Progressive Movement Building

What are the basic building blocks of a
successful social movement?

  • A discontented group of politicized persons who share the perception that they have common grievances they want society to address;
  • A powerful and lucid ideological vision linked to strategies and tactics that have some reasonable chance of success;
  • The recruitment of people into the movement through pre-existing social, political, and cultural networks;
  • A core group of trusted strategic leaders and local activists who effectively mobilize, organize, educate, and communicate with the politicized mass base;
  • The efficient mobilization of resources that are available, or can be developed, to assist the movement to meet its goals;
  • An institutional infrastructure integrating political coordination, research and policy think tanks, training centers, conferences, and alternative media.
  • Opportunities in the larger political and social scene that can be exploited by movement leaders and activists;
  • The skillful framing of ideas and slogans for multiple audiences such as leaders, members, potential recruits, policymakers, and the general public.
  • An attractive movement culture that creates a sense of community through mass rituals, celebrations, music, drama, poetry, art, and narrative stories about past victories, current struggles, and future successes.
  • The ability of recruits to craft a coherent and functional identity as a movement participant.

(This list is based on the work of Goffman, Zald, McCarthy, Meyer, Gamson, Snow, McAdam, Benford, Klandermans, Johnston, Ewick, Silbey, Polletta, and many other scholars)

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“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to freedom and yet deprecate agitation…want crops without plowing. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Frederick Douglass


To build a movement for progressive social change, we need to reach across boundaries and build coalitions based on mutual respect and accountability. Ideally, we will engage in cross-sector work. Under the banner of a broad global human rights movement, these are some of the various sectors we need to support in a collective and collaborative manner:

Issues & Sectors

Global Human Rights Movement
Civil Rights Peace,
Foreign Policy, & Defense
Civil Liberties
Race, Ethnicity, & Nationality Economic Fairness, Class, & Work Gender & Sexuality
Environmental Sustainability Basic Human Needs
(Food, Housing,
Health Care)
Public Education
Students & Youth Communities of Faith & Spirituality Labor Unions
Cross-Sector Work

Coalition-Building is Crucial!

Bernice Johnson Reagon has discussed the practical problems of coalition work in terms of risk and discomfort. She built a metaphor around her problems breathing due to being at a high altitude for the first time at a 1981 meeting of women in Yosemite National Forest:

“You got one group of people who are in strain—and the group of people who are feeling fine are trying to figure out why you are staggering around, and that’s what this workshop [on coalition politics] is about this morning.”

“I wish there had been another way to graphically make me feel it because I belong to the group of people who are having a very difficult time being here. I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing.”

      –Bernice Johnson Reagon

Using the Human Rights Framework: http://www.buildinghumanrights.us/

Methods & Infrastructure of
Collaborative Social Movements

International Social Movement Organizing
National Organizing
Community Based Organizing Individual Political Acts State & Regional Organizing
Direct Service Strategy
Development
Issue Advocacy
Movement Philanthropy & Donors Intellectuals and Scholars Visual and Performing Arts
Legal Advocacy & Defense Think Tanks &
Watch Groups
Conferences & Retreats
Training and Technical Assistance Applied Research and Analysis Leadership Development
Networking &
Coalition Building
Collaborative Electoral & Legislative Work Media and Publishing

 

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“…the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.”

                                –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We need to reach out across the divides within our movement, but also reach out to a broader audience using a variety of methods and media.

Outreach to External Groups

General
Public
Membership
Groups
Electoral & Legislative Corporate
Media
Alternative Media & Corporate Media Speakers Invited to Address Meetings National & State Political Party Builders Obtaining News Coverage
Leaflets & Flyers Information Placed in Newsletters Congressional Membership Organizations Op-Eds
Rallies & Events Tabling at Meetings & Conferences Political Coalitions & Networks Letters to the Editor

Based in part on Mapping the Progressive Movement by Jean Hardisty and Ana Perea.

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“While many progressive people agree that we must work against racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc., I’m not sure that we always understand how intricately these oppressions are linked and how deeply they are connected to our very survival. For instance, do white lesbians and gay men truly understand that fighting against racism is key to our freedom? As we pursue liberation, we will have to build politics of connection from those glimpses we get of our shared destiny with other oppressed people.”

“Sometimes I feel our work is like celestial navigation. Before directional instruments were invented, sailors navigated the seas by fixing their compass on the North Star; however, if they fixed on the wrong star, then everything thereafter was off course. We are working against years of a society fixing on the wrong star. This nation has built all its institutions and policies from the starting point of a fundamental lie: that certain groups of people are inferior to others and hence should be subordinated to them. Every direction taken from this fundamental lie puts us off course, and group after group gets lost. If one begins with the lie that people of color are inferior to white people, then it makes equal sense that women are inferior to men. And so it goes. It is our work to fix upon the truth: that all people are of equal worth and deserve justice.”

“We must do this work as though our lives depend on it. Because they do–all of them, no matter what sex or race or sexual identity or class. There must be justice for all of us or there will be peace for none.”

                                        –Suzanne Pharr

Clarifying Basic Principles

While the focus of progressive movement-building is now on creating large organizations “to scale,” yet another of the movement’s greatest challenges is being neglected: We are undecided on the larger principles that underlie our work for social justice. Many people don’t like to do this “big picture” thinking. They prefer results-oriented activism and practical solutions. And they are correct that larger principles must be tied to people’s everyday concerns and identifiable, attainable goals.

But to be successful, mass organizing must be informed by visionary principles as well as nuts-and-bolts techniques. Most bold new policy proposals grow out of the everyday work that activists in submovements do on various issues. These proposals–for example, national healthcare, full rights and services for immigrants, or replacing the racist criminal justice system–are not the polished, poll-tested, slightly left-of-center ones increasingly attractive to Democratic Party centrists. Indeed, they may seem fringe and far out of the mainstream. But they have their roots in real material conditions.

What we lack are the overarching principles to tie these proposals together. In the 1960s and ’70s progressives generally agreed that government had a responsibility to defend the weak or temporarily weak, protect individual rights, provide a reasonable standard of living and regulate private enterprise to protect the public from rampant greed and criminal behavior. Battered by the right’s relentless assaults on these core principles, progressive movement activists today do not have a coherent vision. Instead, we are driven by a vague sense of what a better society would look like, a recognition of how times have changed and persistent despair as we fight one defensive battle after another.

It is therefore essential that we address several fundamental questions right now: What is the role and responsibility of government? How can the racial imbalance of our movement’s leadership be corrected? What role should religion play in public life? How should progressives respond to globalization? And what social issues should we identify as “bottom line”? As principles that respond to these questions emerge, we must not allow political expediency to trump creativity. The voices of people of color, and young people and women of all races must be explicitly sought out. Funding may facilitate this discussion, but it will not in itself produce a dynamic vision. Think tanks alone will not develop these principles, and framing and messaging will not substitute for them. The process of drawing out larger principles must be an organic one: a step-by-step process of slowly creating broad consensus. Here, we can learn from the right’s success with active listening.

While the challenges we face are considerable, they are not insurmountable. But we must get moving so that when the tide of public opinion turns in our direction, we are not caught flatfooted, with a movement badly in need of reform and lacking the very basics needed to seize the moment and go forward. The right was ready for the backlash of the late 1970s. We must be ready for the coming backlash against the outrages of the past twenty-five years.

Jean Hardisty & Deepak Bhargarva

Wrong About the Right (The Nation, October 20, 2005)

Chip Berlet: Social Movements Need an Infrastructure to Succeed

 Jean Hardisty: My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Progressive Movement Building

Featured Allies & More Resources

For more resources:

 

http://www.buildinghumanrights.us/
http://www.researchforprogress.us/  –  http://www.organizedwealth.com

Trump, Right-Wing Populist Demagoguery, and Bigoted Violence

What’s Going On?

Right-wing Republicans, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz,
Fox News, Talk Radio, the Koch Brothers, the Tea Parties,
the Patriot movement, the Oath Keepers, the Oregon Standoff,
the New World Order conspiracy theories,
Obama is a Muslim?

It’s not one big conspiracy folks, but there are linkages and processes that are as old as the Presidency of Andrew Jackson
and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War.

