Southern Religion

Huckabee the Dominionist theology candidate?

“Unfit for command” writes Frank Schaeffer about former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. At Brad Blog, the former Religious Right leader says:

It is clear that Huckabee is unfit for any national office and was unfit to ever be a governor. It is also clear that his record of insane irresponsibility was well known by the evangelicals that supported him for theological reasons in the 2007 primaries leading up to the ’08 race.

Schaeffer argues that Huckabee is a zealot whose blizzard of clemencies/pardons was a “direct result of a theology known as “Dominionism” (or “Reconstructionism“) where believers want to not just believe their religion privately but “take back America for God” in other words rule on the basis not of American law but the Bible.”

Some of Huckabee’s commutations, pardons and associated actions make no sense and his explanations tend to be confused, characterized by blame-shifting and denial. Yet it is readily seen that Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was unduly responsive to the requests of Baptist ministers. For example, Huckabee granted clemency [reversed in the face of furious public reaction] to Glen Green over the objections of the Post-Prison Transfer Board, not for substantial reasons, but apparently because Green’s minister interceded on his behalf. Green’s minister argued that “the murder was an accident and Green was forced to confess.” Garrick Feldman of the Arkansas Leader could find no reason to believe the confession was coerced and wrote:

But if [Huckabee] read the confession and still considers Green deserving of parole, he’s certainly unfit to hold office. Who would free a madman who beat an 18-year-old woman with Chinese martial-arts sticks, raped her as she barely clung to life, ran over her with his car, then dumped her in the bayou, her hand reaching up, as if begging for mercy?

Joe Conason at Salon builds an argument. As does David Waters at OnFaith, although he reaches the misguided conclusion that “Huckabee is no zealot.”

Huckabee strenuously denies that his decision to commute the sentence of Maurice Clemmons was faith-based, but there is considerable evidence it was. Dan Gilgoff reviews it in brief. Atheist PZ Myers is even more synoptic while dealing with the importance applying real mercy within our criminal justice system.

Huckabee’s response at RedState that “Religion had nothing to do with the commutation” is a ludicrous denial of the available record of events. It makes even less sense than his denial of the power of ordinary human conscience and of our collective allegiance to reasonable social order with the hyperventilating argument that “Soldiers and police officers are the line between us and anarchy.”

Nor does Huckabee’s recourse to denial and blame-shifting blunt Schaeffer’s overarching argument. The public record [like the parole documentation [.pdf]] and weight of accounts [Murray Waas 2002 Arkansas Times article,The Arkansas Leader series, Mahablog, Jeralyn] is with Schaeffer when he writes:

In Huckabee’s more than 1000 pardons of criminals that prosecutors and victims objected to in Arkansas Huckabee most often cited his belief in “redemption” as his “reason.” This belief was a result of Huckabee’s extreme and literal born-again fundamentalist views about people’s path to God.

Republican reaction to Huckabee and his arguments will demonstrate whether Schaeffer is right when he says:

It seems to me that Huckabee’s absurd record of unwarranted pardons of dangerous criminals including killers and rapists is just another example proving that the heart of the Republican Party is now in the hands of religious extremists.

December 2, 2009 - Posted by | Churches, Politics, SBC | , ,


  1. Dominionism? Or Reconstructionism?

    Oh dear. What does “Dominionism” even mean? Folks like Schaeffer often toss around this term – a term that theologians and historians do not use – in a way that lumps your average born-again evangelical and fundamentalist with the much more extreme Reconstructionist types under the “Dominionism” umbrella.

    Schaeffer’s proof that Huckabee is a Dominionist?

    “Huckabee’s extreme and literal born-again fundamentalist views about people’s path to God.”

    Sorry Franky, but Huckabee’s exclusivism is the traditional, “orthodox” position throughout 2,000 years of Christian history – a view that many folks in addition to fundamentalists have held including the late Francis Schaeffer.

    Huckabee might indeed be unfit for command. But a Dominionist? That really is laughable in light of the fact that Huckabee was the “moderate” candidate when he was elected President of the Arkansas Baptist Convention while the Controversy was still raging at the state level. Paul Pressler himself accused Huckabee of being a moderate and Novak repeated Pressler’s claim during the campaign.

