Christian Nationalism and American Democracy

A Manichean struggle between good and evil.

My reaction to Ginni Thomas’ insurrectionist texts, outside from outrage over their criminality, was that “she’s clearly a serious nutcase.” That someone with her education and experience was “credulously texting QAnon conspiracy theories and bizarre YouTube rants” was “just deranged.” WaPo’s Greg Sargent, alas, has a better and scarier take on the matter.

Meadows texted to Ginni Thomas that the “King of Kings” would ultimately “triumph” in the quest to overturn the election, which Meadows characterized as “a fight of good versus evil.” Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, replied: “Thank you!! Needed that!”

This sparked serious consternation on “Morning Joe,” with host Joe Scarborough delivering an emotional diatribe about it. “Think about the sickness of this,” Scarborough said Friday. “He summons the name of Jesus Christ for his help in overturning American democracy!”

The sentiment is understandable. But what this level of shock really indicates is this: We haven’t paid enough attention to the role of right-wing Christian nationalism in driving Trump’s effort to destroy our political order, and in the abandonment of democracy among some on the right more broadly.

In invoking Jesus’ support for Trump’s effort to overturn the election, Meadows — who handled evangelical outreach in the White House — was not merely making an offhand comment. He was speaking in a vein that has held wide currency among the Christian nationalist right throughout the Trump years, right through the insurrection attempt.

Sarah Posner, a scholar of the Christian right, has extensively documented the role of that movement in supporting and lending grass-roots energy to the effort to overturn the election procedurally, and even in fomenting the insurrection itself.

The rhetoric from the Christian right about Trump has long sounded very much like that exchange between Meadows and Thomas. In a piece tracing that rhetoric, Posner concludes that for many on the Christian right, Trump was “anointed” by God as “the fulfillment of a long-sought goal of restoring the United States as a Christian nation.”

In this narrative, Trump — despite his glaring and repugnant personal imperfections — became the vessel to carry out the struggle to defeat various godless and secularist infestations of the idealized Christian nation, from the woke to globalists to communists to the “deep state.”

This culminated with the effort to overturn the election and the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally that morphed into the mob assault. As Posner documents, Christian-right activists developed a “bellicose Christian narrative in defense of Trump’s coup attempt,” investing it with biblical significance and casting it as “holy war against an illegitimate state.”

That illegitimate state, of course, is our democracy. And so, when Thomas and Meadows text about the religious dimensions of the coup attempt, they’re echoing much of what we’ve long heard from the Christian right about it.

“Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs,” Meadows texted to Thomas. “Do not grow weary.”

“Meadows’s text to Thomas, and her grateful and enthusiastic reply, demonstrates how the pair saw themselves as soldiers in this spiritual battle from which they should never retreat,” Posner told me, adding that this is “representative of rhetoric” that has long “permeated Trump’s base.”

To be fair, some Christian voices roundly condemned the Jan. 6 violence. But on the day itself, there were many Christian symbols of various kinds visible throughout the “Stop the Steal” rally crowd, as Robert Jones, the founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, has documented.

“The evidence for White Christian nationalism’s importance to the effort to overthrow the election was right before our eyes on Jan. 6,” Jones told me. “It was in the signs that were carried. It brought a veneer of divine blessing on the violence and the insurrection.”

Christian nationalism has at different times focused on varying enemies of its vision of a Christian nation. But the through line here is that multidenominational, multiracial democracy is producing a country that is unacceptable to the Christian nationalist vision, Jones notes.

Which is why reckoning with the role of this movement in the turn against democracy is important. “It is a violent reclamation movement,” Jones told me. “If we’re going to move into the promise of a multireligious, multiethnic democracy, these forces are going to have to be confronted.”

Like a lot of American intellectuals, I tend to dismiss allusions to the divine as either pro forma or nutty. While I know plenty of really smart people who go to church on a regular basis, I see that mostly as a communal ritual. They get together with folks raised in similar traditions and renew their pledge to strive to be decent human beings. When people act as though they actually believe some mystical being is guiding our lives, much less deciding who wins our elections, I dismiss them as cranks.

The premise that Meadows and Thomas actually believe the nonsense they were texting back and forth is scarier than that. It’s one thing to think, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Democrats somehow stole elections in places like Georgia—and that Republican election officials went along with it for, well, reasons—and quite another to think that they did so in defiance of the wishes of the Almighty. In that case, insurrection is not only justified, it’s mandatory.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    At least since the Clinton presidency, there has been a growing belief among R’s that only they have the right to govern and that belief has become the justification for the restrictions on the right to vote and the arguments for stolen elections and voter fraud. While the belief that only R’s have the right to govern, didn’t start as a religious movement, it dovetails well with the concept of a subgroup being God’s chosen people. The election of Obama brought this out of the background and it has become a dominant strain of thought among R’s.

