12 August 2011

Michele Bachmann and Dominionism

Here’s the transcript of an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air Programme from a couple of days ago. It is rather interesting and illustrative because it demonstrates how Dominionism has crept into the American political scene. Does Michele Bachmann know who Abraham Kuyper is? Probably not…but his theology is shaping her and the entire contemporary political debate.

These folks, the interviewer as well as the journalist she’s interviewing are unbelievers, so from our standpoint they don’t get things quite right either, and it seems sometimes they’re being a bit alarmist.

But on the other hand…they’re probably not scared enough. I’ve included the link as well as a few comments interspersed in the text.

The Books And Beliefs Shaping Michele Bachmann

August 9, 2011

Rep. Michele Bachman officially threw her hat into the presidential ring on June 27. Since then, the Minnesota congresswoman has emerged as a Republican front-runner, riding on a wave of Tea Party support and national media appearances.

New Yorker Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza spent four days with Bachmann and her staff aboard their campaign jet in mid-June. On Tuesday's Fresh Air, he talks about his unprecedented access to the congresswoman, whom he profiles in the Aug. 15, 2011, edition of The New Yorker. The piece looks at the writers, beliefs and books that Bachmann has specifically mentioned as major influences in her life.

"To understand her, you have to understand the movement that she came out of," Lizza tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Her early ideological roots were formed by opposition to abortion ... and she's always been concerned with social issues, the culture war issues. ... She takes her Christianity very seriously. She comes out of a religious evangelical conservative movement that is very much concerned with developing a biblical worldview and applying it to all corners of one's life."


There’s the little watchword phrase. I doubt this reporter knows where it comes from, but the ‘applying it to all corners of life,’ is Kuyperian, derived from the Dutch Reformed Theologian Abraham Kuyper. His theology has influenced many and its failures have manifested themselves in modern Dutch society, South African Apartheid and the American Christian Right. His thinking applied to different contexts has proved both ecclesiastically and socially disastrous.

On the one hand, applying the Bible to all of life is of course a completely Biblical sentiment. We too want to apply the Bible to all of our lives, but what Dominionists/Sacralists mean by this is something quite different. I continue to argue they’re embracing an alien theology and philosophy and then use this language to then try and Biblically justify what they’re doing and go hunting through the Bible trying to find textual support for their agenda.

Fresh Air:

For a number of years, Michele Bachmann's personal website had a list of books she recommended people read. ... I was looking over the list and noticed this biography of [Robert E.] Lee by [Steven] Wilkins. [I had] never heard of Wilkins and started looking at who he was. And frankly couldn't believe that she was recommending this book. ... It is an objectively pro-slavery book and one of the most startling things I learned about her in this piece.

- Ryan Lizza


Steve Wilkins is an ex-PCA minister and pretty well known in those circles. I spoke to him many years ago. Part of the Federal Vision movement, he left the PCA before he was forced out, and joined with Doug Wilson’s CRE (Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals). This small denomination is committed to Sacralism. It pretty much dominates who they are.

While I have some sympathies with what these folks were trying to argue for with regard to the doctrine of salvation, covenant etc… they are hardliner Dominionists. In fact their form is extreme. They are Theonomists, Judaizers who believe the Mosaic Law is not only for the New Covenant Age, but is a-covenantal, for all nations, not merely those (and there was but one) in covenant with the Lord. Like the Galatians they believe in the Gospel applied through the lens of the Mosaic Law.

They are Postmillennialists believing the world will become Christianized in the future and under a unified cultural if not political order.

And Wilkins represents a particular nuance within the movement. They’re advocates and apologists for the Confederacy. They have a specific narrative regarding American History in which the South was right. They weave in several other themes regarding Agrarianism v. Industrialism, and some have even embraced other unsustainable historical views (like the Celtic Southern Thesis) regarding the formation of the United States and the cultural differences between North and South.

Hence Wilkins, Doug Wilson and others are apologists for Southern Slavery. Their Revisionist views have spread and influenced many within the Christian Homeschool movement though few are aware of its roots and what exactly these men are all about.

