Are Evangelicals Moving Away from Trump?
In December (2022), Vanity Fair published an article titled, “Evangelicals are Quietly Ditching Donald Trump’s 2024 Bid.” I’m skeptical. Don’t count on it. First, Evangelicals rarely do anything quietly, however, as hopeful as this article title is the reality is Evangelicals, especially those that consider themselves “Christian Nationalists,” do not need Donald Trump to continue their destructive rampage across the nation. If you believe sunsetting Trump will end our political peril, then I have a seat in Trump University to sell you. Christian Nationalists have other heroes and leaders that they look to and they are taking “Trumpism” and “MAGAism” to new levels of absurdity and new seats of power to do so. They will do so with or without Donald Trump.
If you are wondering where the emotional energy and impetus is coming from that propels the extreme right-wing of the United States further and deeper into autocracy and anti-democratic policy, look no further than the Christian Nationalists, who were at one time considered fringe on the political wings. From Loren Boebert to Michael Flynn and Mike Lindell the “Pillow” guy, Christian Nationalism is on the rise.
Who Are Christian Nationalists?
This movement is not to be confused with mainline or even “normal” Evangelicals who may not subscribe to these 10 Commandments of Christian Nationalism. In fact, it has been documented that many if not most of those that call themselves “Christian Nationalists” don’t even attend church. But now the group that is governing the House of Representatives, populate the majority of the Supreme Court and hold power in a couple of dozen state houses across the nation and are instituting their vision of a “godly nation.”
If you are like me and watching the news or reading news stories is like entering a different dimension of reality, then let me offer one thing that is providing the connective tissue in all these stories…Christian Nationalists are controlling more and more levers of power in many parts of the country. Don’t pay attention to Trump. These religious extremists have taken over large portions of the Republican party and are now setting the agenda and policy in many federal and state institutions. Christian Nationalists rode the Trump train to power, but now they are engineering the locomotive.
Here are the first FIVE of the Christian Nationalist Commandments
Here are a set of ideas that provide the core of the Christian Nationalism movement and form the basis for the policies that we see coming to fruition from the ending of Roe to the banning of books and the forbiding of black history courses. These ideas have been around for a long time, but they are now raising their head in churches, state houses, the Supreme Court and even the House of Representatives in a way that is changing the fundamental basis on which our civil society has existed and functioned for decades. They are profoundly unconstitutional.
I. Thou shalt attend ReAwaken America Tour –
ITEM: don’t look now but the MAGA Christian Nationalist crowd is barnstorming across the United States holding “ReAwaken” rallies in dozens of cities. It is the brainchild of Michael Flynn, the convicted and then pardoned friend of Donald Trump, and Clay Clark, an Oklahoma man who had been hosting local, anti-lockdown gatherings during the pandemic. These rallies are part religious revival, political networking, pep rally for MAGAism and hotbed of lies and conspiracy theories. It is also a capitalistic marketing ploy to raise money for someone’s legal defense.
Any good Christian Nationalist will attend one of these rallies, and don’t worry, one is coming near to your hometown in 2023. It’s “a pep rally on spiritual steroids” said Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin University in Michigan, who studies evangelicalism. The list of speakers for this tour is a who’s who rogue’s gallery: Roger Stone, Sydney Powell, and Mike Lindell, just to name a few.
II. Thou shalt promote violence in the face of perceived evil –
ITEM: Christian Nationalists see the current polarization in America as a contest between forces of goodness (their side) and forces of evil (Democrats and liberals). Lt. Gov. Daniel Patrick of Texas described the battle as a “crucible” and said this in October of 2022 as the midterm elections approached,
“We have to be ready for the fight because we are not in a fight any longer of Republicans and Democrats of the old days. We’re in a fight of lightness and darkness. We’re in a fight of powers and principalities.”
The midterm elections this past fall and the presidential election in 2024 comprise a battle pitting God against Satan — with liberals doing the work of Satan according to Christian Nationalist ideology.
Don’t forget Michael Flynn, who is emerging as the chief Christian Nationalist in the movement, pleaded the 5th Amendment before the Jan. 6th Committee when asked if he believed that violence for political purposes was justified?
We are not talking about people that follow the “Prince of Peace.” Christian Nationalists were all over the Jan. 6 riot and insurrection, and they will likely justify violence in the future in the name of their “deeply held principles.” It is no wonder Christian Nationalists are the most committed group supporting gun rights in the United States.
III. Thou shalt deny the existence of racism in American history and forbid it’s teaching in schools –
ITEM: Florida Christian Nationalist Governor, Ron DeSantis, has forbidden an African American history course to be part of the state’s “advanced placement” program for high school students. The Christian Nationalist controlled Florida Board of Education issued a letter last week denouncing the course as false history, and went on to say to an ABC reporter, “If the course comes into compliance and incorporates historically accurate content, the department will reopen the discussion.”
Advanced placement courses are designed by the “College Board” and are designed to give high school students a preparation for learning in higher education. The College Board describes the course this way, “The interdisciplinary course reaches into a variety of fields — literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.”
Christian Nationalists oppose the teaching of Black history because the reality of that experience undercuts the trope that the United States is a “Christian Nation” and is especially “chosen by God to be a light to the world.” How can the propaganda that the US is a Christian Nation be promoted when students learn the reality of the Atlantic slave trade, the history of enslavement with its rape, abuse, and murder, or the horror of the Jim Crow era lynching, segregation and discrimination against blacks? How can America be a Christian Nation when today the injustices of mass incarceration, police murder and abuse of black people and income disparities are still exposed for what they are, systemic racism?
IV. Thou shalt dismantle the separation of church and state –
ITEM: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is now selling Christian Nationalist t-shirts.“ Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) says she is “tired” of the long-standing separation between church and state in the U.S., adding that she believes “the church is supposed to direct the government.”
Ken Peters, of the so-called “Patriot-Church” preaches a politically laced gospel and says he wants the government to ban same-sex marriage because marriage between a man and a woman is “in the Bible.” He says “Christians are going to have to get feisty” because the left is winning. “I’m just putting up a last-ditch effort to try to keep our country as Christian as possible.” No wall of separation to be found here.
Ironically, most Republicans agree that ending the separation of church and state is unconstitutional, but 61% still support this idea. (Survey from the University of Maryland) Not surprisingly, much of the support for declaring the U.S. a Christian nation comes from Republicans who identify themselves as Evangelical or born-again Christians: 78 percent of this group support the move compared to 48 percent of other Republicans.
A religiously conservative Supreme Court is aiding in the dismantling of the wall between church and state. In three decisions last year, the court ruled against government officials whose policies and actions were taken to avoid violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on governmental endorsement of religion – known as the “establishment clause.”
“It’s a whole new door that (the court) has opened to what teachers, coaches and government employees can do when it comes to proselytizing to children,” said Nick Little, legal director for the Center for Inquiry, a group promoting secularism and science. Christian Nationalists have more friends and power in the Supreme Court than they could have ever dreamed a generation ago.
V. Thou shalt protect the careers of the most dishonest and disgraced leaders in the country-
ITEM: The Christian Nationalist movement embraces many of the most disgraced and dishonest leaders in the country. From twice impeached former President, Donald Trump to George Santos, Christian Nationalists have no qualms about supporting discredited people.
Consider a few of these characters: Brett Kavanaugh, more revealing testimony around him is being displayed in a new documentary called “Justice”. Despite any evidence that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women, the religious right will support him because of his support in the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. And never mind that he lied about respecting precedent in his Senate hearings, Christian Nationalists are much more interested in winning and ideology than anything to do with the teachings of Jesus.
Roger Stone is getting a new lease on political life in the aftermath of his pardon by President Trump. He has joined the ReAwaken Movement as one of the key speakers on the circuit.
And despite what you may have heard about evangelicals turning away from the disgraced former President, you may want to look again. Christian Nationalists will use Trump if he emerges from his current political troubles as the leading GOP candidate for 2024.
They do not care that he stole classified documents and obstructed the government’s investigation to find them, that he assaulted E. Jean Carroll or a host of other women. They do not care if Trump’s businesses are a fraud and fined millions of dollars. If Trump will promote their ideology and lust for power, they will support him.
Christian Nationalists tend to see individuals like Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and others that have been subject to legal prosecution or investigation as unfair targets of persecution by an evil and unjust government. Trump was not entirely wrong when he proclaimed that he could stand on 5th Ave and shoot someone and not lose his supporters.