A few years ago, the Rapture was all the rage. If you listened to liberal reporters and commentators, you would think that Christians spent most of their time sitting around on front porches or in vehicles, waiting to be Raptured into space. This was an eye-opener for me, as I had been going to church since I was maybe three years old, and had never heard of the Rapture. It made me wonder where the secular press gets its information about Christians.
Now it’s Dominionists. Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times–that’s roughly like being Captain of the Titanic, but some people pay attention to him anyway–has gotten a lot of notice with a list of questions that he poses to Republican presidential candidates, collectively and individually. There is much to be said about this. For example: Why only the Republican candidates? Has Keller or anyone else asked similar questions of Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton or even Barack Obama, whose brushes with religious radicalism are notorious? Does anyone expect Democratic candidates to wax eloquent on religious issues? Not that I am aware of.
Then there is the tone of Keller’s questions. They all assume that religious faith (Christian faith, anyway) can only be problematic. They are posed in the tone that Joe McCarthy might have adopted toward a suspected Communist: Are you, or have you ever been, a Dominionist? There are no questions along the lines of, Is your religious faith strong enough to see you through the extraordinary pressures of being President? Which is the sort of question most likely to be on the minds of voters.
For the moment, I want to focus on just one of Keller’s questions, which was directed to Michele Bachmann:
For Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:
The following questions are based on recent reports (in The New Yorker and The Daily Beast) about the influences on your worldview. If any of these questions misrepresent those influences, I hope you will correct them. …
2. You have recommended as meaningful in your life works by leading advocates of Dominionism, including Nancy Pearcey, whose book “Total Truth” warns Christians to be suspicious of ideas that come from non-Christians. Do you agree with that warning?
I would bet a large sum of money that Keller had never heard of Dominionism until he read the New Yorker article to which he linked, by Ryan Lizza, which made a major point of alleged “Dominionist” influences on Bachmann. For me, this focus on Dominionism generated a sense of deja vu. Like the Rapture, despite my many years as a churchgoer, I had never heard of it. You can read about Nancy Pearcey’s book here; I haven’t read it (or, for that matter, heard of it until now) but I doubt very much that “Christians should be suspicious of ideas that come from non-Christians” is a fair summary. Keller, of course, hasn’t read it either; he is just carrying water for the anti-Christian Left.
This reminds me of a time, some years ago–it was either Michele’s first or second Congressional race–when she appeared at a public forum to debate the issues of the day. The first question from a local reporter was, “Do you believe that the Pope is the Antichrist?” The debate went downhill from there.
A few days later I was talking to Michele on the telephone. Despite feeling that I knew her rather well, I had never discussed religion with her. I thought that the reporter’s question must be explained by her being a member of some bizarre sect. So I asked, “What denomination are you, anyway?” She replied, bewilderment evident in her voice, “I’m a Lutheran.”
The press’s weirdly hostile attitude toward Christianity can be contrasted with its benign view of Islam in all its manifestations. The same reporters who fixate on Dominionism, a doctrine hardly anyone had heard of until a couple of weeks ago, take great offense at any suggestion that Wahhabism and other radical forms of Islam are significant. Never mind that Islamic extremists have carried out hundreds if not thousands of terrorist attacks, while Dominionists–assuming such people actually exist–have done nothing to cause the rest of us to be aware of them. The secular press’s attitude toward religion, at best inconsistent and driven throughout by partisan ideology, is one of the strangest aspects of our public life.