Alone Yet Not Alone in a sea of dominionism

Apparently, I am one of the few people in America who had heard of Alone Yet Not Alone before today, when the internet exploded with a collective “WTF?” over the movie’s Oscar nomination.

I’d heard of it because I am loosely connected to the independent Christian movie scene, or more specifically, the quiverfull, dominion-mandate Christian movie scene. The movie was supposed to premiere in 2012 at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, which shut down recently with the closing of Vision Forum ministries and the resignation of Doug Phillips. This same Doug Phillips has two children who appear in Alone Yet Not Alone. He himself was originally cast in the movie, but either his role or its credit was cut after the scandal of his resignation. Tracy Leininger Craven, the author of the book the movie is based on, has written a series of books that still appear in the Vision Forum catalogue, adhering to the Vision Forum ideal that women are called to serve God by serving men. “Each heroine’s story points to… the way [God] can use ordinary people to accomplish great things when they are faithfully walking in their calling as wife, mother, or daughter,” the catalogue explains. The cast and crew have similar ideals — the full cast list of the movie reads like a partial who’s who of dominion-mandate Christian entrepreneurs.

If you’ve never heard of either “quiverfull” or the “dominion mandate,” allow me to briefly explain: quiverfull is the ideology that families should have as many children “as God gives them,” using no contraception of any kind. This is usually coupled with homeschooling the children (and often stopping formal education at age 18 or younger, particularly for females) and “training them up in the way they should go.” The longterm goal of quiverfull families is to essentially win the “culture wars” by having exponentially-increasing descendants who adhere to a specific set of beliefs. In essence, “take dominion” of the world for Christ and reconstruct it, with the goal to revive some form of Old Testament law, though the details are a bit murky and somewhat debated. My uncle, Geoff Botkin, went a step further and began selling the idea of a “200 year plan,” in concert with Doug Phillips, wherein every Christian patriarch should have a 200-year, multigenerational vision for his family, complete with a spreadsheet. So far, none of my uncle’s adult children have left home, and they contribute to his ministry, so it seems like it’s working pretty well for him.

When I say that this group of people wants a return to Old Testament law, I mean that it even goes so far as to promote the reinstitution of slavery. The founder of Christian Reconstructionism, R.J. Rushdoony, writes that “The [Biblical] Law here is humane and also unsentimental. It recognizes that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so. It both requires that they be dealt with in a godly manner and also that the slave recognizes his position and accepts it with grace.” Other Christian dominionists  — Dan Horn comes to mind — have explained that slavery can be beneficial when it teaches heathens to be good Christians, or when it gives good Christians the tools they need to expand their empire.

The movie Alone Yet Not Alone has been called racist because of its portrayal of Native Americans, but that’s not really accurate. It’s actually reflecting the idea that Christian culture is superior to Native American culture; that other types of culture are hostile to real Christianity, and that real Christianity can and must eventually take over these other cultures.

It is not at all surprising to me that the dominionist crowd has managed to finally finagle an Oscar nomination. Not because the song being nominated is Oscar-worthy — it’s mediocre at best — but because the song’s originators have friends in high places: Bruce Broughton is a former Governor of the Academy and a former head of its music branch, and William Ross is conductor of the Oscar ceremony’s orchestra. It sounds very much like something politically-minded billionaire James Leininger, the father of Tracy Leininger Craven and likely a strong historical supporter of Vision Forum, would try to arrange.

In this case, the dominion-mandate crowd can take dominion using plain old networking. No need to wait for those 156,000 male descendants to get to voting age.

31 thoughts on “Alone Yet Not Alone in a sea of dominionism

  1. A friend invited me to see this with their church and I made the mistake of going. It’s obvious if you watch the movie that the Christian religion is supposed to be what everyone believes and that whites are the genteel ones. The evil savage pagan Indians kidnap the innocent white Christian children and make them dye their beautiful blonde hair a terrible ugly black. The only thing that keeps the Christian children going is that they were raised Christian and can think of the Christian god when they are grown into adults and are part of the Indian tribe (but not really because all Indians deserve to have their civilization wiped out unless they convert to Christianity). It’s nice to know this is called dominionism and it’s still a real thing some Christians believe.

    1. Y’know, historically converting to Christianity has never saved Native people. Christian Cherokees were force-marched on the Trail of Tears right alongside nonChristian Cherokee.

      William Apess, Pequot, Christian minister, and one of the earliest published Native American writers in the US wrote about discrimination against Native peoples.

      So really, I would say this movie is terribly racist – all the white Christians are Good & Wonderful, all the presumably non Christian Natives are BAAAAAAAAD. Gee thanks, movie producers, it isn’t like we haven’t seen this sort of crap a zillion times before at the movies….

      1. Look, there’s nothing Christian about the Trail Of Tears. Should Christians have been given special privileges? Why would they have been? If the objective of a godless government is to eliminate the native presence in highly contested lands, what would make them rescue the native Christians? They obviously have no fear of God, or they wouldn’t be supplanting people, marching them mercilessly to their deaths!

  2. Hi Katie, I find your comments on the Patriarchal Movement very insightful. you mention your uncle Geoff Botkin in relation to the 200 year plan and link a website that sites his history going back to the Great Comission Cult with Jim McCotter. Their teaching is very similar to what he teaches through the Patriachal Movement. Is it true that he was/ is part of the cult? And why do they never talk about it?

    1. My parents and my uncle went to a Great Commission church/group together; my parents split after things got too heavy-handed. I’ve never talked to my uncle about his involvement with the group, but from what I understand, there were a lot of theological overlaps between that group and the current patriarchy/homeschool movement.

  3. Hi Katie! I, too, saw this movie when it was previewed right here in San Antonio. Your insights into using this form of media to push the dominion theology on whole cultures is quite insightful. I had not considered that particular motive before, but perhaps I am too close to the situation. Come to think of it, taking dominion truly is the theme of the movie, isn’t it?

    I guess when the movie is full of people you know, and when you realize that this was not only made but being shown right up until Doug’s public confession, you have to wonder what was really going on behind the scenes.

    The scene I will never forget, although most people will never see it, is when Barbara finally gets away and gets all cleaned up and comes out for dinner, and Doug Phillips, as the general, oohs and ahs over how beautiful she is. He practically falls all over himself in that scene. It was quite disturbing.

    Katie, wasn’t your uncle one of the videographers for this movie as well?

  4. Came across this article and had to comment. I’m also one of the few people who’d heard of “Alone Yet Not Alone”—I believe my sister owns the book, and a portion of my family (myself excluded) has actually seen the film. Even my sheltered siblings commented on the atrocious acting and poor production quality. My brother, who’s well-versed in film study (he and I are in the midst of a quest to see every Best Picture winner since the inception of the Oscars) tells me the damning flaw is the script, which suffers from a lack of continuity, and this despite having read the book and already being familiar with the plot. The cinematography was fair, but picture quality won’t save a poorly–told story. The song in question is, as you say, mediocre; this is sad, since Phillips & Co. often speak of striving for excellence in the arts. The point is valid, but sadly these projects don’t attain excellence, and don’t have much respect for art, and the nomination is an embarrassment to the Oscars and to the Christian community.

    That being said, I’m very curious as to what the experience of being the niece of a fire-breathing dominionist would be like! I have immense respect for your uncle—he is a remarkable intellect and it is encouraging to see a brilliant man having been converted from the Marxian morass, but I cannot agree with much his sociopolitical and theological outlook. How do you and your family deal with that association or what you do to dissaude him?

    1. To be honest, I’m not sure where the conversion from the “Marxian morass” comes in. As far as anyone in my family knows, my uncle was never a Marxist, not in early adulthood and certainly not in his childhood. I’ve written here about what my grandparents and their family were like (in a word, conservative) and how much it would have hurt my grandfather to have any insinuation to the contrary said of him:

      As for our larger family dynamics, I’m happy we talk insofar as we talk, I’ve been encouraged on an emotional level by my aunt, in particular, over the years, and that’s about how things are.

      1. Interesting, I appreciate the clarification. Thanks! I have only heard 1 version of the story and that was some years ago; the post on your grandfather is excellent. I imagine it would make for an interesting dynamic but I am glad to hear that you have a good relationship.

        On a side note, the magazine you linked/work for looks fascinating; as a designer/typographer I have a deep interest in communications and type design particularly for non-Latin writing systems. I’ve recently been studying Irish type design and the impact Irish type has had on the culture, with help from an Irish friend who chose the subject for her MA thesis at Uni of Reading, so I’ll have to go through and read the digital issue on the site. Absolutely fascinating stuff. Thanks!

