“They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2)
“You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
This part is by far the hardest I’ve faced writing.
After mulling the Subdue and Rule Mandate for years and understanding how God designed us to live and what we spiritually wrecked people have made of life, it grieves me. But I know it’ll get better after Jesus returns and the restoration of all things happens (Acts 3:21). Our Father’s plan will not fail, for He never fails.
But we sure fail. Over and over and over.
You’d think that the domain of religion would be immune from the Subdue and Rule Mandate gone awry, especially for those who claim to know the God who commissioned us to be His viceregents. Alas, no. “Don’t most religions promise peace, enlightenment, and godliness, leading us to the ultimate utopia, that is, Eden restored?” Yes, that’s the promise. But it’s never fulfilled because humanity is broken and separated from God. We can’t have Eden without God. And without God, Conquer and Dominate runs wild because we make ourselves the gods of our world.
Even in the holy domain of the One True God’s family, His children often seem hell-bent on overpowering one another in the fight for control. Why? Our inner nature may be transformed, but we still wrestle with our minds, wills, and emotions as the Holy Spirit patiently works to make us like Jesus. We’re not perfect yet. We’re still works in progress, and that damnable urge to Conquer and Dominate erupts all too often.
I don’t expect other religions to understand what I’m presenting here because they’re not from the Judeo-Christian faith communities. As such, those religions don’t have God’s revelation of Himself or His word. Nor do they have a living relationship with their Creator. As opposed to the One True God, their gods are imaginary (1 Corinthians 8:4) or demons passing themselves off as gods (1 Corinthians 10:20) or themselves as gods (gotquestions.org). So naturally, the drive to Conquer and Dominate manifests just as easily in their faith communities.
But this should be different for Christians and Jews. Jews and Christians profess to know the Living God and His word, at least intellectually. More specifically, born-again Christians should really be different because we know the Living God experientially via the reality of Jesus’ salvation and His Holy Spirit living in us. But despite that experiential connection to God, too few born-again Christians have more than a superficial knowledge of His word. They miss His instructions about how to live as God’s new creations, reign in their Conquer and Dominate selfishness, and function cooperatively in Subdue and Rule mode.
So, where does that leave us? While much of humanity knows about God or knows God experientially, many people know little of His will via His word. On the other hand, some people know much about God’s word but not Himself on an experiential level. We must have both. We need a relationship with God and knowledge of His word to help us put the brakes on our drive to Conquer and Dominate other people and retrain us to Subdue and Rule appropriately because that’s how it was in the beginning.
And yet, it’s still a big struggle. There are those of us who are born-again, know God personally, and have dived deep into His word, and yet we still fight with needing to control everything around us. Of all the people on earth, it’s this group of Christians who ought to be doing better with this whole Subdue and Rule/Conquer and Dominate thing, but we fail. That’s one reason why this part is hard to write because it applies to me first, and I know my shortcomings.
The other reason why this part is hard to write is that I’m watching the war between Israel and Hamas unfold in real-time. If things go sideways, we could watch the start of a wider Middle East war or World War 3.
At its core, I see the Israel-Hamas war as all about Conquer and Dominate under the banner of religion. Radical Islamist Hamas is trying to eradicate the Jews and the Jewish State. We’re talking total extermination here; the ultimate Conquer and Dominate. Therefore, Israel must Conquer and Dominate Islamist Hamas to the extreme to achieve safety and security.
But there’s a more significant war that’s been raging for millennia. It’s the Conquer and Dominate religious war—total domination in a god’s name.
Conquer and Dominate in God’s Name
God created the world. As its Creator, the world belongs to Him as His sacred possession and domain. Since people were created from the earth’s dust, we also are His sacred possession and domain. Whether we admit or deny the truth, each person belongs to God and is under His rule, even if most people are estranged from Him relationally.
But our Heavenly Father and King refused to let us go. He’s done everything to make a restored relationship with Him possible. A marvelous thing happens for those who receive His invitation and are made new. We live within His domain called creation, and He now lives in us through His indwelling Holy Spirit, making us His personal domain, something that didn’t even exist in Eden!
It’s one thing to Conquer and Dominate our King’s world in His name because we’re doing the right thing the wrong way while claiming to do it with His approval. It’s another thing to Conquer and Dominate people who live in our King’s world because we’re usurping His authority to rule them while claiming His authority to do so. However, it’s especially dreadful to Conquer and Dominate a fellow Christian, within whom God sits as king while claiming His authority to usurp His rule over their lives.
