Glenn Beck: “I guarantee you the [history] professors at college will have the wrong answer”

Do you want your kids to have a two-week internship in the “historic library of [Glenn Beck’s ) Mercury One?”  You can participate in this internship program with Beck’s studio historian David Barton for $375.

If you want to be part of this Beck-Barton attempt to promote Christian America you can expect to learn things like this:

Mercury One is opening up our library for a hands-on experience to research original historical documents from our incredible collection, providing specialized teaching and instruction, and the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge from our speakers and guest lecturers.

This unique, once in a lifetime experience is two weeks of nonstop projects, research, lectures, and outings for people who want to know more about America’s incredible history, learn about the people directly involved with the founding of our nation, and identify the philosophies and ideologies that shaped our laws and original documents.

We spend our mornings in a classroom-like setting and each afternoon we dig through online resources as well as our unique, original library. We will delve into topics such as:

  • A Biblical Worldview
  • The Truth in History
  • America’s Godly Heritage
  • Early Education in America
  • How the Bible Influenced America
  • American Exceptionalism
  • God and the Constitution
  • Reclaiming the Land

We will research our Founding Fathers, discovering their accomplishments, families, and faith, giving individual presentations at the end of each week.This is a specialized training for 18-25 year old. Apply now for this limited space opportunity. The cost is $375.

All interns are required to provide their own transportation, food and lodging in the Dallas area.

Let me take a guess about how the topics listed above will be taught:

A Biblical World View:  This means that Barton will teach you that the founding fathers upheld a view of the world just happens to be identical to the “world view” of the Christian Right wing of the Republican Party.

The Truth in History:  I am guessing that this means you will be learning some form of providential history.

America’s Godly HeritageYou will learn that all or most of the founding fathers were Christians and that they were trying to build a Christian nation.

Early Education in America:  You will learn that all of the founding fathers were graduates of theological seminaries and Bible colleges.

How the Bible Influenced America:  You will learn that the separation of powers actually comes from the Old Testament and that preachers used the Bible to serve their own political ends.  You may even learn that the use of the Bible to serve political ends is a good thing.

American Exceptionalism: You will learn that America is a “city on a hill.”  It is exceptional because it is the new Israel–God’s chosen people.

God and the Constitution:  Not sure how this one will be taught since God is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Reclaiming the Land:  You will learn about Seven Mountain Dominionism and the need to restore America to its supposedly Christian roots.  In other words, you will learn the same lessons that Ted Cruz learned from David Barton.

Want to learn more about David Barton?  Click here.

For a more nuanced view of all of these issues click here.

 

Revisiting Ted Cruz’s Dominionism

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Ted Cruz, left, speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 26, 2016. 

Earlier this year I wrote a few things that connected Ted Cruz to the Christian political philosophy known as dominionism.  In a piece I wrote for Religion News Service which was published in The Washington Post, I suggested the Cruz’s campaign for POTUS was “fueled by a dominionist vision for America.”  A few months later I wrote a piece for Christianity Today titled “The Theology of Ted Cruz.”  If my e-mail box is any indication, a lot of Cruz supporters were not happy about these articles.

Cruz, of course, did not get the GOP nomination and I moved on to other things.  But this conversation about Cruz’s ties to dominionism will no doubt resurface if he becomes the GOP candidate for POTUS in 2020 or 2024.  If Cruz does run again, Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates and an observer of the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) dominionism that often informs the rhetoric and policy of the Christian Right, will be ready.

In a very thorough and extensively researched report titled “Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight” Clarkson offers an introduction to the dominionist movement and how it is shaping GOP politics.  Clarkson draws on some of my stuff on Cruz and on an excellent book by Florida State University professor Michael McVicar titled Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).  Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home will recall our Author’s Corner interview with McVicar.

Here is a taste of Clarkson’s piece:

All of this was pretty hot stuff and dominionism would no doubt have become more of an issue had Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign lasted longer. But Cruz is 45 years old in 2016 and appears to have a bright—and perhaps historic—political future. He won statewide office on his first try and has benefited from being underestimated. Since arriving in the Senate in 2103, he has made a show of sticking to his principles, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. But following his presidential run, Cruz is now one of the best known politicians in the country and possible heir- apparent to the Reagan revolution. No small achievement for a freshman senator.

Meanwhile Cruz and other national pols comprise the tip of a very large, but hard to measure political iceberg. There are untold numbers of dominionist and dominionism-influenced politicians and public officials at all levels of government and who even after leaving office, shape our political discourse. Roy Moore, the elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been a rallying figure for dominionists of all stripes for the better part of two decades. Most recently, he has led efforts to exempt Alabama from federal court ordered compliance with marriage equality, citing his view of “God’s law.” Moore’s fellow Alabaman, Justice Tom Parker, has been on the court since 2004, and has employed theocratic legal theorist John Eidsmoe as his chief of staff.15 Others at the top of recent American political life have included Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee,16 and Newt Gingrich.17 Other prominent elected officials in the dominionist camp include Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX),18 Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS),19 Sen. James Lankford (R-OK),20 and Rep. Steve King (R-IA).21

Prominent politicians’ involvement in dominionism is certainly the most visible evidence of the movement’s advances over the past half-century, but it’s not the only result. Dominionism is a story not widely or well understood. Because this is so, it is important to know what dominionism is and where it came from, so we can see it more clearly and better understand its contemporary significance.

Read the entire thing here.