  5. I don’t know anything about the movie or book, but can say without equivocation that Christian and European culture is superior to Amerind culture in many ways. Ideas such as human rights, due process, private property are derived from Christian Europe. Further, Europeans have made most of the great discoveries which have provided health, safety and convenience in the contemporary world. The list could go on for many pages, but vaccines, the germ theory of disease, radio, air travel, rocketry, physics…all European (including Europeans living on other continents).

    1. Mr. Blankenship. I know not where you are from but I am Anishinabek. In other words, I am “Native American.” We do not call ourselves Amerind, just so you know. I can assure you that our culture is not “inferior” to yours and never has been. The list of Native American contributions could also “go on for many pages”, You are just unaware of them. So, let me enlighten you to a few: Aspirin, Anesthetics, other medicines (many derived from plant sources), Lacrosse, Ice hockey and field hockey (both are derived from a game called “shinny”), snow shoes, kayaks, Maple syrup, (and many other foods that are too numerous to list here). sign language and many other inventions/contributions etc. Oh, and let’s not forget that the “separation of powers” style of government was based on the system used by the Iroquoian League of Nations. (This was confirmed by Benjamin Franklin.)

      We did use scientific principles also. Some native nations used alkaline substances to remove the hard exterior of corn after it became hard. (Chemistry) Those with access to cedar trees would throw pieces of cedar into a fire during a thunderstorm. Cedar has a negative charge and could counteract the negative charge of lightning, thus lessening the change of a strike in that area (both chemistry and physics). I am aware of some of these things because my Ojibwa/Eastern Cherokee/Choctaw 23 year old has an IQ of 183 and keeps me on my toes. Not that I am not intelligent in my own right. My son however, can talk rings around some when it comes to quantum physics and his other particular interests. He was home schooled during his high school years by the way. The local school system had cancelled their gifted program and he was bored to tears.

      Before you state something “unequivocally” you may want to do some REAL research and know of what you speak. I do not mean to sound as condescending as your post did. However, we Anishinabek are tired of just being quiet and accepting such statements from those who have no real idea of what they speak. We did so for a long time because, until the 1990’s, we could be arrested for speaking our own languages, praying our own way etc etc. We were so quiet, that many think we no longer exist. This is untrue. We are very much still here and we most definitely are not “inferior” to other cultures.

      1. Susan W:Thank you for your thoughtful response. it was much more constructive than the person who merely said that I was a racist.

        I used the term Amerind because it is an anthropological term. I would be happy to use whatever term you prefer. In a sense, Amerind, Indian and Native American are all inadequate in that these terms lump together peoples with very different types and levels of development.

        As regards any tone of condescension, I wish to emphasise that this was not intended. Instead, my intended tone was that of anger and frustration at being told for most of my 49 years that persons of European descent are the great blight on humanity. This view at least claims to be the majority view in Europe and North America.

        Due to time constraints, I cannot respond to your post this morning, but would like to discuss some of the points you have made.

        Keith Blankenship

  6. “… Christian culture is superior to Native American culture…”

    Not to nitpick, but yeah, that’s accurately quite racist. End of discussion.

    1. The producers of the movie (and many people with similar views) make a distinction between race and culture, which in their eyes means they aren’t racist at all. I’ve heard it over and over, and it’s always a little weird to me, but that’s honestly what they think.

      1. What about the distinction is weird? I don’t wish to associate myself with the makers of a movie I have not seen, but the race/culture distinction is easily demonstrated. Puerto Ricans are an easy example. Racially many are descended of two or three races, European, African and Amerind (Taino). Culturally, they are Puerto Rican.

  7. Good article, Katie. I became aware of this while watching Fox News(which I get from my Canadian cable package)and looked it up on News Hounds, which led me to this article. Apart from being a syrupy song(and most Oscar songs are)the more disturbing facts are the views that this author has about Christian dominialism(something I have become familiar with while reading Chris Hedges Christian Fascists). It is too bad that movies trying to show the positive aspects of Christianity show these traits. Hopefully this movie won’t sell many tickets, despite the help Fox will give it, and this movie will be sold in the remainder bins at Costco or other department stores.

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