WaPo's Lisa Miller Slams 'Dominionism' Fears About Perry, Bachmann As Unfounded

It's not just conservative evangelicals like me who think liberals like Daily Beast/Newsweek's Michelle Goldberg are whipped into a paranoid frenzy over Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann's supposed ties to Christian "dominionism."

Washington Post religion writer Lisa Miller -- no stranger to criticism from NewsBusters -- took to the "On Faith" blog yesterday to tell readers to "Beware false prophets who fear evangelicals."

I've included some excerpts of her piece after the page break (my emphasis in bold italics):


Here we go again. The Republican primaries are six months away, and already news stories are raising fears on the left about “crazy Christians.”

One piece connects Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called “The New Apostolic Reformation,” whose main objective is to “infiltrate government.” Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of “dominionists.”

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The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees. But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians.

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This isn’t a defense of the religious beliefs of Bachmann or Perry, whatever they are. It’s a plea, given the acrimonious tone of our political discourse, for a certain amount of dispassionate care in the coverage of religion. Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they’re Christian. One-third of Americans call themselves “evangelical.” When millions of voters get lumped together and associated with the fringe views of a few, divisions will grow. Here, then, are some clarifying points.

Evangelicals generally do not want to take over the world. “Dominionism” is the paranoid mot du jour. In its broadest sense, the term describes a Christian’s obligation to be active in the world, including in politics and government. More narrowly, some view it as Christian nationalism. You could argue that the 19th- and early 20th-century reformers – abolitionists, suffragists and temperance activists, for example – were dominionists, says Molly Worthen, who teaches religious history at the University of Toronto.

Extremist dominionists do exist, as theocrats who hope to transform our democracy into something that looks like ancient Israel, complete with stoning as punishment. But “it’s a pretty small world,” says Worthen, who studies these groups.
 
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Evangelicals aren’t of one mind. It’s true that in a general election, white evangelicals overwhelmingly vote Republican. But they are an increasingly complex blend of social and fiscal conservatives, and thus, are all over the map in the upcoming primaries. DeMoss, for one, is working to persuade evangelicals to vote for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon. Doug Wead, an insider in the George H.W. Bush White House, who allegedly coined the phrase “Compassionate Conservative,” is spinning for libertarian candidate Ron Paul.

Perry and Bachmann, in other words, can’t just assume the support of America’s evangelicals. And evangelicals, more likely than ever to have friends and relatives who are of other denomination, won’t automatically buy into a narrow world view.

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Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters