The Power Worshippers | Reflections & Notes

Katherine Stewart. The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019. (342 pages)

TALKS:


REFLECTIONS


Two phrases kept running through my mind reading this book.

The first, “She’s not wrong.” Stewart has done a significant amount of homework on this subject, has rightly distinguished “Christian Nationalism” from “Christian Religion (proper),” (which I appreciate), and offered a counterbalancing message that is rooted in America’s best and most universal principles, a tactic that deserves our consideration. All of this grants this book a journalistic authority that makes a compelling and insightful read.

The second phrase comes from the movie “Chicken Run”:

While Stewart spends time on the beliefs and philosophy of Christian Nationalism, the thrust of the book is more about their organized political activities. So, if you are at all curious (flabbergasted?) at Christian (specifically White Evangelical) enthusiasm for the 2016 general election results, Power Worshippers will help bring much to light. (See also The End of White Christian AmericaUncivil Agreementand Costly Grace, among many other works such as Divided States of America.)

Particularly astonishing are the affections Christian Nationalism has had, and continues to have, with Russia. If “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and Christian Nationalists consider “secular America” the enemy, this opens the door for a Russian courtship to woo Christians to the “common causes” of theo/auto-cratic rule, particularly when it comes to the control of gender and sexuality in the culture. It is difficult not to judge this as “credulus-ex-dogma,” a gullibility and persuadability that stems from strong beliefs.

It is also an intriguing phenomenon to consider Latinx support for Republicans, given what many liberals deem to be unseemly philosophies and rhetoric from Republicans regarding the Latin population. However, if one has experienced government as “totalitarian,” it makes psychological sense that the opposite would not be “liberal democracy,” but “less government.” (See my note below ~p.112).

Because the book focuses on political activities more than philosophies and theologies, there are two specific challenges that this book does not engage with well. First, the countervailing political tone, and second, the lack of recognizing the complicated paradox of Christianity. I do not hold this against Stewart, as I don’t feel these are critical to the thesis of the book, but thoughtful readers would do well to think carefully about how these additional factors would influence the message Stewart is purporting.

First, the countervailing political tone.

At times, the tone of the book is judgmental, perhaps even condescending, with a clear “liberal” (for lack of better terms) bias. This betrays the audience of the book, and will do little to bridge the divide. I would not recommend this book to anyone who is “already convinced” of the truth of Christian Nationalism (an inquiry I actually got today, whether I would recommend this book for someone who is reading Dark Agenda and Jesus Politics…and loves them. Answer: no.) There is an art and science to persuasion, and this book is in neither category (I would highly recommend Talking Across The Divide for that conversation). This lack of nuance cements us further in our tribes and reaffirms our bubbles. In other words, a disdain of Christian Nationalism without nuance is simply the same tribalism, just on the opposite ends. This needs to be guarded against, for the enemy may not be Christian Nationalists, but rather, the fundamental human propensity for tribalism.

Second, the lack of recognizing the complicated paradox of Christianity.

This idea is going to be harder to untangle simply.

While I would concur with the dangers of “Christian Nationalism,” as Stewart puts it, teasing out what is truly Christian versus that which is distortion is a far more complicated endeavor. I absolutely did appreciate the distinction made at the beginning of her book (which I recognize in my opening paragraph at the top of this reflection), however, the hundreds of quotes and citations pulled from an extremely wide swath of the Christian “library of public statements,” complicate the message. The root message of Jesus is “global,” and “political,” and “kingdom” oriented. The vision of the founder of this religion desired to see corruption and political abuses brought to account, for them to be exposed for the evil that they reap upon their subjects. It is virtually impossible strip away this language since key phrases such as “Lord” and “Kingdom” are pillars of the Christian message. And so, it will not be hard to find quotes and statements that utilize this language,… *ahem,* liberally. But does that constitute “Christian Nationalism” of the same force and weight?

Also, there is no doubt a “will to power” amongst Christian Nationalists. But this needs nuance as well. As someone who has been woven into the various threads of Christianity for all of my adult life, I can testify that many of the people she mentions are not *necessarily* out for “power.” Many of them are simply honest “believers” who deeply care about children, life, liberty, etc. Power, in other words, is frequently observed by others as the telos, the end, but it is really, simply, the means.

Last, I am fully on board with the closing sentiments of this book:

If we want to guard against demagogues and theocrats who wish to “redeem” America, we don’t need a new theory of American democracy. We just need to recover and restore the vision of a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. (276)

But here’s the rub. The idea that “all men and women are created equal,” is itself a Christian idea. (See Dominion) And, more than that, it is an idea that Stewart wants to govern our society. It is a complicated paradox, I suggest, to disdain Christian Nationalism for something more agreeable to our national ethos: True Christianity.

This dilemma is not easily solved. The tension is considerably strained, and the fight will perpetuate, I’m afraid, perennially. Perhaps a little levity will offer us a psychological reprieve from our angst:

Thank you, Regina and Lucas, for the most precious gift one can give, the gift of greater understanding in a good book! I appreciate you both tremendously!


NOTES


Introduction

the religious right has become more focused and powerful even as it is arguably less representative. It is not a social or cultural movement. It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a “biblical worldview” that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders. (3)

Christian nationalism is not a religious creed but, in my view, a political ideology. It promotes the myth that the American republic was founded as a Christian nation. It asserts that legitimate government rests not on the consent of the governed but on adherence to the doctrines of a specific religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage. It demands that our laws be based not on the reasoned deliberation of our democratic institutions but on particular, idiosyncratic interpretations of the Bible. Its defining fear is that the nation has strayed from the truths that once made it great. Christian nationalism looks backward on a fictionalized history of America’s allegedly Christian founding. It looks forward to a future in which its versions of the Christian religion and its adherents, along with their political allies, enjoy positions of exceptional privilege and power in government and in law. (4)

Perhaps the most salient impediment to our understanding of the movement is the notion that Christian nationalism is a “conservative” ideology. The correct word is “radical.” (5)

From the perspective of the movement’s leadership, vast numbers of America’s conservative churches have been converted into the loyal cells of a shadow political party. (7)

Forty years ago, when both sides of certain cultural issues could be found in either party, it made sense to speak (7) of the religious right as a social movement that cut across the partisan divide. Today it makes more sense to regard the Republican party as a host vehicle for a radical movement that denies that the other party has any legitimate claim to political power. (8)

The roots of the present crisis in the American political party system lie at the juncture of money and religion. (8)

I wish to underscore, because the question always comes up, that my concern here is not with religious belief systems, either in general or in particular. I do not for a moment imagine that Christian nationalists represent all Christians. I leave it for theologians to decide whether their views are consistent with Christian teachings. I am not interested in judging other people’s religious beliefs. But I think we all have a stake in understanding their political actions. (10)

| I believe that some of the most powerful resistance to Christian nationalism may ultimately come from those who identify as Christians themselves. (10)

1. Church and Party in Unionville

Passed in 1954 at the urging of then senator Lyndon B. Johnson, the amendment was intended to prevent public money from passing through churches via tax deductions into the hands of politicians. In theory, according to the Johnson Amendment, religious organizations that engage in activities to directly sway elections could lose their tax-exempt status. (17)

cf. Culture Impact Teams by the Family Research Council

cf. Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II

cf. the Rowan County Defense of Religion Act:

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA

SESSION 2013

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION DRHJR10194-MM-54 (03/19) [March, 2019]

A JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROCLAIM THE ROWAN COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DEFENSE OF RELIGION ACT OF 2013.

Whereas, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads:”…Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”; and

Whereas, this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools; and

Whereas, in recent times, the federal judiciary has incorporated states, municipalities, and schools into the Establishment Clause prohibitions on Congress; and

Whereas, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”; and

Whereas, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits the federal government and prohibits the federal courts from expanding the powers of the federal government beyond those powers which are explicitly enumerated; and

Whereas, the Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people; and

Whereas, each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion; and

Whereas, Rowan County, North Carolina, asserts that the protections afforded to citizens of the United States under the First Amendment are not in any way to be abridged when such citizens become government actors by virtue of their appointment, election, contract, employment, or otherwise engagement; and

Whereas, Rowan County, North Carolina, requests and encourages the North Carolina General Assembly to pass a resolution declaring that the State of North Carolina does not recognize the authority of federal judicial opinions arising from the exertion of powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States; Now, therefore,

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 3. This resolution is effective upon ratification.

The U.S. Constitution’s church-state separation provision, they claimed, only applied to the federal government. Think of it as a new nullification provision, only aimed directly at the First Amendment. The bill would have allowed, say, public schools to insist that principals prove they had been “born again.” It could have mandate that candidates for public office prove weekly church attendance and that all public meetings begin with prayers that infidels will come to know the Lord. (20)

cf. The Naked Communist, by W. Cleon Skousen

cf. Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG)

cf. C. Peter Wagner, and Wagner Institute for Practical Ministry (now Wagner University?)

In his 2008 book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World, Wagner explains that God has commanded true Christians to gain control of the “seven molders” or “mountains” of culture and influence, or seven areas of civilization, including government, business, education, the media, the arts and entertainment, family, and religion. (25)

…the point of talking about the repeal of the Johnson Amendment is not, in fact, to repeal it. It has already been vetoed on the ground. … Since churches are subsidized with public money through tax deductions and other tax advantages, one could say that the United States now has a publicly subsidized political party that promotes an agenda of religious nationalism. (31)

We have become so used to the identification of “values voters” with the Republican Party that we no longer remember a time when neither party had a monopoly on God. We have heard the single-issue, pro-life or -death refrain so many times that we no longer remember a time when America’s houses of worship, including conservative ones, tended to approach a vast range of issues that affect our society with the humility and appreciation of their complexity that is their due. We have been exposed to so much extreme rhetoric–and so many apocalyptic visions for world domination–that we no longer remember the time when such ideas and those who espoused them were nowhere near the center of political power. (32)

2. Ministering to Power

The game of power really has two sides. You reach outside to voters and tell them what they need to hear so they will vote in your favor. But you also step inside and gather with the powerful individuals who actually call the shots. In recent years, the Christian nationalist movement has had extraordinary success in playing the inside game. (33)

cf. Ralph Drollinger

While many Americans still believe that the Christian right is primarily concerned with “values,” leaders of the movement know it’s really about power. Trump’s supposedly anti-Christian attributes are in fact part of the attraction. Today’s Christian nationalists talk a good game about respecting the Constitution and America’s founders, but at bottom they prefer autocrats to democrats. Trump believes in the rule of force, but the rule of law. He is not there to uphold values but to impose the will of the tribe. He is a leader perfectly suited to the cause. (40)

cf. The Family:

cf. Rebuilding America: The Biblical Blueprint

Of course, those policies, which favor low regulation and minimal workers’ rights, may exacerbate existing wealth inequalities in the Central Valley. But this is a feature of the system, not a bug. That’s the way inequality works. On the one hand, it creates concentrations of wealth whose beneficiaries are determined to manipulate the political process to hold on to and enhance their privileges. On the other hand, it generates a sense of instability and anxiety among broad sectors of the wider public, which is then ripe for conversion to a religion that promises authority and order. (48)

In a democracy answering to the rule of law, such corrupt and nepotistic practices would register as major scandals. In a monarchy, or pseudo-monarchy, however, they are merely business as usual. (52)

When God sends a ruler to save the nation, He doesn’t mess around; He sends a kingly king. And kings don’t have to follow the rules. (52)

3. Inventing Abortion

Christian nationalism drew its inspiration from a set of concerns that long predate the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade and had little to do with abortion. The movement settled on abortion as its litmus test sometime after that decision for reasons that had more to do with politics than embryos. It then set about changing the religion of many people in the country in order to serve its new political ambitions. From the beginning, the “abortion issue” has never been just about abortion. It has also been about dividing and uniting to mobilize votes for the sake of amassing political power. (54)

* * *

cf. Phyllis Schlafly; Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America; Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life; Jaime Herrera Beutler, Congresswoman.

cf. The New Right: We’re Ready to Lead by Richard Viguerie

cf. Howard Phillips; Eric Heubeck

cf. the Heritage Foundation; the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Free Congress Foundation.

cf. Harry R. Jackson Jr. and Tony Perkins, Personal Faith, Public Policy

It wasn’t until 1979–a full six years after Roe–that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. [Balmer, “The Real Origins of the Religious Right,” Politico, May 27, 2014.]

cf. the Ethics and Public Policy Center

cf. Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America

cf. Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Silent Scream

Two groups in particular spearheaded the antiabortion cause. The first was Protestant nativists who feared an onslaught of immigrant and Catholic babies and saw a ban on abortion as a way of producing the more “desirable” kind of babies. Leaders of the eugenics movement, too, were initially hostile to both abortion and birth control, fearing they would suppress the birth rates of wealthy, “better” women.

White male patriotism demanded that maternity be enforced among white Protestant women. [Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime]

The modern pro-life religion that dominates America’s conservative churches and undergirds a variety of their denominations is a political creation. (69)

cf. Brave New People: Ethical Issues at the Commencement of Life

cf. We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics

cf. the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience:

Drafted on October 20, 2009
Released on November 20, 2009

Preamble

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in recent decades to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.

Declaration

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation – to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

****

Life

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that proabortion ideology prevails today in our government. Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense. Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views. The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible some limited restrictions on abortion. The President says that he wants to reduce the “need” for abortion-a commendable goal. But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors. The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth. Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as “the culture of death.” We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable. As predicted by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized. For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries. The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called “therapeutic cloning.” This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues. At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and “voluntary” euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons. Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of “liberty,” “autonomy,” and “choice.”

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion. We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children. Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.

A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination. The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak. And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent. What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear. We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

Our concern is not confined to our own nation. Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and “ethnic cleansing,” the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS. We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research. And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.

Marriage

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:32-33

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. Marriage then, is the first institution of human society-indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation. In the Christian tradition we refer to marriage as “holy matrimony” to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God, and blessed by Christ in his participation at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. In the Bible, God Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.

Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society. Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits-the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our own country. Perhaps the most telling – and alarming-indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. Our society – and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average – is paying a huge price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair. Other indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce.

We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage. Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to “a more excellent way.” As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage. Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital. They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as one. This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being. Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies. The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being-the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual-on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation. That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law, consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic orientation to the great good of procreation.

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being “married.” It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No. The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality-a covenantal union of husband and wife-that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized. Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as “marriages” sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically nonmarital and immoral. Third, the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends. Sadly, we are today far from having a thriving marriage culture. But if we are to begin the critically important process of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild such a culture, the last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is.
And so it is out of love (not “animus”) and prudent concern for the common good (not “prejudice”), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise? The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God’s creation covenant. Indeed, the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and his church. And so just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.

Religious Liberty

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Matthew 22:21

The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous. Religious liberty is not a novel idea or recent development, but is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: “Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror? Not so, but in gentleness and meekness…, for compulsion is no attribute of God” (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4). Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God-a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason.

Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law-such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use of antidiscrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business. After the judicial imposition of “same-sex marriage” in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching. In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital “civil unions” scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions. In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion. We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded. Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one’s own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of.¹ Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority. We believe in law and in the rule of law. We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral. The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust-and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust-undermine the common good, rather than serve it.

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

cf. Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right Is Hijacking Mainstream Religion

In alliance with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, the IRD [Institute on Religion and Democracy] uses trained activists, skillfully developed propaganda and clandestine tactics to inflitrate and hijack–or ‘steeplejack’–mainline churches in order to force out ‘liberal leadership’ and replace t with those who share their conservative world view,… – Culver and Dorhauer

Through the use of same-sex marriage as a wedge issue, congregations are persuaded to separate from their denomination, the authors say, and when possible to seize control of the church-owned reaal estate and take it out of the denomination, too. (71)

[via: This is exactly what happend with ECO.]

cf. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg

cf. Standing Against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth-Century America by Diana Butler Bass

4. The Mind of a Warrior

cf. Jim Domen

Hypermasculinity, if not always drawing from the same sources, is a leitmotif of conservative Christianity in America. (86)

Christ wasn’t effeminate. The man who lived on this earth was a man with muscles…Christ was a he-man! – Falwell [Rebecca E. Klatch, Women of the New Right (Temple University Press, 1987), 47.]

Jerry Boykin said Jesus “was a man’s man, but we feminized him in the church,” adding, “I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.” (86)

Mark Driscoll,… We “live in a completely pussified nation,” he said. If Christian men “do not man up soon,” he warned, “the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men.” (86)

We’re beginning to take out the flowery songs and replace them with the warrior-type lyrics and more masculine things that men identify with. – Steve Craig

It is Domen, however, who has opened up the most fruitful strategy for the Christian right in California. His Church United initiative rests on two simple insights. The first, which he shares in common with other activist groups, is that pastors drive votes. Chruch United’s raison d’être is to politicize pastors–in the “right” direction. The second insight, which distinguishes Domen from the field to some degree, is that the future of Christian natinoalism is not all white. (89)

For the evangelical church right now, membership is no longer based on color. It is also not really based in religion anymore, either. Your litmus test for religious belonging comes via your political beliefs. – Bradley Onishi

This is a blatant distortion. California churches do not pay for abortions any more than they pay for Viagra or for abdominal aortic aneurysm screenings. Instead, through the Affordable Care Act, they participate in health insurance exchanges that allow employers statewide to negotiate insurance coverage for their employees–some of whom happen to be women making use of reproductive care services. Characterizing this as churches paying for abortions is like saying that motorists are compelled to transport tractor-trailers from state to state because they sahre the same roads. But this sham narrative has become a popular talking point for the California Fmaily Council and is perhaps too valuable in activating the base to set aside just because it’s not true. (92)

cf. California’s Healthy Youth Act, 2016

cf. Gloria Álvarez; Dan and Farris Wilks

Have you ever asked yoruself why the U.S. is a country with much more freedom, much less corruption, and is much more prosperous than any of our countries in Latin America? The answer lies mainly in the American belief of having a limited government. Why? Because the more limited a government, the less corrupt it is. And the more limited the governemnt, the more you will ahve individual freedom and personal responsibility. And given those things, along with hard work and talent, you can accomplish your life’s goals. – Gloria Álvarez

[via: This was a really significant “aha” for me. Latinx conservatives who come from corrupt governments have a phenomenological incentive to prioritize low government.]

