An unholy war on the tea party

Many have become unhinged by the interpretive power of a simple idea. In the case of Dominionism, paranoia is fed by a certain view of church-state relations — a deep discomfort with any religious influence in politics: Even if most evangelicals are not plotting the reconstruction of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, they nevertheless want to impose their sectarian views on secular institutions. It is a common argument among secular liberals that the application of any religiously informed moral reasoning in politics is a kind of soft theocracy. Dominionism is merely its local extension.

As always, this argument proves too much, making a Dominionist of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Obama, by this standard, would be a theonomist as well, on the evidence of his Call to Renewal speech in 2006 — a refutation of political secularism.

Such secularism shows a remarkable lack of self-consciousness. Like any ideology, this one has philosophic roots that are subject to argument. Yet secularists often assume their view is the definition of neutrality and thus deserves a privileged public place. The argument that religion is fundamentally illiberal thus provides an excuse to treat it illiberally. Pluralism is defined as the silencing of religious people. Thin charges of Dominionism are just another attempt to discredit opponents rather than answer them — in the same tradition as thin charges of Kenyan anti-colonialism. It is easier, after all, to allege a conspiracy than to engage an argument.

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