The Dangers of Dominionism
Of all the faith based beliefs, none can be more destructive than that of dominionism. Dominionism is the belief that the earth was put here, by God, for the exclusive use of humanity, and for humanity to exploit right up until the day of judgement. To those of us that don’t believe, this seems rather an innocuous belief, and one that seemingly we could choose to ignore, along with the tale s of Mohammed flying to heaven on the back of a winged horse, or the story of a talking snake, but unfortunately this belief brings with it a curse for all the people of earth. And it brings with it some very powerful corporate allies, ones that have a vested interest in the continued use and consumption of the earth’s resources. This is a very important aspect of the story, but first, let’s look at dominionism and what the adherents to this belief claim.
Dominionism, and “dominion theology” derives its roots from the opening chapter of the Old Testament, where in Genesis 1:27-30 it states (emphasis mine:
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
In these passages is the basis for all of dominionist theology, the idea that a god blessed the humans of earth with the bountiful boon of the earth’s wealth, and literally gives permission for the use of all the earth’s resources. It can be seen by some as a prime directive, a mandate to “fill the earth” with people, “and subdue it” by the hand of man. The language of this piece should give you some clue as to why this idea is so harmful.
The word “subdue” is a synonym for “defeat“, and immediately sets up the earth, not only as a place that we own, but an enemy that needs to be subjugated and controlled. When you see the earth as the enemy, then you’re setting the scene of the most epic battle in the earth’s history; Not a battle between god and Satan, as in the biblical prophecies, but a battle between humankind and the very planet that sustains it.
Many see these passages as a call for humans to look after and “steward” the earth, as in the case of The Cornwall Alliance, who claim to be “evangelical stewards”, preaching these words in a passive manner. In this sense, we have become so powerful on this earth with our tools of destruction that I see no alternative than to become caretakers of the fragile planet we inhabit, but as we shall see, The Cornwall Alliance’s standpoint is a dominionist one, wrapped up in passive language, where the earth cannot be damaged by the hands of humans, and if it is, then it is god’s will that we do just that. In a dominionist standpoint, these words are translated to say that humanity should not only rule over the earth, but also that Christian theologists should have a hand in the civil and political aspects of society, and thereby removing the idea of a separation of church and state.
Dominion theology stands on the grounds of several assumptions, and builds actively toward a single outcome.
The first assumption is that the Bible is literally the holy word and law of a creator god. This law is infallible, and is to be taken literally. Therefore the stories of the seven days of creation, Adam and Eve and “the fall”, Moses, Noah and the Israelites , are all presented in the bible literally as fact. The words of the bible are seen as a literal text of our human histories, and are a literal law-book of how we should conduct ourselves here on earth.
The second assumption is that, if the apparent law of god is followed to the letter, then the faithful will attain a seat in heaven after they die, right next to Jesus on his throne. Again this is to be take literally, for they truly believe that not only heaven exists, but that they will go to this magical place when their heart stops beating and they are lain to rest.
The third assumption is, if the earth was created for humankind by god, that surely anything build by a perfect being must, in itself, be perfect. Therefore we have no need to sustain the earth and its resources because they are all here for us to use as we see fit. This brings me to the foregone conclusion as preached by dominionist theology.
The inevitable outcome from this line of faith is that it doesn’t matter what we do to the earth, because as it states in the bible, there will come a time when the heavens open up and all the righteous and faithful will be drawn up into heaven, literally. The rest of humankind will be left behind on earth for Satan and his minions to do with as he pleases, eventually being drawn down into hell to suffer for eternity alongside Christopher Hitchens. This is the apparently inevitable outcome of this kind of biblical literalism, and points out precisely why dominionist theology is so dangerous.
The real danger in dominionism lies in the ties the dominionists have with government and big business, and it only takes a little scratching of the surface to see that many of those preaching the use and abuse of the earth’s resources are backed by those companies who stand to lose the most under a more sustainable human presence. The Cornwall Alliance, as mentioned above, are given donations from Exxon Mobil, enough money to keep the likes of Calvin Beisner and his “Green Dragon” mob afloat. This article from ThinkProgress.com goes into detail about these “contributions” from Exxon Mobil. This is the kind of conspiracy that’s hard to refute, when the public records show that this is the case.
Why would Exxon Mobil, and other petrochemical companies be interested in the preaching of biblical literalism? Because, they sell the very products that are causing the greatest harm to the environment, from plastics and other petrochemicals, to gas, oil and coal. The dominionist standpoint is one where the world is there to be used, and the petrochemical companies, whether religious or not, are doing their best to see that we do use all we can. The increasing trend in gas and oil extraction to go to greater lengths to procure them, such as fracking and tar sands extraction, shows how desperate times have become for these mega-corps, and they are determined to see that we buy their product at whatever the cost to the planet.
While I understand that much of the way the world is run today depends upon our insatiable greed for oil, gas and coal, it’s the short-term thinking of the consumerist culture that is the most dangerous to us. It will take a great change in the way we do things to sustain the planet’s 7 billion-plus people, and even more resources will be needed by 2050, where the world is expected to be host to up to 9 billion people. But according to the dominionists, this is not a problem, because the end-days are already upon us.
It seems that most of the dominionist rhetoric and action is surfacing in the USA, and it would seem that it’s tied directly into a sense of “American exceptionalism“, the idea that the USA is far superior to the rest of the world in all ways, because the American people have been chosen by god as the earth’s representatives. The idea of exceptionalism seems to walk hand-in-hand with the ideals of the dominionists, many of whom see America as the prophesied “final battle ground”, where god and Satan will play out the apocalyptic battle over souls. This is alarming, and while we could easily be forgiven for thinking that dominionism is just a small group of extremists, it seems the tentacles of dominionism reach deep into the ranks of the American government.
Dominionism is incredibly tenacious also. As Chrys Stevenson wrote on the ABC’s “Religion and Ethics” website:
If the ideals of the dominionists were truly of “stewardship”, we could forgive them their delusions about god and Jesus and the apocalypse. To practice true stewardship, helping and guiding the world toward a cleaner, more sustainable future, would actually be a boon to society, one that could be embraced by the religious and the secular alike. However their preoccupation with the “end times” means their focus is skewed, and their willingness to get on-board with big business to sell their ideal of “salvation” comes to the fore.
This is where religion becomes very dangerous indeed. The religious backing and promotion of the continued dependence upon fossil fuels, something we now know without a doubt is hurting the earth’s environment, is on par with treason to the human race, and we should not stand idly by and let the dominionist vision of the end-days come to fruition.