I’ll See Your Jihad, and Raise You One Crusade

Modern Day Crusaders

Eric Prince, Modern-Day Crusader and founder of Xe, formerly known as Blackwater

by Ilisha

“I’ll See Your Jihad, and Raise You One Crusade” is a popular refrain among loons convinced they’re modern-day crusaders locked in an epic battle with Islam. Unfortunately, their apocalyptic visions are not confined to the lunatic fringe. Eric Prince, the reclusive co-founder of Blackwater “private military company” used to outsource US wars fancies himself a modern-day crusader, and he’s not alone.

Blackwater is infamous for its brutality, belligerence, and reckless disregard for the lives of Iraqi and Afghan civilians. This month, Harper’s Magazine featured an exposé, “The Warrior Class”: The Blackwater Videos, by Charles Glass on the rise of private “security contractors” in the years since 9/11. Video clips featured in the article are reminiscent of scenes  from George Miller’s 1979 dystopian action film, Mad Max, but for Iraqis, this was real life–and all too often, death.

In one of the most disturbing clips, a Blackwater vehicle struck down a veiled pedestrian and never bothered to stop, or even to pause. Subsequent vehicles in the convoy also barreled past with total disregard for the victim, apart from making the effort to capture the monstrous crime on video:  (H/T: Saladin)

Video of Blackwater Contractors Driving Over Iraqi Woman


In 2007, Blackwater mercenaries massacred 17 innocent Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, including 9-year-old Ali Kinani. In January of this year, the “private military contractor” reached a wrongful death “settlement” with the victim’s families and survivors, though criminal charges were dropped, allowing the perpetrators to escape accountability.

Ali Kinani9-year old Ali Kinani

In 2009, Blackwater re-branded itself as Xe (pronounced “Zee”), apparently to escape its well-deserved image as a gang of ruthless thugs or hire.

What’s missing from the Harper’s Magazine article, and much of the coverage surrounding Xe, is that Erik Prince is a fundamentalist Christian who built his military empire around the notion of Christian Dominionism. An exclusive video featured on Democracy Now revealed previously undisclosed details regarding the companies methods and motives.

The Economist provided more shocking details in an article entitled, “Erik Prince and the last crusade,” : (H/T: MasterQ)

In an affidavit lodged with a court in Virginia, one of the witnesses said that Mr Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” The statement continues:

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.”

Mr Prince is further accused of trying to cover up Blackwater’s misdeeds, which allegedly include profiteering and arms smuggling, by killing employees who tried to blow the whistle on the company….

Sending Christian crusaders to a Muslim country where you’re trying to restore peace is what I would call a very bad idea. Perhaps that wasn’t the case, but sending freelance soldiers into a country unbound by any laws is still a terrible strategy. It breeds a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. And for Blackwater, at times, it was more like shoot first, drive on. The latest allegations are shocking, but much of the story is not surprising at all.”

No, modern-day crusader themes and utter contempt for the lives of innocent Iraqis shouldn’t be surprising at all, and it isn’t confined to private “security” contractors like Xe. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik also fancied himself as a modern-day crusader who sought to restore the medieval Knights Templar, though he certainly wasn’t alone in this peculiar brand of madness.

It seems Christian-themed holy wars have captured the imaginations of prominent US politicians, journalists, and military leaders. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then President George Bush  referred to the so-called “War on Terror” as a “crusade,” sparking widespread criticism in the Islamic world, and even in Europe. Four years later, the BBC reported that Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq:

“President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq .” And I did.”

A “born again” dry drunk, Bush appealed to millions of conservative Christians, some of the biggest backers of the Iraq war and endless conflict in the Middle East to fulfill their apocalyptic visions:

This is the dark side to their religious world view. Their fantasy is often sung to uplifting gospel music of a soon-to-come Paradise. Its concomitant message (not openly discussed) is that God will then (brutally) kill the entire human race except for Christians (for many meaning “born again” Christians). The Left Behind book series dwells on how God will eviscerate, torture and kill all non-Christians. Why so many of them dwell on this is not clear.  Perhaps it gives meaning to their lives.  Or instilling fear is a way to keep them in line under their preachers’ domination. In any case they are cleverly used by the Israeli lobby, imperial neoconservatives and (more profitably) by the military industrial complex.

The Book of Revelation is the integral passion of their foreign policy, their belief that the founding of Israel foretells the imminent Second Coming, conversion or death for Jews and eternal happiness for themselves in Heaven. In their view America, as God’s instrument, should encourage wars and chaos in the Middle East in order to “hurry up” God and His agenda. One of their leaders is John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel. Senator Liebermanis a friend and favored speaker at his events. I have described The Strangest Alliance in History about how each side thinks it is using the other for its own ends.

Also in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, “conservative” journalist  Anne “All Terrorists Look Alike” Coulter said in her “battle cry”  for Washington:

“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

Her sentiment was echoed in subsequent statements by prominent Christian war monger Ellis Washington, in an article featured in the far right WorldNetDaily. Such statements weren’t merely confined to the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and in fact, persist into the present day, according to an article in the Huffington Post, Newt and the Loony Religious Fringe That Now Runs the Republican Party:

America needlessly went to war in Iraq because neoconservative war mongers — who laugh at the “those rubes,” as they think of earnest Evangelical Christian Zionists, and whose own sons and daughters seem notably absent from our armed services — used the religious passion and dedication of conservative Evangelicals to provide political means and cover for the neoconservatives’ commitment to America’s military dominance of the world. In other words the Evangelicals provided the votes to put foolish warmongers like George W Bush in power. And now Gingrich wants their votes.

Gingrich shares a crowded stage with other prominent Republicans who also court the religious right, including Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, and Herman Cain.

Not surprisingly, the US military also is also plagued with Blackwater-like perversity and religious extremism. Gen. Tommy Franks, who directed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, callously dismissed concerns over the number of innocent civilians killed in Iraq saying, “We don’t do body counts.” Not to be outdone, Democracy Now has revealed the Pentagon refers to the victims as “Bugsplat,” the name of a computer program that estimates how many civilians will be killed in US-led bombing raids.

Adding perhaps the most infamous religious twist to this madness is Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin. An outspoken Evangelical Christian, Boykin claimed Muslims hate America, ”because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”

Referring to a battle in Somalia, Boykin also said, ”I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol,” and later he said, “We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this.” Boykin also claimed God put George Bush in office, and continued to frame the so-called “War on Terror” as a religious conflict, even as George Bush tried to assure the world the US was not at war with Islam.

Should these remarks be dismissed as the rantings of a lone loon?

Last January, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist  Seymour Hersh said key branches of the US military are being run by “crusaders,” According to a Huffington Post article:

“What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over,” Hersh said.

He said that the attitude that “pervades” a large portion of the Joint Special Operations Command, which is part of the military’s special forces branch and which has carried out secret missions to kill American targets, is one that supports “[changing] mosques into cathedrals.”

Hersh also said that Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before his tenure as the top general in Afghanistan, as well as his successor and many other JSOC members, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.” Blake Hounsell, the reporter for Foreign Policy, speculated that Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Catholic organization.

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei,” Hersh said. “They do see what they’re doing…it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.

While the world focused myopically on “Islamic” terrorists, it seems the crusader mentality that germinated in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has flourished and permeated not only the lunatic fringe, but high-ranking officials within the US establishment. Apparently extremists on both sides of the so-called Clash of Civilizations are inspired to play their respective roles, equally hellbent on hurtling the rest of humanity ever closer to Armageddon.

Paul Rosenberg: Exposing Religious Fundamentalism in the US

Exposing religious fundamentalism in the US

by Paul Rosenberg

With Representative Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Ames, Iowa straw poll, and Texas Governor Rick Perry’s triumphal entrance into the GOP presidential primary, there’s been a sudden spike of attention drawn to the extremist religious beliefs both candidates have been associated with – up to and including their belief in Christian dominionism. (In the Texas Observer, the New Yorker, and the Daily Beast, for example.) The responses of denial from both the religious right itself and from the centrist Beltway press have been so incongruous as to be laughable – if only the subject matter weren’t so deadly serious. Those responses need to be answered, but more importantly, we need to have the serious discussion they want to prevent.

For example, in an August 18 post, originally entitled, “Beware False Prophets who Fear Evangelicals”, Washington Post religion blogger Lisa Miller cited the three stories I just mentioned, and admitted, “The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees”, then immediately reversed direction: “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.” Of course, she cited no examples to bolster this narrative-flipping claim. More importantly, she wrote not one more word about the real concerns she had just admitted.

Dominionism is not a myth

“What In Heaven’s Name Is A Dominionist?” Pat Robertson asked on his 700 Club TV show, one of several religious right figures to recently pretend there was nothing to the notion. Funny he should ask. In a 1984 speech in Dallas, Texas, he said:

“What do all of us do? We get ready to take dominion! We get ready to take dominion! It is all going to be ours – I’m talking about all of it. Everything that you would say is a good part of the secular world. Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance – it’s going to be ours! God’s going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ.”

Furthermore, C Peter Wagner, the intellectual godfather of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), actually wrote a book called Dominion! in 2008. Chapter Three was entitled “Dominion Theology”. When pressed, Peter likes to pretend that his ideas are just garden-variety Christianity, based on Genesis 1:26, in which, before the fall, God gives Adam and Eve dominion over the natural world – a far cry from dominion over other people, who did not even exist at the time, as evangelical critics of this dominionist argument have repeatedly pointed out.

Dominionism is not new

Dominionist ideas have circulated throughout the religious right for decades prior to Robertson’s 1984 speech. A primary source was the small but influential sect known as Christian Reconstructionism, founded by R J Rushdoony in the 1960s, which advocates replacing American law with Old Testament codes. Centrists like Miller make the mistake of thinking that the small size of Rushdoony’s core of true believers is the full extent of his influence. But this is utterly mistaken. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in Daily Beast, “Rushdoony pioneered the Christian homeschooling movement, as well as the revisionist history, ubiquitous on the religious right, that paints the US as a Christian nation founded on biblical principles. He consistently defended Southern slavery and contrasted it with the greater evils of socialism.”

A second source traces back to the roots of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s, long rejected by orthodox evangelicals because they contradicted scripture and denied primary agency to God – which is why they insist that Christians must actively establish church dominance over all of society, because God can’t do it alone.

The Latter Rain was denounced by the Assemblies of God – the largest American Pentecostal church – in 1949, not solely for dominionist ideology, but for a variety of related beliefs and practices. When similar teachings and practices re-emerged in the guise of the New Apostolic Reformation 50 years later, the Assemblies of God denounced them again in 2000.

This time, however, many Assemblies of God congregations have increasingly accepted the NAR influence. Sarah Palin’s long-time church in Wasilla is one such congregation. The most clear-cut example of NAR dominionism is the so-called “Seven Mountains Mandate”, which holds that dominionist Christians should control the whole world by infiltrating and dominating the “Seven Mountains” of culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.

Dominionism is not a left-wing fantasy

A number of authors made charges similar to or derived from Joe Carter, web editor of First Things, who wrote: “The term [“dominionism”] was coined in the 1980s by [sociologist Sara] Diamond and is never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”

However, at the same time Diamond was working on her dissertation – published as the book Spiritual Warfare in 1989 – evangelical writer/researcher Albert James Dager was taking similarly critical aim, though from a different direction. In 1986 and ’87, he published a multi-issue essay “Kingdom Theology” in the publication Media Spotlight. In that text he also used the terms “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion” Theology. In 1990, Dager, too, published a book, Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion.

While his main focus was doctrinal error and non-Christian practices and influences, Dager’s work traced dominionism back to the 1940s and even earlier. Many more have followed in his footsteps since then. If you Google the words “dominionism” and “heresy”, you’ll get more than half a million hits. It should be obvious to anyone that conventional conservative Christians have big problems with dominionism – if only the United States’ establishment media could figure out how to use Google.

Dominionism is not an imprecise catch-all term

Despite lingering definitional differences that are common with relatively new terminology, those who study dominionism and related phenomenon in a political framework have an increasingly common and precise terminology that most writers and researchers share. Researcher Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates provided a very useful guide, “The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy”, which addresses issues of terminology from several different perspectives – for example, between “generic dominionism” and specific dominion theologies.

Berlet also draws a distinction between “hard” and “soft” dominionists. “Soft Dominionists are Christian nationalists,” he writes. “They believe that Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. They fear that America’s greatness as God’s chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals … Their vision has elements of theocracy, but they stop short of calling for supplanting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” Hard Dominionists add something more to the mix: “They want the United States to be a Christian theocracy. For them the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely addendums to Old Testament Biblical law.”

Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionists clearly fall into the hard dominionist camp. But the NAR seems to straddle the soft/hard division. On the one hand, they clearly do claim that conservative Christians are ordained to run the world, not just US society. Thus, the Seven Mountains Mandate. On the other hand, Wagner and others have argued that the Seven Mountains is compatible with democracy. The state of Hawaii shows how: Early in the 2010 election cycle, both the Republican and the Democratic frontrunners for governor were associated with the NAR. That changed when long-time Congressman Neil Abercrombie joined the race on the Democratic side, and eventually won the race handily. But for a while, the NAR came tantalisingly close to realising their dream, at least in one state – not just to win power, but to occupy all the possible paths to power.

What’s more, in a recent article at Talk2Action, Rachel Tabachnick draws attention to another hedge on Wagner’s part, quoting from Dominion! In a section entitled “Majority Rules”: “If a majority feels that heterosexual marriage is the best choice for a happy and prosperous society, those in the minority should agree to conform – not because they live in a theocracy, but because they live in a democracy. The most basic principle of democracy is that the majority, not the minority, rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.”

This, of course, is utterly false in a liberal democracy, such as the United States. Liberal democracies combine majority rule as a general governing principle with a framework of rights protecting individuals in political minorities from persecution, political repression, and the like. The fact that Wagner so utterly misunderstands the foundations of American democracy shows just how dangerous such “soft” dominionism can be. This same lesson can be drawn from Uganda as well, where several different strains of dominionist theology have combined to bring that nation to the verge of passing a law that will make homosexuality punishable by death. Such is the nature of illiberal dominionist “democracy”.

Europe’s bloody theocratic wars

This brings us, finally, to the serious discussions that dominionists and their enablers, like Miller, are trying to prevent. The first of those is about the very nature of American democracy. For nearly 200 years, Europe was torn apart by a series of religious wars and their bloody aftermath – the major reason that the United States was founded as a secular republic. We’re potentially on the verge of forgetting all that history and suffering through it again, just as we’re now suffering through forgetting the lessons of the Great Depression. Those centuries of war began with the German Peasants’ War of 1524-26, in which more than 100,000 died; continued through the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War on the European continent; and lasted until the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). This was the bloody European history of religious intolerance and strife that many, if not most, American colonialists were fleeing from when they came to the New World.

It was also this bloody history that gave rise to the development of classical liberalism, affirming the individual right to religious liberty and replacing the top-down theocratic justification of the state with Locke’s concept of the bottom-up social contract, based on the consent of the governed. The ideas that Locke perfected took generations to develop. Religious tolerance, for example, began as simply a matter of pragmatism: unless people stopped killing each other for differing religious beliefs, war in Europe would never end.

But gradually, the idea took hold that tolerance was a positive good, and key to this new perspective was the recognition that torturing someone to change their beliefs could not produce the desired result of a genuine heartfelt conversion. Thus, the moral rejection of torture – another feature of classical liberalism – had its roots in the evolution of the idea of religious liberty. The idea of utterly forgetting the prolonged bloody history that the United States was born out of is no laughing matter.

The same could be said of the myth that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, with laws based on the Bible. Of course most Americans were Christians at the time, but the leading intellects were decidedly less so, much more influenced by Enlightenment thought. There were many, such as Jefferson, who were better described as Deists, who believed that God had created a rational universe, but did not intervene supernaturally thereafter. They deliberately used terms like “the Creator” and “Nature’s God” to affirm their distinctive, non-Christian view.

Moreover, God was not mentioned at all in the Constitution, and religion was only mentioned to exclude its influence, stating that no religious test should be required for office. Finally, US law was based on British common law, not the Bible. The Supreme Court itself is a common law court, following common law precedents and practices. And British common law traces back to Roman law, which first came to England centuries before Rome adopted the Christian religion.

Of course the intolerant religious right wants us to forget this. How else could they ever gain power, except through massive forgetting of who and what the United States really is? Not to mention who and what they are: the most fundamental enemies of the United States, who would, if they could, return us to the centuries of blood before the US was born, the nightmare out of which the United States awakened.

Theocratic thinking threatens the US today

There are very immediate consequences that flow from the theocratic mindset. You’ll note, for example, that the “Seven Mountains” of culture do not include science. That’s not because dominionists intend to leave science alone, but rather because they see no need to dominate what they can simply cut off, ignore and deny. If science tells them that homosexuality is an inborn trait, why fight that in the realm of science when politics, the media, religion and education offer much, much better places to fight? After all, who says that education has to be based on facts? The same holds true for evolution and global warming as well, not to mention the workings of the economy.

One rightwing denier of dominionist influence, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, even framed his attack as “An unholy war on the Tea Party, while another denier complained that instead of describing the Tea Party as a movement united around concern about big government, many journalists seem to be trying to redefine the colour red by overlaying religious intent and purpose on the movement.

Yet the dominionist connection to the Tea Party goes far beyond just the two candidacies of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Ron Paul, whose extreme anti-government positions helped to fuel the emergence of the Tea Party, has much deeper dominionist connections than either of the two new darlings. During his first term in Congress, one of his aides was Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, and a leading Reconstructionist in his own right, who has written extensively on so-called “Biblical Capitalism”, an ideology profoundly at odds with traditional Biblical-based teachings on economic justice.

While libertarians once traced their descent from John Locke, and more recently from the deeply anti-Christian Ayn Rand, Reconstructionism represents an increasingly important foundation for their views. A recently released sociology study, “Cultures of the Tea Party”, found that Tea Party supporters are characterised by four dispositions: “authoritarianism, ontological insecurity, libertarianism, and nativism”. Since traditional libertarianism was purportedly the opposite of authoritarianism, this highlights how radically libertarianism has changed – a conclusion that’s echoed by the 2011 Pew Reaserch Political Typology Poll, which found that religious and economic conservatives had completely merged into one single group since 2006 and all previous polling.

What this means in the long run is far from clear. But it strongly suggests a solidfying outlook with deep Reconstructionist sympathies that actually looks at government failure to deal with major issues, such as restoring the economy, as a positive good. If faith in American institutions collapses entirely, then who wouldn’t give Biblical law a shot? The more loudly such people proclaim themselves patriots, the more loudly they cheer for US collapse. It’s not just Obama they want to fail. It’s the very idea of America.

Paul Rosenberg is the Senior Editor of Random Lengths News, a bi-weekly alternative community newsletter.

You can follow Paul on twitter @PaulHRosenberg

Threat to America’s Freedom? It’s Not Islamic Law

Imagine, for a minute, that Muslims in America were openly advocating at meetings and conferences to take control of major sectors of public life, such as the government, media, and the law.

Imagine further that Muslims had built law schools, accredited no less, with the agenda to teach its students that America should be governed by Islamic law.

And imagine a little further that the leaders of this Muslim movement to Islamicize America were openly calling for America to become a Muslim nation.

And just imagine that all of the above was being absorbed into a major American political party and that some members of this Muslim mission were in Congress and were also looking to become the next President of the United States.