    Interestingly this rise of Christian Nationalism* is happening against the continued drop of religious belief and participation among Americans, even among the children raised in fundamentalist and evangelical families. In a functioning political system, this would be evidence of a dying movement that is grasping for an imaginary past, unfortunately our political system enables rather than thwart those who would subvert our democracy.

    *Several years ago, Andrew Sullivan began referring to Christian Nationalists as “Christianists,” a term that nicely encapsulates what these people are and draws an unflattering comparison to “Islamists” and by extension Islamist terrorism. “Christianist,” is also mildly derisive, while Christian Nationalists might be a banner that they would proudly walk under.

    10
  2. David DiSabatino says:

    White nationalist Christian beliefs have been slowly absorbed by the right in America while those beliefs also were increasingly purified into a powerful poison. People who hold those beliefs see it as self-evident that democracy has laid the country low by weakening and feminizing it, and calling vice virtue. Thus the obsession with abusive masculinity and threats of violence against those who they believe are actively unchristian, like Soros (as a stand-in for all Jews), LGBT people, the BLM movement, environmentalists, anti-gun and anti-war activists, etc.

    This process started with Reagan embracing and being embraced by fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell. Establishment Republicans thought they were using the Moral Majority types as footsoldiers, but it turned out the establishment slowly got displaced instead. Every election the rank and file voters got increasingly frustrated that abortion still existed, that “the queers” were increasing in number, and so on. This tied in neatly with the idea – now widely shared by most Republicans – that Democrats could only win by committing fraud or bribing degenerate voters. First talk radio, then Fox News exploded on the scene to take economic advantage of this market for assurance that they were good and right and manly. But voters never got the legislation they wanted, so any Republican politician who compromised with reality at all was labeled RINO. Then Trump came along and pandered to their power fantasy, drawer millions of new voters in, and at same time exposing how rotten the GOP really is.

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  3. de stijl says:

    I am aware of the phenomena but not super frightened yet. It has been banging around for years, decades. It never goes anywhere. The uptake rate is too low. Milenials don’t care.

    There is enough counterbalance to stymie it nationally, but some states are leaning into this nonsense with laws. That is troubling. About 35% of us would be fine with a form of Christian fascism, would think it would be savvy more and a good state.

    Geopolitically, India is kinda freaking me out with Hindu nationalism. They seem to be on a bad path.

    2
  4. Not the IT Dept. says:

    My Canadian relatives and international business peers always find it amazing how different Christianity is in their countries. The fundy-evangelical strand is much smaller and not nearly as vocal as ours is. It gives Americans a false sense that this is what Christianity as a whole is like.

    The thing with the Christianists (Sullivan’s term, explained above) is that they really worship themselves and some entity they call “America”. It has nothing to do with a 2,000+ year old religion; they’ve just appropriated the vocabulary and some of the physical gestures. They’ve elevated their personal peeves and obsessions into dogma and disagreement into deadly sin, and the onus is on the other people to change their ways. Because after all – JESUS!!!!!

    When it got rolling in the 1970’s, it was all about the grift – send money so our minister can fly around in a private jet and go on television – but it’s more dangerous now. James’ reference to knowing people who go to church is typical of how we’re not appreciating how un-Christian this stuff really is.

    10
  5. Lounsbury says:

    @de stijl: “Millenials don’t care” is a sloppy statement.

    Some of such age graphic don’t, and doubtless the very visible on-line urban and Lefty aligned ones do not.

    However that is not the same as an entire generational cohort does not care. Or more refined, that such non-caring is not as much a regional or geographically structured phenomena.

    What may be true for a sub-set of the age cohort may not be true in sub-national geographies and may be critically different enough to up-end conclusions drawn from Twitterish visibility.

    3
  6. CSK says:

    The great irony here is that Trump is openly contemptuous of his Christian supporters.

    This is hardly my unique observation. McKay Coppins in The Atlantic, David Cay Johnston in Salon, Steve Benen on NBC, and a host of others have discussed this at some length.

    5
  7. de stijl says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Are Millenials more or less religious than the previous cohorts?

    Somebody woke up on the pissy side of the bed this morning.

