And God blessed them, and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28, KJV)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away… (Revelation 21, KJV)
Big words and complicated concepts of Christian evangelicals. The most interesting part of these ideas is their eschatology—their view of the “end time.” Dispensationalists believe that true Christians will be caught up to Heaven to be with Christ—the so-called “rapture.” On Earth the Great Tribulation will occur, in which one of every two people will die from famine, the “beasts of the earth,” and a bloody world war. At the end of this seven-year tribulation, Christ and raptured Christians will return to Earth, where Jesus will establish his Kingdom and rule for a thousand years—a millennium. Thus, dispensationalists are also pre-millenarists (i.e., Christ appears before the millennium).
Bearing in mind that there are many versions both of dispensationalism and dominionism, what is the difference between the two ideologies? Well, in terms of eschatology, dominionists see themselves as co-operating with God in building his Kingdom on Earth. When that Kingdom is finally triumphant, presumably after a thousand-year period, Christ will appear and usher in “a new Heaven and a new Earth.” Thus, dominionists are post-millenarists (i.e., Christ comes after the millennium, which is the handiwork of Christians who have wrought a political and social revolution).
The “Seven Mountain” dominionists see seven areas in which modern Christians must become supreme: government, education, the media, arts and entertainment, family, and society. The dominionists who are “reconstructionist” have a vision of what this would look like:
…society would be reconstructed so that the male-headed family and local church fulfill the roles that currently belong to the government, which would have the authority only to protect private property and punish capital offenses. Families and churches, as the cornerstones of the reconstructed society, would implement Mosaic law, with Christ as king over what would have become a Christian nation. Without government welfare, churches would carry the responsibility of aid to the poor, and without public schools, families would be responsible for their own children’s education. The economy would operate without any government regulation, meaning present laws requiring the integrity of consumer goods, protecting workers’ rights, and disallowing exploitative financial practices would no longer be in effect. Because in a reconstructed America Christians would have brought God’s kingdom to earth through the implementation of Mosaic law, these protections would not be necessary (from “The Quiet Rise of Christian Dominionism,” by Keri Ladner in the Christian Century, Nov. 1st issue).
Dominionist Christians, then, are the driving force behind today’s evangelical political movement in the United States. They want to abolish or restrict welfare programs, homeschool their children, and funnel the nation’s wealth into the hands of an elite class that has “God’s favor.” They want to impose on Americans their morality: no sex before marriage, no abortion, and a reversal of the Women’s Liberation Movement so that men can once again be supreme in business, education, and the family.
We Quakers, like the dominionists, want to reform society; but our goals are exactly the opposite of the dominionists. We want to use government to help the poor. We want to strengthen the public schools. We want to see a more equitable distribution of wealth in the country. We want women to be true equals of men in society. As regards sex, marriage, and abortion, Friends may have varying views; but our general tendency is to oppose restrictive laws and mores in the relation between the sexes.
And now, a disclaimer. I have greatly simplified my brief analysis of dispensationalism, dominionism, and Quakerism. Many are the objections that could be raised to my account of these movements. There are many types of dispensationalists, dominionists, and Quakers. But I do think that my central thesis is correct: the dominionists and the Quakers have very different religious and political views. We are not likely to find a common meeting ground.
My sources for this article are Wikipedia (English teachers may sigh), Keri Ladner’s article in The Christian Century, and a somewhat haphazard surfing of the internet. I hope Old Chatham Friends will post their comments, especially criticisms. (Compliments are welcome, too.)
~ Richard Russell
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