Of course, there would be mass hysteria and panic at such a notion. But none of the above is actually happening. Instead, replace Muslim with Christian and that is precisely what is currently occurring in America.

But of course, certain Islamophobes would have us worry about an imagined threat from Muslim-Americans–who make up a measly 2% of the U.S. population–rather than the Christian groups out there who are actively working to Christianize America, and who have been working at this for over three decades with the aid of one of the two main political parties.

Many of these evangelical Christian groups are actively looking to restrict the rights of women, members of the LGBT community, and to force their religious viewpoint on to the rest of the country.  Worse yet, advocates of Christian dominionism call for world conquest, to subjugate the infidel nations of the world to Christian domination.

Here is an excellent article from Sarah Posner on dominionism (emphasis added)–just imagine how utterly insane Islamophobes would go if Muslim were substituted for Christian here:

The Christian right’s “dominionist” strategy

by Sarah Posner

An article in the Texas Observer last month about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s relationship with followers of a little-known neo-Pentecostal movement sparked a frenzied reaction from many commentators: Dominionism! Spiritual warfare! Strange prophecies!

All the attention came in the weeks before and after “The Response,” Perry’s highly publicized prayer rally modeled on what organizers believe is the “solemn assembly” described in Joel 2, in which “end-times warriors” prepare the nation for God’s judgment and, ultimately, Christ’s return. This “new” movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, is one strand of neo-Pentecostalism that draws on the ideas of dominionism and spiritual warfare. Its adherents display gifts of the spirit, the religious expression of Pentecostal and charismatic believers that includes speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing and a belief in signs, wonders and miracles. These evangelists also preach the “Seven Mountains” theory of dominionism: that Christians need to take control of different sectors of public life, such as government, the media and the law.

The NAR is not new, but rather derivative of charismatic movements that came before it. Its founder, C. Peter Wagner, set out in the 1990s to create more churches, and more believers. Wagner’s movement involves new jargon, notably demanding that believers take control of the “Seven Mountains” of society (government, law, media and so forth), but that’s no different from other iterations of dominionism that call on Christians to enter these fields so that they are controlled by Christians.

After Perry’s prayer rally, Rachel Maddow featured a segment on her MSNBC show in which she warned,

“The main idea of the New Apostolic Reformation theology is that they are modern day prophets and apostles. They believe they have a direct line to God … the way that they’re going to clear the way for it [the end of the world] is by infiltrating and taking over politics and government.”

Maddow’s ahistorical treatment of the NAR, however, overlooked several important realities. For anyone who has followed the growth of neo-Pentecostal movements, and in particular the coalition-building between the political operatives of the religious right and these lesser-known but still influential religious leaders, the NAR is just another development in the competitive, controversial, outrageous, authoritarian and often corrupt tapestry of the world of charismatic evangelists.

Before the NAR came along, plenty of charismatic leaders believed themselves to be prophets and apostles with a direct line to God. They wrote books about spiritual warfare, undergirded by conspiracy theories about liberals and Satan and homosexuality and feminism and more (my own bookshelves are filled with them). They preached this on television. They preached it at conferences. They made money from it. They all learned from each other.

Before the NAR, Christian right figures promoted dominionism, too, and the GOP courted these religious leaders for the votes of their followers. Despite a recent argument by the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg that “we have not seen this sort of thing at the highest levels of the Republican Party before,” it’s been there since at least 1980. Michele Bachmann is a product of it; so was Mike Huckabee. Ronald Reagan pandered to it; so did both Bushes; so does Perry.

In 2007, I saw Cindy Jacobs and other “apostles” lay hands on Shirley Forbes, wife of Rep. Randy Forbes, the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which boasts some Democrats as members and many of the GOP’s leading lights. “You are going to be the mother of an army,” they told Forbes, prophesying that she would “speak the power of the word into politics and government. Hallelujah!”

The idea that Christians have a sacred duty to get involved in politics, the law and media, and otherwise bring their influence to bear in different public spheres is the animating principle behind the religious right. If you attend a Values Voters Summit, the annual Washington confab hosted by the Family Research Council, you’ll hear speakers urging young people to go into media, or view Hollywood as a “mission field.” That’s because they insistthese institutions have been taken over by secularists who are causing the downfall of America with their anti-Christian beliefs.

A few days ago, the Washington Post’s religion columnist, Lisa Miller, took Goldberg and Maddow to task for overhyping dominionism as a plot to take over the world. Miller, though, misses the boat, too, by neglecting to acknowledge and describe the infrastructure the religious right has built, driven by the idea of dominionism.

Oral Roberts University Law School, where Bachmann earned her law degree, was founded with this very notion in mind: to create an explicitly Christian law school. Herb Titus, the lawyer converted by Christian Reconstructionism who was instrumental in its launch, describes his mission in developing a Christian law school as a fulfillment of a “dominion mandate.” After ORU was absorbed into Regent University in the 1980s, Titus was the mentor to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who last week was elevated to chair of the Republican Governors Association and is widely speculated to be a possible vice-presidential pick.

Christian Reconstructionists, and their acolytes of the Constitution Party, believe America should be governed by biblical law. In her 1995 book, “Roads to Dominion: Right Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States,” Sara Diamond describes the most significant impact of Reconstructionism on dominionism:

“the diffuse influence of the ideas that America was ordained a Christian nation and that Christians, exclusively, were to rule and reign.” While most Christian right activists were “not well-versed in the arcane teachings” of Christian Reconstructionism, she wrote, “there was a wider following for softer forms of dominionism.”

For the Christian right, it’s more a political strategy than a secret “plot” to “overthrow” the government, even as some evangelists describe it in terms of “overthrowing” the powers of darkness (i.e., Satan), and even some more radical, militia-minded groups do suggest such a revolution. In general, though, the Christian right has been very open about its strategy and has spent a lot of money on it: in the law, as just one example, there are now two ABA-accredited Christian law schools, at Regent (which absorbed the ORU law school) and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. There are a number of Christian law firms, like the Alliance Defense Fund, formed as a Christian counterweight to the ACLU. Yet outsiders don’t notice that this is all an expression of dominionism, until someone from that world, like Bachmann, hits the national stage.

John Turner, University of South Alabama historian and author of “Bill Bright and the Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America,” said that the NAR’s “Seven Mountains” dominionism is “just a catchy phrase that encapsulates what Bright and many other evangelical leaders were already doing — trying to increase Christian influence (they would probably use more militant phrases like ‘capture’) in the spheres of education, business and government.”

Bright, like Perry’s prayer cohorts, believed America was in trouble (because of the secularists) and needed to repent. One of the most well-known evangelicals in the country, Bright had agreed to let Virginia Beach preacher John Gimenez, a charismatic, organize the rally, despite evangelical discomfort with charismatic religious expression. In his book, Turner describes the Washington for Jesus rally of 1980:

From the platform, Bright offered his interpretation of the source of the country’s problems, asserting that “[w]e’ve turned from God and God is chastening us.” “You go back to 1962 and [196]3 [when the Supreme Court banned school-sponsored prayer and Bible-reading],” Bright argued, “and you’ll discovered a series of plagues that came upon America.” Bright cited the Vietnam War, increased drug use, racial conflict, Watergate, and a rise in divorce, teenage pregnancy, and alcoholism as the result of those decisions. “God is saying to us,” he concluded, “‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’” … “Unless we repent and turn from our sin,” warned Bright, “we can expect to be destroyed.”

Unlike Perry’s rally, Ronald Reagan the candidate wasn’t present at the Washington for Jesus rally. At a 2007 gathering at his church, Gimenez recounted how he and Bright later met with President Reagan, and Bright told him, “You were elected on April 29, 1980, when the church prayed that God’s will would be done.”