 

David Barton at Liberty University

 

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David Barton

Russ Allen did his undergraduate degree in history at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and just completed his M.A. in history from Liberty University where he wrote an excellent thesis on Jonathan Edwards and children.  Yesterday Russ found his way into a David Barton conversation with Liberty University government students and agreed to write something about the experience for The Way of Improvement Leads HomeEnjoy.  –JF

On Thursday afternoon David Barton came to speak at an event at Liberty University. Barton is an acclaimed (and criticized) evangelical author and political activist. He is also the director of Ted Cruz’s “Keep the Promise” super-PAC.

This is not the first time that Barton has spoken at Liberty University. Barton spoke during two convocations in years past and has been a regular guest at the Helms School of Government. The event held on Thursday was sponsored by “Christians 4 Freedom,” a student organization that seeks to “inform and educate Christians on the Bill of Rights.”

The first time that I heard Barton’s name was in a graduate-level history classroom at Liberty University. In that setting Barton was almost unanimously viewed as a model of someone engaging in historical fallacy. His works are discussed only in light of their faults and supplemented with strong scholarly criticism.

Barton’s appearance on Thursday went largely under the radar, at least from my perspective as a student in the Liberty History Department. The History Department did not promote or advertise his talk.  Frankly, I am not sure if they even knew about it. I was invited by a friend via Facebook on the day of the event. I was under the impression that Barton would be speaking to a large group about government and religion, but when I arrived  at the event I found myself sitting right next to Mr. Barton at a conference table with about 25 people in attendance.

Barton was in friendly territory. Most students, a majority from the Helms School, support his ideas. Barton is a very likable guy. I had a personal conversation with him and he offered me well-wishes for my future. As for the discussion, it focused mainly on two key areas:

FirstBarton traced the beginning of his work in history and politics to a research inquiry that he was asked to investigate many years ago. In a quest to discover the cause of the steep decline in SAT scores among American high school students, Barton concluded that this decline began the same year that prayer was removed from public schools. Convinced that this was not a coincidence, Barton began to publicly argue that moral and social decay in America was caused by the removal of “Christian values” from the public sphere.

While I have numerous concerns about Barton’s argument on this front, several are worthy of mention. Anyone who takes an entry-level statistics class knows that “correlation ≠ causation.” While it remains uncertain how Barton concluded that the removal of school prayer directly affected SAT scores, one can only assume that it stems from his preconceived view of America as a Christian nation. He believes that when God is not honored by the country, “bad things happen.”  Along these lines, Barton also suggested that the legalization of abortion is causing global warming.

SecondBarton spoke strongly in support of Ted Cruz’s decision to appoint Carly Fiorina as his running mate and  suggested that her role  in a Cruz presidency will be much more significant than the Vice President’s role in years past. If elected, the Cruz campaign plans to reinstate the VP’s reign over the Senate in the hopes of nullifying the influence of the president pro tempore, who commonly acts in the VP’s absence. This is another interesting development given the history of Cruz’s clashes with the GOP establishment.

Barton also expressed frustration over liberal media outlets that are refusing to report “dirt” on Donald Trump until after the GOP convention in Cleveland. Barton claims that members in the media already possess damning information regarding Trump but want to withhold the material until the general election in order to “sink him” in favor of Hillary. Barton believes that if this information were rightly exposed now, Cruz would easily win the GOP nomination.

After the formal discussion, I had the opportunity to ask Barton if he or Ted Cruz was a Dominionist.  Barton seemed annoyed at the question, insisting that in no way could he (Barton) be linked to Dominionism because he holds a pre-millennial eschatology that affirms that Jesus will come back to gather true believers before a one-thousand year reign of peace. He claims that Dominionism stems from a post-millennial view in which Christians need to reclaim the earth in order to usher in Christ’s second coming.

Barton did, however, confirm his belief in the “Seven Mountains” approach to culture.  He believes that Christians need to influence every aspect of society. His denial of Dominionism, but his embrace of the “Seven Mountains” approach, is a bit confusing, as it seems the word “mountains” implies “dominion.” Barton also insists that Cruz’s silence on the the Seven Mountains approach is a political tactic.

Barton thinks that the use of the word Dominionism to describe Cruz is just a way for liberals to attach an unfavorable label to the Texas Senator. Calling Cruz a Dominionist is the same as skeptics calling Jesus a “glutton and a drunkard (Matt.11:19).” Rather than address the claim that he is a Dominionist, Barton advises Cruz instead to talk openly about liberty and freedom in order to squelch accusations that he is a theocrat.

David Barton’s support at Liberty University should not be surprising. Many of the students and faculty share his concern for the growing immorality that surrounds them. I certainly sympathize with this view. This mutual concern makes Barton’s historical claims understandably enticing for those who are only “casually” involved in the study of history.

However, it seems that there is also a growing number of Barton opponents on campus. They disagree with him not as much for his faulty views of  history, but for his theology. Barton’s belief that the United States is “Christian nation” or that God will judge the country for its sins, is a regurgitated version of the Puritan belief that America is a “City on a Hill.”  Barton’s conviction that God can bestow blessing and wrath on a nation is a deterrent for many young evangelicals who see a problem with comparing the United States to the biblical nation of Israel.

It is unclear how much impact Barton and Cruz have among young conservative evangelicals.  Liberty University’s voting precinct voted 44% in favor of Marco Rubio. Cruz garnered 33% of the vote.  Russell Moore’s placement of Cruz in the “Jerry Falwell wing” of the GOP evidently did not apply to the students at Falwell’s school. With politics, history, and theology woven together so tightly in the Barton/Cruz campaign, it remains to be seen which thread will be strongest among young Christian voters.