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | December 2, 2009

    • Paul Pressler who supported Fred Thompson?
      Huckabee who was dubbed a “moderate” during the SBC holy wars?
      Huckabee who sneered that Richard Land “swoons for Fred Thompson” (now that is a hilarious image).
      Maybe Huckabee’s a “Dominionist” but not angry about it.
      Dominionism is a term used by some political scientists and journalists. There is controversy over Dominion Theology, but as a journalist attempting to communicate a general concept, Frank Schaeffer appears to me to use the term correctly.
      Likewise his reference to Reconstructionism.
      Schaeffer seems to me to be saying Huckabee implemented his faith directly in the Arkansas clemencies/pardons/paroles, applying his view of Biblical principles and to some degree disregarding secular law. In that last regard, Huckabee did disregard Arkansas state constitution requirements for providing explanations, even when prosecutors wrote and formally requested them.
      Huckabee’s politically convenient denials of responsibility and blame-shifting in public forums don’t satisfy the constitutional requirement.

      Comment by baptistplanet | December 2, 2009

  2. I read the Wikipedia entry on Dominionism before I commented. Note the criticisms – most, if not all, apply to Schaeffer’s use the term.

    As someone who is active in a couple different national and regional Political Science associations, what Political Scientists use this term? As a reader of Get Religion, you know that there is a difference between whether journalists use a term and whether they should use a term. Some top religion journalists write for Get Religion; I can’t recall anyone over there approving of the use of “Dominionist” to describe evangelicals and fundamentalists.

    It would be accurate, however, on theological and historical grounds (and probably by the standards of journalists) to describe Mike Huckabee as an evangelical, a conservative evangelical in the Southern Baptist tradition. Maybe a fundamentalist – although that word is often misused as well. Dominionist is really a meaningless term. Schaeffer’s use of the term Reconstructionism (a term that does have historical/theological meaning) in the context of Huckabee’s theology smells of Guilt-By-Association – a tactic which the Wiki article you cite notes is often used by those who employ the Dominionist term.

    And yea, Huckabee probably did disregard the constitutional requirements. But, I sense that Schaeffer believes that faith should not in any way influence an elected official’s policy decisions but that’s a different discussion…

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | December 3, 2009

    • With decades of experience and a stack of professional awards as a journalist, having started and run publications, yes, I think I understand the rudiments of the profession to which you refer. No, Get Religion’s use or lack thereof of a term is not an acceptable standard.

      Just three quick examples of the term in use (the first from a political science journal and so on … you’ll see).

      Midwest Political Science Association: Dominionism and Epistemology

      The Rise of Dominionism

      Chris Hedges book American Fascists makes extensive use of the term.

      What Schaeffer actually says he thinks is important, and you will find if you attempt a wider reading of his work what what you sense in this case is wrong.

      Comment by baptistplanet | December 3, 2009

  3. My apologies for saying “political scientists” earlier when I meant “social scientists.” The latter is a reference I intended to appropriated from Wikipedia and misstated. Also, the reference in my preceding comment to a political science “journal” is actually to a conference and I don’t know how presentations at that conference are vetted. So I have not demonstrated that the term is generally accepted by political scientists.

    Sociologists are a different matter. Sociologist Sara Diamond is among those who helped popularize the term by using it well.

    In her book “Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States,” Diamond cites Francis Schaeffer’s late father Francis Schaeffer as a “source of dominion theology.”

    You’re ridiculing the poor guy for using a term for which his daddy helped lay the foundations.

    Regarding journalists, let’s not leave out Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates (PRA), who helped popularize the term. He tries to correct its misuse by others in an interesting piece here.

    As for other veteran journalists who use the term and write about religion, we should not omit Frederick Clarkson, one of the founders of Talk To Action.

    Or journalist Sam Harris (who is also a neuroscientist) and can be found at, among other places, Huffington Post.

    Indeed, the list of other veteran journalists (with their own stacks of professional awards) who write about religion (among other things) and who make responsible use of the term, runs long.

    Comment by baptistplanet | December 3, 2009

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