There is a sad irony in inviting people of color who were themselves once–and indeed remain–objects of contempt for other groups of religious nationalists to turn around and discover their own objects of contempt. But for Gómez it is clearly just a matter of redrawing the lines between insider and outsider, and he is careful to reassure his audience that they are on the inside. (95)

cf. “Awakening Tours”

cf. Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer:

cf. Senate Bill 1145, the Equity in Higher Education Act

5. Up from Slavery: The Ideological Origins of Christian Nationalism

I know that you can’t endorse me. [But] I want you to know that I endorse you and what you are doing. – Ronald Reagan, August 1980 at the Religious Roundtable’s National Affairs Briefing

…Christian Reconstructionism, (102) a theocratic movement seeking to infuse our society at all levels with a biblical worldview. (103)

cf. Rousas Rushdoony; Robert Billings; Howard Phillips; Julie Ingersoll; Howard Ahmanson Jr.; Francis Schaeffer; Richard John Neuhaus

In a 1990 essay, theoconservative Richard John Neuhaus pointed out that Rushdoony’s “theonomy,” or idea of a social and political order rooted in “biblical law,” has “insinuated itself in circles wehre people would be not at all comfortable to think of themselves as theonomists” and advised readers that “the distance from Norman Vincent Peale to Rousas John Rushdoony is not so great as may first appear.” (104)

The Bible, says Rushdoony, commands Christians to exercise absolute dominion over the earth and all of its inhabitants. Women are destined by God to be subordinate to men; men are destined to be ruled by a spiritual aristocracy of right-thinking, orthodox Christian clerics; and the federal government is an agent of evil. (104)

cf. The Messianic Character of American Education and The Institutes of Biblical Law–often hailed as his magnum opus and recommended as one of the Choice Evangelical Books of 1973 by evangelical flagship journal Christianity Today–Rushdoony lays it all out in a program that he calls Christian Reconstruction. (104)

cf. Cornelius Van Til; Abraham Kuyper

To be clear, the Christian nationalist movement is large and diverse in its specific theologies. Many of its representatives know very little about R. J. Rushdoony, and others take pains to distance themselves from him. Some of his extreme positions, such as the idea that homosexuals, blasphemers, adulterers, incorrigible teenagers, and practitioners of “witchcraft” are all worthy of the death penalty, have been loudly repudiated by many conservative religious leaders. Yet it is difficult to understand the ideological origins and structure of Christian nationalism in America today without taking into account Rushdoony’s ideas. (105)

Few thinkers invent new ways of being out of whole cloth,… (105)

cf. Robert Lewis Dabney

In the first half of his career, before the Civil War, he sermonized loudly about the “righteousness” of slavery and argued that opposing slavery was “tantamount to rejecting Christianity.” [Robert Lewis Dabney, “Christians Pray for Your Nation,” editorial article in the Central Presbyterian, March 29, 1856.] (106)

Certainly, many American ecclesial voices rejected slavery. [cf. John Wesley; Reverend Calvin Fairbank; Charles Grandison Finney; Theodore Dwight Weld; John Leland; Charles Lowel; William Wilberforce; Thomas Clarkson…]

But a preponderance of representatives of major American denominations of the time had made their peace with slavery, and either conscientiously refrained from making any judgment that would upset the established order, or supported it outright. A leading Baptist of Georgia declared, “Both Christianity and slavery are from heaven; both are blessings to humanity; both are to be perpetuated to the end of time.” [Macon Telegraph, February 7, 1861.] The Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church unanimously resolved “that slavery, as it exists in the United States, is not a moral evil.” [Stephen S. Foster, The Brotherhood of Thieves; or, a True Picture of the American Church and Clergy: A Letter to Nathaniel Barney, of Nantucket Concord, N.H. (Parker Pillsbury, 1886, first published 1843), 36.] The Episcopalians of South Carolina found slavery to be “marked by every evidence of divine approval.” [Cited in TPCW 6.135; Christian Standard (Charleston, S.C.), June 21, 1854.] The Reverend J. C. Postell of South Carolina stated that slavery “is supported by the Bible … [T]he fact that slavery is of divine appointment would be proof enough with the Christian that it cannot be a moral evil,” adding that it “is a judicial visitation.” [See Stephen S. Foster, Brotherhood of Thieves, 38.] The Charleston Union Presbytery resolved that “the holding of slaves, so far from being a sin in the sight of God, is nowhere condemned in his holy word.” [Ibid., 42.] (107)

Contrary to popular myth, many representatives of the churches of the North went along with Dabney’s program. Reverend Wilbur Fisk, the Methodist president of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, agreed that “the general rule of Christianity not only permits, but, in supposable circumstances enjoins the continuance of the master’s authority. The New Testament enjoins obedience upon the slave as an obligation due to a present rightful authority.” [Voster, Brotherhood of Thieves, 37.] Moses Stuart, the top Bible scholar at Andover in Massachusetts, applauded the sentiment: “the precepts of the New Testament…beyond all question, recognize the existence of slavery.” [James G. Birney, The American Churches: The Bulwarks of American Slavery (Charles Whipple, 1842), 47; See also: Moses Stuart, Conscience and the Constitution, with Remarks on the Recent Speech of the Honorable Daniel Webster (Forgotten Books, 2007), 1850.] The president of Dartmouth College, Nathan Lord, added that any criticism of slavery is “dishonorable to God, and subversive of his government.” [John R. McKivigan, The War Against Pro-Slavery Religion: Abolition and the Northern Churches, 1830-1865 (Cornell University Press, 1984), 30.] John Henry (107) Hopkins, the Episcopal bishop of Vermont, who published a tract and a lengthy book defending slavery, penned a letter to the abolitionist bishop of Pennsylvania “to prove, from the Bible, that in the relation of master and slave there was necessarily no sin whatever.” [“The Bible View of American Slavery: A Letter from the Bishop of Vermont (New England) to the Bishop of Pennsylvania,” reprinted from the Philadelphia Mercury October 11, 1863 (Saunders, Otley, 1863), 7; John Henry Hopkins, A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery (W. I. Pooley, 1864), 5; and The Bible View of Slavery (Saunders, Otley, 1863), 6; see also reference to Hopkins in William Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery (William Tweedie, 1860), 96-97.] The founder of Yale’s Divinity School and the leading Presbyterian theologian at Princeton concurred. [See Stephen S. Foster, Brotherhood of Thieves, 37; Nathaniel Taylor: http://www.yaleslavery.org/WhoYaleHonors/taylor.html.] (108)

| The identification of religious authority with the perpetuation of the institution of slavery reflected something far more important than mere adaptation to the largest concentration of economic power in the nation–although it was that, too. At a deeper level, it was part of a counterrevolutionary response to the perceived liberal and irreligious excesses associated with the American Revolution. The period around the American Revolution was, by most accounts, a low point for fundamentalism and a high one for freedom of thought and what was considered heresy. In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse dated June 26, 1822, Thomas Jefferson famously predicted that all Americans would shortly convert to Unitarianism, and Thomas Paine went even further, suggesting that they would abandon all traditional religions in favor of a pure deism, or religion of nature and reason. [“Rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.{i},” Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822; “Soon after I had published the pamphlet Common Sense, in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion. The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priestcraft would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more.{i},” Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Foner (1995), 667.] Yet those prognostications missed the mark by approximately 180 degrees. In the decades following the Revolution, an evangelical surge rolled across the landscape, sweeping aside the Unitarians and other liberal religionists and installing hardline Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist sects that, while often popular in their rhetoric and methods, promoted literalism and absolute submission to authority in their doctrines. (108)

Borrowing from the language that the Federalist theologians developed in their assaults on liberal religionists and supporters of popular democracy, the new generation of leaders promoted a theological vision that (108) emphasized the divine origins of the existing order, which invariably involved domination and subordination, always of men over women, and frequently of white people over Black people, too. (109)

True, a number of the activists who took up abolitionism, including Reformed Baptist minister Charles W. Denison and Universalist (later Unitarian) minister Adin Ballou, did so in the name of religion and from pulpits. But, as Frederick Douglass acidly observed at the time, these religious abolitionists tended to be a distinctly disempowered minority in their own denominations. (109)

A few heterodox, and still fewer orthodox ministers, filling humble pulpits and living upon small salaries, have espoused the cause of the slave; but the ministers of high standing–the $5,000 divines–were almost to a man on the side of Slavery.” [Collected Works, a speech called “The Proclamation and the Negro Army,” given during the Civil War, Frederick Douglass Papers, digital edition, 560.] (109)

Meanwhile, many of the most famous of the abolitionists–Douglass himself, along with William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, and Gerrit Smith–had moved in the direction of religious heterodoxy, for which they were routinely denounced as heretics;… (109)

Predicting that the growing women’s rights movement would “destroy Christianity and civilization,” [Robert Lewis Dabney] thundered, “women are here consigned to a social subordination, and expressly excluded from ruling offices, on grounds of their sex, and a divine ordination based by God upon a transaction that happened nearly six thousand years ago!” [Robert Lewis Dabney, “Women’s Rights Women,” Southern Magazine, 1871 (Dabney Archive). … As late as 1888 Dabney published an article in the Presbyterian Quarterly titled “Anti-Biblical Theories of Rights,” in which he explained that “the relation of master and bondman was sanctified by the administration of a (110) divine sacrament.” [Ibid.] God himself “predicted the rise of the institution of domestic bondage as the penalty and remedy for the bad morals of those subjected to it,” he said, and “God protects property in slaves, exactly as any other kind of property, in the sacred Decalogue itself.” To argue otherwise, he said, is a “hurricane of anti-Christian attack.” [Ibid.] (111)

Amid the ever-present awareness of genocide, Rushdoony developed the conviction that only absolute submission to the word of God could save the human world from chaos. (111)

In Armenia, there was no neutral ground between Islam and Christianity. And I came to realize there is no neutral ground anywhere. [Chris Smith, “Rousas John Rushdoony and the Rise of Christian conservatives,” California Magazine, Cal Alumni Association, Fall 2012.]

Rushdoony’s vision of a civic order rooted in hierarchy and deriving its legitimacy from its claim to represent an authentically Christian nation forms a central part of an extraordinary revisionist account of American history–an account that would soon insert itself into the heart of the modern Christian nationalist movement. (112)

[via: These pendulum swings suggest to me that the human response to totalitarianism is hierarchy, rather than liberation? I posit that humans, when feeling “out of control,” need to feel “in control,” and thus the hierarchy. This is “the will to power,” a psychological counterbalance to “the will to desire.” Yes?]

For Rushdoony, the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, which included a guarantee that all citizens receive equal protection under the law, “began the court’s recession from its conception of America as a Christian country.” [Rushdoony, This Independent Republic (Thoburn Press, 1954), 37.]  Now the job was to redeem America from its commitment to godless humanism. (113)

In a paper titled “The Bible, Slavery, and America’s Founders,”…[David] Barton argues that, “in light of the Scriptures we cannot say that slavery, in a broad and general sense, is sin. But this brief look at the Biblical slave laws does reveal how fallen man’s example of slavery has violated God’s laws.”

[via: Download .pdf]

Many antiabortion activists self-consciously identify themselves as the new abolitionists. Mainstream conservatives who lament that the evangelicals who form Trump’s most fervent supporters have “lost their way” suggest that they betrayed their roots in the movements that fought for the abolition of slavery and the end of discrimination. But the truth is that today’s Christian nationalism did not emerge out of the religious movement that opposed such rigid hierarchies. It came from the one that promoted them–with the Bible in one hand and a whip in the other. (115)

[via: This segment on slavery, unfortunately, continues with voices such as John MacArthur, and even in verbal flubs such as Louie Giglio:]

[via: MacArthur states in the above video that Paul tells Onemsimus “tell him that you’re sorry that you left,” to Philemon, that is. MacArthur continues to suggest that the letter is “contrary to abolishing slavery,” that Paul is telling Onesium to “fulfill your responsibility to him, ‘as his brother‘.” MacArthur seems to miss (or ignore?) that Paul is urging Philemon to do a “voluntary good deed” and “not something forced” (αγαθον η αλλα κατα εκουσιον μη ως κατα αναγκην). That Philemon might “have him back forever no longer as a slave…” (ινα απεχης αυτον αιωνιον ουκετι ωχ δουλον) cf. the whole letter of Philemon.]

[via: Excerpting the quote from above: “Slavery is not objectionable if you have the right master. It’s the perfect scenario. Everything you need is met, and more, in a caring, loving, environment where God provides all that we need through Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian.”]

[via: The excerpted quote of “white blessing” begins at minute 21:09. Giglio posted a public apology on Instagram to clarify and rectify the use of the phrase. Even still, there are moments in the conversation that speak to the vestiges of theological compromise, such as “injustice” being about “systems” but “racism” being about “the heart.”]

* * *

The “Social Gospel,” as Rushdoony understood it, is the mistaken belief that Christianity would have us use the power of government to reform society along lines that conform with Jesus’s teachings about loving thy neighbor. (116)

In 1935 [James W. Fifield Jr.] cofounded and led the Mobilization for Spiritual Ideals, also known as Spiritual Mobilization. His ambition was to broadcast from pulpits and radio stations a simple message: business has a friend in Jesus, and government is the enemy of God and man. He had a theology to back it up, but it was uncomplicated. The welfare state violated several of the Ten Commandments, but especially the Eighth. When New Dealers used the power of government to restrain business and take from the rich to give to the poor, he argued, this was a clear violation of God’s word: Thou shalt not steal. (116)

Members of the Austrian school of economics, led by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and their American popularizer Henry Hazlitt, warned that the modern welfare state would soon overwhelm the free market and put humanity on the road to serfdom. They denounced labor unions, public education, redistributive programs, and other governmental interventions in the free market, which they believed would produce peace, prosperity, and the solution to all major social problems if left to its own devices. (117)

Rushdoony began churning out doctrinal works arguing that “capitalism is supremely a product of Christianity.” On the other hand, “socialism is organized larceny; like inflation, it takes from the haves to give to the have-nots.” [Rousas John Rushdoony, Christianity and Capitalism (Chalcedon Foundation, 2000; originally published by Coast Federal Savings Free Enterprise Department in the 1960s). Digital version pages 96, 119.] (118)

cf. The Messianic Character of American Education.

After Rushdoony’s death, Gary North, who had developed a close relationship with the politician Ron Paul, dutifully produced the Ron Paul Curriculum, a homeschooling program with an emphasis on “the Biblical principle of self-government and personal responsibility which is also the foundation of the free market economy.” [Gary North “Announcing: The Ron Paul Curriculum Is Open for Business,” April 06, 2013, https://www.garynorth.com/public/10862.cfm. See video at 25-second mark.]

So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God. [Gary North, “The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right,” The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, vol. 1, Christianity and Civilization (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School), 25] (Download .pdf)

The fusion of hyper-capitalist ideology with hyper-Calvinist theology, purveyed by the likes of Fifield and chiseled in the granite of Rushdoony’s ponderous works, secured the financial future of Christian nationalism. (120)

Sometime int he late 1970s, observers of the American religious landscape came to a sudden, shocking realization: fundamentalism was back. (121)

cf. C. Peter Wagner; “7 Mountain Mandate; Lance Wallnau; Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World; Michael J. McVicar, author of Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism.

In the final analysis, Rushdoony and his Reconstructionists were effects of history, too, not its causes. The new nationalists rediscovered–or simply reinvented–their ideas because they answered to a logic that has much deeper roots in American history. … The hierarchies that arose in the Gilded Age hit some roadblocks in the progressive era, but that hardly stopped plutocrats from enlisting new champions of theological legitimation. Christian nationalism exploits and intensifies inequality, and dominionism is its logical end point and the actual engine of the so-called culture wars. Its ideas persist not on account of any clandestine texts or secret cabals but because the forces that produced them remain very much at work in shaping the movement today. (124)

| The many paradoxes and contradictions of Christian nationalism make sense when they are taken out of the artificial “culture war” framing and placed within the history of the antidemocratic reaction in the United States. … At bottom, they agree with Rushdoony that there is no neutrality: the state either answers to God or it answers to something worse. (124)

| Perhaps the most obvious paradox of Christian nationalism is that it preaches love but everywhere practices intolerance, even hate. … They love and care for their children, volunteer in their communities, and establish long friendships–and then they seek to punish those who are different. It is not enough for them to assert that they alone are religiously righteous; they want everyone else to conform to their ideas of righteousness. They save some of their most poisonous words for those who dare to identify as Christians of a different sort. (125)

[via: We could call this an “internecine disdain.”]

Separation involves hard, grueling controversy. It involves attacks, personal attacks, even violent attacks. … Satan preaches brotherly love in order to hold men in apostasy – Carl McIntire, “A Disciplined, Charging Army” Frances FitzGerald, The New Yorker, May 16, 2007

Therefore, he said, aggression “is an expression of Christian love.” (125)

6. The Uses and Abuses of History

cf. Cindy Jacobs; the Green family (Barbara & David, Steve); Faith in AmericaBurwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do by Rob Boston; “Hobby Lobby Independence Day Ad Is a Real Mess”; Andrew L. Seidel, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

The error in the detail was there to provide cover for the great lie at the center of Christian nationalism. What David Barton and the leaders of the Hobby Lobby corporation don’t want you to know is that America’s founders explicitly and proudly created the world’s first secular republic. (128)

cf. Engel v. Vitale, 1962; School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp.

But the biggest lie in [David] Barton’s first stab at history is what he takes to be its biggest truth. Once upon a time, in his telling, America was united around a common religion that served as the foundation of the republic–until secularists commandeered the Supreme Court and ruined everything. The reality is that America was a pluralistic land from the beginning and (130) the United States was founded as a secular republic. Thomas Jefferson said it best when he pointed to the First Amendment and said with awe that it erected “a wall of separation between Church and State.” [Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, January 1, 1802.] It is why he declared, in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, “that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” [Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Monticello.org.] This is why the Treaty of Tripoli of 1798, endorsed by John Adams and other members of America’s founding generation, declared explicitly (and uncontroversially) that “the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.” [Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli, November 4, 1796.] (131)

Leave the matter of religion to the family circle, the church, and the private school. supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. [Ulysses S. Grant speech before the Army of Tennessee, Des Moines, Iowa, 1875.]

cf. Engel v. VitaleAbington v. Schempp

Bartonian historiography invariably begins with the myth of the golden age–the idea, in essence, that America was once a single nation with a single God. It goes on to describe a fall and a cause for grievance as the righteous lose their hold, thanks to the actions of secular liberals. (133)

cf. America’s Godly Heritage

If Barton would take the time to actually read Jefferson’s letter he would see that he is simply wrong. Jefferson’s letter says nothing about the wall being ‘one directional,’ and certainly does not assert that it was meant to keep ‘Christian principles’ in government. Such sentiments … conflict sharply with our third president’s well known advocacy of church-state separation and religious freedom. [Rob Boston, “David Barton: Master of Myth and Misinformation,” Institute for First Amendment Studies, June 1996, www.publiceye.org/ifas]

cf. Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate View of American HistoryThe Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, both by Chris Rodda

cf. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “The Most Influential Evangelist You’ve Never Heard Of,” All Things Considered, NPR, August 8, 2012.

David Barton is offering an alternative vision of American history which places God, the providence of God, Christianity, at the center – John Fea

cf. Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President.

For at the heart of Barton’s project is an assault on the very idea of history as a meaningful subject of scholarly investigation and a source of objective truths. Embedded in Barton’s enterprise–and visible in the very title of his magnum opus, The Jefferson Lies–is the message that history is just a political battlefield where the votaries of “the Left” spin their secularizing falsehoods from the comfort of “the Academy,” and the only alternative is to spin better stories from those who believe rightly. …the fact that liberal critics find no end of lies and contradictions in his work only serves to confirm in the minds of his followers his authentic commitment to a deeper truth. (135)

It appears that the guiding assumptions in [the Bible Museum] are that the Bible has only one meaning, that this meaning is directly accessible by dint of individual effort, and that this particular meaning is the foundation of the Christian religion (at the very least). (136)

cf. Drive Thru History, Dave Stotts; The Birth of Freedom; Chris Rodda; Rick Green; Lance Wallnau; Andrew Wommack

Guys, I’m tellin ya, Christian is the new black. Christian is what you get discriminated against now like blacks were in the ’60s. – Johnson Amendment is Limiting Our Free Speech And First Amendment Right, April 17, 2017 (minute 18:18)

[via: Holy Crap!]

In its official pronouncements, the Museum of the Bible has learned to present itself as just a museum. (145)

cf. Cary Summers

The pretense that the museum was just a museum, however, cut no ice with its most fervent champions. (145)

cf. Generations, Kevin Swanson; Kirk Cameron; Center for National Renewal; Churches in Covenant; Pastor Stephen Hayes; Dr. Mike Hayes; Worldview Conference of Kingdom Education Ministries; Marck A. Chancey; Ralph Drollinger; Cindy Jacobs; Jon & Jolene Hamill, Lamplighter Ministries; Chuck Pierce; Rick Ridings; Pastor Andrew Brunson; Pam Pryor; Rabbi Levi Shemtov…

7. The Blitz: Turning the States into Laboratories of Theocracy

cf. Frederick Clarkson; Project Blitz; “Project Blitz” Seeks To Do For Christians Nationalism What ALEC Does For Big Business; 116-page playbook.pdf

The discovery of Project Blitz was a game changer for understanding the movement’s legislative strategy. It is the playbook for a nationwide assault on state legislatures in all fifty states. It does indeed describe a “blitz,” for the basic strategy is to flood the zone with coordinated, simultaneous bills in the hopes that they will, eventually, become law. [See Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, http://cpcfoundation.com/first-freedom-coalition-project-blitz.] The stated aim of this project is to advance “religious freedom”–in a late 2019 conference call, organizers discussed rebranding the initiative Freedom for All–but this turns out to be the biggest of the many deceptions that characterize the enterprise. (153)

cf. Lea Carawan; J. Randy Forbes; Buddy Pilgrim; Lindy M. “Buddy” Pilgrim; Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim; Senator John Marty

The documentation of the Blitz is particularly valuable in that it shows that Christian nationalists have self-consciously embraced a strategy of advancing their goals through deception and indirection. For many years critics have warned that concessions to the Christian right on “symbolic” issues–erecting religious monuments and emblazoning religious mottos on state property, for example–would set the nation on a course leading to the establishment of religion. We now know that the critics were right–because pushing the states down a slippery slope to a more “biblically based” society is precisely what the authors of Project Blitz propose to accomplish. (159)

But the point of phase I is just to clear the path for phase II, which consists of bills that propose to inject Christian nationalist ideas more directly into schools and other government entities. (159) … The point of Phase II, of course, is to make room for phase III, which legalizes discrimination against those whose actions (or very being) offends the sensibilities of conservative Christians. (160)

cf. Chelsea Patterson Sobolik; the “Mississippi Missile” (HB1523); Governor Phil Bryant; Ben Needham, Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Policy and Political Affairs Department at the Human Rights Campaign.

Of course, it’s all part of the child’s training in submission to an authoritarian form of religion. As Dobson explains, “We should teach our children to submit to our loving leadership as preparation for their later life of obedience to God.” [Dr. James Dobson, “The Difference Between Childish Irresponsibility and Willful Defiance,” Dobson Digital Library.] (164)

It would be touching to think that the leaders of America’s latest religious revival have at last turned their attention to health care, but no: their concern here is that all of this sex is costing taxpayers lots of money–“estimated to be in the billions of dollars.” (165)

| The emotional impact of bills like these really has two sides: It singles out a target population as worthy of state-sanctioned contempt, and it identifies another group as worthy of state-sanctioned respect. (165)

Apart from consolidating the privileges of conservative Christians to impose their beliefs on others, the point of bills like HB1523 has a lot to do with money. … The bill, said the AFA, is crucial because it protects the AFA and groups like it from the “governmental threat of losing their tax exempt status.” [Katherine Stewart, “Why Mississippi’s New Anti-LGBT Law Is the Most Dangerous One to Be Passed Yet,” The Nation, April 8, 2016.] (165)

| There is a revealing irony in that statement. Tax exemption is a kind of gift from the government: a privilege. It is an indirect way of funneling money from taxpayers to groups that engage in certain kinds of activities (like charity work or nonprofit education) and not other kinds of activities (like business and political activism). (165)

In 2016 a federal district court struck down HB1523 for the obvious reason that it favored one set of religious beliefs over others. (166)

The Blitzers understand at some level that their agenda will not command majorities of public opinion. Indeed, the premise of their work is that they can’t win in a fair and open debate. … As J. Randy Forbes, founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, put it, “Our studies and what we have seen is 10 percent of the people in any country in the world can change that country if they have the right strategies, if they persevere, and if they will just find a way to put their differences aside and come together. And that’s what we’re seeing happening across this country.” [Randy Forbes and Lea Carawan from CPCFoundation on Truth & Liberty Livecast,” streamed live by Andrew Wommack, October 29, 2018, 59:01 min, at 14:40-15:00 mark, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpf3RplEMd4:%5D(166)

Barna identified a cohort of “SAGE Cons,” or “spiritually active, governance-engaged conservatives,” and introduced the term into movement leadership parlance in his 2017 book The Day Christians Changed America: How Christian Conservatives Put Trump in the White House and Redirected America’s Future. “The driving force behind their faith is that nine out of ten of them (90%) have developed a biblical worldview, “Barna writes. “That compares to just 1% of the rest of the U.S. adult population.” [George Barna, The Day Christians Changed America (Metaformation, 2017), 55.] (167)

At this point, it would have been apparent to any listener that the agenda of Project Blitz had nothing to do with religious freedom in the proper sense of the term. The point of Kurtz’s Christian army was quite palpably to fight on behalf of conservative Christians who wish to discriminate against those who do not share their beliefs. By “religious freedom,” participants simply meant privilege for those with the right religion. (168)

8. Converting the Flock to Data

cf. Bill Dallas; Ken Eldred; Reid Rutherford; John Mumford; Church Communication Network (CCN); United in Purpose, “UiP”; Robert D. McEwen.

It’s not surprising to see David Barton’s name pop up in this type of initiative: he’s the Where’s Waldo of the Christian nationalist movement. (173)

cf. Chris Vickery; Charles and David Koch; Chris Wilson.

Bill Dallas has not been shy in describing the massive reach of his data operation. “We have about 200 million files, so we have pretty much the whole voting population in our database,” Dallas said in a September 5, 2016, interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. “What we do is we track to see what’s going to make somebody either vote one way, or not vote at all.” [https://www1.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2016/09/15/brody-file-exclusive-evangelical-leader-says-its-still-to-be-determined-whether-evangelicals-will-show-up-strongly-in-november] (177)

So where did United in Purpose acquire information on pretty close to the entire voting age population? The answer is a bit of a mystery. UiP claims to buy lists and solicits Americans to fill in their own information through a variety of tools, including iVoterGuide. But one has to wonder what percentage of 180 million Americans would voluntarily sign over their data to a little-known company. (176)

cf. i360; Data Trust; Deep Root Analytics; Scott Spages; Kay Clymer; Ralph Reed.

All major political operations–of all parties–now rely on big data and activist networks to sharpen their effectiveness in election campaigns. … One key difference, however, is that United in Purpose’s voter turnout machine is at the top of a long pyramid that largely operates int he religious sphere, almost all of which is exempt from taxes and shielded from public scrutiny. (178)

cf. Major General Vernon B. Lewis Jr; Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI); Cypress International; the Lone Star Eagle; cf. championthevote.com; Awake 88; Pastor J. C. Church; Frank Gaffney; Larry Arnn; Sean Hannity; Richard Viguerie; Virginia “Ginni” Thomas; Mark Levin; Bill Dallas; Ken Eldred; Vernon Lewis; Reid Rutherford.

It remains to be seen whether United in Purpose’s visibility outside of the Christian nationalist hothouse will increase as the 2020 presidential election approaches. In early 2018, before it was taken down, a question appeared on the UiP website: “Is it possible to transform American culture by bringing together conservative Christian organizations to act in unity to reach their shared goals?” [United in Purpose, https://www.contentofcharacterseries.com/united-in-purpose. Last accessed January 2018 on the United in Purpose website, unitedinpurpose.org.] The answer, apparently, was “a resounding ‘YES,’ and we’re just getting started. ‘Transformation through Unity’ is a reality that is building momentum as we look to 2018, 2020 and beyond.” (184)

9. Proselytizers and Privatizers

cf. The Heritage Academy, Arizona; Dr. Hepzibah Newman; Brook of Life; Dr. Lazarus K. George; Dr. Sheba George; Newman International Acadmies; Allen Beck.

Over the past four decades, Christian nationalists have achieved remarkable progress toward a longstanding goal: to convert America’s public schools into conservative Christian academies, even as they weaken or even destroy public education altogether. And they have done so in large part by means of an alliance with education “reformers”–in particular, those reformers who are ideologically committed to the privatization of public education. (186)

cf. Richard DeVos Sr.; Jay Van Andel; Edgar Prince.

In financial terms, in fact, the Christian right today is to a substantial extent the creation fo the Michigan wing of the American plutocracy. (187)

cf. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; D. James Kennedy; Foundation for Traditional Values; Acton Institute; Mackinac Center for Public Policy; Hillsdale College; Family Research Council; Alliance Defending Freedom; Chuck Colson; James Dobson; Gary Bauer; Blackwater; Frontier Resource Group; Stacy DeLuke; Joel Zamel; George Nader.

When it comes to efforts to eviscerate labor unions, the Holland elite can be counted upon to fund the necessary political campaigns with gusto. And when DeVos was heading into her Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary, twenty-two of the senators considering her nomination–including four of whom sat on the Senate education committee that oversees the process–were recipients of the largesse of the DeVos family and their affiliated PACs, receiving in total nearly $900,000. Commenting on her family’s political giving, Betsy DeVos once wrote, “We expect a return on our investment.” (189)

cf. Foundation for Traditional Values (DeVos Foundation supported)

America’s Providential History, p.212

Secularists are cut off from the Bible and the mind of Christ (the chief source of creativity), and so they get fewer ideas for inventing new and better tools.” America’s Providential History, p.198

cf. “A Godly Education” by D. James Kennedy (1986 sermon); Well Done: A Christian Doctrine of Works

The Devos/Prince-supported Family Research Council rather awkwardly advocated the abolition of the department that Betsy would one day come to lead. “The Department [of Education] is unconstitutional, ineffective, and wasteful. In short, it should be abolished. … Aim carefully and slay the dragon for once and for all,” wrote Rob Schwarzwalder, then senior vice president of the Family Research Council, in 2010. [Rob Schwarzwalder, “To Save Children, Cut Education,” Washington Times, January 21, 2010.] However, it was not until the late 1990s, when discussions about school vouchers and education reform began to gain traction across the country, that the heirs to the fortune–and in particular Betsy DeVos–likely realized the best way by far to advance their radical vision for America would be to mount a devastating assault on the nation’s system of public schools. (190)

Vouchers first came to prominence in the 1950s and ’60s as a way to funnel state money to racially segregated religious academies. [Chris Ford, Stephenie Johnson, and Lisette Partelow, “The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers,” Center for American Progress, July 12, 2017.] (190)

Vouchers are also favored among disciples of the free market advocate Milton Friedman, who saw them as a step on the road to getting government out of the education business altogether. (191)

“The ideal would be to have parents control and pay for their school’s education, just as they pay for their food, their clothing, and their housing.” Acknowledging that indigent parents might be unable to afford their children’s education in the same way that they might suffer food or housing insecurity, Friedman added, “Those should be handled as charity problems, not educational problems.” [Milton Friedman at a speech delivered at a 2006 meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, http://library.fora.tv/2006/07/21/Milton_Friedman, last accessed September 12, 2017; Jonas Persson, “ALEC Admits School Vouchers Are for Kids in Suburbia,” Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch, July 22, 2015, https://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/07/12869/alec-school-vouchers-are-kids-suburbia.] (191)

For many supporters, of course, the underlying motive for voucher programs is not to improve education but to eliminate nonsectarian education. (191)

cf. James Muffett, Foundation for Traditional Values & Student Statesmanship Institute; Alliance for School Choice; Advocates for School Choice; American Federation for Children; All Children Matter; Diane Ravitch; “School Vouchers Are Not a Proven Strategy for Improving Student Achievement: Studies of U.S. and International Voucher Programs Show That the Risks to School Systems Outweigh Insignificant Gains in Test Scores and Limited Gains in Graduation Rates,” (.pdf) Economic Policy Institute, February 28, 2017, https://www.epi.org/publication/school-vouchers-are-not-a-proven-strategy-for-improving-student-achievement {or here}].

In the aftermath of the 2000 voucher referendum failure, Betsy DeVos and her allies decided to shift their tactics and went all in on the charter movement. Many of the policy groups they funded followed suit. All became evangelists for “school choice,” a label that conveniently blurs the distinction between charter schools and voucher programs–and between publicly accountable, well-regulated charters and those operating with minimal (195) oversight. They also understood quite clearly that secrecy would be necessary. Dick DeVos advised a Heritage Foundation audience in 2002 that “we need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities.” [minute 30:20 to 30:55 mark below] The cause, he noted, “will go on quietly and it will go on in the form that often politics is done–one person at a time, speaking to another person in privacy.” (196)

cf. J. C. Huizenga; Council for National Policy; National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Clark Durant; Barney Charter School Initiative; Foster Friess (a past president of the Council for National Policy, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center); Eddie Farnsworth; Glenn Way; Allie Gross; Candace Brockman; “The Left’s War on Free Speech”; “A More American Conservatism”; “How to Think about Vladimir Putin”; Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent; Barney Charter School Initiative; Scott Romney; Vanessa Descalizi, a representative with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Charter Schools USA and founder Jonathan Hage; Thom Tillis and Richard Burr; Responsive Education Solutions; Eagle Educational Reform and founder Donald R. Howard; Rebirth of Our Nation (by Howard); Dennis and Eileen Bakke; Mustard Seed Foundation; Harmony Public Schools affiliated with the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen; Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In sum, about eight of the twenty largest charter operators in the country are under the control of individuals or groups of people for whom education “reform” is part of a clear partisan, religious, or ideological agenda. (202)

cf. Andrew Seidel; Richard Katskee, Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Keith Becher, Pineapple Cove Academy, Pinapple Cove Classical Academy, Barney Charter School Initiative; Bethel Missionary Baptist Church; Bethel Christian Academy; Abeka, Pensacola Christian College; “14 Wacky ‘Facts’ Kids will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools, Mother Jones, August 7, 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/08/photos-evangelical-curricula-louisiana-tax-dollars.