Randall Balmer Has My Back on Ted Cruz’s Dominionism

Cruz founders

For some folks who read The Way of Improvement Leads Home the sentiment expressed in the title of this post is a good thing.  For others it might be a bad thing.  Whatever the case, I want to thank Dartmouth’s Randall Balmer for referencing some of my stuff on Ted Cruz in his recent piece at Religion & Politics.

Here is a taste of Balmer’s “The Paradoxes of Ted Cruz“:

The paradox that most intrigues me, however, is Cruz’s ties to evangelicalism. At one level, judging by evangelical politics over the past several decades, that claim is unexceptional. As John Fea, of Messiah College, has written for Religion News Service, one of Cruz’s biggest supporters is the faux historian David Barton, who has fashioned an entire career out of arguing, against overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary, that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Although Barton and his arguments have been widely discredited—he apparently fabricated quotes to buttress his specious claims, so many that Thomas Nelson Publishers recalled one of his books—Cruz has not renounced Barton’s support. The payoff, according to Fea, is that, having asserted America’s Christian origins, Cruz can more credibly spin his campaign yarn about America’s declension from the piety of the founders, a decline that reaches its predictable nadir in Barack Obama’s presidency.

It doesn’t take much imagination to script the altar call for this declension narrative: Return the United States to its “Christian origins” and restore American righteousness by electing Ted Cruz president.

The corollary, and once again one not unfamiliar to those who have tracked the Religious Right over the past several decades, is the doctrine of “Dominionism” or “Christian Reconstructionism.” This ideology, examined nicely in Julie Ingersoll’s recent book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, traces its lineage to the 1970s writings of Rousas John Rushdoony and aspires to replace American legal codes with biblical law. At the outer fringes of this movement, seldom articulated publicly, is the conviction that capital punishment should be administered for such biblically mandated “crimes” as blasphemy, heresy, witchcraft, astrology, premarital sex, and incorrigible juvenile delinquency.

Cruz himself, of course, is politically savvy enough not to be caught articulating such specifics, but there can be little doubt that he falls within the general ambit of Reconstructionism. When he inveighs against the media or complains about the abrogation of religious freedoms, for instance, the underlying conviction is that the media are controlled by diabolical forces and that people of faith are being forced by an evil government to accommodate sinners—by providing business services to gays, for instance, or, in the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk, issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

David Barton Doubles Down on 7 Mountain Dominionism

David Barton runs a very wealthy Ted Cruz super-PAC.  I wrote about the connection between Barton and Cruz here and here.  Barton compares God’s laws (613 in total, he says) for the Old Testament nation of Israel with the government of the United States.

At about 38:30, Mark Cowart, a pastor of the “Church for All Nations” in Colorado Springs, starts talking about the “Seven Mountains of Influence.” Both Cowart and Barton argue that evangelicals have failed to engage the “mountain” of government.  Really?  What has been happening since the rise of the Christian Right in the late 1970s?

Cowart also argues that the American founding fathers belong in Hebrews 11 right alongside Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, etc…

Cowart, who is the new director of Barton’s school of government at Charis Bible College, also relies on Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory and the story of the Black Robe Regiment.  For an alternative Christian take on The Light and the Glory click here.  For our posts on some of the problems with the Black Robe Regiment click here.

By the way, the idea that pastors should be involved in government is something that many of the state governments thought was a bad idea.

On Left-Wing McCarthyism and My “Farcical” Take on Ted Cruz

Cruz founders

A couple of weeks ago a friend called my attention to a Facebook post criticizing my Washington Post article about Ted Cruz’s dominionism.  It was written by Robert Gagnon, a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and, from what I have been able to glean from his Facebook page, an ardent Cruz supporter.  (I could be wrong about his support of Cruz.  I am happy to be corrected).

I have never heard of Gagnon before, but when I looked at his Facebook page I noticed that he is very popular among Christian conservatives for his defense of traditional marriage.   Some of my friends and colleagues (in real life) are friends with him on Facebook.  Since I respect many of the folks who follow him on Facebook, I concluded that I needed to take his criticisms seriously.

Then today I learned that Gagnon and his colleague Edith Humphrey had taken to  Christianity Today to respond to my recent piece, “The Theology of Ted Cruz.” Their essay is entitled “Stop Calling Ted Cruz a Dominionist.” In the essay that compare me to Joseph McCarthy and say that my take on Cruz is “farcical.”

Here is a response to their piece.  Sorry for the bullet points, but I am at a conference this weekend, making it hard to craft something more formal. It looks like Christianity Today is going to give Gagnon and Humphrey the last word on this issue.  I understand why this is the case.  But if they would allow me to respond I will be happy to write something more formal.  Here goes:

