In two recent Daily Meditations we have reflected on the sick masculinity behind police killings of unarmed men, the toxic masculine that prefers dominance to justice or to love (which, as Meister Eckhart points out, is always about equality or making equality). 

A policeman with a nightstick confronts protestors at the George Floyd protests in Washington, D.C. Photo by Geoff Livingston on Flickr.

Then, on cue, Mr. Trump shouts at governors on the phone that they should “dominate.”  President as poster boy for a sick masculinity—Dominator-in-chief  buttressed by enablers including right wing media and senators who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil and refuse to call witnesses for his impeachment trial. It was beyond surreal to watch the president clear the way for his photo-op to hold up the Bible in front of an historic church by ordering the gassing of peaceful protestors.  He held up the Bible in a most strange way—I never saw anything like it , as if he had never held a book before.  Was it upside down? Back to front? Whatever it was, it clearly was not studied for its contents. 

Trump and his entourage walk to his photo op over equipment left behind by medics who had been tending injured protestors before being forced to flee the tear gas and rubber bullets used by militarized police to clear the church patio.

Autocrats invariably find it necessary to enlist religion in their schemes for domination. 

Washington D. C. Bishop  Mariann Budde uttered her “outrage” at the president’s photo-op, calling it “an abuse of sacred symbols” dear to Jewish, Christian and Muslim peoples.  Posing with a bible “as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for,” she declared speaking truth to power.

Police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets overpower unarmed community members (longtime activists and first time protesters) demonstrating in Philadelphia. The photographer of this image was shortly afterward shot by a policeman with a rubber bullet, destroying his camera and injuring his hand. Photo by Joe Piette on Flickr.

The compulsion to dominate is what lies behind racism.  And slavery.  And sexism.  And anthropocentrism.  And lynchings. And fear.  And heterosexism.  And institutionalized violence.  And fascism therefore. 

Beware of the compulsion to dominate.  Beware of where the “need to dominate” comes from.  Beware of the sadism this “value” carries with it.  The Third Reich was also very successful in commandeering religion to its brutal ends.  The failure of religion to speak up strongly encouraged the anti-semitism in the air.

The signing of the Reichskonkordat between the Holy See and the Third Reich on 20 July 1933 in Rome. Photographer unknown; from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Beware of those who preach Dominance.  Dominance is not only the opposite of love and truth and justice and compassion.  It is also the favorite word of the bully.  Cowards yearn to dominate.  Ask Cardinal Ratzinger.  Ask Bill Barr (who, by the way, was in tow with Trump at the Episcopal church and by all accounts led the way to clear away non-violent protestors with teach gas and rubber bullets).  Ask any pedophile.  Ask any rapist.  Ask the winners in Wall Street who are so determined to dominate Main Street.  And their congressional and judicial enablers.

Good law enforcement stands up to the Dominators and does not join them.  So do outraged citizens who protest injustice and hatred.  Those trying to hijack the demonstrations by burning cities share the need to dominate in common with the president.  The need to dominate seems to be widespread in a patriarchal culture like ours.

Members of various police departments were filmed kneeling in unity alongside protesters as demonstrations following George Floyd’s death continue. Read more: https://wapo.st/3dowtur.

Love trumps dominance.  And love is happening too.  Consider the wonderful collection of stories and pictures of what people with heart and a sense of justice are accomplishing in our streets today.  People in high places can choose to reject dominance in pursuit of justice; and love; and creating societal structures that take us beyond dominance.

All is not lost.  Generous and loving hearts and willing hands offer alternatives.


Matthew Fox,  Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul & Society, pp. xxviii-xxxii, 243-247.

See also Matthew Fox, The Pope’s War. 

See also Matthew Fox, A New Reformation.

Banner Image: Holy Bible and Flag. Photographer unknown.

Queries for Contemplation

What are the marks of a dominator society?  And of a co-operative society?  How do they differ?  Are you engaging in the battle in whatever circumstances you find yourself in?  Do you find that the struggle and internal as well as external one?

Recommended Reading

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II

A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality & The Transformation of Christianity

A modern-day theologian’s call for the radical transformation of Christianity that will allow us to move once again from the hollow trappings of organized religion to genuine spirituality. A New Reformation echoes the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and offers a new vision of Christianity that values the Earth, honors the feminine, and respects science and deep ecumenism.
“This is a deep and forceful book….With prophetic insight, Matthew Fox reveals what has corrupted religion in the West and the therapy for its healing.” ~Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography

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7 thoughts on “On Dominance and Religious Props”

  1. Avatar

    I am so grateful to be taught by you, Matthew, in this way- Real-Time, while our country is experiencing the real danger (dare I say evil?) of a dominator-in-chief, and more frightening, of a segment of our population that continues to support this way of being (even in my own extended family). How to overcome our 200-400 year history of violence and oppression? One way, for me, is being in this learning and praying environment with all of you. And then, taking the next step into ACTION.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Susan, you are right “our country is experiencing the real danger of a dominator-in-chief.” Would that we all would seek a “learning and praying environment” and take the next step on the Via Transformativa, which is one of compassionate action.

  2. Avatar

    (hmm, in my Comment, I’m not taking ownership of my own complicity in our white supremist culture….I’m still learning to face it)

    1. Avatar
      Margaret Rose Hess

      I am also very grateful to have an opportunity to learn from Matthew Fox and, as much as I like to imagine many, many of us sitting together at his feet, we are all so fortunate that we can be “virtual disciples” during this time of pandemic.
      I’d like to share a poem by Black American poet Ross Gay that I received yesterday from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation as part of their statement of solidarity for racial justice. I think it also honors the sacred masculine of the nurturer, grower, seed-sower. It was originally written in 2014 in memory of Eric Gardner who, like George Floyd, also had the life choked out of him while under arrest and it was widely shared back then, but sadly now speaks out to us again.
      A Small Needful Fact
      By Ross Gay

      Is that Eric Garner worked
      for some time for the Parks and Rec.
      Horticultural Department, which means,
      perhaps, that with his very large hands,
      perhaps, in all likelihood,
      he put gently into the earth
      some plants which, most likely,
      some of them, in all likelihood,
      continue to grow, continue
      to do what such plants do, like house
      and feed small and necessary creatures,
      like being pleasant to touch and smell,
      like converting sunlight
      into food, like making it easier
      for us to breathe.

      Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

  3. Avatar

    Thank you, Matt, for your wonderful meditations especially during these troubling times. At 84 my marching days are over. However I can pray and I can write. In 1995 the 4th UN World Conference on Women held in China, asked me to write a Magnificat for them. This is my Magnificat which I think is appropriate for today:
    “I know the goodness of God
    I rejoice in the One who loves me because the Spirit lives in me and in every part of creation’.
    From this day forward all will know that they are blessed.
    Great things have been done for us, Holy is our God.
    God’s love for us knows no bounds.
    With God we are all equal and the Spirit of Love will prevail.
    Those who persecute will mend their ways, the persecuted will know justice.
    The hungry will be satisfied because the rich will learn to share. There is enough for us all.
    God has created more than we will ever need. It has been so from the beginning.
    Our ancestors experienced the mercy and patience of God.
    We too have been gifted with the presence of Holiness.
    And our children will know the wonder of their being
    and the love and care of the One who creates. Amen”

  4. Avatar

    How very beautiful and true, Joan. We are all called to exult in the joyous acceptance of God’s abundant Love for each and everyone of us. The One who does great things, has done great things for me . . . Holy is his Name! We have indeed
    been “gifted with the Presence of Holiness.” And may our children get to know the “wonder of their being” and the love of our great Loving Mother God!
    Thank you, Joan!

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