    7
  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @de stijl:

    If you are not super frightened, then you haven’t been down to the Florida panhandle.

    White christan nationalists zombies everywhere, opening up unaffiliated megachurches where they all come to envision heaven on earth and hallucinate.

    Its not a regional accent… its an entirely different language and mindset.

    Their God is the God that guides the US military, and only a true strong leader, guided by God himself, like Trump, can save America from those who have taken America down the wrong path.

    Freaks me the fu@k out sometimes when I go there.

    5
  9. steve says:

    I dont think most non-evangelicals realize how much time Trump spent reaching out to evangelicals. He made lots of visits to churches, met with a lot of their leaders. Bush also did this though on a smaller scale. Just like every time a powerful politician interacts with religious leaders they soak it up. When religion and politics mix it isn’t politics that ends up improving due to their influence on politics, it’s religion being corrupted.

    So besides the fundies convincing themselves Trump is their hero there is a whole culture/media devoted to the idea that they have been losing religious liberty and persecution is on the way. They have convinced themselves that the left disagrees with them because they hate their faith not because the left disagrees with their politics.

    I grew up with this. This is the stuff most of my family believes. What non believers just wont understand is that while there are still good evangelicals who understand the difference between religion and faith, for a large percentage that is gone. They really believe that God has ordained and supports what they want. Its not just abortion. Its now supporting Russia because Trump does. Its supporting lower taxes for the wealthy because Republicans do. Its opposing vaccines, masks and supporting Ivermectin, HCQ and whatever concoction of vitamins and supplements their grifters are pushing and I cant emphasize this enough, this is all what God is personally telling them is right. You are attacking their faith, their personal relationship with God when you tell them vaccines actually do work.

    Steve

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’ve been thinking about changing what the back of my p/u says from “Pro-Life my ass” to “God has nothing to do with it*”.

    * whatever “it” is, whether a football game, a war, or an illness, I don’t think god cares enough to intervene.

    3
  11. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    As someone who wasn’t raised in any religion, it took me a while to understand–if that’s the word for it–how petitionary prayer works. You pray for what you want, you don’t get it, so you say, “It wasn’t God’s will that I get it.”

    If God already knows what He’s going to do, and doesn’t change his mind, then why ask Him for something different? Or is it a guessing game on the prayer’s part?

    1
  12. gVOR08 says:

    @steve:

    I dont think most non-evangelicals realize how much time Trump spent reaching out to evangelicals.

    And he selected Mike Pence for his ties to Evangelicals. And got ties to Koch along with it.

    3
  13. de stijl says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    I know there’s a lot whackadoodles out there, but there aren’t enough of them to make it happen. And those numbers are dropping daily.

    We’re probably not going down to European levels of religious adherence, but the percentage is dropping quite rapidly and accelerating.

    1
  14. MarkedMan says:

    And, for the record, the newest Supreme court Justice is a life long member of an extremest religious cult which forbids its members from discussing the inner workings of that faith.

    2
  15. Scott F. says:

    It’s one thing to think, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Democrats somehow stole elections in places like Georgia—and that Republican election officials went along with it for, well, reasons—and quite another to think that they did so in defiance of the wishes of the Almighty. In that case, insurrection is not only justified, it’s mandatory.

    Amen!

  16. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    Don’t overlook the concept of Prayer Armies / Prayer Warriors where hundreds if not thousands pray for a single cause, petitioning a deity to bend to their will or engaged in spiritual warfare against satanic forces.

    And if you are not one of them, then those “satanic forces” is you.

    Which brings us back full circle to Ginny Thomas and Jan 6th.

    1
  17. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Didn’t Sarah Palin ask the prayer warriors to intervene on John McCain’s and her behalf during the 2008 election?

  18. Michael Cain says:

    It’s one thing to think, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Democrats somehow stole elections in places like Georgia—and that Republican election officials went along with it for, well, reasons—and quite another to think that they did so in defiance of the wishes of the Almighty.

    Wait… isn’t their God by definition omnipotent? What omnipotent gods want, omnipotent gods get.

    2
  19. gVOR08 says:

    It’s one thing to think, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Democrats somehow stole elections in places like Georgia—and that Republican election officials went along with it for, well, reasons—and quite another to think that they did so in defiance of the wishes of the Almighty.

    The deep state and woke lefties beat their omnipotent God. Funny faith those people have.

