Having begun my clerical journey at a Baptist (and largely fundamentalist) seminary, I am painfully aware of the dangers in reading the Bible and other religious literature in a concrete and literal way. There are some passages that are meant literally, but there are others that are quite destructive when that literary rhetoric is applied to them. I am also aware that many accept dogma and beliefs from preachers and ministers all of the time without truly thinking through and studying the issue themselves. Some of these theological ideas that are the outcome are extraordinarily damaging and have far reaching social consequences. Here are a few Christian theological beliefs that are socially destructive when applied to or mixed with politics.
- Dominionism– Dominionism stems from God telling Adam in the book of Genesis that “man” was to have “dominion” over all of creation. Many have taken this idea to offer a license for unrestricted consumption. This concept when placed under capitalism has created unsurpassed greed and has created a huge destructive force for nature and the earth. If you will notice that the power God provided Adam in the narrative was a caregiving power to serve as as the tender of the garden. The intent was not that Adam turn Eden into “scorched earth” from over consumption.
- The Rapture- The rapture is the belief by some Christians that prior to a “great tribulation” all of those who have accepted Jesus will be taken off the earth to avoid the suffering and persecution of the great tribulation. Then after the great tribulation is over then God will create a new heaven and a new earth. Most people don’t realize that this doctrine did not exist prior to 1830. A woman named Margaret McDonald who was part of a religious cult called the “Irvingites” had a vision during an emotional worship experience. Others who have documented on this said that she was not having a religious experience, but that in reality that she was quite mad. The belief was then embraced by a group called the “Catholic Apostolic Church.” Who also, by the way, inaccurately predicted that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. Somehow, the doctrine continued in spite of this through Irish born minister John Darby. Darby brought this idea to American. Darby’s ideas then found their way into one of America’s very first study Bibles. This Bible remains widely used today and is well known as the Scofield Bible. With the popularity of Scofield’s Bible and its use in many fundamentalist churches, the doctrine soon became a concrete mainstay of many Christian circles in American. This theology does not bode well with taking responsibility for the earth either. After all, with this belief system a person things to themselves: “Well, I ain’t going to be here for the bad stuff and when that is done God is gonna build us a new one anyway.”
- Zionism- There are many different versions of Zionism out there, but the most popular idea that underpins many theologies in America is that American needs to be aligned with Israel at the end times. This alignment is almost treated as some type of good luck charm to avoid calamity and destruction. It has also served as a rationale for violence against Arabic and Muslim people as well over the years.
Over time, these theological ideas have been warped and come to dominate many conservative Christian circles. Many of the ideas have grown to take on the feel of a kind of nationalistic fairytale. They have taken on misogynistic and racist tones, and at times served as the groundwork for military incursion. These beliefs largely fueled by fear and a desire for control have pushed Christianity to its breaking point. The consequences of these beliefs have allowed for the destruction of the environment. They have led to division and hate. They have even led to the very death of some who refused a vaccine because they were afraid of not being “raptured” if the vaccine was the “mark of the beast.”
I reject these theologies. I reject them on the basis that they are fear driven in nature and I reject them on the basis that a true and healthy spirituality is connecting and empowering, but all one has to do in the world is look around to see that these doctrines are not making the world a better place. I am aware that there are genuinely good people who believe these ideas and that is fine. Unfortunately, the collective of society has fallen into the fearful undertones they are often presented in.
At the end of the day, love is far more important that doctrine. In the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians this is very clearly spelled out for those in the back who may have missed it. People don’t need to be frightened into believing something. They do not need to have the ability to try to control everything or engaging in magical thinking. At best we see things through a mirror dimly lit, but one day when we see things face to face we will realize that the greatest antidote to fear and disconnection is the connecting and empowering love. If a theology is developed that doesn’t support that…well then, I ain’t buying it…and in case you were wondering, 1st Corinthians, chapter 13 was one of those areas of the bible meant to be read literally.-