Even if charter schools succeed in satisfying the criteria of church-state separation, including factually accurate lessons in history and science, a broader problem remains unaddressed: it isn’t hard to imagine a future in which a small number of extremely wealthy individuals control large parts of America’s system of public education. Is it wise for any society to entrust the education of its children to such an unrepresentative group with distinct interests and convictions? (207)

Public education came into existence to serve the common good. It is open (207) to all and held to meaningful standards; that is why taxpayers support it. Choice can ahve a useful role to play. But reducing public education to a consumer experience for parents that allows them to “choose” to funnel taxpayer money into schools that discriminate, teach pseudoscience and fake history, and promote contempt for those who are different isnj’t a way to improve our system of education. It is really just a way to break our schools–and thus to fulfill D. James Kennedy’s fervent wish that “children may be delivered from this godless brainwashing and receive a godly education as Thou hath commanded.” [D. James Kennedy, “A Godly Education,” 21.] (208)

10. Theocracy from the Bench, or How to Establish Religion in the Name of “Religious Liberty”

cf. Tim Grosshans (senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Winter Garden) and Joseph Richardson, Winter Garden; Cara Mund; Town of Greece v. Galloway.

“I know they are sitting up there on that dais saying that what they’ve done is fair and equitable,” says [Joseph] Richardson. “But it’s obviously not. The spirit of the Greece v. Galloway decision was equal treatment. But the fact that the Supreme Court put their stamp of approval on sectarian invocation has made it so that legislators think they can insert their religious views into meetings and exclude the viewpoints of others who disagree with them.” (211)

cf. Leonard Leo; John M. Olin Foundation; Scaife Foundation; Insitute for Economic Affairs; Charles P. Pierce; Steve Bannon; Rebekah Mercer; the Freedom and Opportunity Fund; the BH Fund; America Engaged; Alliance Defense Fund.

Today, with an annual revenue of over $50 million, the Alliance Dfending Freedom is a mainstay of the movement’s plans for dismantling the wall of separation between church and state. The ADF is a key actor behind nearly every major case in the United States that is attempting to expand special privileges for conservative Christians. Its trophies include: (213) Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission; Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; Zubik v. Burwell; Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer; and, of course, Good News Club v. Milford Central School. (214)

cf. Jay Sekulow; Pat Robertson; Mathew D. (“Mat”) and Anita Staver, Liberty Counsel; the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, founder Kevin Hasson; Alan Sears; Craig Osten, The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today; David Barton; Gary DeMar; Andrew Sandlin; Susan Glloway and Linda Stephens.

The first, crucial move in the logic of Greece is to reinterpret public acts that would appear to establish religion–such as officially sponsored invocations at the start of public meetings–as the personal speech of private individuals. (215) … If a clergyman appointed by the municipal government of Greece bids “All rise” before delivering a prayer, the majority decided, this is not an establishment of religion because the words do not come from the mouth of a public official. If town leaders respond with an “amen,” that isn’t establishment either because, just then, public officials are acting as private individuals, whose “religious liberty” is not to be denied. (216)

| The second, critical step in the logic embodied by the Greece decision is to deny that public perceptions of an establishment of religion have any meaningful legal weight. … “Offense…does not equate to coercion.” Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, drew out the critical implication: “To the extent coercion is relevant to the Establishment Clause analysis, it is actual legal coercion that counts–not the ‘subtle coercive pressures’ allegedly felt by respondents in this case.” In other words, officially approved, relentlessly sectarian observance counts as establishment only if you are compelled to kneel by law. (216)

| The final, critical piece of the puzzle is to use the myth of neutrality as a justification for the establishment of the dominant religion. (216)

Following the logic from beginning to end, it all amounts to saying that the “religious liberty” of the majority–or, at least, of the group that perceives itself to be in the majority, or maybe just a belligerent minority that happens to hold the reins of power–justifies the establishment of their religion. The only restriction–which turns out to be not much of a restriction at all–is that you can’t force other people to kneel by law. You can just send them a very clear message that the people with power, and those who hope to (216) remain in their favor, all happen to belong to the “correct” religion. Everyone else, apparently, will just have to suck it up. (217)

cf. Marco Rubio; Gleason Family Foundation; ALEC; Cato Institute; Jan & Paul Crouch; Enoch Lonnie Ford; Paula White; New Destiny Christian Center; Creflo Dollar.

All around the country, the stories may vary in detail but they come down to the same bottom line. The ability to direct and protect the flow of public money toward religious groups, and above all religious groups with the correct creed, is an intended consequence of the “religious liberty” agenda. (221)

Rather than invoke the Free Exercise Clause, however, [Jay] Sekulow and his allies suddenly began to appeal to the Free (221) Speech Clause of the First Amendment. In an argument that formed the tip of the legal spear aiming at the Establishment Clause, they asserted that religion is just speech from a certain, religious point of view. And to prohibit speech of any type on the basis of viewpoint is, by definition, to violate the Free Speech Clause. (222)

…fine arguments are not necessary in this case because the Constitution itself supposes that religion is a category of activity distinct from speech. Why else would the First Amendment take the trouble to guarantee the freedom of religion and then turn around and add a separate and distinct guarantee of the freedom of speech? (222)

cf. Byron White; Widmar v. Vincent.

Indeed, if they could recharacterize efforts to invest religion with the authority of government merely as the exercise of free speech rights, then the Establishment Clause would largely go away. Efforts to enshrine this novel line of constitutional misinterpretation achieved a critical victory in the 2001 case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School. (223)

cf. Coolidge Corner School; the City on a Hill Church; Ruffin Ridley; Acts 29 (parachurch network); Mark Driscoll; Robert Lewis Dabney; Terri Hoye; Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer; Pastor Grosshans; Joshua & Jamie R. Grosshans; Central Florida Federalist Society; Rick Scott.

With Leonard Leo’s assistance, by March 2019, eighty-six Trump nominees had been confirmed since Inauguration Day: two to the Supreme Court, thirty-one to courts of appeals, and fifty-three to district and specialty courts. Trump also nominated fifty-eight individuals to the federal courts. At that (233) time there were 170 current and known future vacancies, giving Trump an opportunity to leave his mark on nearly 20 percent of the federal judiciary. (234)

| Among the many sordid legacies that the Trump/Pence administration will leave behind, perhaps the most damaging over the long term may well be the infiltration of America’s judicial system with the progeny of the Federalist Society, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and their allies. (234)

It is really about deciding what kind of nation the United States will become. Are we a nation in which one brand of religion enjoys a place of privilege? Are we a nation of laws–except in cases where the law offends the feelings of those who subscribe to our preferred religion? Will we recognize the equal dignity of all our citizens? Or are we the kind of society that heaps contempt upon those groups that our national religion happens to despise? (234)

11. Controlling Bodies: What “Religious Liberty” Looks Like from the Stretcher

What today’s Christian nationalists call “religious liberty” is in reality a form of religious privilege–for their kind of religion. But privilege is never free. It always comes at the expense of other people’s rights. And the rights that are at stake here are not just about buying cakes and flowers. (235)

Like all Catholic health care facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and affiliated providers, Saint Raphael was governed by a set of Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs), a numbered set of rules that reaffirm Catholic teachings as they relate to health care. (236)

cf. Mindy Swank; Tamesha Means; “Health Care Denied: Patients and Physicians Speak Out About Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Women’s Health and Lives”; Mary Beth Walker.

Forcing women to go through the side door to access essential forms of health care imposes logistical and financial burdens. It sends a clear message that they are unworthy of best-practices medical treatment and that female sexuality and reproductive health deserves to be shrouded in secrecy and shame. (244)

cf. the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division; Roger Severino; Priests for Life v. United States Department of Health and Human ServicesGarza v. Hargan.

Thus [Kavanaugh] offered a precise rendering of how “religious liberty” works in Christian nationalist circles today. You maximize the moral anguish of those whose “values” you share and protect their “rights” wherever possible. And you minimize the suffering of those who don’t belong to the group and treat their rights as merely selfish demands. (246)

In Kavanaugh’s America, supported by the alliance of the Trump/Pence administration and the Christian nationalist movement, our schools, our corporations, and our government will work together to empower the partisans of one variety of religion and disempower the rest. (246)

12. The Global Holy War Comes of Age

cf. Dominik Tarczy´nski; Ed Martin; Phyllis Schlafly.