Using religion to force people under one’s control is the most sinful and wicked form of Conquer and Dominate. Religious Conquer and Dominate exerts control over another person while claiming ultimate authority to do so, i.e., in the name of a particular god or faith.
The spectrum of Conquer and Dominate’s forced submission and control in the name of religion ranges from manipulation, spiritual abuse, brainwashing, and forced or coerced conversion to oppression and even murder for religious reasons.
To manipulate is “to negotiate, control, or influence for one’s own advantage. Spiritual manipulation is a technique used by some abusive churches and cults to control individuals and acquire gain, all the while giving the impression that their teachings are based on the Bible.” (gotquestions.org). Gotquestions.org’s webpage has an excellent summary of religious manipulation techniques such as “Taking scripture out of context, scholastic dishonesty, deliberate scripture twisting, and claiming divine authority (as in) ‘the Lord told me…’.”
Gotquestions.org continues, “Victims of spiritual manipulation seldom realize what’s happening to them. Here are some indicators of a spiritually manipulative church: Legalism, demands for obedience, unquestioning submission, punishment (loss of privileges, shunning, or expulsion), misplaced loyalty, emphasis on performance, exclusivism (‘we alone are right, and everybody else is wrong’), isolation (refusal to associate with anyone but spiritual brothers and sisters), and humiliation of the ‘disobedient’” (Ibid.)
While most of these examples are clear, legalism is tricky and often misunderstood, especially by Christians. There are three types of legalism (ligonier.org). First, there’s legalism that regards keeping God’s law as our sole focus, making one’s spiritual life a series of cold, hard do’s and don’ts, devoid of a personal relationship with God, the Law-Giver. Second, there’s legalism that demands people submit to the letter of the law, not the spirit, i.e., finding the principle within a law (specifically God’s law) and insisting it be applied the same without regard to any circumstance. Third, there’s the legalism of man-made laws elevated to the level of God’s law. This third version is the type of legalism referred to in gotquestions.org’s list. Legalism of this sort demands people bow to another person’s interpretation and application of God’s law because they’re right and God backs them up. As you can see, this is a pride-filled arrogance that justifies forcing others to submit on religious grounds.
Religious Spiritual Abuse
Next is spiritual abuse. Spiritual manipulation is but one form of spiritual abuse. According to Webmd.com, spiritual abuse is “any attempt to exert power and control over someone using religion, faith, or beliefs can be spiritual abuse.
Spiritual abuse can happen within a religious organization or a personal relationship. Spiritual abuse is not limited to one religion, denomination, or group of people” and can be part of other forms of abuse (webmd.com, italics author). Some examples of spiritual abuse are bullying, sexual misconduct, financial fraud, and exerting control over others via threats and intimidation (gotquestions.org). Spiritual abuse for control purposes is not limited to spiritual authorities. Christianity Today says, “Spiritual abuse works both ways: congregations can abuse pastors and pastors can abuse congregations and congregants. Make it more complex: congregants can abuse one another” (christianitytoday.com). Now that’s messed up.
The fact that religious teachings frame the abuse classifies it as spiritual abuse and makes such abuse particularly wrong. It’s evil masked as good. The perp uses the purported safety and security of a spiritual relationship with God to abuse others physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually. The abuser’s abuse cuts deep because it betrays their victim’s trust.
Spiritual abuse is especially grievous because of its widespread damage to the victim’s life and lasting effects on their relationship with God, even rejecting Him and salvation. As Christianity.com puts it, “Any announcement about a church that chose to fire a pastor because of bullying provides the excuse for individuals to abandon their faith or to not explore Christianity at all, to their eternal detriment” (christianity.com).
Because of these possible eternal consequences, spiritual abuse makes the perp guilty of a terrible sin against God. When speaking of offenses that could turn a person from God, Jesus taught, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:6-7, italics author).
Spiritual abuse as a form of Conquer and Dominate is not always clearly defined. However, the general rule is abusing people by using a religious text or spiritual authority to gain and keep control over others and for personal gain. However, the good news is healing from spiritual abuse is possible and widely available (crosswalk.com).
As we go deeper down the religious Conquer and Dominate rabbit hole, we move from manipulation and abuse to overt brainwashing. “Brainwashing, also called Coercive Persuasion, (is the) systematic effort to persuade nonbelievers to accept a certain allegiance, command, or doctrine. A colloquial term, it is more generally applied to any technique designed to manipulate human thought or action against the desire, will, or knowledge of the individual.” For example, “By controlling the physical and social environment, an attempt is made to destroy loyalties to any unfavourable groups or individuals, to demonstrate to the individual that his attitudes and patterns of thinking are incorrect and must be changed, and to develop loyalty and unquestioning obedience to the ruling party” (britannica.com, italics author).
By definition, brainwashing uses various techniques to establish unbreakable control over another person. As a Conquer and Dominate tool, brainwashing isn’t limited to governments, spy agencies, and social movements. Brainwashing has also found a place within the religious domain. It is more often seen with cults such as the Heaven’s Gate UFO religion (1974-1997) and Jim’s Jones People’s Temple (1955-1978), both of which ended with their congregations’ mass murder-suicide.
Brainwashing methods vary widely, especially within cults (globalchristians.org), and the primary characteristic that cults use to begin the process of brainwashing is finding disaffected people with a deep longing for “meaning, purpose, and belonging” (discovermagazine.com). When combined with a strong authority figure, primarily male, who presents himself as “infallible, confident and grandiose,” the intense desire to find peace and security irresistible and willingly submit to the cult’s brainwashing methods. Thus, the prospective cult member becomes a religious Conquer and Dominate target. An excellent overview of cult manipulation can be found at How Cults Manipulate People, globalchristians.org/articles/cultconv.htm, and Steve Smith’s research at libertyforcaptives.com. (libertyforcaptives.com)
Forced or coerced conversions
Let’s turn to the broader world of organized religion, primarily the major faith communities. Some of what we’re going to unwrap is historical, and some is current, but all of it is shameful and an insult to God.
It’s no secret that various faiths are so firm in their convictions and zealous in their outreach that they’ve resorted to forced conversion. Forced conversion is “the use of pressure, force, or threat to make someone abandon his or her beliefs for those of another religion. Forced conversion results in the adoption of a different religion (or the abandonment of all religion) under duress” (gotquestions.org). The critical phrase is under duress, which identifies forced conversion as a Conquer and Dominate tactic. Such a tactic is morally wrong because it violates a person’s God-given free will.
Jesus invites lost humanity to come to Him, and He compels no one by force. As a 1st c. rabbi would do, Jesus invited those he chose to follow Him as His students (Matthew 4:19, 21). Some accepted (Matthew 4:20, 22), and some declined (Matthew 19:21-22; Luke 9:57-62). As for salvation, the choice to swear allegiance to God the Father based on Jesus’ sacrifice for sin can never be forced, or it is a false conversion. Proper biblical regeneration via conversion can only occur through the Holy Spirit’s work within a willing person.
It’s to Christianity’s shame that Jesus’ followers sometimes used force throughout the last 1,700 years to convert people into adopting Christianity. Forced Christian conversion began earnestly under Roman Emperor Constantine (reign A.D. 306-337) to correct theologically errant Christians. Shortly after that, Augustine, the bishop of Hippo in North Africa (A.D. 396-430), took to heart the New Testament verse about the king’s banquet, “Compel people to come in” (Luke 14:23, italics author). With the rise of the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne (A.D. 800), the previous century’s acceptance of forced conversions became “necessary” to expand the Christian king’s dominion. After all, a Christian king must have Christian subjects, right? However, Christian forced conversions passed away with the rise of Protestant evangelicalism and the Great Awakening in the early 1700s, according to Richard Fletcher, a history professor at the University of York, England (christianhistoryinstitute.org).
Thankfully, forced Christian conversion, primarily as it was targeted toward the Jewish community throughout church history, has been soundly renounced (sojo.net), although there are still isolated incidents happening today (indiatoday.in). However, compelled conversions continue in other radicalized streams of Islam and Hinduism today.
Oppression and persecution
What if a person refuses to convert, unwilling to submit to the ruling religious system? Then comes oppression and persecution along the Conquer and Dominate spectrum.
Oppress means “to crush or burden by abuse of power or authority” (merriam-webster.com). Persecute means “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict” (Ibid.). Oppression and persecution occur when an authority uses their power and authority to force a weaker person to comply or punish them for refusing to do so. This comes with a religious justification for doing so within the religious domain.
A quick search on the internet brings numerous examples of religious Conquer and Dominate:
· Muslim vs. Christian. “Islamic State kill 12 (Christians) in Mozambique, in wave of violence in sub-Saharan Africa” and “Niger: jihadists flog Christians for worshipping” (opendoorsuk.org).
· Muslim vs. Muslim. Even among Muslims, the two main streams, Shia and Sunni, persecute each other (rferl.org).
