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The Domination System

In an interview with the publication Raw Story, Evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore shared a disturbing reality concerning other evangelical pastors and their congregations that identify with the MAGA crowd.

Moore told NPR that “Multiple pastors tell me essentially the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount, parenthetically, in their preaching — ‘turn the other cheek’ — [and] to have someone come up after to say, ‘Where did you get those liberal talking points?’”

“And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.’”

This example is not only a canary in the coal mines of American evangelicals, mostly white Christianity, but an example of what Walter Wink calls the “domination system” at work.

We live in a society where a segment of European Americans believe it must be in the dominant position in the country and world, regardless of the egalitarian society Jesus espoused in his earthly ministry.

In his book “Black Church, White Theology,” Theron Williams, with surgical precision, describes how the domination system came into existence in Genesis, in the garden … what theologians call “the fall,” incident.

“The fall” had less to do with the eating of fruit and more to do with humanity’s desire “to be God.”

Before “the fall” Williams notes that when God created people they did not have names, they were simply male and female. They enjoyed an egalitarian existence in communion with God in a loving harmonious relationship. There was no hierarchical structure. Even God was not identified as “sovereign king, or transcendent ruler or even eternal father, but God was the imminent one who walks with humanity in the cool of the day in perfect fellowship.”

The Genesis narrative, says Williams, “never refers to Yahweh’s creation as a kingdom, which would have implied a territory governed by a ruler, despot, monarch or some hierarchical power.”

It was humanity’s attempt to “usurp God,” by disobeying God, that ushered in “the fall” and the domination system where the struggle for the power to control others is set into motion.

The domination system fosters “men against women; parents dominating children; ethnicities seeking to dominate other ethnic groups; whites feeling justified in dominating Blacks and others; Republicans contending against Democrats; straights against gays; wealthy against poor; Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholics, UCC, and non-denominational all struggling to be over the other.

Williams recounts growing up with an abusive father who weekly would physically abuse his mother because the domination system sanctioned patriarchal and sexist abuse of women.

The other result is that poor and working class people, in particular poor whites, grapple with Black and Brown people because many poor whites have been lied to in the domination system, led to believe others are usurping their power of whiteness.

Those in the wealthy class, though white, care nothing for any of the poor, white or Black. They continue to not only maintain power but increase in wealth because of the contention between poor people that they orchestrate through a domination system strategy.

Therefore, the idea of a leader who champions being violent, abusive, disrespectful and just mean spirited, is seen as strong. The domination system rewards selfishness and destructive behavior towards others.

A leader who actually tries to create a context of equity, inclusion, peace and compassion for all who suffer is not respected in the domination system.

A leader who is willing to tell the truth about the past horrors of this nation and the cruelty that was unleashed upon people identified as “other,” (meaning other than white) is seen as making the dominant group uncomfortable and any book or publication that narrates this truth is on the banned list because it disturbs the domination system.

That is why Russell and evangelicals who actually try to teach what Jesus taught are seen as teaching “liberal talking points.”

When confronted with the fact that it was Jesus, the Lord of the church, those operating out of the domination system mindset will reject the biblical Jesus and then they will create a false Jesus for them to worship.

The late Harry Belafonte recalled meeting with Dr. King at Belafonte’s home a few days before King was assassinated. Belafonte said King was agitated and he asked King what was wrong.

King replied he had been striving for integration and he believed that this was right, but feared he was leading people to integrate into a burning house. King went on to say he feared America had lost the moral will to care for the poor and do what was right for the disadvantaged.

A stunned Belafonte asked “what do we do?”

King responded, “then we will have to all become firemen because we cannot stand by and let the house burn.”

King, like Jesus, had hope that efforts to put out the fires of hate could be achieved. Much of today’s evangelical Christianity has become a “burning house,” of, to quote King, “interposition and nullification,” and I believe the Black church has been positioned to put out the fires of the domination system.

I believe it is the Black church that must lead the way, because it was the Black church that was the vehicle to help navigate Black people through the awful night of chattel slavery, the horrors of the Black Codes, the barbarous years of Jim and Jane Crow and the hypocrisy of separate and unequal.

And therefore, because the Black church has already done so much with so little, then it is the Black church that is best qualified to do the impossible with nothing.

However, many Black churches must first let go of the domination system that too many have allowed to be incorporated into their theology.

I believe it because Jesus said, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world.”

Knowing The Truth - Part I
Rev. John E. Jackson
Senior Pastor at | + posts

Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”

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