    These texts look like Thomas and Meadows are Dominionists. There seem to be a number of such people in politics. But they keep quiet about it when running and the supposedly liberal MSM seem reluctant to discuss it. (I hate voting in school board elections for fear I may vote for some closeted holy roller whose priority, after banning “CRT”, will be eliminating evolution from the curriculum.) I guess the MSM see religion as a personal matter. But if the politician wishes to impose their religious views on the rest of us, that’s not really very private. Maybe secret, but not private. Amy Coney Barrett sure smells like a Catholic Integrationalist, a flavor of Dominionism. Seems like that should have been a major topic in her confirmation hearing. But she’d have lied. As with “Thou shalt not kill”, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” seems to be open to convenient interpretation when tactically desirable.

    5
  20. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: No Edit. Sorry @Michael Cain:

  21. Lounsbury says:

    @de stijl: No, someone woke up on the coherent analytics side of a bed and is quite aware of the analytical bankruptcy of (1) “generations” based generalisations about age cohorts however dear to Americans in superficial assertions and (2) generalisations on a national level given both the structure of American electoral organisation and no national election by process, and very significant internal geographic variation.

    Whether the age cohort simplistic journalistic jibber jabber calls millenials can coherently be called least religious (as compared against same age cohort in previous decades) or not is besides the point relative to my observation on the superficiality and uselessness of the statement in a political context, in the specific context of American electoral structure.

    1
  22. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Yes, Meadows and Thomas may well be Dominionists.

    1
  23. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..If God already knows what He’s going to do, and doesn’t change his mind, then why ask Him for something different? Or is it a guessing game on the prayer’s part?

    Whenever anyone asks me about prayer I reply: “I do not presume to tell God what to do.”

    6
  24. gVOR08 says:

    Last I heard, Evangelical numbers are dropping. And the younger generation seem less religious. Not to mention they’re waging a culture war with political weapons. I think they know they’re fighting a rear-guard action. But they’re desperate. I very much fear that if Republicans manage to win a trifecta, which they well could in ’24, it will be the last honest election we have for a long time. (Assuming it’s honest.) They’ll lose long term, but they can do a lot of damage in the meantime. They’re desperate. Both the evangelicals and the Koch adjacent Billionaire Boys Club see Dems as an existential threat.

    4
  25. Lounsbury says:

    @CSK: Implicitely I suppose it is the idea of somehow convincing God or whatever. Where one unconsciously expects God to be a superhuman, not really truly coherent with omniscience and omnipotence, but… voila, People are people… overclocked chimpanzees with some illusions of rationality.

    1
  26. mister bluster says:

    test

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mister Bluster:..what

  28. de stijl says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Democrats are really sneaky. We bus in illegals and magic up their voter registration info somehow. I think it involves invoking Cthulu.

    It’s hush-hush stuff. Crap! I’ve said too much!

    2
  29. Mister Bluster says:

    How to beat the EDIT key.
    Original post 11:03 contained a spelling error. No EDIT key despite reload.
    “test” post at 11:04. This often works as it will call up EDIT key for “test” post and original post.
    Not this time. Reloaded page many times.
    Continue with 11:08 post to correct spelling error of original post.
    Hit POST COMMENT key.
    EDIT KEY appears in all 4 posts.
    Correct spelling error in original 11:03 post.
    Utter a prayer of thanks to the internet gods.

    3
  30. gVOR08 says:

    Glanced at TAC this morning. Dreher is citing the Spanish Civil War as a lesson in how left wing oppression can trigger RW reaction and civil war. It’s amazing how oppressed Dreher can feel over so little. OK, we did, briefly, and for good public health reasons he refuses to recognize, close schools and churches. Otherwise the only “oppression” is not letting him impose his faith on the rest of us. (OK, and occasionally laughing at him in comments.) But, misquoting Churchill – Never in the course of history have so many been so pissed over so little. For evidence see the trucker convoy, angrily protesting …. something.

    5
  31. de stijl says:

    About a year ago I was chatting with a stranger. Weather. Where do you live? Random small talk chit chat.

    She went really quite religious about 2 minutes in. Asked about my spirituality. I answered honestly that I was an atheist.

    A few minutes later, as an aside, an afterthought, she said that I was going to hell.

    I got up and walked away.

    2
  32. CSK says:

    @Lounsbury:
    I think that, according to these people, God is omnipotent and omniscient. Hence, what happens happens precisely because it is God’s will. That would seem to render petitionary prayer pointless.

    1
  33. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    Didn’t Sarah Palin ask the prayer warriors to intervene on John McCain’s and her behalf during the 2008 election?