Here is more bad news…even if Trump loses, the toxic bigotry he spews is a form of “scripted violence” that encourages angry people to harm and perhaps kill the scapegoated targets he identifies slyly as enemies of the “real” Americans: Angry White Men

How the Rhetoric of Right-Wing Populism
with its “Producerist” Conspiracy Theories
Fuels a Bigoted Right-Wing Juggernaut
Promoting White Nationalism

Available in these formats:

A Full Slide Show on Right-Wing Populism & “Producerist” Conspiracism:
As Web Pages (html)
MP4 VideoDownloadable PDF File

A Single-Page Chart
A Set of Connected Charts




The Trump Collection Landing Pages:


Progressive Security and Safety:
Threats from Right-Wing fanatics spurred on by demagogic political rhetoric have turned into isolated acts of violence against progressives. Pick up your self-defense homework here.

Ted Cruz, the Christian Right, and Dominionism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Read more about it!

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

The Democratic Party and the
Democracy Alliance are Neither

The Democratic Party is not democratic, and is not interested in progressive social change.

The Democracy Alliance raises funds secretly, won’t disclose to whom the funds go, and refuses to let journalists and scholars see the highly-touted Rob Stein PowerPoint that purports to explain how the right took power. That’s democracy?

Most of the funding from the Democracy Alliance goes to Democratic Party hugging policy wonks, not building a progressive social movement organizing for actual civic participation for social change.

I will be posting a chronological bibliography showing that the liberal claims about the Democracy Alliance are empty rhetoric. The Right took power by building a complex infrastructure.

The complete right-wing network strategy was outlined by progressive, liberal, and even some conservative journalists and scholars starting in the late 1970s.

Here are the main components of how the Right took power:

  • National Think Tanks
  • State Policy Institutes
  • Training of young conservative journalists and scholars
  • Funding of strategic and tactical mass media
  • Funding of national and regional conferences where researchers, ideologues, activists, politicians, and funders could meet each other and develop tactical projects.
  • Funding of national and grassroots social movement activism and SMOs—designed to put pressure on the Republican Party to move it to the Right. (See Scholzman 2015)

This all followed the Powell Memo outline, but was built organically by numerous organizations and individuals over 20 years.

So let’s talk about progressive movement building.

Resources for Challenging the
Right-Wing Juggernaut

Social movements should pull politicians and political movements toward them. It should NEVER be the other way around.

The Obama campaign learned from decades of Democrats losing elections that with a strong infrastructure, lots of resources, a mass movement mobilization, and a clear vision, progressive campaigns can win. But as progressives who welcome an Obama Administration, we can’t rest on our laurels, because the nature of our democracy is a constant struggle over power. The Political Right in the United States has not vanished, they just lost one election. They are already planning their comeback.

The U.S. Human Rights Network observes, “human rights are protected through building social movements.” That has been the clear message of progressive social movements throughout U.S. history, and we should pause and recall some of our past victories and moments of strength:

  • The movement for the abolition of slavery in the 1800s
  • The struggle to gain the vote for women
  • The organized labor union movements of the early Twentieth Century
  • The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s
  • The Student Rights Movement
  • The Women’s Movement of the 1960s-1970s
  • The Environmental Movement
  • The movement to secure equal rights for the LGBTQ community
  • The movement against globalizing corporate power.

Since the election of Ronald Reagan who took office in 1980 we have a practical demonstration that human rights can be undermined through building right-wing backlash counter-movements. The Christian Right is simply the largest movements in this network.

Central to the conservative plan was their understanding that social movements pull politicians and political movements toward them, not the other way around. Social movements are often involved in politics, but they step outside the limits of the electoral and legislative system to use other means ranging from demonstrations to civil disobedience and beyond.

Conservative strategists studied how the Labor Movement had yanked the Roosevelt Administration into crafting a social safety net in the 1930s. They studied how the Civil Rights movement had whacked the Democratic Party in the north into pulling away from the segregationist demands of the southern Democratic Party “Dixiecrats.” So conservatives decided to build a right-wing social movement to pull the Republican Party to the right. It worked.

Now we have a chance to put the country back on track toward progressive social change, but only if we have learned from history.

Starting in the 1970s, many sociologists rejected the idea that militant political and cultural activists were engaged in irrational collective behavior, and instead began studying social movements as collections of people with complaints who develop a plan to make the larger society respond to their needs. Since then there has been a tremendous number of studies on what it takes to build a strong social movement.

Chip Berlet: Social Movements Need an Infrastructure to Succeed

 Jean Hardisty: My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Progressive Movement Building

Featured Allies & More Resources

Ted Cruz, the Christian Right, and Dominionism

 

“The Christian Right wants to take dominion,” noted sociologist Sara Diamond, but it also wants to work within “the existing political-economic system, at the same time.” The broader the Christian Right stretches as an electoral coalition, the more obvious it becomes that some of its key leaders want a theocracy rather than a democracy. According to  Diamond, “Largely through the impact of Rushdoony’s and North’s [Reconstructionist] writings,  the concept that Christians are Biblically mandated to ‘occupy’ all secular  institutions has become the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.”

The Table of Contents is arranged in the order of a study guide

Author Chip Berlet,curator of Research for Progress, was co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism and the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. He has researched Right-wing movements for over 30 years, and written numerous scholarly and popular articles and book chapters.

Table of Contents


Current Discussion of Christian Dominion in the 2016 election

Several current articles have raised the issue of Ted Cruz and “Dominionism.” And also on the different types of Christianity being represented by various Republican candidates.

The articles:
John Fea, “Ted Cruz’s campaign is fueled by a dominionist vision for America” (COMMENTARY)

John Ward, “Rubio’s supporters are the future of evangelicalism. But will they vote?”

Warren Throckmorton, “John Fea on Ted Cruz’s Dominionism”

Still Misleading America About Thomas Jefferson
History News Network
by John Fea, 
February 7, 2016

Who is Larry Huch and What Does He Have to Do With Ted Cruz?
John Fea, February 6, 2016 

For evangelical voters, Rafael Cruz may be Ted’s best apostle
Jonathan Tilove, Austin American Statesman, July 31, 2015

Useful Reliable Background Information

Note that the information and analysis in this older articles may not represent the current views of the authros.

Michelle Goldberg

A Christian Plot for Domination?” Michelle Goldberg, 2001/08/14

Sarah Posner

The Christian right’s “dominionist” strategy, Sarah Posner, Salon, 2011 08/21

Frederick Clarkson

When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right, Frederick Clarkson, Report, Political Research Associates, 2016/01/12

The Rise of Dominionism
REMAKING AMERICA AS A CHRISTIAN NATION
2005/05/12, Frederick Clarkson, Report, Political Research Associates

Rachel Tabachnick

The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism

More on the Seven Mountains, comments provided by Rachel Tabachnick

The “Seven Mountains” concept is like a simplified and condensed version of the Worldview Documents of the Coalition on Revival. Several leading New Apostolic Reformation apostles were involved in the Coalition on Revival including C. Peter Wagner and Dennis Peacocke.

The Seven Mountains campaign was launched 2006/2007 by New Apostolic Reformation Apostles Lance Wallnau and Os Hillman. It built on the foundations of the internationally-promoted “Transformations” series of movies which facilitated the teaching of the New Apostolic Reformation’s version of spiritual warfare and spiritual mapping.

The launching of the 7 Mountains campaign included a movie and other media materials with the claim that a divine mandate had been given simultaneously in 1975 to Bill Bright and Loren Cunningham and revealed to Francis Schaeffer a few months later.

The movies and subsequent “Transformation” organizations around the world have been instrumental in shifting emphasis from saving souls to “taking territory.”

Since 2007 the 7 Mountains meme has spread far beyond the New Apostolic Reformation and its leadership. For example, it has been the focus of the National Day of Prayer and is the framework for organizations that are not explicitly New Apostolic Reformation.

http://www.7culturalmountains.org
This is Os Hillman’s site including version of 7 Mountains movie

http://www.amazon.com/The-Seven-Mountain-Prophecy-Revolution/dp/1599792877
Johnny Enlow wrote this widely used text on meaning of the7 Mountains.

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/wallnau-dont-say-dominionism-least-not-front-media

Following the 2011 media exposure, Wallnau and Hillman hastily hosted and publicized interviews denying that their7 Mountains mandate is about “dominionism” and warning their audiences to use terms like “influence” when speaking in public. Behind the scenes they emphasize the need for stealth. Hillman warns in his book Change Agent, “Kingdom solutions sometimes need stealth solutions so that the secular world can accept them.”

 

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Many articles on Dominionism and the Christian Right can be found on Talk to Action, especially by authors Rachel Tabachnick, Bruce Wilson, Frederick Clarkson, and Chip Berlet.

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Background from within the
Dominionist Movements

“Let’s Take Dominion Now,” C. Peter Wagner

C. Peter Wagner, Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World

Following the brief period of mainstream press exposure in late summer and early fall of 2011, New Apostolic Reformation leaders tried to downplay what they meant by “dominion.” Most of the November 2011 issue of Charisma Magazine was dedicated to a response to the sudden media exposure, but after the spotlight was gone C. Peter Wagner wrote the following article:

“Why You Must Take Dominion Over Everything”

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Criticism from within Christianity

Deception in the Church

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Inside the Christian Right Dominionist Movement That’s Undermining Democracy

by Chip Berlet

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have all flirted with Christian Right Dominionism, but there’s lots of misinformation about just what that means.

Dominionists want to impose a form of Christian nationalism on the United States, a concept that was dismissed as eroding freedom and democracy by the founders of our country. Dominionism has become a major influence on the right-wing populist Tea Parties as Christian Right activists have flooded into the movement at the grassroots.

At the same time, legitimate questions have been raised about whether or not potential Republican presidential nominees Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, or Sarah Palin have moved from a generic form of Christian Right Dominionism toward the more totalitarian form know as Dominion Theology.

Clueless journalists and crafty Christian Right pundits have mocked the idea that Dominionism as a religiously motivated political tendency even exists. Scholars, however, have been writing about Dominionism for over a decade, some using the term directly, and others describing the tendency in other ways. Many articles on Dominionism can be found on Talk to Action, especially by authors Rachel Tabachnick, Bruce Wilson, Frederick Clarkson. Several of the authors who pioneered the discussion of Dominionism have written for the Public Eye Magazine.

Dominionism is a broad political impulse within the Christian Right in the United States. It comes in a variety of forms that author Fred Clarkson and I call soft and hard. Fred and I probably coined the term “Dominionism” back in the 1990s, but in any case we certainly were the primary researchers who organized its use among journalists and scholars.

Clarkson noted three characteristics that bridge both the hard and the soft kind of Dominionism.

  • Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe the United States once was, and should again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.
  • Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
  • Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, believing that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.

At the apex of hard Dominionism is the religious dogma of Dominion Theology, with two major branches: Christian Reconstructionism and Kingdom Now theology. It is the latter’s influence on the theopolitical movement called the New Apostolic Reformation that has been linked in published reports to potential Republican presidential nominees Perry, Bachmann or Palin. All three of these right-wing political debutantes have flirted with Christian Right Dominionism, but how far they have danced toward the influence of hard-right Dominion Theology is in dispute. It would be nice if some “mainstream” journalists actually researched the question.

“While differing from Reconstructionism in many ways, Kingdom Now shares the belief that Christians have a mandate to take dominion over every area of life,” explains religion scholar Bruce Barron. And it is just this tendency that has spread through evangelical Protestantism, resulting in the emergence of “various brands of `dominionist’ thinkers in contemporary American evangelicalism,” according to Barron.

The most militant Dominion Theologists would silence dissenters and execute adulterers, homosexuals and recalcitrant children. No…seriously. OK, they would only be executed for repeated offenses, explain some defenders of Christian Reconstructionism. Even most Christian Right activists view the more militant Dominion Theologists as having really creepy ideas.

Much of the controversy over the issue of Dominionism is caused by writers who use the term carelessly, often conflating the broad term Dominionism with the narrow term Dominion Theology. Some on the Left have implied that every conservative Christian evangelical is part of the Christian Right political movement; and that everyone in the Christian Right is an active Dominionist. This is false. Some critics even state that the Christian Right is neofascist. Few serious scholars of fascism agree with that assessment, although several admit that if triggered by a traumatic societal event, any contemporary right-wing populist movement could descend into neofascism.

Advocates of Dominion Theology go beyond the democracy eroding theocracy of Dominionism into a totalitarian form of religious power called a “theonomy,” in which pluralistic democracy and religious tolerance are seen as a problem to be solved by godly men carrying out God’s will. Karen Armstrong calls Christian Reconstructionism “totalitarian” because it leaves “no room for any other view or policy, no democratic tolerance for rival parties, no individual freedom.” Matthew N. Lyons and I call Christian Reconstructionism a “new form of clerical fascist politics,” in our book Right-Wing Populism in America, because we see it echoing the religiously based clerical fascist movements that existed during World War II in countries including Romania and Hungary.

According to Fred Clarkson:

Reconstructionists believe that there are three main areas of governance: family government, church government, and civil government. Under God’s covenant, the nuclear family is the basic unit. The husband is the head of the family, and wife and children are “in submission” to him. In turn, the husband “submits” to Jesus and to God’s laws as detailed in the Old Testament. The church has its own ecclesiastical structure and governance. Civil government exists to implement God’s laws. All three institutions are under Biblical Law, the implementation of which is called “theonomy.”

Christian Reconstructionists believe that as more Christians adopt Dominion Theology, they will eventually convert the majority of Americans. Then the country will realize that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely codicils to Old Testament biblical law. Because they believe this is God’s will, they scoff at criticism that what they plan is a revolutionary overthrow of the existing system of government. Over the past 20 years the leading proponents of Reconstructionism have included founder Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, David Chilton, Gary DeMar, and Andrew Sandlin. Kingdom Now theology emerged from the Latter Rain Pentacostal movement and the concept of Spiritual Warfare against the literal demonic forces of Satan. It has been promoted by founder Earl Paulk as well as C. Peter Wagner, founder of the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

For many, President Obama and the Democratic Party are among these “demonic forces.” This has real world consequences.

In 2006 former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris told thousands of cheering Christian Right activists that beating the Democrats in the upcoming elections was a battle against “principalities and powers,” which many in the audience would hear as a Biblical reference to the struggle with the demonic agents of Satan. Harris (who played “ballot bowling” in Florida to elect George W. Bush in 2000) told the audience at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington DC that she had studied religion in Switzerland with the godfather of the Christian Right, theologian Francis A. Schaeffer. Her speech there, which I witnessed and wrote about, qualifies her as a Dominionist.

In 2004 Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, another Dominionist, oversaw the election apparatus giving his favored candidate George W. Bush a boost into the Oval Office.

Religion scholar Bruce Barron explains that “unlike the Christian Right, Reconstructionism is not simply or primarily a political movement; it is first and foremost an educational movement fearlessly proclaiming an ideology of total world transformation.” According to sociologist Sara Diamond, Christian Reconstructionism spread the “concept that Christians are Biblically mandated to `occupy’ all secular institutions” to the extent that it became “the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.”

William Martin is the author of the 1996 tome With God on Our Side, a companion volume to the PBS series of the same name (Martin and I were both advisers to the PBS series). Martin is a sociologist and professor of religion at Rice University, and he has been critical of the way some critics of the Christian Right have tossed around the terms “dominionism” and “theocracy.” According to Martin:

It is difficult to assess the influence of Reconstructionist thought with any accuracy. Because it is so genuinely radical, most leaders of the Religious Right are careful to distance themselves from it. At the same time, it clearly holds some appeal for many of them. One undoubtedly spoke for others when he confessed, `Though we hide their books under the bed, we read them just the same.’

Martin reveals that “several key leaders have acknowledged an intellectual debt to the theonomists.” The late Christian Right leaders Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy “endorsed Reconstructionist books” for example. Before he died in 2001, the founder of Christian Reconstuctionism, R. J. Rushdoony, appeared several times on Christian Right televangelist programs such as Pat Robertson’s 700 Club and the program hosted by D. James Kennedy.

“Pat Robertson makes frequent use of `dominion’ language,” says Martin. Robertson’s book, The Secret Kingdom, “has often been cited for its theonomy elements; and pluralists were made uncomfortable when, during his presidential campaign, he said he `would only bring Christians and Jews into the government,’ as well as when he later wrote, `There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world.’ ”

Martin also pointed out that Jay Grimstead, who led the Coalition on Revival, “brought Reconstructionists together with more mainstream evangelicals.” According to Martin, Grimstead explained “`I don’t call myself [a Reconstructionist],” but “A lot of us are coming to realize that the Bible is God’s standard of morality…in all points of history…and for all societies, Christian and non-Christian alike….It so happens that Rushdoony, Bahnsen, and North understood that sooner.”

Then Grimstead added, “there are a lot of us floating around in Christian leadership–James Kennedy is one of them–who don’t go all the way with the theonomy thing, but who want to rebuild America based on the Bible.”

So let’s choose our language carefully, but let’s recognize that terms such as Dominionism and Theocracy, when used cautiously and carefully, are appropriate when describing troubling tendencies in the Christian Right that are helping push the current political scene toward confrontation and intolerance.