s.
This clearly represents an anti-democratic preference for institutional control which can survive electoral defeat and must be situated in a historical context of conservative resentment of perceived anti-democratic judicial overreach against their legislative efforts in the late 20th century, with the Federalist Society defining its role as one of preserving states’ rights, avoiding judicial activism, and promoting an original-intent reading of constitutional law in addition to its more basic socially-conservative alignment.
Christianity’s status as a demographically shrinking religion in the US and the political attempts at preserving it through anti-democratic institutions lend itself to an obvious comparison to efforts at shoring up a White America this way. The same gerrymandering which undemocratically enforces partisan rule and restricts the minority vote preserves the Republican Party’s dominance in the states it leads also allows unpopular laws restrictive of abortion to pass. The same Dominionist judges who protect a state’s right to arrest “sodomites” will protect a state’s right to engage in racially-discriminatory voter restrictions. Dominionism’s historical support for temperance can align with a White Nationalist politics which supports the more racist implementations of the War on Drugs.
Simply blending one’s analyses, however, so that Dominionism and White Nationalism are one single movement, is an oversimplification. For one, Dominionism is in some sense a universalist movement despite its short-term siege mentality. A Dominionist politics is one of aggressively expanding the US’s empire and converting the third world to American Evangelicism, often even adopting children from the third world to raise in the faith. In this way, Dominionism is more economically compatible with imperialism in its current form. White Nationalism is an ideology of a decaying and stagnating empire which the US is not currently but may become in the near future. Dominionism is internationalist enough that increasing the number of professionally-educated Christian third world migrants is a political goal and that its US wing can be influenced by its Korean wing. These two movements are related but exist in tension within the Republican Party and its right-wing coalition.
Both Dominionism and White Nationalism more specifically find their Joshua (or Hitler in the latter case) in Donald Trump. Dominionism, however, decisively won that contest during the Trump presidency. It should be noted that this is not because of President Trump’s uniquely devout faith in or knowledge of Evangelicalism. He was not raised in an Evangelical church and would merely refer to himself as a “non-denominational Christian” (this works both as a refusal to adopt any specific church which could be divisive, and as a dog-whistle to “non-denominational” but firmly Evangelical churches who could view him as their president). Trump in fact displays remarkably little interest in the specifics of Evangelical theology or doctrine despite presenting himself as God’s president. The seemingly miraculous nature of his 2016 election victory is the only significant particular point pro-Trump clerics use to claim that he is really God’s agent to save America. Dominionist politicians and activists can work well within coalitions of very different tendencies when necessary to achieve political aims, and have no issue rallying behind a figure very theologically different from themselves to gain influence in the federal executive branch, even over more sincere believers like Ted Cruz who offered less useful political machines.
This anti-democratic tendency and Trump-support caused an alignment of interests again with White Nationalists at the end of Trump’s term. Many Dominionist leaders claimed prophetic knowledge from God that Trump would win the 2020 presidential election, and Biden’s actual victory led many to simply reject the whole election as fraudulent or even Satanic. This election loss prompted many in both movements to converge in the January 6 Capitol Building riot.
The centrality of Donald Trump to late-2010s Dominionism is a significant trend. The George W. Bush presidency also saw a fight against the spread of gay marriage and attempts by states to introduce creationism to public schools, and even Bush himself phrasing US military interventions in the Middle East in explicitly religious terms, but even at the peak of the Second Intifada there was never a serious attempt at pursuing a complete Judaization of Palestine and the Golan Heights or at totally banning Muslim immigration to the United States. Bush was in fact highly sensitive in presentation and rhetoric towards US Muslim sentiment, whereas Trump abandoned the former tactical goal of maintaining majority Republican support among Muslims in order to achieve ideological goals. President Trump appointed federal justices at a rate comparable to influential two-term presidents despite having only one term.
This merger of religion and politics has most recently culminated in the leaked draft supported by Trump’s two Federalist Society appointees of a Supreme Court decision which will overturn Roe v Wade and allow states to criminalize abortion as they did before 1973. In Alito’s decision, he rejects the concept of a constitutional right to privacy and explicitly set the stage for future fights against homosexuality and birth control and more fundamentally the notion that one’s body belongs to oneself instead of to a (divinely-governed) state. This will undoubtedly be the start of a new wave of battles for progressive movements to preserve both the secular democratic state in reformist terms and to organize those most threatened by theocracy (women, religious minorities, LGBT people) to enforce rights of privacy and freedom of worship and the right to a real education.
This piece has been an attempt at providing a historical and political background for an influential and dangerous right-wing tendency. Its growth is not uniform and they have never been a majority. They are smaller now than at the start of this millennium and the decline of their demographic base as well as their mainstream educational and media influence has been a major fear for them, but they still can dominate political coalitions within the Republican Party and thus influence whatever it influences. With the state advantages they wield, there is still a lesson we can learn from them. Dominionists have built their power by directly building institutions of mutual aid and social mobilization, so those who oppose their goals of theocracy and the disempowerment of women must do the same.