· Hindu vs. Christian. “Paraded Naked and Gang-Raped: The Persecution of Christians in India” (gatestoneinstitute.org)
And these sources are just from the past month!
According to Open Doors, a ministry that tracks Christian persecution, “more than 360m Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith” (opendoors.org). As you can see, religious Conquer and Dominate is thriving around the globe.
However, please don’t take the above examples above as applying to all Muslims or Hindus. Let’s not paint with a broad brush. Many peaceful religious adherents live side by side in true Subdue and Rule fashion despite differing faiths. But all people, regardless of religious persuasion, are still prone to the drive to Conquer and Dominate, and religious convictions are so heartfelt that far too many incidents of persecution happen today.
Within faith communities, oppression as a control measure is common. Islam’s Sharia law has many interpretations and applications (britannica.com). When used for Conquer and Dominate purposes, Sharia law is used to oppress women’s status and behavior. “All forms of exploiting women are presented as divine law, sharia, in which women have no say, which they are unable to use in their own defence (sic), and which they are forced to accept as their fate” (gatestoneinstitute.org).
However, the subjugation of women on religious grounds isn’t limited to Islam. While the Bible affirms a woman’s co-equality with a man though having differing roles (gotquestions.org), some Christian denominations, leaders, and husbands use New Testament scriptures such as Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:22, 24; Colossian 3:18 to justify male over female hierarchy and dominance and has been used to oppress the fairer sex. This creates a Christian theology battle over complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.
Complementarianism teaches “that masculinity and femininity are ordained by God and that men and women are created to complement, or complete, each other.” However, complementarianism also teaches that God ordained men to be the head over the woman within the marriage covenant and congregational life.
Egalitarianism teaches “that, in Christ, there are no gender distinctions anymore. This idea comes from Galatians 3:28. Because all believers are one in Christ, egalitarians say, men’s and women’s roles are interchangeable in church leadership and in the household” (gotquestions.org). This interpretation is not to say men and women are indistinguishable. They are. It simply addresses the headship issue as a co-equal partnership.
Interestingly, there is no mention of male headship before the Fall, but there is afterward. If you’ve followed this series, I’ve shown that Adam and Eve were designed as co-equal with differing roles relative to gender, a blend between complementarianism and egalitarianism. The post-Fall idea of male headship may end when God restores the world to its original design. I’ll let you know when we get there.
Excommunication is another Conquer and Dominate tactic where the offending person’s presence is removed from the community via banning or shunning. We see examples of that in John’s Gospel, where Jesus’ followers were threatened with excommunication. “The Jews (the Jewish leaders) had already agreed that if anyone confessed him as the Messiah, he would be banned from the synagogue” (John 9:22).
Historical examples of Conquer and Dominate excommunications include Victor I, Bishop of Rome, excommunicating Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, and the Asia Minor churches over the correct date to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection (encyclopedia.com), Martin Luther’s excommunication from the Catholic Church (ligonier.org) and the Pentecostals excommunicated from their congregations in the early 1900s (britannica.com). During my lifetime, I knew pastors and congregation members who were thrown out, I mean, excused from their congregations over the Charismatic Renewal’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts.
But now we come to the most extreme form of excommunication – death.
Killing opponents in God’s name was and is still all too common. Whether it’s via religious wars, radicalized spiritual movements, or misguided religious zealots, death, the ultimate form of Conquer and Dominate, has been used to exercise maximum control over people.
Among the many notorious examples of religious wars are the Crusades, Islam’s internecine wars and wars against the infidel (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.), and geo-political wars fueled by religious beliefs such as the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Examples of religious persecution unto death are the Inquisition and modern-day killings in the Islam-controlled countries of Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan.
But Dr. Jay, what about God sanctioning religious wars between the Israelites and the Canaanites? Isn’t that Conquer and Dominate? Good question. Remember that Subdue and Rule is done according to God’s will. Subdue and Rule becomes Conquer and Dominate when people usurp God’s will and authority for selfish and sinful purposes. Therefore, the biblical wars ordained by God – Israel vs. Canaanite tribes and Israel vs. Amalekites (Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:19) – are not Conquer and Dominate by God’s standard.
The Lord commanded His people, the Israelites, to exterminate the Canaanite tribes to cleanse the land of idolatry so it wouldn’t infect His new nation (Numbers 33:51-52). While some would say this is no different from Islam doing the same to a Christian community in Nigeria (as is happening today), the difference is the Canaanite extermination was not Israel’s plan but God’s command according to His will. The Lord used Israel to wipe out the Canaanites for their wickedness (Genesis 15:16). In truth, God’s Canaanite protocol was the King subduing and ruling His land, bringing it under control and maintaining that control, in preparation for establishing His kingdom on earth via Israel for a time. It wasn’t Israel illegitimately Conquering and Dominating the Canaanite tribes in God’s name for their benefit.
