Christian Dominionists Erase Queer Folk
But that’s not all they do
I can already hear the puzzled questions. What’s a dominionist, and what do you mean by erase?
Most of you probably already know what dominionism is, even if you haven’t heard the term before. Most of you have probably heard of at least one very infamous Christian dominionist, and quite recently.
Judge Roy Moore of Alabama.
Moore is well known for defying United States Supreme Court rulings. He was removed twice from positions on Alabama’s high court for his refusal to follow higher court rulings, once with respect to displays of religious iconography in public spaces, and then again for refusing to execute same-sex marriages.
His legal arguments for doing so are flimsy and probably best characterized as non-existent. His real arguments are based on his religious beliefs, on his dominionist theology.
In short, Moore claims to believe that “God’s law” supercedes the mandates of the secular state. To dominionists like Moore, the very word “secular” is a pejorative.
Dominionists in the United States (like Moore) often speak stirringly of freedom, but when they do so, pay very close attention. If you do, it won’t take you long to realize that by freedom, they mean the freedom of conservative Christians to order society to their liking, to their understanding of their particular god’s wishes.
Moore is an excellent example, but I’m not writing about Judge Moore today.
I’d like to tell you about a different Christian dominionist, one you probably haven’t heard of. He’s not very important, just the publisher of a small-town Texas newspaper, and simultaneously the pastor of a small-town Baptist church.
Phillip Hamilton is his name. He’s in the news because he refused to print the name of John Gambill, a man who’s mourning his husband’s recently departed mother.
John and his huband Barry Giles, the grieving couple, say they submitted an obituary to the newspaper, only to find that the the fact of their marriage, and even John’s name, did not appear in print.
The publisher erased the fact of the marriage and the existence of a human being.
Hamilton issued the following statement in defense of his actions,
“It is my religious conviction that a male cannot have a husband. It is also my belief that to publish anything contrary to God’s Word on this issue would be to publish something in the newspaper that is not true.
“The newspaper respects the first amendment rights of those who express such opinions. The newspaper’s decision to edit the obituary is both ethical and lawful. It would be unethical to publish a news item that is known by the editor to be false. Based on the truth found in the Word of God, I could not in good conscience identify Mr Gambill as the husband of Mr Giles.”
Let’s break this down.
Marriage in the United States, as in most liberal democracies, is a civil institution.
It’s a contract entered into by two people with the purpose of joining their lives in partnership. The state encourages these unions for many reasons, but principally because they offer benefits of stability and productivity to society at large.
The state rewards marriage by offering an array of privileges and benefits, while simultaneously imposing certain expectations and responsibilities.
While it’s true that at one time in European history, certain churches claimed marriage as a sacriment that only they could administer, those days are long gone.
Religion plays no role in marriage, outside of the merely symbolic, in almost any liberal democracy in the world today.
In the United States, people of all faiths and of no faith marry every day. They expect to be treated equally in their marriages, and they understand that no religious institution has any say over their legal union. That’s the de facto and de jure reality.
Notice, however, that the Christian editor of the newspaper in question, who also pastors the local Baptist church, insists differently. He claims that his religion supercedes civil law, that his faith holds dominion over the temporal world, to the point where he insists no marriage exists, even where it legally, indisputably does.
This is Dominionism at its heart.
Does it really matter? Isn’t this just one tiny newspaper in one hick town in Texas? Surely, dinosaurs like this homophobic publisher will fade away. It can’t really make that much difference.
I suppose that’s possible.
I know it’s not an assured outcome.
Texas is fighting hard to make same-sex marriage a second-class institution. According to The Guardian, the Texas supreme court last year declared that recent US Supreme Court decisions mandating same-sex marriage do not mean states must also provide the same benefits to all married people. The case arose from conservative activists’ attempts to stop Houston from offering spousal benefits to city employees in same-sex marriages.
Pastor Hamilton is not alone in his struggle to impose his particular religion on the people of the United States as a whole. His dominionist philosophy is shared widely across the United States.
As a gay man, I feel particularly threatened, but this issue extends far beyond just queer rights. It impacts all of us who don’t want to live in a de facto theocracy run by evangelical Christians.
Am I overstating things? Let me leave you with this.
Judge Moore, the infamous dominionist, lost his bid to become a US senator, but other well known dominionists currently hold the reins of power while wielding great influence at the highest levels of US government.
You know some of their names already.
Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz.
There are more, and that’s a serious problem, one to which all lovers of liberty and freedom must be alert.