In the Book of Judges, after the warriors of Gilead defeated the tribe of Ephraim, the surviving Ephraimites tried to cross the Jordan River back into their home territory. The Gileadites attempted to cut them off from the fords of the Jordan and needed a a way to determine if a person was an Ephraimite refugee. The solution was both simple and clever:
And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.
You might think after the first 40,000 or so, the Ephraimites would work on perfecting their pronunciation. But ingrained habits can be hard to change.
A prime example of this is the never-ending paranoia of the theocracy conspiracy-theorists. Fortunately, they are easily identified because they will be using the sibboleth “dominionism.” Over on Evangel, Jeremy Pierce has a useful history lesson and a devastating critique of these “Dominionismists“:
I’ve determined that there’s a political faction out there that needs a name, because it’s a group of conspiracy theorists with a particular agenda that’s becoming somewhat influential, and it’s achieving its agenda fairly well. Its agenda is to discredit mainstream evangelicalism by confusing it with extremist figures who have nearly zero influence on much of any importance. I’m going to call this group the Dominionismists, because their whole agenda depends on this fictional line of thought called Dominionism [sic].
A example of this regrettable silliness is Michelle Goldberg’s “A Christian Plot for Domination?“:
With Tim Pawlenty out of the presidential race, it is now fairly clear that the GOP candidate will either be Mitt Romney or someone who makes George W. Bush look like Tom Paine. Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.
Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult. Most writers, myself included, who explore it have been called paranoid. In a contemptuous 2006 First Things review of several books, including Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy, and my own Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “the fear of theocracy has become a defining panic of the Bush era.”
Now, however, we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences.
This dominionism nonsense is about the stupidiest trend to come along since Birtherism. I could waste a lot of time pointing dissecting the ignorance but instead I’ll refer you back to Pierce’s post. Besides, Goldberg is the equivalent of Jerome “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” Corsi. She doesn’t really care about the truth, she just wants to frighten some gullible liberals and sell more copies of her book.
I have to give her credit, though. I thought on this topic that it would be difficult to produce an article less informed and more slanderous than Ryan Lizza’s embarrassing New Yorker piece. But when it comes to lowering the bar, you really can’t beat Tina Brown’s Newsweek/The Daily Beast. So kudos for your remarkable achievement, Ms. Goldberg: You’ve written the dumbest article I’ve read all year.