Under President Trump, the United States has become a flashing red beacon of hope for a new, global, religious, right-wing populist movement. It calls itself a “global conservative movement” and claims that it seeks to “defend the natural family.” But it’s really about taking down modern democracy and replacing it with authoritarian, faith-based ethno-states. You could call it a kind of global holy war. (248)

The global holy war now defines itself against a single common, worldwide enemy: global liberalism. (249)

cf. Ignacio Arsuaga; CitizenGO; Alexey Komov; Ed Martin; Matteo Salvini; Antonio Brandi; Brian Brown, president of the International Organization for the Family, the sponsor of World Congress of Families; Brett M. Decker, The Conservative Case for Trump; Levan Vasadze; Jack Posobiec; Sarah Posner, Unholy: The Christian Right at the Altar of Donald Trump; Jim Garlow.

The bond between America’s far-right and this global reactionary movement is also consecrated with money. (252)

cf. Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis; Maria Butina; Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA); Global Home Education Conference; Michael Farris, CEO and General Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

By networking with Russians, the HSLDA–now America’s largest right-wing homeschooling association–has provided the Kremlin with a new avenue of influence over some of the most conservative organizations in the United States. … Russian ties to groups like the HSLDA demonstrate the Kremlin’s broader attempts to hold sway over American policies. – Casey Michel, “The Latest Front in Russian Infiltration: America’s Right-Wing Homeschooling Movement.”

cf. Konstantin Malofeev; Jack Hanick; Alex Jones; Aleksandr Dugin.

The World Congress of Families got its start over twenty years ago when American and Russian activists and academics gathered in Russia to study issue of mutual interest. In 2018 the congress took place in the former Soviet republic of Moldova. In 2016 it was in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where members praised Putin’s Russia and the Orthodox Church as defenders of “Christian civilization” against a secular, decadent West. Looking around at my fellow conference-goers, it occurs to me that if the Russian government wanted to manipulate the politics of the West as effectively as it controls its own population, it could hardly have found a more useful collection of people. (254)

cf. Child Evangelism Fellowship; The Good News Club; The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children; Ken Ham; Luis Bush; Dr. Wess Stafford.

When the tree is tender you can easily mold it. [“Child Evangelism Conference Opens in Accra,” GhanaWeb.com, July 8, 2004, https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Child-evangelism-conference-opens-in-Accra-61246#.%5D

cf. CityKids; Kev Murdoch; Dr. Andrew Sach; Richard Howells; The Gospel Coalition; Grace London and the Advance movement; P. J. Smyth; John Smyth; Guide Nyachuru; Andrew Haslam; Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland; Charlie Gard; Terri Schiavo.

According to the Brussels-based policy and advocacy consultant Elena Zacharenko, there are hundreds of organizations pushing an ultraconservative agenda in courts and legislative tribunals across the European continent. (268)

cf. the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, president Aleksander Stepkowski.

American-origin groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom have been instrumental in shaping the emerging global movement toward (269) reactionary religious nationalism. But there is another country that has played an exceptional role in the process, and that is Russia. (270)

cf. Paul Weyrich; Laszlo Pasztor.

Soon more Republicans began to experience a similar, extraordinary change of heart about their onetime enemy of all enemies. Around the time that Weyrich was first making contact with Russia, Brian Brown was growing up in the mainstream American world where the communist Soviet Union stood for the axis of all evil. But Brown’s views on Russia changed as he rose the ranks of the religious right. A leading opponent of marriage equality, he began to meet Russians at international conferences on family issues. He found many kindred spirits. As cofounder and, later, president of the National Organization for Marriage, along with membership in the Council for National Policy and other right-wing interest (270) groups, Brown visited Moscow four times in as many years. During one of his trips, in 2013, he testified before the Duma as Russia adopted a series of anti-LGBT laws. (271)

| “What I realized was that there was a great change happening in the former Soviet Union,” Brown told the Washington Post.” There was a real push to re-instill Christian values in the public square.” [Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger, “Guns and Religion: How American Conservatives Grew Closer to Putin’s Russia,” Washington Post, April 30, 2017.] (271)

| As the Republican nomination battle intensified, the burgeoning alliance between Russians and U.S. conservatives came into focus. The growing dialogue among international (often Russian or Russia-connected) political figures and members of the American right came at the same time that the Russian government stepped up efforts to cultivate and influence far-right groups in Europe. Russian oligarchs, having effectively deployed religious nationalism to gain control over their own population, readily grasped that it could be used to shape events in other countries, too. “Pro-family” politics, which purports to aid families but is in its largest part aimed at suppressing women’s autonomy and LGBT rights, they understood, is an effective tool in united and mobilizing religious nationalists everywhere, which is in turn an excellent way to destabilize the Western alliance and advance Russia’s geopolitical interests. (271)

| In short, Russian leaders see America’s Christian right as a tremendously useful vehicle for influencing American politics and government in a manner favorable to Russian interests. Maria Butina, the Russian woman charged in 2018 with “acting as an agent of a foreign government,” certainly understood the utility of the movement. When she set about “to establish a back channel of communication” with American politicians, it was not at all surprising that she would do so at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Alexey Komov’s dual interest in America’s Christian homeschooling movement and faith-based film industry would appear to fit the pattern. (271)

In 2013, Bryan Fischer, then a spokesman for the American Family Association, called Mr. Putin a (271) “lion of Christianity.” In 2014, Franklin Graham defended Mr. Putin for his efforts “to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda” even as he lamented that Americans have “abdicated our moral leadership.” In December 2015, Mr. Graham met privately with Mr. Putin for forty-five minutes. And in March 2019, with the apparent blessing of Vice President Mike Pence–or so Graham says–Graham traveled to Russia to meet with a number of Russian religious and political leaders, such as Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kiril and Vyacheslav Volodin a Kremlin official sanctioned by the U.S. government since 2014 for his role in Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. According to the social media account of one Russian official, the tête-à-tête was for the purpose of strengthening relationships between the U.S. Congress and the Duma. (272)

| On his own Facebook account on March 3, 2019, Graham obliquely dismissed to the Mueller investigation, writing, “#Collusion? I’m in Russia right now–Moscow to be exact–and I’m meeting with the Russian churches on how we can share with more young people about faith in Jesus Christ! That’s not ‘collusion’ but it is a collaboration for the sake of souls. #GoodNews.” (272)

| The Christian nationalists’ affection for Mr. Putin and all things Russian goes much deeper than a tactical alliance aimed at saving souls and defeating “homosexuals” and “gender ideology.” At the core of the attraction lies a shared political vision. America’s Christian nationalists have not overlooked Putin’s authoritarian style of government; they have embraced it as an ideal. During the 2016 presidential campaign Mike Pence hailed Mr. Putin as “a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.” [Jonathan Martin and Amy Chozik, “Donald Trump Campaign Stands by Embrace of Putin,” New York Times, September 9, 2016.] The Christian nationalists haven’t shied away from the fusion of church and state that characterizes Putin’s regime. On the contrary, it appears they want to emulate it. They love Russia, it seems, because they hate America and its form of secular, constitutional democracy. (272)

This is a movement that never accepted the promise of America. It never believed that a republic could be founded on a universal ideal of equality, not on a particular creed, or that it might seek out reasoned answers to humanity’s challenges rather than enforce old dogmas. It never subscribed to the nation’s original unofficial motto, E Pluribus Unum, that out of many, we could become one. From the beginning, its aim was to redeem the nation by crushing the pluralistic heart of our country. The day when it will have the power to do so is fast approaching. (273)

Epilogue

If Christian nationalism is a pathology rooted in America’s past, as I have argued, so, too, may the cure draw in important ways from our history. Overcoming this kind of reactionary and authoritarian movement isn’t just something Americans can do; it is what has made Americans what we are. (274)

The reason why Christian nationalist groups complain about government so loudly is that government often does intervene on the side of freedom; it was the government, after all, that went down to defend Black schoolchildren, the so-called Little Rock Nine, in Arkansas’s infamous desegregation case. Similarly, when members of the movement attack those Christians who reject a theology of domination and inequality, it is because they know that (274) a different embrace of Christianity undermines their empty claims of moral authority. (275)

The biggest fraud of Christian nationalism–that the United States was founded as a Christian nation–is also the movement’s source of its greatest weakness. … If we want to defend against Christian nationalists’ distorted notion of “religious liberty,” we don’t need to find a new principle. We just need to reclaim the genuine religious freedom that our founders established and that most of our citizens cherish. (275)

If we want to guard against demagogues and theocrats who wish to “redeem” America, we don’t need a new theory of American democracy. We just need to recover and restore the vision of a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. (276)

[via: And here is the great tragic irony and tension of the thesis of this whole book. The fundamental principles that Steward appeals to are fundamentally Christian, cf. Dominion.]

We don’t need lessons on patriotism from Christian nationalists. We need to challenge them in the name of the nation we actually have–a pluralistic, democratic nation–where no one is above the law and the laws are meant to be made by the people and their representatives in accordance with the Constitution. (276)

Religious nationalists are using the tools of democratic political culture to end democracy. I continue to believe those same resources can be sued to restore it. (277)

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: