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August 18, 2011

12:01
P.M.

Do evangelicals want to take over the world?: Lisa Miller talks religion

Total Responses: 19

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller is a contributing editor at New York magazine and the author of "Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife." She was a senior editor at Newsweek, overseeing the magazine's religion coverage, writing the weekly "Belief Watch" column and editing Newsweek's prominent "Spirituality in America" double issue.

Before joining Newsweek, Miller covered religion for The Wall Street Journal. She has also worked with The New Yorker, Self magazine and Harvard Business Review.

An award-winning journalist, she is the recipient of the 2010 Wilbur Award for outstanding magazine column. She is a frequent guest on television and radio, including the Colbert Report, the O'Reilly Factor, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, NPR and others.

About the topic

Join religion columnist Lisa Miller as she chats about how religion impacts the news. Have a question? Join her Thursday August 18 at 12 p.m. ET as she answers your questions and discusses the week's big religious story.

In her recent column, "'Dominionism' beliefs among conservative Christians overblown," Miller writes, "Here we go again. The Republican primaries are six months away, and already news stories are raising fears on the left about 'crazy Christians.' One piece connects Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called 'The New Apostolic Reformation,' whose main objective is to 'infiltrate government.' Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Michele Bachmann. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of 'dominionists.'"

Have a question? Ask now.
Q.

Will questions range across the Christian ethics continuum?

When political personalities emerge in the Media "flavor of the month", why don't more questions get asked than just "Do you believe that wives must be submissive to their husband like you were?" Could someone ask about Wars and Famines and Religious tolerance - dialogue and not just about the quirky side of things like Mormon "underwear" ?

A.
Lisa Miller :

One of the reasons religion is such a tantalizing subject for media is the weird factor. The underwear. The speaking in tongues. The prophetic "damning America" preacher. The snake handlers and the rapture and all that. In my experience, most of that stuff is very through the looking glass. It looks very weird to outsiders and not at all weird to insiders and I urge journalists caution not to make too much of all of it -- without context, history, etc. After all, who's to say what's wierder? That Joseph Smith talked to an Angel named Moroni? Or that Moses saw a bush on fire that didn't burn? And heard a voice?

– August 18, 2011 12:03 PM
Q.

Faith and politics

This isn't a question as much as it's a suggestion: Why don't reporters - perhaps you in particular - focus campaigning politicians on the query "How do your politics square with your faith?" If we understand politics as the way we order our life together and faith as what or who we believe in, the candidate is free and bound to define the specifics of both and then make the case for coherence in her or his personal and public life. And, BTW, thanks for your good work. Roger Gustafson, Kansas City
A.
Lisa Miller :

I agree that this is a good approach with political candidates with the following caveat. Political candidates are running for office, so it's an unusual one who will really unpack that stuff a journalist, show his/her skepticism and doubt as well as guiding principles. Look back at some of the stuff Hillary Clinton said in the Democratic primary race in 2008. She was actually very articulate on these matters.

– August 18, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Candidate's choice of church

I seem to recall the left insisting back in 2008 that a candidate's choice of church was an irrelevant issue, and that it was ridiculous to draw any conclusions about Obama based on where he went to church for 20 years. What's changed between now and then?
A.
Lisa Miller :

I think the left needs to search its soul, as it were, and see that it's guilty of the same kind of demonizing that one sees on the right. I watched the Rachel Maddow segment on the New Apostolic Reformation (the Rick Perry connected group) and it reminded me of nothing more than the clips of Jeremiah Wright "damning America" over and over. I'm not in a position to defend either TNAR or Wright. But I am saying that clips in which ministers shout "harlot" over and over are likely to inflame more than they are to elucidate.

– August 18, 2011 12:09 PM
Q.

GOP candidates = false righteousness of the Pharisees?

It's interesting to me that are so many self-described and passionate bible-believers who so glibly and easily disregard the parables in which Jesus warned about the false righteousness of the Pharisees -- those who pray loudly and in public while their hearts are full of ill for others, compassionless, merciless. Not to mention the part where "it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." And let's not forget: Blessed are the Peacemakers. It's very true that many millions of Christians do NOT believe in the 'fundamentalist conservative' political agenda. For example many who do NOT want to get rid of regulations that protect our water, air, pharmaceutical and food supplies (weakened as they have become the past 10 years) to become a third world nation again; many who are concerned and active on poverty issues (In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5% of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80%, held just 12.8 percent.) But such folks are not the ones dominating the screamfests, media, republicon & tea party. Where are the true compassionate conservatives and christians? I noticed that the term compassionate conservative disappeared from the republican and conservative and christian lexicons immediately after the re-election of GW Bush in 2004.
A.
Lisa Miller :

Actually, the man who allegedly invented the term "compassionate conservative" is now doing strategy/spin for Ron Paul.

The evangelical agenda HAS changed in recent years -- it's broadened a lot. Lots of the folks I spoke to this week reiterated this point: Evangelicals aren't monolithic. They don't all think/vote/pray the same way. They don't live together in evangelical ghettos or go exclusively to evangelical colleges.

 

– August 18, 2011 12:12 PM
Q.

Thank You

Thank you for this piece! I would add that not only are most evangelicals not out to take over the world, many of us think that it's far from the church's role to do so (although we support individuals pursuing politics). We also often repudiate the "theocrats" you mentioned in your article as having views that are outside of the historic beliefs of what Protestantism thinks the Bible says! The lumping of all evangelicals with the theonomists is unsettling to most of us who are not friendly to their views.
A.
Lisa Miller :

The more I think about it, the more it reminds me of lumping Muslims in with Islamists. It's not that there aren't Islamists. And it's not that Islamists aren't dangerous. It's that we need to be subtle enough to distinguish the dangerous folks from everyone else -- even we don't like what some of the "everyone else" stand for.

– August 18, 2011 12:15 PM
Q.

tried to post this question on your column comments....

... but it seems to be user-unfriendly anymore if readers are either/both mac users or not facebook members. (i refuse to join that privacy-invading setup!) It's interesting to me that are so many self-described and passionate bible-believers who so glibly and easily disregard the parables in which Jesus warned about the false righteousness of the Pharisees -- those who pray loudly and in public while their hearts are full of ill will for others, compassionless, merciless. Not to mention the part where "it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." And let's not forget: Blessed are the Peacemakers. It's very true that many millions of Christians do NOT believe in the 'fundamentalist conservative' political agenda. For example many who do NOT want to get rid of regulations that protect our water, air, pharmaceutical and food supplies, among others (weakened as they have become the past 10 years) to become a third world nation again (want to see deregulation in action: visit Russia, Somalia, China and US rivers and cities, circa 1979. Indeed there are many many Christians who are concerned with the true nature of Jesus and are very active on poverty issues (In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5% of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80%, held just 12.8 percent.). But such folks are not the ones dominating the screamfests, media, republicon & tea party. So here's my question: Where are the true compassionate conservatives and the liberal/progressive non-rightwing christians? Why are such a small vocal few dominating the conversation (actually it is a one way screamfest, not a dialogue at all to hear the pandering politicians and pharisee-like preachers). I noticed that the term 'compassionate conservative' COMPLETELY disappeared from the republican, conservative and christian lexicons immediately after the re-election of GW Bush in 2004 BTW.
A.
Lisa Miller :

there are lots and lots of different kind of christians out there. we in the media make a lot of the fact that a third of americans are evangelical -- that makes them a powerful voting bloc -- but it also means that two thirds of americans are (mostly Christian and) not evangelical.

– August 18, 2011 12:17 PM
Q.

Doing your part

Is it the tolerant religious groups responsibility to repudiate their fellow believers who are intolerant? For instance, many muslims are normal, nice people, but some are murderous fundamentalists. Many Christians are peaceful and tolerant, but the radical sects that make the news are everything but good for society. Do you think it's the responsibility of the tolerant Baptists to take of Westboro Baptist Church? It seems like the Atheists are the only ones fighting (politically) the groups who are radical. Should the "like-faithed" groups keep the others in check?
A.
Lisa Miller :

I think it's important to denounce intolerance. And, while I support, for example, a conservative Christian's right to protest and even fight against gay marriage, I also think conscientious (religious or not) people need to stand up against at bias. This is how it works in America.

I don't, by the way, think atheists are the only ones speaking out against intolerance. There are all kinds of religious groups that do so -- and some in very interesting ways. The Catholic Bishops, for example, who have been (what I see as ) intolerant on gay marriage and women's rights have been incredibly vocal on the rights of immigrants, for example.

 

– August 18, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

Why non-Evangelicals fear Evangelicals

It's not so much that most evangelicals consciously want to take over the world, but that their worldview is so narrow and their ideas of what's "just plain right" are so rigid that the agenda that seems normal and ordinary to them FEELS like control ( and would be, if made law) to those of us in the secular or deist/reformed Judeo-Christian tradition. How does one communicate this to evangelicals so that some kind of dialog is possible, when the premises are so far apart?
A.
Lisa Miller :

I think where you're wrong is in the word "most." We really have no idea what "most" evangelicals think. We know that some very loud conservative Christians get on TV and speak as though they're speaking for everyone. But we also know that on the ground, people are much more complicated than the cartoons we see on TV. In a study done by Robert Putnam and colleagues at Harvard University, researchers asked a number of members of an EXTREMELY conservative Christian group -- the kind of group that declares that Jesus is the only way to salvation -- whether other people could get to heaven. 86 percent said yes. So what certain leaders and pastors say in public does not necessarily reflect the views of the folks in the pews.

– August 18, 2011 12:25 PM
Q.

Dominionist in power

Do you think there are any actual Dominionists in positions of political authority in America today? Or such people seeking positions of authority, and having a reasonable chance of succeeding?
A.
Lisa Miller :

I think it depends on how you define dominionist. Definitely lots of folks in the anti-abortion movement, for example, believe they're doing God's work to transform the world. And certainly some of our representatives in Congress come from an environment in which they'd have heard of Francis Schaeffer (whom Ryan Lizza focuses extensively on in his New Yorker piece last week). But Michael Lindsay, who's a sociologist and now president of Gordon College, reminds me that politicians are generally pragmatists. They're not going to let the rigid theology of some pastor get in the way of, say, getting elected. 

– August 18, 2011 12:29 PM
Q.

Evangelical Christianity and literal-minded fundmentalism

In 2011, does not one's claiming to be an "evangelical" Christian almost always presuppose a certain ideological image-oriented rigidness that corresponds to an inherent conceptual UN-awareness of the symbolic nature of language?
A.
Lisa Miller :

emphatically no. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, which is a progressive Christian group, calls himself an evangelical. Rob Bell, who just wrote a book called Love Wins (which argues that mostly everybody gets to heaven in the head) says he's an evangelical. There are lots and lots and lots of fights wihtin the evangelical community about who's an evangelical and as someone said to me yesterday, "we don't have a pope." there's no final authority on that question.

– August 18, 2011 12:31 PM
Q.

Evangeicals

I love how for the last couple of decades Roman Catholics are now their allies. Sorry I wont vote for any Roman Catholic pol who jumps into bed here in VA with Jerry and pat. Didnt vote for the current gov or AG ebcuase of this. They forget that not too long ago Jerry and Pat and their friends in bed sheets were lynching us. And please I do not want to convert. i spent my summers from ages 11 to 16yo in Derry learning to build bombs and being a look out for the IRA. Yes i planted bombs and knee capped a Royal Marine who hit my girlfiend. he is lucky it wasnt worse.
A.
Lisa Miller :

one of the most interesting developments in the last few years is the alliances among various conservative christian groups. evangelicals with catholics with mormons against gay marriage, for example. these kinds of strategic alliances didn't used to be so commonplace. (although the army that was initially raised to fight roe v. wade was a combination of evangels and catholics.)

– August 18, 2011 12:33 PM
Q.

Dominionism

C. Peter Wagner is literally the founder of the New Apostolic Reformation and he wrote a book literally called "Dominion!" Wagner was an endorser of Gov. Perry's prayer rally and dozens of members of his New Apostolic Reformation were involved in organizing and speaking at the event and in "mainstream" Religious Right activism in general. So how exactly do you conclude that the documented increase of dominionists within the Religious Right movement is somehow overblown?
A.
Lisa Miller :

I don't think the new visibility of one group is a documented increase. I think it's interesting that these guys have entered politics, and I think it's worth exploring their connection to a manwho says he wants to be president. But as I said in the story, an actual dominionist -- Pat Robertson -- who had all kinds of name recognition and popularity ran for president more than 20 years ago.

– August 18, 2011 12:37 PM
Q.

Non-believer

As an agnostic -- so sort of an outsider -- I agree that a lot of the stories of different religions are pretty implausible. But I have to say that I've read Joseph Smith's biographer and any objective person can see that he was a liar and an conman. So I find the LDS stories obviously ridiculous. Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed can't be vetted quite the same way, unfortunately. I applaud your perspective on the impact of religion on politics with regard to both the right and the left. Both sides have their share of hypocrisy on this issue. MLK was a great man and championed a great cause, and obviously did so from a devout religious perspective. No one on the left would criticize him for that. Even though I am adamantly pro-choice on abortion, how can I then turn around and criticize someone who is anti-choice based on their religious beliefs?
A.
Lisa Miller :

Well you can critique someone who's anti-choice as a matter of conscience and as a citizen and as part of the democratic process, and if you feel strongly about it, you should. I'm trying to draw a distinction between discourse on matters of substance -- and I think the question of whether abortion should be legal is a matter of substance -- and flame throwing based on seemingly whacked out religious beliefs.

 

– August 18, 2011 12:40 PM
Q.

The voice of moderate evangelicals?

I'm sorry - but I don't see many evangelical Christians out there denouncing the extremists who say they are speaking for the greater majority while saying and supporting hateful things. Where are the evangelicals protesting against Michele Bachmann, or Sarah Palin? As much as the extreme blowhards from any religious group tend to suck all of the oxygen out of the room & get all of the attention, you can't tell me that reporters wouldn't sit up and take notice if even a smaller group of the moderate evangelical population came out and said "That woman is a nutjob and belongs no where near the Presidency AND she hardly represents the majority of evangelicals". And why is that? Maybe she does represent the majority.
A.
Lisa Miller :

I'm guessing that's going to happen before too long. Unfortunately (and this is the case when dealing with Islam as well) the shouters often drown out the moderates. But there are many, many moderate groups in Washington -- some leaning right, some leaning left, and coalitions of the two -- who will denounce extremism (even if they continue to hold classic social conservative positions).

– August 18, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

Non-believer response

I wasn't arguing that I shouldn't -- as a matter of conscience -- advocate my pro-choice beliefs. I was saying that I shouldn't be able to dismiss or downplay someone's anti-choice belief simply because it stems from his/her religion's teachings.
A.
Lisa Miller :

yes, i agree with you there.

– August 18, 2011 12:47 PM
Q.

Broader look at dominionism

Instead of looking at just say, a Presidential candidate who embraces Dominionism, a more complete look would take into account a very real effort to populate the DoJ with Dominionists. Especially during GW Bush's presidency, graduates of colleges like Regent University were funneled into many influential positions within the DoJ. The WaPo actually did a pretty scathing series on it. These people were everywhere and anyone in a hiring position was cherry-picking candidates for positions based on ideology. It is not overblown. A stated goal of those colleges is make sure they have people with the "right" ideology placed in positions of power.
A.
Lisa Miller :

Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University with the stated goald of training Chrisitians to be active in all walks of life: media, the arts, government, etc. His legacy was a conviction that Christians needed to be engaged in the world. While folks in the secular might not like this, I'm not sure how it's different from a Mormon sending her kid to BYU or a Catholic sending her kid to Georgetown. Don't those schools train students to take powerful places in the world with some success?

– August 18, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

Sorry, But Schaeffer

...is not a dominionist. Just because modern day Dominionists were influenced in some ways by the guy doesn't mean he was also a dominionist. Jeremy Pierce did a pretty convincing explanation of that here. You just can't lump in guys like Schaeffer or Kuyper with guys like Doug Phillips, R. J. Rushdoony, and Gary Bahnsen. The evangelical community is way, way too nuanced for that.

A.
Lisa Miller :

Agree that "dominionist" is a messy word. Part of the point of my piece.

– August 18, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

Pro Life

You can't be pro life and for the death penalty. Thats the problem. As a Catholic you cant say all life is precious and then not be against the death penalty. Religion msut be a private matter and sorry I don't need anyone right or elft making decisions for me. Try and I send you you know where.

A.
Lisa Miller :

Here's an interesting factoid. Opposition to the death penalty is at its highest level in the U.S. since the 1960s. (still very low, but still...) And our largest immigrant group is Hispanics, who tend to be overhwelmingly Catholic.

– August 18, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Thanks

I am Thankful to have bumped into this interesting conversation. Will look forward to more Thursdays with you.
A.
Lisa Miller :

great. i look forward to seeing you here!

– August 18, 2011 12:55 PM
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