In August 1980, though, after Reagan had clinched the nomination, he did appear at a “National Affairs Briefing” in Texas, where televangelist James Robison (also instrumental in organizing Perry’s event) declared, “The stage is set. We’ll either have a Hitler-type takeover, or Soviet domination, or God is going to take over this country.” After Robison spoke, Reagan took the stage and declared to the 15,000 activists assembled by Moral Majority co-founder Ed McAteer, “You can’t endorse me, but I endorse you.”

That was also a big moment for Huckabee, who worked as Robison’s advance man. It was even imitated by then-candidate Barack Obama, who met with a group of evangelicals and charismatics in Chicago and repeated Reagan’s infamous line. Obama’s group included publisher Stephen Strang (an early endorser of Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid) and his son Cameron, whose magazines Charisma and Relevant help promote the careers of the self-declared modern-day prophets and apostles. Huckabee appeared with Lou Engle at his 2008 The Call rally on the National Mall (like Perry’s, billed as a “solemn assembly”) in which Engle exhorted his prayer warriors to battlesatanic forces to defeat “Antichrist legislation.”

When I interviewed former Bush family adviser Doug Wead for my 2008 book, “God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters,” he gave me a lengthy memo he compiled for George H.W. Bush in 1985, to prepare him for his 1988 presidential run. In the memo, he identified a thousand “targets,” religious leaders across the country whose followers, Wead believed, could be mobilized to the voting booth.

In my book, I examined the theology and politics of the Word of Faith movement (also known as the prosperity gospel) and how Republicans cultivated the leading lights of the movement. Primarily because of television, but also because of the robust (and profitable) speaking circuit these evangelists maintain, they have huge audiences. All that was in spite of — just as the scrutiny of NAR figures now is revealing — outlandish, strange and even heretical theology. What’s more, Word of Faith figures have endlessly been embroiled in disputes not just with their theological critics, but with watchdogs and former parishioners who charge they took their money for personal enrichment, promising that God would bring them great health and wealth if they would only “sow a seed.”

At Gimenez’s 2007 event, Engle and the other “apostles” were not the stars; rather, the biggest draw was Word of Faith televangelist Kenneth Copeland. In 1998, writing to Karl Rove, Wead called Copeland “arguably one of the most important religious leaders in the nation.” At Gimenez’s church, Copeland, who has boasted that his ministry has brought in more the $1 billion over his career, preached for two hours. The sanctuary was packed, with the audience hanging on every word. Gimenez introduced him as “God’s prophet,” and Copeland urged them to “get rid of the evening news and the newspaper,” study “the uncompromised word of the Holy Ghost,” and take “control over principalities.”

The commenters who have jumped on the NAR frequently overstate the size of its following. Engle’s events, for example, are often smaller than advertised, including a poorly attended revival at Liberty University in April 2010, where one would expect a ready-made audience. When I’ve covered these sorts of events, including smaller conferences by local groups inspired by figures they see on television, it’s often hard to see how the often meandering preachers are going to take over anything, even while it’s clear they cultivate an authoritarian hold on their followers. I meet a lot of sincere, frequently well-intentioned people who believe they must be “obedient” to God’s word as imparted by the “prophets.”

Most chilling, though, is the willingness to engage in what’s known in the Word of Faith world as “revelation knowledge,” or believing, as Copeland exhorted his audience to do, that you learn nothing from journalism or academia, but rather just from the Bible and its modern “prophets.” It is in this way that the self-styled prophets have had their greatest impact on our political culture: by producing a political class, and its foot soldiers, who believe that God has imparted them with divine knowledge that supersedes what all the evil secularists would have you believe.

Last week CNN’s Jack Cafferty asked, “How much does it worry you if both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have ties to dominionism?” That worry crops up every election cycle. If people really understood dominionism, they’d worry about it between election cycles.

However, it’s the Moozlums we’re supposed to worry about.

To clarify though, LoonWatch is not pressing the panic button: the threat from the religious right is very real, but we don’t think it’s a doomsday situation.  All we’re saying is that the threat from the Christian right is certainly greater than this imaginary threat from Muslims and all this Sharia-nonsense.