The theology of dominion



Refutation of a fallacy, of an out-of-time, fundamentalist interpretation, in the service of a political, totalitarian and exclusionary meaning

The transition, within neo-Pentecostal groups, largely Bolsonarists, from the theology of prosperity to the theology of domination is being discussed among political analysts. I estimate that the current conflict between the Zionist State of Israel and the Gaza Strip, with characteristics of carnage and even genocide of Palestinians, has reinforced this transition in Brazil. It has been known for a long time that Benjamin Netanyahu is a radical far-right Zionist who expressed his project of restoring Israel to the dimensions it had, at its height, in the time of David and Solomon. Hence his unrestricted support for the expulsion and colonization of territories in the West Bank with an Arab Muslim population.

Dominion theology or dominionism was born in the USA around the 1970s in a context of Calvinist Christian reconstructionism. As is known, Calvin in the XNUMXth century established an extremely strict and violent religious government in Geneva, including the death penalty. It would be a model for the whole world.

Dominionism groups together several fundamentalist Christian tendencies, including Catholic integralists who postulate an exclusively religious policy, with a biblical basis, to be applied throughout humanity to the exclusion of any other expression, considered false and therefore without the right to exist. It is the central totalizing ideology for the Christian right in the field of politics and customs.

Let’s see what is the fundamental biblical basis that supports this theology. It is based on the first chapter of Genesis. There are actually two versions of the Genesis of creation. But only the first one that refers directly to the domain is used. Here's the text?

“God said: Let us make man in our image and likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the livestock and all the wild animals and all the creeping things that creep along the earth. God created man in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. And God blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, fill and subdue the earth, over the birds of the air and over everything that lives on the earth” (Genesis 1,26-29).

This text, as it stands, legitimizes all types of domination and served developmentalists as an argument for their project of unlimited growth.

However, it was read in a fundamentalist and literalist way, without taking into account that between us today and the biblical account there are at least 3-4 thousand years. The meaning of words changes. These groups do not consider what they meant when they were written thousands of years ago. We uncover its meaning in Hebrew. We will see that the text, interpreted hermeneutically as it should be, shows the fallacy of dominion theology. It represents a paranoid delusion, unrealizable in the plural and globalized world in which we find ourselves.

The text must be interpreted from the perspective of the affirmation of the human being created “in the image and likeness of God”. With this expression, in Hebrew, we do not want to define what a human being is (his nature); on the contrary, one wants to determine what he, operationally, should do. Just as God extracted everything from nothing, human beings, created creators, must carry forward what God created with benevolence: “God saw that everything was good” (Genesis1,25). The original Hebrew meaning of “image and likeness” (seal e demût) makes the human being the representative and the lieutenant place of the Creator.

The expressions “subdue” and “dominate” should be understood simply as “cultivate and care”. But let's get to the details. For “dominate” he uses the Hebrew word Radash (Genesis 1,26:XNUMX) which means to govern as the Creator governs his creation. To subdue uses the term in Hebrew Kabaš (Genesis 1,28:8), which means acting like a good, non-domineering king who looks wisely at his subjects. Therefore, Psalm XNUMX praises God for having created human beings as kings:

“You made him a little inferred to a divine being, you crowned him with glory and honor, you gave him dominion (kabash) over the works of your hands, you placed everything (radah) under his feet; the sheep and all the cattle and even the wild animals, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, everything that makes its way through the sea” (Psalm 8,6:9-XNUMX).

Here, as in Genesis 1, there is nothing about violence and domination: we have to act like the Creator who acts with love to the point that He said in the book of Wisdom that “he created all beings with love and none with hate but not the would have created…because He is the passionate lover of life” (Wisdom 1,24.26). Here the basis for any theology of dominion disappears.

There is a second version of Genesis (2,4:25-2,23) that diverges from the first, never mentioned by representatives of dominion theology. In this second, God removes all beings from the dust of the earth, including human beings, thereby establishing a bond of deep brotherhood between all. He created man who lived in solitude. He then gave him a woman, not to procreate, but to be his companion. (Genesis 2,15). He placed them in the Garden of Eden, not to dominate it but to “cultivate it and guard it” (XNUMX:XNUMX), using the Hebrew words abbot to plow-cultivate and shamar to keep or care for.

This understanding that places all beings taken from the same origin, from the dust of the earth, and entrusting the human couple with the mission of cultivating and guarding, would provide another type of foundation for coexistence between all human beings together with other beings of nature. Here there is no basis for dominance, on the contrary, it denies it in favor of harmonious coexistence between everyone.

This analysis, based on Hebrew, is decisive in removing the rug from an out-of-time, fundamentalist interpretation, serving a political, totalitarian and exclusionary sense of dominion over people and the Earth, as being God's project. Nothing more distorted and false. As much as fundamentalism and far-right orientation in politics is growing in the world, this trend does not offer the real objective conditions to prevail and constitute a single religious way of organizing the politics of one and diverse humanity.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabiting the Earth: what is the path to universal fraternity (Voices). []

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