  • I share Gagnon’s and Humphey’s (and Robert George–although it’s not clear if the article actually quotes George since there are no quotation marks) concerns about the overuse of the word “dominionism.”  I actually wrote about that here.
  • I agree with Gagnon and Humphrey on the point that Ted Cruz is a strict constitutionalist.  (Who wouldn’t?)
  • When Robert George says (again, is this him or Gagnon and Humphrey?) that Cruz is “not a dominionist; he’s a constitutionalist” I got a bit confused.  I would argue that it is possible to be both.  For example, Glenn Beck, a Cruz supporter who has introduced the Texas Senator at rallies , believes that the Constitution is inspired by God, that Ted Cruz is anointed by God to be President, that God took the life of Antonin Scalia as part of His plan to make Cruz president, and that Cruz will restore the United States to a Christian nation.  Is this a case of guilty by association? Probably.  But when Beck and Cruz appear on the same stage it raises legitimate questions.  Does Cruz also believe all of these things?  Is Cruz willing to denounce or separate himself from Beck’s constitutionalist dominionism even it means possibly losing the support of Beck’s large following?  I seem to remember John McCain denouncing  Rev. John Hagee in 2008.  I also remember Barack Obama denouncing Jeremiah Wright in the same year. Both of these candidates were accused of being “guilty by association” with religious leaders.  Both eventually cut ties.
  • Is religious liberty an issue for Christians right now?  Absolutely.  I am bothered, for example, by last year’s case at Gordon College.  Faith-based institutions that hold traditional views on marriage based on deeply held religious convictions should be not be punished for those beliefs.  The same goes for the various issues related to contraception, Obamacare, and the Little Sisters of the Poor.  This is why I argued in my Christianity Today piece for something akin to a “principled pluralism.”  In order for this kind of pluralism to work we need to figure out some way to live together amid our deepest differences. But, as I also I argued in the CT article, Cruz seldom talks about specific cases where non-Christian groups are facing discrimination. Yes, he opposed Ben Carson’s view that a Muslim could not be President, but at the same time he proposed religious profiling in Muslim communities.  One could make a pretty strong argument that Muslims are facing just as many threats to their religious liberty as Christians.  It would seem that someone as deeply committed to the First Amendment as Cruz would also be talking about these threats.
  • In his interview with Megyn Kelly before the Wisconsin primary (picking up at the 17:40 mark of the linked video), Kelly asked Cruz what he would say to an atheist who felt uncomfortable with other students praying to God at a school function.  Cruz said that an atheist in this situation has the “right not to participate” in the prayer, but “does not have the right to silence everyone else.” It appears that Cruz is suggesting that religious liberty issues should be decided by an appeal to democracy, or the idea that the majority of the people at a school function have the privilege of exercising their religious beliefs regardless of whether or not that exercise violates the conscience of another student. This approach seems to run roughshod over minority rights.  (James Madison had a thing or two to say about this).  I wonder what Cruz would say if the majority of students in the classroom decided to pray to Allah and a Christian student in the class was offended by this.  Would Cruz say that the complaint of the Christian student was the equivalent of a “heckler’s veto?”  I am guessing that Cruz would be screaming bloody murder because this Christian’s religious liberties were violated. Perhaps I am wrong about this.  Whatever the case, I would like to hear Cruz address such a scenario.
  • When Megyn Kelly asked Cruz if his faith informed or inspired his policy, Ctuz dodged the question.  When Kelly asked Cruz general questions about his faith, he stated openly that he is a Christian.  He also said that he is not “running for pastor-in-chief.”  In the interview with Kelly he said that as President of the United States it is not his job to preach, evangelize or tell people that they are going to hell.  This, in a nutshell, is Cruz’s understanding of the separation of church and state.  Ministers have jobs to do.  Presidents have jobs to do. And those jobs are different.  No argument here.  In fact, I think John Winthrop, the first governor of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony and the great defender of his settlement as a “city on a hill,” would have said the same thing.  Winthrop was not a clergyman, he was a political leader.  His job was to govern.  It was the job of the ministers in the colony to preach.  But anyone familiar with the story of 17th-century Massachusetts Bay knows that Winthrop and the clergy worked together–the religious arm and the civil arm, so to speak–in building a civilization that privileged the Puritan’s particular brand of Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that if Cruz becomes President he will start punishing non-Christians. What I am saying is that the claim that he is not going to be a”pastor-in-chief” is different from the practice of employing his religious beliefs to shape public policy, especially if he is working with the model made popular by the Christian Right in the 1980s.
  • I should also add that I have no problem with a faith-informed presidency.  I think that Barack Obama Christian’s faith played a role in his presidency.  Back in 2008, at the Compassion Forum at Messiah College, I listened to Obama lay out, in very specific ways, how his faith would inform his time in office.  Now I want Cruz to do the same and stop hiding behind this “I am not a pastor-in-chief” line.
  • Gagnon and Humphrey suggest that Cruz’s support of Israel is based entirely on “analytical and strategic grounds.”  Perhaps.  But Cruz’s close ties to Larry Huch, a so-called “Hebrew Christian” who pastors a large megachurch in Texas, makes me wonder if there is a theological basis for his strong commitment to Israel and his desire to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which he is always quick to describe as the “once and eternal capital of Israel.”  See my post on this here.
  • Cruz needs to answer for his connections to David Barton.  Over the last couple of weeks Barton has been talking openly about Seven Mountains Dominionism.  He is opening schools at Bible colleges around the country to teach this view. Let’s not forget that Barton runs a Cruz super-PAC.  This means that Barton, an outspoken dominionist, is raising a lot of money to get Cruz in the White House.  Guilty by association?  Perhaps.  Only Ted Cruz can set the record straight. Let’s remember that this guy is running for President of the United States.  I think he needs to come clean on his connections to people like Barton and Beck.
  • And what about Rafael Cruz?  His sermons and public statements sound a lot like dominionism to me.  He believes in the “end times transfer of wealth.”  He believes that his son is anointed to be President.  Let’s just say he is controversial.  Ted says that his father has been a great influence in his life.  Here is what Gagnon and Humphries write about Rafael: “One might not be comfortable with the style of worship or preaching, or agree with the biblical interpretation, the prosperity gospel, or eschatological scenarios. What is preached, however, amounts to an encouragement to his congregation to determine their gifts (administrative or spiritual), to be active and pleasant in their work places, and to influence society for good.”  This is their way of dismissing some of these out-of-the-mainstream beliefs. I guess the readers of our respective CT articles can decide.
  • And what about carpet-bombing and Cruz’s failure to uphold a consistent ethic of life?  Again, you can be the judge.  Cruz is fond of talking about killing terrorists and “carpet-bombing.”  Other times he says he will protect women and children.  As someone who believes in the dignity of all human creation, this does not sit well with me..
  • I am also bothered by Cruz’s Christian nationalism.  He believes that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and must be “restored.”  I still want to know what he means by this since there are some historical problems with such an assertion.
  • I am also uncomfortable, as a Christian, with the way Cruz mixes politics and faith.  I will stand by my conviction that politics do not belong in churches.  Neither do nationalistic displays.  (And this does not mean that I do not love my country!)  When Megyn Kelly asked Cruz to explain his God and country language, Cruz said that when he is on the campaign trail he focuses his message on “jobs, freedom, and security.” This seems disingenuous to me.  As Kelly notes (and as I referred to in my CT piece), Cruz manipulates scripture to suit his political ends, he brings his political team into churches to show people how to go to the polls and vote [presumably for him], he talks about leading a spiritual awakening that he subtly connects to his winning of the presidency, and he even told his supporters to “strap on the full-armour of God.”  (This phrase comes from Ephesians 6:11-12. It is worth quoting the verse in full in order to illustrate my point: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  I will let you draw your own conclusions on this one).
  • Ted Cruz stands unapologetically for many things that are important to evangelical Christians and to the God they worship and serve. At the same time he appeals, like his political rival Donald Trump, to our fears, anxieties, and idols.As we think about Cruz’s candidacy, let’s remember that “perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), even when it seems that our country is on the edge of “the abyss.” Let’s also remember to be “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7). After all, as Christians, it is God, not the government or its leader that is the source of the “peace which surpasses all understanding.” And, perhaps most importantly, let’s remember that the United States, while a great and exceptional nation, is not the Kingdom of God. As the Apostle John reminded us, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21).

So where does this lead us?  Gagnon and Humphrey want us to ignore the issues I have raised in my two articles on Cruz.  I want Cruz to address these issues.  These questions will not go away, especially if Cruz manages to take the GOP nomination away from Trump at a contested convention.

 

“The Theology of Ted Cruz”

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Here we go.

This piece just appeared at Christianity Today.

On the Sunday morning before this year’s South Carolina primary, Dr. Carl Broggi, the pastor of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, turned over his pulpit—emblazoned with the Protestant watchword “sola scriptura,” to GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz. I am not sure if it is fair to call Cruz’s speech that morning a “sermon.” The candidate did not open up a biblical text and carefully explain its meaning in the way that I am sure Dr. Broggi had been trained to do at Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Cruz did mention a few verses from the Bible during his message, but they were applied less to the spiritual lives of the souls in attendance that morning and more to the character of the United States of America as Cruz understands it. Let’s face it—this was a stump speech.

The Texas senator’s message was lifted from an old playbook. For nearly 400 years Americans have been conflating the message of the Bible with the fate of the country. Ever since the Puritan John Winthrop said that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a “city on a hill” Americans have seen themselves as God’s chosen people—a new Israel with a special destiny.

Read the entire piece at Christianity Today.  And thanks to CT editors Mark Galli and Richard Clark for inviting me to write it and companion piece to Michael Horton’s recent essay on Trump.

David Barton and “Guilty By Association”

David Barton says that Ted Cruz is not a dominionist.  He seems pretty upset about The Drudge Report‘s recent links to an Orlando newspaper that ran an article on Cruz drawing heavily from my Washington Post piece on his theo-political vision.

Here is an article from World News Daily entitled “David Barton Defends Ted Cruz From “Religious Extremist Innuendo.”  (I should add the World News Daily is the publisher of Barton’s discredited The Jefferson Lies.

Here is a taste:

“They are trying to make something out of this,” said Barton. “Unfortunately that’s part of what goes into any campaign, the yellow journalism, the innuendo, the kind of making the noise about, ‘Look how terrible this is.’…”

“There are at least 500 million people in the world who are Pentecostal Christians,” said Barton. “Even if he was doing this, this is a major part of the Christian community. It’s being shown in a pejorative way to make it look like something weird and strange. It’s not a big deal because of how large this group of people is.”

Barton condemned any use of “guilt by association” tactics on the Right, by anyone, and was equally critical of similar attacks that might be levied against Trump, Marco Rubio and other candidates.

“Look at Rubio’s funders; so many of them are supporters of gay marriage,” said Barton as an example. “So do we read into that that Rubio is a pusher of gay marriage? No, that’s not a fair read. You’ve got 330 million people in the United States. Are we going to look at every voter who might vote for Trump, or Rubio, or Cruz, or for Kasich and say, ‘Well, look at what this voter believes, that’s ridiculous.’

“Unless the candidate himself personally associates himself and makes that a part of what he does, the guilt by association is ridiculous. Where do you stop and at what level do you call association?”

Of course Barton, and most Christian conservatives, did not seem to have a problem with using the “guilty by association” argument when he claimed that Barack Obama was not a Christian because he was a member of Jeremiah Wright’s United Church of Christ congregation.

Watch:

Rod Dreher and the Dominionism of Ted Cruz

Cruz Iowa

I have taken a lot of heat from Ted Cruz supporters for my recent Religion News Service post (published in The Washington Post) about the candidate’s connection to dominionism and the so-called “end-times transfer of wealth.”  If the e-mails filling my mailbox are any indication, Cruz supporters think I am engaging in the logical fallacy of “guilty by association.”  Perhaps this is the case.  Cruz has never mentioned “Seven Mountain Dominionism” or the “end-times transfer of wealth” on the campaign travel.  But as Rod Dreher, blogger extraordinaire at The American Conservative points out, I think it is at least time for Cruz to address some of the theological and political ideas put forth by his father, Rafael Cruz, and others in the evangelical world with whom the candidate has connections.  

If Barack Obama had to explain the views of Jeremiah Wright, then Cruz needs to explain the views of his father, Larry Huch, Glenn Beck, and David Barton.

The last time I checked, Cruz does not believe in the separation of church and state because, as he rightly notes, the phrase is not mentioned in the Constitution.  He is a strong defender of Christianity in public life and believes that a candidate’s Christian faith should inform his or her politics. So I think it is fair to say that Cruz himself has opened a door to questions about his religious approach to politics.

Here is a taste of Dreher’s post at The American Conservative:

Shoot, I’m a Christian and I don’t get this at all. That video is up on Drudge now. It was taken four years ago at a Dallas-area Pentecostal megachurch, New Beginnings, pastored by a husband and wife team, Larry and Tiz Huch. Everybody’s talking about how, in his appearance at the church, Rafael Cruz, father of Ted and a Pentecostal evangelist, preached about Dominionism, and how, in his view, it is God’s will that Christians take the property of non-Christians, and rule over them. John Fea wrote about this in the Washington Post:

Anyone who has watched Cruz on the stump knows that he often references the important role that his father, traveling evangelist Rafael Cruz, has played in his life. During a 2012 sermon at New Beginnings Church in Bedford, Texas, Rafael Cruz described his son’s political campaign as a direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

The elder Cruz told the congregation that God would anoint Christian “kings” to preside over an “end-time transfer of wealth” from the wicked to the righteous. After this sermon, Larry Huch, the pastor of New Beginnings, claimed Cruz’s recent election to the U.S. Senate was a sign that he was one of these kings.

According to his father and Huch, Ted Cruz is anointed by God to help Christians in their effort to “go to the marketplace and occupy the land … and take dominion” over it. This “end-time transfer of wealth” will relieve Christians of all financial woes, allowing true believers to ascend to a position of political and cultural power in which they can build a Christian civilization. When this Christian nation is in place (or back in place), Jesus will return.

Rafael Cruz and Larry Huch preach a brand of evangelical theology called Seven Mountains Dominionism. They believe Christians must take dominion over seven aspects of culture: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government. The name of the movement comes from Isaiah 2:2: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains.”

Now, it is unfair to Ted Cruz to assume that everything his father believes, he also believes. But this stuff is so extreme that he has to talk about it publicly, and either defend it or separate himself from it in a clear way. What’s striking to me about that video is that this megachurch has no cross above its stage, but rather a menorah. Again, don’t blame Jews for this; I’m sure most Jews are as mystified by that as most Christians would be.

Read the entire post here.

It Looks Like *The Drudge Report* Found My Ted Cruz/Dominionism Article

e3b01-cruz-at-value-voters-summit-2015

Well, it looks like it may be one of those days.

When I got to my office here at Mount Vernon this morning I had several e-mails from some conservative friends and acquaintances informing me that my piece on Ted Cruz and dominionism was linked at the conservative website “The Drudge Report.”

The link comes from an article in the East Orlando Post.

Here is a taste of that article:

The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back. In an editorial published in the Washington Post on Feb. 4, on the heels of Cruz’s victory in the Iowa GOP primary, John Fea of the Religion News Service published an op-ed piece noting the frequent references Ted Cruz makes in stump speeches to his father “the traveling evangelist” Rafael Cruz.   “During a 2012 sermon at the New Beginnings Church in Bedford, Texas, Rafael Cruz described his son’s political campaign as a direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy,” Fea wrote. “The elder Cruz told the congregation God would anoint Christian ‘kings’ to preside over an ‘end-time transfer of wealth’ from the wicked to the righteous. After this sermon, Larry Huch, the pastor of New Beginnings, claimed Cruz’s recent election to the U.S. Senate was a sign he was one of these kings.”   Fea noted that Rafael Cruz and Larry Huch preach a brand of evangelical theology known as Seven Mountains Dominionism. The name comes from Isaiah 2:2, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the Lord’s house shall be established on top of the mountains.”   Fea commented that Rafael Cruz believes Christians must take dominion over seven aspects of culture: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government.   By identifying Ted Cruz as the “anointed one,” Rafael Cruz has designated his son as what he believes is God’s choice to lead an evangelical coup d’etat, such that, as Fea notes, “Cruz’s campaign may be less about the White House and more about the white horses that will usher in the God’s Kingdom in the New Testament book of Revelation, Chapter 19.”    

Hold on tight.

Ted Cruz: Politician or Originalist?

Politician.

After watching George Stephanopoulos interview Ted Cruz it is apparent that Cruz is placing politics and his own vision for America over the United States Constitution. Cruz is a master of diversion. Notice how he does not directly answer a lot of Stephanopolous’s questions.

Is Barack Obama really a “lame-duck” president?  At what point does a POTUS become a “lame duck?”

Cruz says that he would filibuster any Obama appointee because “the people” should decide on who will replace Scalia.  When Stephanopolous pointed out that the people elected Obama, Cruz’s said “that was three years ago.”  What?  Doesn’t the Constitution say that the President serves a four-year term?

Someone help me out here.  I understand that the Senate has every right to reject an Obama nominee.  But is the fact that the POTUS is a “lame duck” and thus should not be making  an appointment so late in his term a legitimate reason for rejecting any nominee he sends to the Senate?

Kevin Kruse of Princeton University makes an important point in this satirical tweet:

Again, Cruz is placing politics and his moral vision for America over the Constitution, the document he claims to vigorously defend.  This leads me to believe that Cruz may be motivated by something other than strict constitutionalism.

What Exactly Do Ted and Rafael Cruz Want to “Restore?”

Here is Rafael Cruz talking to a Dr. Michael Brown, host of the show The Line of Fire.

In the first part of the interview, Rafael describes how Ted Cruz became convinced that God was leading him to run for President of the United States. Some might think that such a decision-making process is crazy.  As a Christian myself, I have no problem with potential candidates praying to God for wisdom about whether or not to run for office.  In fact, I encourage it.  I do, however, have my doubts when people say that God has anointed them to hold this or that office.  Ted may not be saying this (at least not yet), but Rafael and his friends have made it clear that the Texas Senator is anointed by God.

In the second part of the interview, Rafael Cruz shares his conversion story.  It is a powerful and moving story of redemption.  I take it seriously.

But in the last part of the interview, which begins about the 18:00 minute mark, Rafael starts talking about “restoring America.” He uses the terms “restore,” “restoring,” “restored” or the phrase “go back” at least five times in the span of about three or four minutes.

So I ask again: what exactly do Ted and Rafael Cruz want to restore?  Well, Rafael makes it clear when he says, on multiple occasions, that America needs to be restored back to its Christian foundation.

This raises two more questions:

  1.  What does this restoration look like? What would it look like to “go back?”  Brown is clearly a Cruz fan, but to his credit he did push Rafael on this point near the end of the interview.  Rafael did not really answer the question. Perhaps his answer would look something like this.
  2.  Was the United States really founded on Judeo-Christian principles?  That is a very contested issue.  I tried to give it an honest treatment in my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction?  

David Barton, the Seven Mountains, and Ted Cruz

Cruz IowaI guess I have known this all along, but this whole Ted Cruz-dominionist conversation has made it abundantly clear.  Many conservative evangelical Christians believe that David Barton is a historian.  As I have said many times at this blog and elsewhere, he manipulates the past in order to advance his political agenda.  But recently the political, or should I say theopolitical, agenda he is promoting has become more clear to me.   Barton needs America to be founded as a Christian nation because it provides historical justification for the dominionist-agenda behind the so-called “Seven Mountains” strategy that he endorses.

(Here is Barton explaining and openly identifying with the Seven Mountains strategy).

Barton is on the Board of Directors of an organization called Providence Foundation.  The organization was co-founded by Mark Beliles.  In 1989 Beliles co-wrote a book with the Providence Foundation’s other co-founder, Stephen McDowell, titled America Providential History.  I cite this book in chapter 4 of my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Beliles is retiring from Providence Foundation after thirty years with the organization, but he is not done with his work promoting Christian nationalism and the Seven Mountains strategy.  According to his retirement announcement, he will “focus on the passion of his heart, which primarily is to coach leaders in America and around the world to bring Godly transformation of nations in all seven mountains of influential areas of culture.

There is no doubt that Barton is part of this seven mountains movement to turn the United States into a Christian nation.

As I wrote here, Barton runs a Ted Cruz super Pac.  In this video he is seen praying over Ted Cruz.  Rafael Cruz has alluded to the even mountains strategy (though not by name) on numerous occasions.

I don’t know if Ted Cruz embraces this dominionist movement.  He has not spoken about it directly.  But all the evidence–both in terms of Cruz’s stump speeches and the people who “fuel” his campaign–seem to point in this direction.  I think there is enough evidence here to justify the claims I have made in my recent Religion News Service piece in The Washington Post.

I am hoping that someone from ABC news is savvy enough to ask him about this in tonight’s debate.

Addendum:  I have received a lot of comments and response to my piece–both positive and negative.   Some of my fellow evangelicals reject the idea that Cruz is influenced by dominionism.  A few have argued that Cruz’s religious language about taking back the culture is just rhetoric. In reality, they argue, he is really just a strict constitutionalist.

This is a fair criticism, but we also need to remember that Rafael and Barton believe that the Constitution is a Judeo-Christian document that may even be inspired by God. At the very least, Ted Cruz believes that the the Constitution also reflects Christian ideas.  I think this is important information.

 

Has God Anointed Ted Cruz to be President?

As a Christian, I am glad that Ted Cruz is a man of prayer.  I am glad to hear that Ted Cruz sought God’s guidance before he decided to run for president.  I seem to remember that Barack Obama did the same thing.  So did George W. Bush.  I am guessing that a lot of my readers might feel uncomfortable with a President or a presidential candidate praying to God for wisdom and guidance.  I am not.

But this goes a bit too far for my taste.

I think what we are seeing in this video counts as a form of dominionism.

Ted Cruz: The Anointed One

I had never heard of Rafael Cruz before his son, Ted Cruz, became a United States Senator. If the media is correct (and I am not sure that they are), Rafael is a pretty big deal in certain sectors of Pentecostalism.

The video is obviously edited to make a political (and perhaps theological) point, so please keep that in mind. (View it critically).  But this pastor, Larry Huch of New Beginnings Church in Bedford, Texas, does seem to imply that Ted Cruz will be one the “kings” who will somehow transfer wealth from the “wicked” to believing Christians.  The video of David Barton and others praying over Cruz and “anointing” him implies that the Texas Senator is receiving this anointing.  I’m not sure if that is really what is going on, or if it is just simply the members of Cruz’s circle praying for him.

If all this is true, then Barton is also involved with this kind of dominionism, which is also called “Seven Mountains Dominionism.”  Listen to Barton talk about this so-called Seven Mountains strategy.  He uses phrases like “take the culture,” “shape and control…nations and the world,” and “occupy” the culture.  His Christian nationalism goes beyond simply historical argument.

I have not paid a lot of attention to this kind of dominionism here at The Way of Improvement Leads Homebut this kind of Reconstructionism seems to explain Cruz and Barton’s support of Cruz.

Heck, this stuff makes Donald Trump look sane and electable.

If you want some context on this kind of dominionist theology see Michael McVicar’s Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism.  

Relax. Levitical Law is Not Coming Anytime Soon

The chorus of writers defending Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann against charges that they want to create a theocracy continues to be heard from the pages of national newspapers, magazines, and influential blogs.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen rips on liberal journalists, politicians, academics, and pundits who have shown their ignorance of American Christianity on this front:

Such groups as Campus Crusade for Christ, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Feminists for Life have been characterized as dominionist fronts. Most recently — and hilariously — New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer postulated that Christian Reconstructionism might have been behind the recent anti-public union demonstrations in Wisconsin. After all, Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, has argued that the Bible forbids public employees from organizing.

It is hard to figure out why no one in the liberal media seems to mind, say, that one of President Obama’s spiritual advisors, the progressive evangelical Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine, also has a political agenda — income redistribution and greater social spending — that he says is influenced by his Christian values.

Many Jews believe that the rabbinic concept of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world,” is a mandate for bettering society at large. Yet when conservative-voting Christians seek to implement their values in the public square, using the language of their faith, they’re feared like carriers of bubonic plague.

The opponents of the religious right would gain a bit more credibility if they didn’t feel compelled to manufacture a vast conspiracy called dominionism and throw around words like “theocracy” every time the GOP threatens to win an election. You know what they sound like? Their opposite number from the 1950s: the John Birch Society.

Meanwhile, over at Religion in American History, historian Matthew Sutton sums it up well in a post entitled “Fear This!”  Sutton writes:

…I am much more afraid of the Ralph Reeds and Karl Roves of the GOP than I am of dead Reformed preachers.  Of course when Bachmann pushes a proposal through Congress reinstituting Levitcal law, the US Supreme Scout upholds such legislation as Constitutional, and we start stoning people in the streets, we will all know that I was wrong.

Lisa Miller: Evangelicals Do Not Want To Take Over the World

Lisa Miller, writing at the Washington Post, debunks the liberal fears that Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are “dominionists” who want to take over the world and start a theocracy.  Miller tries to debunk three myths:

1.  Evangelicals do not generally want to take over the world.

2.  Evangelicals aren’t of one mind.

3.  Christians conservatives are not more militant than ever.

Here is a taste:

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 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 Michele Bachmann. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of “dominionists.” 

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. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world. (Some extremist Christians leveled a similar charge against Obama in 2008, that he was the antichrist aiming to take over world governments.)

As I have said before, it is unlikely that I would ever carry water for Perry or Bachmann, but I do have a message for my liberal friends:  Please try to understand American religion before you engage in political bashing. 

Setting the Record Straight on Francis Schaeffer and Dominionism

While I was away on vacation there was a lot of commentary in the evangelical blogosphere about Ryan Lizza’s article on Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann.  Lizza claimed that Michelle Bachmann was influenced by the late evangelical intellectual Francis Schaeffer, who was influenced by Rousas Rushdoony, a “dominionist” who believed that Old Testament law should be installed into American law.  According to this logic, Bachmann, if elected president, will bring Old Testament law to bear on the United States government and work toward the creation of a theocracy.

I never thought I would defend Michelle Bachmann, but Lizza’s did not do his homework on the history of American evangelicalism.  I could go on, but I will let Barry Hankins, a historian at Baylor who has written the definitive scholarly biography of Schaeffer, set the record straight.  Here is a taste:

The larger point here is the degree to which a reporter for a reputable and influential national magazine can be so out-of-touch with evangelicalism — one of the two most influential religious movements in America, the other being Roman Catholicism. Calling Schaeffer exotic, and interpreting him through the lens of a figure he fawned over for about ten minutes, is akin to forgetting who Billy Graham is. I am not the only one who has argued that Schaeffer was second only to Graham when it comes to influence on evangelicalism during the second half of the twentieth century. Moreover, Lizza’s interpretation of Schaeffer ignores that the “guru of fundamentalism” also influenced a whole generation of young people who became Christian scholars, artists, musicians, teachers, lawyers, business people, moderate evangelical pastors, and even a few activists on the evangelical Left. Citing his influence on Dominionism, then running that influence backward to imply Schaeffer or Nancy Pearcey were Dominionists is akin to arguing that since Ho Chi Minh cited the Declaration of Independence when proclaiming Vietnam’s independence in 1945, Thomas Jefferson must have been a communist.