The most egregious example of religious Conquer and Dominate is Jesus’ crucifixion. While the Romans were the means of Jesus’ execution, the key players were the Jewish leaders who saw Jesus as a spiritual-political threat to their position and power (John 11:48). Jesus presented Himself as Israel’s God-promised Messiah and the leadership rejected Him on spiritual grounds – Jesus’ claim to be God’s divine man, the Son of Man)– and on political grounds – Jesus’ claim to David’s throne as God’s Son, an idiom referring to Israel’s king (Matthew 26:63-65). The only solution to the perceived threat was to Conquer and Dominate Jesus to the extreme (John 11:50-51).
Religious Conquer and Dominate: The Worst
It’s bad enough when people Conquer and Dominate others for cultural, political, and philosophical reasons. It’s worse yet when people Conquer and Dominate others for spiritual reasons. However, it’s exceedingly terrible when Jesus’ people try to Conquer and Dominate anyone else in His name, specifically fellow believers. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. We know better if we’ve read, studied, and applied Jesus’ teachings and the whole of God’s word.
But maybe that’s the problem.
Maybe Jesus’ followers who are genuinely born again haven’t read, studied, or tried to apply His teachings.
To be faithful disciples, we must know Rabbi Jesus’ teachings and commit ourselves to putting them into practice to the point that we begin to act and react as Jesus would. Knowing God’s word is crucial because it’s the only way to put the brakes on our runaway Subdue and Rule drive as we come under the Holy Spirit’s governance once we’re saved. Only then will we be sensitized to when we’re slipping into any of the above religious Conquer and Dominate offenses.
In the next section, we’ll look at historical examples of how Conquer and Dominate has manifested in various faith communities.
Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?, gotquestions.org/idol-worship.html
What is spiritual manipulation?, gotquestions.org/spiritual-manipulation.html
3 Types of Legalism, ligonier.org/learn/articles/3-types-legalism
Signs of Spiritual Abuse, webmd.com/mental-health/signs-spiritual-abuse
What is spiritual abuse?, gotquestions.org/spiritual-abuse.html
What Is “Spiritual” Abuse? A Working Definition, christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/december/what-is-spiritual-abuse-working-definition.html
What Are the Signs of Spiritual Abuse and How Can We Recognize Them in the Church?, christianity.com/church/what-does-spiritual-abuse-within-a-church-look-like.html
Recognizing Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse in the Church, crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/how-to-heal-from-spiritual-abuse.html
How Cults Manipulate People, globalchristians.org/articles/cultconv.htm
What Makes a Cult, and How Do Cult Leaders Control Their Followers?, discovermagazine.com/mind/the-psychology-behind-cults
Topical Index of Blog Posts, libertyforcaptives.com/topical-index
Is it wrong to force a conversion?, gotquestions.org/force-conversion.html
Interview — Converting By the Sword, christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/interview-converting-by-the-sword
German Protestants Officially Renounce Converting Jews To Christianity, sojo.net/articles/german-protestants-officially-renounce-converting-jews-christianity
9 booked for over 400 forced religious conversions in UP’s Meerut, indiatoday.in/india/story/nine-booked-forced-religious-conversions-christianity-up-meerut-2290798-2022-10-29
Islamic State kill 12 in Mozambique, in wave of violence in sub-Saharan Africa, opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/africa-jihadist-violence
Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Minority Suffers’ Systematic Discrimination’ Under Taliban Rule, rferl.org/a/afghanistan-taliban-shiite-persecution-discrimination/32507042.html
Paraded Naked and Gang-Raped: The Persecution of Christians in India, gatestoneinstitute.org/19870/persecution-christians-india
World Watch List 2023, opendoors.org/en-US/persecution/countries
Sharia Islamic law, britannica.com/topic/Shariah
Crimes against Humanity: “Normal” Treatment of Middle Eastern Women, gatestoneinstitute.org/9761/middle-eastern-women
Are men and women equal in God’s eyes?, gotquestions.org/men-women-equal.html
What is complementarianism?, gotquestions.org/complementarianism.html
EASTER CONTROVERSY, encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/easter-controversy
Luther’s Excommunication, ligonier.org/posts/luthers-excommunication
Shining the Light of God’s Truth on the Road Ahead
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts