Don’t Fall Into Complacency
It would be easy to fall into a false complacency in the aftermath of last year’s midterm elections. Christian Nationalism is on the rise even though many of the candidates supported by Donald Trump that ran on a platform of grievance and election denying lost and in some cases lost badly. There was a national sigh of relief the next day when the results became apparent.
However, that sense of hope may overshadow a looming problem that still exists. Christian nationalism creates threats to democracy that are still growing and gaining momentum. Christian Nationalists have improved their positions of power in the House of Representatives, and the judges that were appointed during the Trump years are still there as we have seen in the Dobbs decision. Judicial power in many state and local jurisdictions is still in the hands of those espousing a Christian Nationalist vision.
In The Ten Commandments of Christian Nationalism (Part 1) I argued that Christian Nationalists have found new heroes to rally behind like Mike Flynn and others. They have national rallies, media resources and churches that are pumping Christian Nationalist ideology into the minds of their patrons daily. Now is not the time to be complacent.
Today, I present Part Two of these basic ideological beliefs that create a coherent message and movement. The reason it is gaining in strength isn’t so much because of numbers, but because the message is coherent and loud. It is important to see policy, speeches, actions and other manifestions of the Christian Nationalist cause as part of a coherent national strategy.
The Ten Commandments of Christian Nationalism should give those of us that are fighting against this distortion of both politics and religion a way to see the network and connections between what is going on all over the country. These are not random events, they are connected, and their world-view is encapsulated in these “ten commandments.” Here are Commandments 6-10:
Christian Nationalism Commandment #6 – Thou shalt believe in lies and conspiracy theories over truth and facts at all costs –
ITEM: guess which group of people are most prone to believe conspiracy theories like QAnon, Pizzagate, Democratic child-sex predator rings, COVID is a hoax and vaccines will kill you, Jewish space lasers caused wildfires in California, the 2020 election was rigged by Hugo Chavez or poll workers in Atlanta, or that Antifa was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack?
Yep, Christian Evangelicals in general are very likely to believe these false ideas, but Christian Nationalists in particular are extremely tied to these conspiracies and promote them deliberately. They feed the political ideology of Christian Nationalism and so they will propagate falsehoods and outright lies in order to “own the libs” who are evil and probably are part of some socialist-communist plot to destroy America. And of course the media are all fake, so you cannot believe anything you hear or read unless it comes from one of their media sources, you know….like Alex Jones.
If you need an explanation of why Evangelicals are open to such deceptions and falsehoods, then you probably haven’t been to a Bible study on the book of Revelation recently. The Evangelical community is already conditioned to accept weird and crazy ideas and theories such as the rapture and the Anti-Christ of the end-times, 6 day creation, Noah’s world-wide flood, prophecies, and pernicious teachings such as the prosperity gospel. And in a time of turbulent social change and upheaval, Christians are ready to grasp at beliefs that help explain events from the perspective of a righteous and almighty God that is in charge and happens to be on their side.
This clutching on to conspiracies and false ideas within the Christian community is very much tied to an anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-expertise idea that pit simple minded faithful Christianis against so-called experts, evidence, science, and reason. (Note the vicious attacks by Christian Nationalists on Dr. Fauci)
This tendency has been present in American evangelical Christianity for decades. Note the number of times the Second Coming has been predicted on various dates and people have sold their earthly possessions and waited…patiently….for Christ to return.
But this tendency has risen to new levels of irrationality and danger within the current Christian Nationalist movement. January 6th is one example of how these extreme false ideas can lead people to act violently when directed by their leaders. Those that acted out on January 6 were true believers, they weren’t just using the “Big Lie” as an excuse. They truly believed Donald Trump’s repeated lie and various conspiracy theories about a stolen election.
Christian Nationalism Commandment #7 – Thou shalt NOT promote or accept compromise or consensus –
ITEM – Because those taken up in the Christian Nationalist alternative reality of conspiracy theories tend to view our turbulent time in apocalyptic terms, they see political competition not as a civil conversation and competition between two well-meaning perspectives. They see this as a zero-sum game of winner take all.
To these folks, the current conflict is about the ultimate national-existential survival of the United States and indeed, civilization itself. In a private conversation with someone I know very well, their comment to me was enlightening in this regard. Essentially they indicated that there can be no discussion (with me and my “ilk”) and certainly no compromise because we fundamentally see the world differently and their world-view would not allow any give in conversations about where the country is headed. It is a zero-sum game to them. No compromise is possible therefore no conversation is needed.
This attitude is both sad and dangerous. If there can be no compromise, then there is only one outcome that is appropriate: their side must win at all costs. This means even circumventing Constitutional processes to do so, if need be.
How ironic that many Christian Nationalists also like to call themselves “patriot constitutionalists.” It is a label with little or no meaning when they also advocate non-constitutional means of gaining power such as suppressing votes, gerrymandering districts to win seats, and as we saw in Commandment #2, using violence in the name of saving the country by attacking those perceived to be destroying it. How sad to believe you have to destroy the thing you say you love in order to save it.
But this attitude leads to #8 as you will see.
Christian Nationalism #8 – Thou shalt support authoritarianism over democracy-
ITEM – If saving the United States as a Christian nation is the goal, then using authoritarian tactics and supporting authoritarian leaders is the natural method to follow. We have seen this in the overwhelming support of Evangelicals for Donald Trump since 2016 and his authoritarian tendencies.
But this trait has metastasized into broad and far-reaching efforts to deny basic democratic principles and resort to heavy-handed practices that reduce freedoms that all Americans enjoy.
For example, consider the irony in the ideology of Christian Nationalists who say they are for religious freedom and the right to free speech. However, if they are successful in their efforts to “make America a Christian Nation” then freedom of religion is reduced because the favored or privileged religion will be Christianity; freedom of speech is reduced because opposition to “biblical-values” and “Christian-principles” (whatever those are) will not be allowed. Note the banning of books, and restriction of school curriculum, which is the real threat to the 1st Amendment.
Here is how Allyson Shortle, associate professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and a co-author of ““The Everyday Crusade” describes it:
“So this is something where if you’re listening to people who say they want to radically change democratic institutions to favor Christianity, and we’re not opposing it… ultimately, they are going to be able to get elected, they’re going to form powerful coalitions in leadership and be able to pass a lot of these policies that do chip away at religious freedom, at freedom of speech, at a lot of the democratic freedoms that everybody in America cherishes right now.”
Some within the Christian religion can see the danger.
Rev. Meriah Tigner, a pastor from Indiana, points out that: “I’m seeing a bleeding of Christian values, conservative Christian values specifically, being proposed to be passed as law. So that ‘my values, everyone has to follow’ because they would be codified.”
Eric McDaniel, co-director of the Politics of Race and Ethnicity Lab at the University of Texas at Austin said that Christian nationalism could “set the nation back regarding race, gender, class, sexuality… And after what happened with January 6, there are more concerns about more increased violence.”
Tigner added that research has also shown that people who are strong supporters of “religious nationalism and white Christian nationalism, are more supportive of authoritarian regimes, and are more open to autocratic rule… while they do like democracy, they are slightly more supportive of alternatives too.”
Christian Nationalism Commandment #9 – Thou shalt believe in American Exceptionalism –
ITEM – Have you ever wondered what the phrase American Exceptionalism means? Christian Nationalist have and they have a very specific vision for what it means and how it is to be used. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous concepts of Christian Nationalism that threatens the democratic-republican ideals of the Constitution.
Here is how Gary Peluso-Verdend describes the “myth of American Exceptionalism” –
“The myth of exceptionalism is not simply white supremacy by another name but, in practice, it is shamefully close. The myth of exceptionalism was used to do violence against America’s indigenous peoples. It was one of the essentials of both Yankee and plantation states practicing the triangle trade and a slave-labor economy. It was utilized to war against Mexico, acquire colonies, march indigenous peoples hundreds of miles from the lands their myths told them they were eternally connected to, and close borders and immigration several times to persons who were either non-white or not white enough.”
The myth harkens back to Sarah Palin’s declaration in a speech that she and “her kind” are the “real Americans.” Sarah Palin and her friends are White, religious, and called by God. Christian Nationalists use this trope to imply or state outright that American society, if it stays true to the bible and “Christian principles” is superior to any other culture or nation. And by implication, those that are not white-christian-called by god, are to be diminished, expelled or otherwise exterminated.
What this belief leads to is self-imposed blindness to any shortcomings or failures of the American state, and extreme criticism of anyone that points them out. Ask Nicole Hannah-Jones how she was received by Christian Nationalists with her publication of the “1619 Project.” It again explains the censorship on the study of slavery and Jim Crow that Christian Nationalists are seeking to impose in the current era.
The myth of American Exceptionalism is a broad project since to be true to the myth means that Christian Nationalists must work to make Congress declare the United States to be a Christian nation, keep non-white, non-Christian immigrants from entering the country, do away with protections for Gay and Transgender people because they don’t fit the myth of biblical sexuality (whatever that is).
Exceptionalism doesn’t just mean that the United States has a unique and hopeful system of government that protects the rights of all people, which is unique in history. For the Christian Nationalist, America is exceptional because of them…the Christians that live here. And even though they are a declining demographic, it is still incumbent on them to force the nation to recognize itself as a “Christian Commonwealth.” One only needs to look to Oliver Cromwell’s England to see how well that worked out.
But Christian Nationalists and the Christian Right are fiercely defending the myth. They are trying to create a “forcefield, a new sacred canopy, over the myth of exceptionalism. They have power, and they’ve appointed a huge number of federal judges who will defend the myth.” The ending of Roe is only the beginning, which brings us to the last Christian Nationalist Commandment…
Christian Nationalism Commandment #10 – Thou shalt deny women equal rights and support Patriarchy –
ITEM – In her acclaimed book “Jesus and John Wayne” Kristen Kobes deMez anticipated the problem that toxic religious masculinity would bring to women. She writes:
“In the end, Doug Wilson, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, James Dobson, Doug Phillips, and John Eldredge all preached a mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity—of patriarchy and submission, sex and power. It was a vision that promised protection for women but left women without defense, one that worshiped power and turned a blind eye to justice, and one that transformed the Jesus of the Gospels into an image of their own making.”
The Christian Nationalist agenda is not just about ending the practice of abortion in America. It is rooted in the concept of a Patriarchal God, and a Patriarchal society that limits the rights, role and freedoms of women. We are seeing this play out now in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision.
It isn’t enough for the Religious right to send the issue of abortion back to the states to determine, the goal now according “pro-life” leaders is to seek a national ban on abortion in all the states, with no exceptions. The practical application of this policy means that women will no longer have the right to free travel or mobility, or the right to privacy of mail. Their movements and their correspondence will need to be monitored to ensure they are not seeking abortions.
We tend to think of the oppression of women as characteristic in other countries such as Muslim nations or Russia. But the reason that women have fewer rights and lower status in those countries is because their systems have a religious-nationalist basis that limits religious freedom. Any country that limits religious freedom will inherently limit women’s freedom. The two are tied together.
Whenever and wherever religious freedom is threatened, so too are the fundamental rights of women and girls, a panel of experts said during a recent virtual hearing before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“Gender-based and religiously based discrimination and inequality often exist in tandem. In fact, research shows a strong correlation between countries with high restrictions on religion and low protections of gender equality,” said Azza Karam, secretary general of Religions for Peace.
That is where Christian Nationalism is taking us. So don’t act surprised if Christian Nationalists begin to do things like passing a women’s dress code…oops, that just happened in Missouri for women in the state legislature. It is a slow drip, but the slow drip will eventually fill the bucket and we will be drowning in the stench of women being relegated to second class status.
Time to Take Action Against Christian Nationalism
If you want to take action here are a few organizations that you can affliate with and get involved. Many of these are Christian organizations and are fighting back against the heresy of Christian Nationalism.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
Christians Against Christian Nationalism