Normally these men are pretty coy about revealing the full scope of their theology and agenda when they stand before the mainstream Christian audience. You have to dig a little into their books and movement to find out what they’re really about.

There are nuances to this movement. You have someone like Gary DeMar and his extremely popular American Vision website which stands for some of these ideas…the Nationalism (though they hilariously deny it, just visit their website), Theonomy, Dominionism, and Postmillennialism, though they would break ranks with Wilkins and others over the Agrarian narrative and some of the theological issues.

American Vision is very influential in the Christian Homeschool movement. In fact that’s an understatement.

Another would be Vision Forum, and Doug Phillips, whose father Howard Phillips has run numerous times as a candidate for the Constitution Party (formerly the US Taxpayers party). They advocate the Confederate Agrarian theology but also reject Wilkins’ theology regarding Covenant etc…

I’ve also written about this elsewhere. Email me if you’re interested. This particular strain has conflated Abraham Kuyper’s ideas with other thinkers such as RJ Rushdoony and several 19th century Southern Theologians, like RL Dabney, J Thornwell, and BM Palmer.

Fresh Air:

The Influence Of Francis Schaeffer And Nancy Pearcey

Bachmann's road to being born again started when she was in high school. She then went to Winona State University in Minnesota, where she met her husband, Marcus. In 1977, the Bachmanns watched a series of movies that were produced by the evangelical Francis Schaeffer called How Should We Then Live? Bachmann has cited the series on the campaign trail, telling an audience in Iowa that it was a profound influence on her life.

"[In the series, Schaeffer] takes the audience through the entire history of Western culture through Roe v. Wade," says Lizza. "The beginning chapters of this movie are all about where Christianity took wrong turns. For Schaeffer, it's the Enlightenment. It's the Italian Renaissance. It's Darwinism. It's secular humanism. It's any point in history where he believes man turns away from God and turns away from putting God at the center of life."


With Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer is definitely one of the great theological villains of the post-War era. His immense influence has been nothing but destructive and now dominates American Evangelicalism. Those who are familiar with them would immediately reject my claims to being Christian since I repudiate his thinking.

At present, Schaefferism is Orthodoxy.

The film series is worth watching. It assumes the Sacralist narrative throughout. Schaeffer assumes Christendom is a Biblical concept and ignores and glosses over the fact that Roman Catholicism, monasticism, the Papacy and the entire Medieval Order was man and especially the church turning away from God.

It’s very poor history, rather silly and naïve interpretations and pure propaganda. I can’t tell you how many different churches I’ve attended have used this film series in Sunday School.

But in 1973, Schaeffer's focus began to shift from Western art and culture to abortion and the dangers of genetic engineering.

"Schaeffer decides that all of his philosophy and all of the teachings that he had been teaching about the dangers of moving away from a Christ-centered world — everything he warned about — is now coming to fruition with the Roe decision," says Lizza. "That the government is, in his terms, being taken over by an authoritarian elite. ... I emphasize this to show that this is the movie that Michelle Bachmann says changed her life. This is the movie that got her radicalized on the abortion issue. To understand her, I think you have to understand Schaeffer a little bit."


It is such a completely Americo-centric narrative and anyone outside the United States can see this. This view, and so much of Theonomy and Dominionism springs from American cultural frameworks and influences.

Not exactly applying the Bible to all areas of life is it? Instead of taking every thought captive…it’s the Bible being made captive to Americanist philosophical presuppositions.

Fresh Air:

Bachmann was also influenced by a student of Schaeffer's named Nancy Pearcey, a well-known creationist and an advocate of Dominionism, the view that Christians are biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.

"Michele Bachmann has mentioned Pearcey's book [Total Truth] as one that was important to her," he says. "[The book] is in line with the Schaeffer-ite view of taking your Christian faith and making sure that it permeates all parts of your life. The key thing here is Christians should not just be go-to-church-on-Sunday Christians. Their religion should permeate all aspects of life."


Chuck Colson ripped off Francis Schaeffer and entitled one of his books… ‘How “Now” Shall We Live?

But as is often the case with celebrity authors, Colson doesn’t really write most of his own books. He employs professional writers and made use of Pearcy. Her most recent book I’ve mentioned before…’Saving Leonardo,’ which is a Sacralist driven appeal to defend Western Constantinianism.

I’ve argued that based off Sacralism’s definition of Christianity, people who aren’t Biblically Christian can be included under the label. Though the Bible knows nothing of this third category of man…the Cultural Christian…this actually drives much of their thought and has completely confused the Church and warped and deformed the whole concept of the Kingdom of God.

And if Leonardo was a Christian in some sense…then these folks struggle to deny that the Norwegian mass killer Breivik wasn’t. He identified himself as a Christian in the very way these folks define it when they wish to ‘claim’ someone for their cause. Obviously they don’t want to ‘claim’ Breivik. But oddly they do wish to ‘claim’ the Crusaders and many others whose actions differ little from Breiviks.

Of course this whole way of thinking about history… marshalling people into your camp… is completely off-base and belies a very oversimplified view (I cannot overstate that) of history. And often it’s not just reductionist but plain dishonest.

Fresh Air:

The Influence Of John Eidsmoe

In 1979, Bachmann enrolled in the first law school class at Oral Roberts University. Students at Oral Roberts were required to sign a "code of honor" attesting to their Christian beliefs and commitment.

"It's a law school that taught its students biblical law," says Lizza. "[The school said] 'You need to understand the Bible, you need to understand biblical law and that's what the United States Constitution is built upon. And as a legal mind, you should understand when American law is and is not consistent with biblical law.'"

While at Oral Roberts, Bachmann worked as a research assistant for one of the professors, John Eidsmoe. She has brought up his influence on the campaign trail, telling one audience in Iowa this year that he "taught me so many aspects of our godly heritage."

Eidsmoe's 1987 book, Christianity and the Constitution, tells Christians that "they need to get politically active and they need to get involved with the legal system and they need to make sure American law is more biblically based," says Lizza. "That's what the book ends on, a clarion call for his students to get involved. ... Eidsmoe is someone who believes American law should be based on the Bible. He believes that the United States is a Christian nation, should remain a Christian nation and that our politics and our law should be permeated by one's Christian faith."


Eidsmoe is not as well known to me, but I certainly know the name. Look him up. It just continues to support my argument that this is not Christianity, but a different religion garbed with Christian symbolism and language. It’s amazing how this theology has permeated the entire Evangelical scene. Dutch Reformed influences…at a Charismatic school like Oral Roberts?

Transformationalism is Orthodoxy.

In the end, this entire movement and way of thinking, this misreading of the Bible on a massive scale is every bit as dangerous and destructive as Roman Catholicism and any other false form of Christianity. To put it simply these are wolves in sheep’s clothing. And like Romanism these folks have a vibrant political agenda. It has already led to the deaths of untold multitudes and if given more power…the blood will flow.

I’m certainly not trying to spur anyone to political activism, for there is nowhere to turn and we don’t want to fall into the same trap…thinking that the Kingdom is dependent on human politics instead of the gospel.

But, it is imperative that we oppose these people and warn others and I for one will happily cast a vote against them.

I will not fall for their Abortion trump card…if you don’t vote for them, you’re voting for abortion. Well, even when they’re given power they’ve done precious little to overturn abortion though their tactics often make a mockery of our legal system and help to undermine it.

Theologically what they’re doing to men’s souls is worse than abortion and I’d rather vote for my pet dog than see Bachmann or Rick Perry (another of this crew about to enter the race)as Caesar.

Fresh Air:

Bachmann's Politics

The first time Bachmann got involved in politics was in 1993, when she founded a publicly funded charter school in Stillwater, Minn., with some other parents.

"They signed a charter saying they were not allowed in any way to include a religious agenda at this school and they very quickly violated that and built the school around a Christian sectarian agenda to the point where parents ... became very alarmed." says Lizza. "The school district stepped in and warned them that they were going to lose their charter, and eventually Bachmann and another person who were spearheading this were forced off the board and forced off the leadership of that school."

Bachmann later ran for a seat on the Stillwater school board. She lost but won her first race a year later, in the Minnesota State Senate. In 2006, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Lizza says that her message is shaped largely by the audience she's speaking with at any given time.

"This spring when she was doing some less headline-making visits to Iowa and speaking at churches — sort of under-the-radar wooing of religious leadership in Iowa — she knows how to speak that language and she knows how to draw on her history at Oral Roberts and her born-again experience," says Lizza. "She knows how to tell all of those stories so that an evangelical audience will bond with her. ... She's transitioned. She's transitioned into a candidate that talks much more about debt and spending and all of the issues that are important to the Tea Party right now."


Tax dollars building the kingdom… and an example of their often surreptitious methodology. They worry about people affecting their children but then have no qualms about employing similar tactics.

Again, a patent example of…the gospel is not enough. We have to grab pagan kids and try to turn them into Cultural Christians in the hope that somehow that will someday make them into Biblical ones.

Interview Highlights

On Bachmann's government benefits

"For someone whose ideology is really defined by a strong dislike for government, if you look at the way she's supported herself over the years, it's mostly through the government. After law school, she works at the IRS, she's there for four years, then in 1992 she starts taking in foster children and does that from 1992-1998 and is paid by the state to do that. She then works briefly for a local charter school and then she starts running for office and becomes first an employee of the state of Minnesota and then a congresswoman, an employee of the federal government. ... Her husband is a psychologist [who] has two counseling clinics that like any other medical professional [clinic] takes lots of money from Medicare and Medicaid — and then on top of that, has received generous farm subsidies for a farm he owns in Wisconsin."


I could go on quite awhile about this, but it is ironic that many who cry the loudest against government have often benefitted the most from it. In fact not only do you see this on a small-scale level with people like Bachmann, but you see it on a macro-scale with the hordes of Defense Contractors, Energy Companies, and multinational corporations whose dollars shape and dominate American policy. Tax dollars are then spent to promote their agendas and consequently line their pockets with profits. The Military-Industrial Complex pushes the United States to develop the tools of war, the death machines which they then build. These folks pocket the money and then use a bit of it to make sure they vote people in, who keep it coming. It’s a vicious and incredible circle...truly the War-machine, the American Wehrmact.

And so often you’ll find these industries give money to Christian think-tanks and organizations who like blind fools employ a heretical theology to propagandize the Church into supporting death, greed, covetous riches and Empire... all the while calling it the Biblical Worldview.

It is judgment from God and a manifestation of Antichrist, the prostituted church aiding and abetting (riding) the Beast, the deified world empire.

Bachmann is but a pawn and not a very bright one at that…but marketable to the deceived ecclesiastical community.

Fresh Air:

On Bachmann's selection of a Robert E. Lee biography by J. Steven Wilkins as a book recommendation during her state Senate campaign

"For a number of years, Michele Bachmann's personal website had a list of books she recommended people read. It was called 'Michelle's must-read list.' I was looking over the list and noticed this biography of Lee by Wilkins. [I had] never heard of Wilkins and started looking at who he was. And frankly couldn't believe that she was recommending this book."

"Wilkins has combined a Christian conservatism with neo-confederate views and developed what is known as the theological war thesis. This is an idea that says the best way to understand the Civil War is to see it in religious terms, and [that] the South was an Orthodox Christian nation attacked by the godless North and that what was really lost after the Civil War was one of the pinnacles of Christian society. This insane view of the Civil War has been successfully injected into some of the Christian home-schooling movement curriculums with the help of [Wilkins]. My guess is this is how she encountered the guy at some point. ... She recommended this book on her website for a number of years. It is an objectively pro-slavery book and one of the most startling things I learned about her in this piece."


With Sacralism, suddenly chattel slavery becomes the gospel and a right decent thing.

War is peace, freedom is slavery….work sets you free right?

Everything and most of all the gospel is turned on its head. Instead of giving your cloak, you cling to it and spit on the other guy because he’s lazy and mismanages his money. Instead of turning the other cheek, you strike back and kill and destroy.

Christ is transformed…He becomes Baal the god of storms and war.

There’s no objective discussion regarding history. I would argue the North and South were both wrong. Neither was promoting Christianity. I have no chip in the game so I can talk about it honestly.

But since I have ancestors who fought in the war (on both sides), I’m supposed to get energized and passionately defend what my ancestors fought for. Rather than cling to my heritage with pride I will instead rejoice that the Gospel has set me free!

We can’t divorce ourselves from our cultural contexts and the history that goes along with that…but when we become Christians, that doesn’t make us into Super-Americans, rather it means that there’s now an antithesis. It’s no longer America v. The World, which is a pagan way of understanding life, a clash of the Sacralisms.

Instead we understand the world is filled with Christians and non-Christians. The Kingdom which we belong to transcends the kingdoms of this world. By placing our hearts and allegiances in the lap of these world-kingdoms…we become traitors to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

There’s more to the interview. This was just an excerpt put up on the NPR website. I know, many will argue this justifies the claim that NPR is somehow liberal. Well, I’m sorry but the mainstream media is negligent if it won’t report this. The public ought to now what is shaping the thought of some of these Conservative candidates. I will say, NPR does a pretty decent job of dealing with Left-wing folks as well. They may not sound quite as alarmist when covering them, depending on the level of extremes, but they do cover the story. It is understandable that folks who are not Christian would find Dominionism to be a little alarming.

Let’s face it…they’re trying to take over the world and believe God has instructed them to do so. I can see why folks might get a little nervous. Perhaps they’ve read a little history, something Bachmann and her ilk have failed to do.


Mark said...

I recently moved into her Congressional district in Minnesota. You can probably imagine how painful and distressing the search for a church home has been.

Thanks for all the time and energy you put into this. You're not alone.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's both interesting and encouraging. What are people saying about her?

Sorry I took so long to respond. I'm afraid I haven't had any time as of late to be online.


!!! I still can't post comments under my own username. Thanks Google.!!!!

Eliyahu BenYsrael said...

Thanks brother for posting this info. The brother on my fb page should read this. I appreciate it--keep up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed that you refer to Kuyper often as a major influence on modern "American Christianity". I know nothing about him or his writings, but I see that Kindle books have a number of his writings for under a dollar. Do you have any recommendations regarding which one(s) would give his basic ideas, especially those which influenced Schaeffer and Dominionism? Or does M. Kline critique him well enough I could start with his books (and which to start with)? I enjoy your blog but am constantly reminded how little I understand about the influences of culture and politics, etc. on the church.

Linda L.

Protoprotestant said...

Great questions. I would probably start with the Stone Lectures. It's not a large book and a pretty easy read and in those lecture he touches on the main planks of his system and thought.

Kuyper isn't well known outside of Reformed Circles. Even his main idea of Common Grace is not something discussed by mainstream Evangelicals.

Like Kline I believe in Common Grace but Kuyper's take is quite different. It's almost as if he views Common Grace as a means to join with the unbeliever in the building of the Kingdom.

Kline certainly gets into some of this in Kingdom Prologue. I'm guessing you're not afraid to tackle difficult books. Kingdom Prologue is a tough read but worth it and quite rewarding.

If you're new to Kline you might try his last work... God, Heaven and Har Magedon. It's a good summary of his thought. I don't go along with his Framework Hypothesis but that's only at the beginning.

Kuyper's ideas sometimes called Neo-Calvinism grew out of a already culture-minded Dutch Reformed Theology. The current was already present but his views did cause some divisions.

Hoeksema's Protestant Reformed Churches are very hostile to him. I appreciate some of their views but I do believe their complete rejection of Common Grace to be a mistake. I think some of it though ends up being a hang-up on the term itself. I think in general we have a similar view of culture. I appreciate them on some other points...and on some others I really disagree with them. But if you're looking for critiques of Kuyper you'll definitely find them in their circles.

Don't despair. It's all a complicated mess but if you keep reading your Bible you'll be able to apply it to what you encounter. I'm definitely advocating a minority view and anyone looking for a more full-orbed understanding will have to read widely.

Please feel free to keep commenting or asking questions. Thanks for writing.

Protoprotestant said...

If you go hunting for the Stone Lectures it may be listed simply as Lectures on Calvinism.