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Jon Meacham: This Rick Santorum Fellow May Be a Dominionist or Something

6:35 PM, Feb 21, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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There are fair attacks of Rick Santorum's religious rhetoric, and there are unfair attacks of Rick Santorum's religious rhetoric. You can put this Jon Meacham post at Time in the "unfair and absurd" category: 

We have been here before. In 1908, the Unitarian William Howard Taft ran against the evangelical William Jennings Bryan. Bryan supporters attacked Taft’s faith; that year a Pentecostal newspaper wrote: “Think of the United States with a President who does not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but looks upon our immaculate Savior as a … low, cunning imposter!”

Rick Santorum seemed to be working in the Bryan tradition on Feb. 18 when the GOP presidential candidate said that President Obama adheres to “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

This isn't the most ridiculous part of Meacham's post, but it is very unfair. As Rich Lowry notes in his column today, Santorum simply "criticized the president’s environmentalism as representative of a 'phony theology.' The press snipped the remark out of the context and played it as Santorum donning his finest Grand Inquisitor garb and reading the president of the United States out of the Christian faith."

Where Meacham really goes off the rails is when he writes (emphasis added): 

Santorum added: “I’m talking about the belief that man should be in charge of the earth and should have dominion over it and should be good stewards of it.”

Here Santorum heads into treacherous territory. The allusion to “dominion” evokes Genesis 1:28, in which the Lord blessed Adam and Eve and told them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

This is the language of what’s known as “dominionist theology,” the worldview that Christians have a divine mandate to control or at the very least influence earthly government and culture.

Meacham is casting quite a wide net to ensnare Santorum among the dominionists. There's a huge difference between believing Christians have a "divine mandate to control" government and believing they're supposed to try to merely influence government and culture. The term "dominionist" usually refers to a genuine theocrat. If Meacham wants claim that that Santorum--a Catholic who supported a Mormon for president in 2008--is a real dominionist, he should say so, or he should stop abusing the term.

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