One of the wonders of the world-wide web is that anyone can sit in on discussions that are going on elsewhere in the world. Because of the nature of this blog’s interest, I am always alert to fashionable ideas that emerge in the conservative/charismatic scene in the States. One particular Christian movement in the US, one that is unlikely to find much support among UK evangelicals, seeks to put Christian principles right at the heart of the political system. Here we simply do not have the critical mass of conservative Christians (at least not yet) who would be able to set up a substantial lobby to infiltrate mainstream political thinking. It is therefore fascinating to watch the alliances that are being attempted by the American Christian Right with political figures in the Republican party. I have read some extraordinary justifications of Donald Trump by Christian leaders. As Trump is not particularly noted for his open support of Christian belief and values, one must suppose that those Christians who support him have calculated that a President Trump will protect their social and financial interests better than a President Clinton.
Looking behind these alliances that are being made between religion and politics in the States, I detect one distinct ideology at work. This is the belief in a politically ultra-conservative system known as Dominionism. I posted a Blog on this topic some time back and gave a little time to exploring the ideas of one Rousas Rushdoony. He proposed that the words of Scripture provide all that is needed for organising a society based on God’s laws rather the laws of politics. In its extreme form Dominionism will allow homosexuals to be executed and all women silenced and firmly banished to the domestic sphere. Dominionism is, in short, a coded way of calling for theocracy. In this system divinely appointed godly men, armed with the text of Scripture, will make a far better job of government than through the democratic system. Godly tyranny or autocracy is a quick way of describing what many conservative American Christian thinkers wish to introduce in their country. Elections and democratic accountability are not thought to be part of God’s plan for the world. Such ideas have considerable prominence in the States but it needs to said, they do not appear anywhere on the political horizon in either the UK or Europe.
When writing the piece about Peter Wagner, I encountered what may be the latest incarnation of Dominionism, Seven Mountains teaching. This view of the potential role of Christianity in American society came about as the result of a vision given to three Christian leaders in 1975. These leaders were Loren Cunningham, Bill Bright and Francis Schaeffer. Others have taken up the teaching in the following 40 years, notably the preacher father of Ted Cruz, Rafael Cruz and a prolific Christian author, Lance Wallnau. In summary, the Seven Mountains represent the high places of influence that exist in every culture, the control of which sets the tone for the whole of society. These mountains at present are occupied by Satan but Christians need to regain ownership of them so that God can be seen to be in charge across the whole nation. The mountains that need to be conquered are politics, religion, education, arts and culture, business, media and family. It does not take a great of imagination to see what this reclaiming culture on behalf of a biblically revealed conservative God might involve. The media would suddenly begin to present an ultra-right perspective; education would drop all mention of evolution and theatre plays would all have only wholesome ‘Christian’ themes. Family life would only exist within specified boundaries. The legal system would naturally lock up all gays and public debate on almost any subject would be severely controlled in a kind of Orwellian manner.
The extent of the influence of Seven Mountains thinking on evangelical and charismatic thought in the States is hard to determine precisely. But the fact that it is espoused by someone who came close to carrying the Republican nomination for President gives us pause for thought. As I have introduced my readers to the thinking of Peter Wagner, I should also mention that he was a strong supporter of this ideology.
In introducing this somewhat bizarre set of ideas to the blog, I want to make two observations. In the first place, I want to note that the ideas came out of the thinking (imaginations?) of three men. It was then assumed by them that this political message was a direct revelation of God’s will. With all the talk in their discussion about the way that most of society is presided over by Satan, how do these leaders know that God is speaking here? Watching a clip of Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth with a Mission, speaking about how Seven Mountains teachings were revealed to him, I sensed a fanatical fervour in his words. This vision had become for him an unchallengeable and infallible teaching on a par with Scripture. This messianic sense of personal infallibility seems common in the charismatic world. An idea comes to a leader and suddenly it is a required part of the belief system for all the followers of that leader. This is the same dynamic that seems to have been at work with the followers of Peter Wagner. The New Apostolic Reformation, which involves God’s direct authority being entrusted to certain individuals, never seems to be challenged by any followers. Rather new ideas are simply swallowed as though they are inevitably to be regarded as God’s direct revelation for our times. From where I come from these assumptions, which I suggest are clear manifestations of narcissistic grandiosity, have always to be scrutinised with theological and psychological vigour. Seven Mountain teachings may seem to be at one level harmless eccentricity, but when they reach so close to the centre of political power, as in the States, they become a source of real danger for the well-being of societies right across the globe.
The second observation that I make is to note the appearance once again of dualism or binary thinking. By binary thinking I am referring to the way that for some thinkers every issue is presented as either good and true or bad and false. Nothing is ever allowed to be uncertain; paradox is not tolerated in this simplistic way of thinking. We would, I think, be correct in supposing that such dualism is an appropriate way of thinking suitable for a child at primary school level. Beyond the age of twelve, we might hope that every child is beginning to tolerate the idea that not every problem has a clear-cut answer. There are indeed vast areas of uncertainty in every discipline which is why an open society values highly the principle of debate. Unchanging truths, particularly in such subjects as history, politics or economics, are seldom easy to pin down. Only in mathematics and some branches of science does a fixed form of truth seem to exist. If we are committed to the idea that complex problems can always be reduced to a single correct answer, then we are doing violence to the accumulated wisdom of centuries of human study and learning. I for one do not wish to return to a society ruled by authoritarian binary thinkers.
Seven Mountains teaching, were it to be implemented, would take society back several hundred years. However imperfect our institutions, let us celebrate the fact that these institutions do evolve in accordance with the values of openness, questioning as well as uncertainty. While society does not claim to be perfect, it can change and develop and accommodate itself to contemporary thinking and new ideas. Whenever unchallengeable ‘revelations’ are given the status of ultimate truth in society, there will be fossilisation, stagnation and deep frustration. I know what kind of society I would prefer to live in.