Religion has been used to serve political goals in all societies throughout history. Certainly the break between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Christianity was a political break and it had far less to do with differences over dogma and rituals. The Protestant Reformation may have started in the classroom and churches, but it wound up serving the interests of King and nobility. Religion also played a role in US politics, no matter the honest efforts of the Founding Fathers to keep religion out of politics, perhaps because of the strong influence of the Enlightenment that today's right wing elements regard as 'evil humanism'.
In their quest to win the White House, some Republican candidates are embracing extreme right wing positions that they would most likely not implement as policy once in power. Beyond the Tea Party movement that is presented as grass roots and publicly-inspired, instead of to-down and funded by millionaires, there are other extreme right wing elements under the Republican Party political umbrella seeking legitimacy and trying to move into the mainstream.
One of the current religious movements that has appeal among the Christian right is the 'Dominionism' movement that former Republican presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry have embraced. Based on Calvinist Reconstructionism that proposes replacing secular law with Biblical law, 'Dominionism' assumes that God mandated the land be ruled by Christians who must try to influence or control government.
Advocates of this movement call for the death penalty for abortion and homosexuality, among other 'sins' that would become crimes. Although it has been around for fifty years, 'Dominionism' is really based on 19th century influences that include Social Darwinism and Christian Nationalism. Christians shall have dominion over the earth, starting of course with their own nation that lives in sin of humanist/secular laws and institutions, and consequently suffers calamities ranging from economic recession to crime. If only God's law were put into practice, society would be heaven on earth.
Politicizing faith is as old as religion, especially once it goes from movement to an integral part of mainstream society and invariably manipulated by rulers and social elites to further their interests. The situation is no different today, with Perry and Bachmann looking to win public support by embracing a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that has been growing in the last ten years or so.
Transcending many Christian denominations,'Dominionism' is not much different than its nemesis, 'political Islamism'. It has been described as Christian fascism, and its founder R. J. Rushdoony dismissed by some critics as a totalitarian. Author of Institutes of Biblical Law, modeled after Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Rushdoony defended American slavery has been described as a racist bigot, which is interesting given that his family was a victim of discrimination and fled Turkey to escape the first Armenian genocide. He wrote that: “The law here is humane and also unsentimental. It recognizes that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so. Socialism, on the contrary, tries to give the slave all the advantages of his security together with the benefits of freedom, and in the process, destroys both the free and the enslaved.”
Naturally, no Republican candidate would go as far as defending slavery today, but some like Bachmann and Perry embrace 'Dominionism' because they want to capture the Republican 'popular base' mostly in the south/southwest and rural areas. The "Response Prayer Rally" organized in Houston on 6 August 2011 on behalf of Perry was a political stunt to capture popular support largely among the evangelicals in the south and southwestern states, but speakers included some of the most ultra-right wingers in the nation, individuals who argue that the First Amendment protects only Christians.
This does not mean that if Perry wins - Divine Providence would never visit such a catastrophe on the American people - that he would actually implement 'Dominionism' any more than he would follow through with his proposals to:
a) Abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.
b). Congress would have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.
c) Scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment that gives Congress the "power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."d) End the direct election of senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment and give state legislators the power to appoint members of the Senate.
e) Require the federal government to balance its budget every year through a balanced budget amendment.
(Congress would be lucky to pass a measure that limits federal spending to a quarter of GDP, let alone an amendment that would have so many loopholes it would be meaningless.)
f). The federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman without exception in all states.
g) Abortion would be made illegal throughout the country.
My guess is that neither Perry nor Bachmann will win the Republican nomination. Both are trying too hard and lack legitimacy with mainstream Republicans, until the mainstream moves farther to the right. Governor Perry and try to be all things 'Republican' and that means they will fail in the end. Minnesota congresswoman Bachman told an audience in South Carolina that: "Fiscal conservatives - I'm one of those. National Security conservatives - I'm one of those. Social conservatives - I'm one of those. And the Tea Party - I'm one of those." Because she and Perry try to be all things conservative to all Republicans, they will fail, but the 'Dominionist' movement has legs amid hard times in America and it will influence the Republican platform and the new congress in 2013. The dangers with the rising 'Dominionist' movement is not that it has broad popular support, but that it has influence far beyond its actual voting power.
Ordinary people, good Christian folk suffering calamities do not understand the complex nuances of economics and politics, but they do understand that if they can only bring down to earth God's heaven all problems would be solved. Politicians know that people want things explained in simple terms, in terms they can appreciate and connect emotionally, and they want simple and honest to God solutions. That is what Perry and Bachmann are promising these innocent Christian folk who have already suffered much through no fault of their own. And if it were not Perry and Bachmann, it would other opportunists seeking political power by manipulating the faithful using faith that is the 'Achilles heel' for the masses.
As it permeates all segments of society on the right, 'Domonionism' provides ammunition for the more extreme elements that may resort to violence. Finally, it is another source of sociopolitical polarization, a phenomenon that we also see in Europe where the extreme right has roots in the 'established' conservative political movement, but branches farther to the right pulling with it more voters from the 'democratic consensus' on which bourgeois democracy rests.