    Yes. And she acknowledged the prayer warriors provided her a “prayer shield”.

    Clearly, not effective, this omnipotent being…. or VERY effective, but not on behalf of the misguided GOP.

    After all, there is this:

    Not everyone wo says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven. I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7)

    1
  34. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    My new phone has really aggressive autocorrect. It doesn’t ask, it just replaces what I typed with what it thinks I intended.

    It is very annoying. I have to re-check every sentence.

  35. Joe says:

    In that case, insurrection is not only justified, it’s mandatory.

    Everyone says they believe in democracy, but as democracy votes for different things, you find out that many of those democracy lovers actually love some recent preference of democracy that they assumed was built in, like unchecked capitalism or white supremacy or Christianist institutions. Then you find out it wasn’t democracy after all.

    1
  36. de stijl says:

    @Lounsbury:

    I’m going to pass on interacting with you.

    6
  37. Joe says:

    @de stijl: Repeatedly my autocorrect can’t believe I want to write “20” and not “2.0” – seriously?

  38. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    “I think that, according to these people, God is omnipotent and omniscient. Hence, what happens happens precisely because it is God’s will. That would seem to render petitionary prayer pointless.”

    Get this… My sister-in-law is a Jehova’s Witness…. very into her faith, and the fellowship in the Kingdom Hall.

    They are not at all big on prayer, as since god is omnipotent, then all is predetermined (hence one can only “witness” that which is god’s plan)

    According to them, only a certain number will go to heaven… and she (and nearly everyone on the planet) are not part of that number.

    And I looked at her and said: So what is the point of your faith? If there is no salvation, why bother?

    Believe me… there is nothing worse than a former roman catholic educated in parochial schools to really piss off the misguided penitent.

  39. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..changing what the back of my p/u says…

    I hope your insurance covers random acts of vandalism. In 1973 I had a bumpersticker on the tailgate of my 1960 Ford F-100.
    Impeach Nixon Now More Than Ever
    Fortunately for me all that happened was that someone ripped it off while it was in the parking lot of a local motel in Olney, Illinois. (Home of the White Squirrels.)
    These days the Holy Rollers are likely to commit Righteous Damage to your truck.

  40. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Well, I suppose your sister-in-law might either assume or hope that she’s among the saved. Otherwise it really is pointless.

  41. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    Otherwise it really is pointless.

    No! That’s the thing… her faith teaches her that SHE IS NOT !!! From their own website…

    Salvation: Deliverance from sin and death is possible through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus. (Matthew 20:28; Acts 4:​12) To benefit from that sacrifice, people must not only exercise faith in Jesus but also change their course of life and get baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20; John 3:​16; Acts 3:​19, 20) A person’s works prove that his faith is alive. (James 2:​24, 26) However, salvation cannot be earned​—it comes through “the undeserved kindness of God.”​—Galatians 2:​16, 21.

    Heaven: Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the faithful angels reside in the spirit realm. * (Psalm 103:19-​21; Acts 7:​55) A relatively small number of people​—144,000​—will be resurrected to life in heaven to rule with Jesus in the Kingdom.​—Daniel 7:​27; 2 Timothy 2:​12; Revelation 5:​9, 10; 14:​1, 3.

    and…

    Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christians from Pentecost of 33 AD until the present day will be resurrected to heaven as immortal spirit beings to spend eternity with God and Christ. They believe that these people are “anointed” by God to become part of the spiritual “Israel of God”.

    So, how’s that for f’kin weird. Cult city.

    2
  42. becca says:

    Billy Graham said “the hard right” had no interest in religion other than to “manipulate” it. Of course, he said this when Rockefeller Republicans still walked the earth. Now there are whole ecosystems revolving around some religious outrage grift.

    1
  43. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Okay, I’m having a bit of trouble following this. Does she believe that she’s one of the 144,000?

  44. Tony W says:

    While troubling, it’s hardly new to claim political power based on the will of the divine.

    The Pope didn’t invent it, but it’s certainly been a mainstay of catholicism for time eternal, and nearly every king/queen has claimed divine intervention and that they serve at the pleasure of God.

    My assumption when political types start invoking some sort of voodoo/hocus-pocus/religious stuff is that they are doing the same thing and that it is legitimate to dismiss their gyrations as cynical grasps for power.

    What I find astounding is that education in this country is of such low quality that this sort of thing still plays in the ‘burbs.

    1
  45. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    It amuses me greatly that Canadian truckers could pull it off and the American truckers can’t.

    It’s so sad and pathetic.

    1
  46. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Yes, Dreher seems to have gone totally off the deep end. As far as I can tell, he now believes that anything dealing with transgenderism and not automatically stating “woman is XX chromosome, man is XY chromosome” is Evil.

    (I’m somewhat dubious about present day transgenderism, but that’s because 50% of children stating they feel like members of the other sex turn out to be quite happy with their own (untransitioned) sex after they finish going through puberty, albeit often same-sex attracted. 50% is a whopping large error bar. Add to that the fact that our “changing sex” technology is pretty crappy and has potentially dangerous side effects. I want it to be used ONLY when it absolutely has to be used, for people who really need it, and for whom it will solve their problem. My suspicion is that a lot of the more storm-und-drang people insisting on transitioning aren’t in fact suffering from gender dysphoria, but have personality disorders instead. In which case transitioning isn’t going to solve any of their problems–the hormones may in fact make their mental disorders worse–and we’ll probably see a lot of de-transitioning in the future, at which point their health, both mental and physical, is going to be totally shot.)

    2
  47. Mister Bluster says:

    @de stijl:..new phone has really aggressive autocorrect
    @Joe:..autocorrect can’t believe

    I guess I might have started this with my post in this thread at 11:15 re: the EDIT key.
    I am getting away from the subject of Christian Nationalism and American Democracy and I have Cell Phone questions* so I’ll move over to Saturday’s Forum.

    *I’m tempted to ask if Cell Phones can actually believe anything but I shall refrain.

  48. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know, once upon a time I was very active in my (Protestant) faith. I read the Bible, I went to Bible study groups and prayer groups. I read theology, I listened to lectures/sermons/teaching by very smart people who had studied a lot more than me.

    Not once did I get the idea that Jesus cared about who ran the government. There is nothing whatsoever in any of it that suggests that was what he cared about. Not. A. Thing. David cared, Solomon cared. A bunch of lesser Kings of Israel cared. But not Jesus.

    Many of the Dominionists are Protestant, so this isn’t a Catholic phenomenon. But historically, it is. Over and over, the Catholic Church has tried to insert itself into secular affairs, rather than trusting God and refining its message in order to draw believers into the fold. The Protestant denominations that have been able to be a political force (Church of England, Lutherans in N. Europe, and so on) have found themselves diluted by doing so, and their message became weak and tepid.

    And yet, here we are, with the same old garbage that has played out over, and over in historical terms, and serving the interests only of the people at the top of it. I am quite pleased with Pope Francis – he seems to want none of it. There’s plenty here in America who do.

    6
  49. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Tony W:

    Goes back further than any Pope. Those Old Testament Bible stories had two purposes, one to explain the explainable and two, keep the masses in line. Religious authorities were usually closely tied to political leadership.

    1
  50. de stijl says:

    I knew a guy in college who asserted that dinosaur fossils were a trick created by Satan to make us doubt that the world is 4000 years old. Iknew enough not to reply, but I think I did the jaw-drop for a second or two. I believe he was a Seventh Day Adventist.

    I own fossils. Two trilobites and two fish.

  51. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    Nope.

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: A few minutes later, as an aside, an afterthought, she said that I was going to hell.

    I would have replied, “I’m already there.”

    1
  53. drj says:

    @gVOR08:

    Dreher is citing the Spanish Civil War as a lesson in how left wing oppression can trigger RW reaction and civil war.

    What Dreher and other fascism-curious whiny asswipes always, ALWAYS “forget” is why Spanish anarchists felt like burning down churches and (occasionally) killing clergy in the first place.

    The fact is that the Catholic Church in Spain actively sided (in a very unpleasant way) with the haves against the large majority of have-nots (Spain was a poor country in the 1930s).

    Although it is true that there were some unjustifiable atrocitites committed against clergy (although far fewer than right-wing propaganda claimed), the Church as an institution absolutely deserved what it got.

    To further illustrate this, after the Spanish Civil War, Franco used forced labor from Republican POWs (i.e., former soldiers of the legitimately elected government, many of whom died) to construct the Basílica de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos, which – if you look at the symbolism used, especially inside – is one big fascist revenge fantasy expressed in Christian visual language.

    To add insult to injury, it is still being used as a church, despite the, let us say, problematical background of its construction. The Catholic Church in Spain appears to have learned very little.

    Also, in 1960, Pope John XXIII declared Franco’s fascist monument a basilica, elevating it above regular churches.

    In a way (to circle back to your comment), this is very typical for Dreher and people like him: if their preferred policy outcomes repress others, that’s freedom (for them, obviously). But if someone else’s preferred policy outcome inconveniences them, it’s an outrage.

    God, I hate the hypocritical bastard.

    6
  54. Kathy says:

    What these people will get is the persecution for real that they claim in their paranoid ravings exists now.

  55. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    I asked for and received a trilobite for Christmas one year. It’s on my coffee table.
    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Then what’s the point?????

    1
  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: No biggie. It’s a rolling billboard of liberal talking points. Everything from “Black Lives Matter” to “Matthew 6:5-6” to “Got Vaseline?” to “Fvck Trump” and nobody has messed with it. I really expected to lose some glass over the BLM but didn’t and have only been hate honked once. My one concession to the existence of RW nut jobs is to park my truck with it’s ass end buried in the woods at river access points.

    I still expect to lose some glass at some point, but that’s the cost of giving the finger to all the whackaloons, and one I’m OK with paying from time to time.

    4
  57. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl:

    I knew a guy in college who asserted that dinosaur fossils were a trick created by Satan to make us doubt that the world is 4000 years old.

    There’s a version in which God himself placed fake fossils to make us think the world is older, for reasons I forget. But probably to resolve some contradiction. It sounds dumb. But I’ve felt Christianity should have a Loki, or Coyote, a trickster god. A trickster would seem to explain the world better than an evil Satan. So maybe I should approve of God himself as the trickster.

    3
  58. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    Oh yeah! I remembered it wrong. Your version is correct. Well, not correct, but that’s what he said at the time.

    He claimed that God created fossils to test our faith.

    I would totally worship Tom Hiddleston. He’s kinda bad-ass.

    Fun fact: Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness.

  59. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    Then what’s the point?????

    Exactly.

    All I can fathom is that people need to deal with both fear and the existential threats of death isolation, identity, freedom, and meaning in their own ways.

    Me, I am OK, with the void and the fact that our evolution has gotten us here, remarkably unprepared for what is, and incapable of partnership to develop what should be.

    That’s why I’m cool with reinventing my reality often. It’s a gas, man.

    1
  60. Gustopher says:

    To be fair, some Christian voices roundly condemned the Jan. 6 violence. But on the day itself, there were many Christian symbols of various kinds visible throughout the “Stop the Steal” rally crowd, as Robert Jones, the founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, has documented.

    “The evidence for White Christian nationalism’s importance to the effort to overthrow the election was right before our eyes on Jan. 6,” Jones told me. “It was in the signs that were carried. It brought a veneer of divine blessing on the violence and the insurrection.”

    Two points:

    First, we live in a nation where 70% are at least vaguely Christian, and those numbers are higher on the right. In that environment, the presence of Christian symbols is about as surprising as the presence of blue jeans.

    Second, the scary Christian denominations use the same symbols as the rest of them.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t Christian Nationalists who are a massive problem, just that we shouldn’t assume that anyone with Christian imagery at these rallies is a Christian nationalist.

    Also, there are plenty of more non-denominational authoritarian groups. We should be wary of assuming that it is the religious freaks leading the way, rather than the non-religious freaks leading the way. If anything, Trump is clearly in the non-religious freak camp — although I don’t know whether the freak show is getting ahead of him at this point.

    4
  61. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    I think I’m having trouble how your SIL can be a devout Jehovah’s Witness if she’s not going to be one of the saved. What’s the pay-off for her? Why bother if not for at least the hope of salvation?

    Please explain. Does she think she’s going to hell? If so, why not be wicked?

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Right?

  62. Michael Reynolds says:

    A perhaps odd historical parallel: after the initial successes of the Bolshevik revolution, powerful opposition forces called ‘the whites’ formed armies which, in early days, had the support of the West. Most average Russians gave not a single shit about either side, both the Bolsheviks and the Whites stole and destroyed and massacred. But the Whites stole and massacred without offering any sort of vision for the future but more oppression. So, one minute it looked as if the Whites might prevail, and the next minute they were all done and their leaders were heading to exile in France.

    The moral of the story is this: he who offers at least a hope for a brighter future tends to defeat he who offers nothing.

    As alien as it is to modern sensibilities, the Christianists have a vision for the future in which their people rule and prosper. What is the Left’s offer to not just Christian fanatics, but all religious people? Contempt.

    I’m an atheist, and used to be one of those pedantic and obsessive atheists. I had a maximalist position that all religion was nonsense and we’d all be better off with none of it – and I mostly still believe that. But it was a political mistake. Many, many Christians want to be on our side. We should be offering Christians an off-ramp, psychic protection from militant atheism. In this fight we are the Whites offering average Christians nothing but condescension at best, scorn at worst. We need to find ways to reassure and support Christians who want to be our allies, with a particular focus on Brown and Black populations that are not on-board with our categorical rejection of their core religious faiths.

    4
  63. wr says:

    @Lounsbury: Someone woke up on the wrong side of the English language today…

    5
  64. SC_Birdflyte says:

    The dance of church and state is akin to a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, state can always find a chair, church, usually not.

    2
  65. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “In this fight we are the Whites offering average Christians nothing but condescension at best, scorn at worst.”

    Huh. For one wild moment I thought you were going in the opposite direction — to say that the Christianists were the Whites, who had nothing to offer those who didn’t share their beliefs anything but contempt and hatred and vows to pass laws to make their lives illegal. Would have been a fair point, too.

    But instead you decide to trash everyone who agrees with you — you who were until (apparently)five minutes ago the loudest and most contemptuous atheist this side of Bill Maher.

    7
  66. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Mister Bluster: I don’t pray nearly as much as I used to, but when I do, it goes something like, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done.”

    1
  67. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Michael Reynolds: From your lips to, uh, God’s ears.

    1
  68. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Yes, I learn from my mistakes, don’t you?

    It’s wonderful, just the other day I was being loudly accused of never admitting when I was wrong. I admit that I was wrong about something, and of course I’m accused of treason.

    How do you think the progressive movement is doing, @wr? Victory upon victory? Because what I’m seeing is a movement that flamed out and is now being rolled back in state after state. I like winning. I want the good guys to prevail. When I see the good guys losing, I change tactics, because my political goal is protecting the vulnerable and defending freedom, not conforming myself to a politically impotent, narrow orthodoxy dictated from university faculties and Hollywood cocktail parties.

    You’re not a good general, dude. Good generals read the battlefield and don’t worry quite so much about what all their friends think. The point is not to represent or to be this or that paragon, the point is to fucking win. And guess what? We’re not winning.

    5
  69. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    What’s the pay-off for her?

    I guess it’s the same shared condolences that one would have with others left on the deck of the titanic, after all the lifeboats were gone.

    But for them it’s fellowship in the kingdom halls.

    From their perspective, it’s not their intent to be here on this planet but only through god’s plan. And their role is to fulfil THAT role in as good a way as possible and to WITNESS that which is occurring.

    oh… and they don’t vote (because god has all control over that), nor do they celebrate any holidays. they just… are.

    but please… don’t ask me to explain crazy.

    1
  70. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: And yet, I’m the one who will be burnt at the stake.

    2
  71. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Shared condolences??? That does not seem like much of a pay-off. But thanks for taking the time and trouble to explain the incomprehensible to me.

    1
  72. CSK says:

    @wr:
    There are left-wing Christians.

    http://www.thechristianleft.org

    1
  73. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: As we are chatting here on this site, we are neither winning nor losing. All the lectures you post here are meaningless, as are my reactions to them, in “the fight.”

    And I don’t pretend to be a “general” at all. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t consider OTB to be the battlefield.

    And if I planned to chide people for doing exactly what I’ve been doing for years and have apparently only just changed my mind about it within the last few minutes, I’d probably show a little humility. Not only because it would be deserved, but because a general who says “Do exactly what I do or you’re a loser and a moron” one minute and then “Do exactly the opposite of what I just told you to do or you’re a loser and a moron” is going to find himself short of soldiers.

    8
  74. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl: I was curious enough to do five minutes of “my own research”. Turns out we’re talking about the Omphalos hypothesis, omphalos being Greek for belly button and referring to Adam and Eve having same. The WIKI page doesn’t say why we think they did.

    The idea seems to be that God created everything at the Creation, but created everything mature and functional. Adam as an adult, mature trees, water carved canyons, dormant volcanoes, etc. So to be consistent he had to create history. Trees had rings, Adam had long hair, and so on. So I guess having created the process of fossilization, he had to create fossils predating current forms. (WIKI also doesn’t address why he created them showing evolution.) Even creating red shift in the light from the gazillion galaxies he’d just created. I haven’t found why God wanted to do this, but it serves the purpose of making red shift, carbon dating, what have you that might call the young Earth into question, fake news.

    Skeptics postulated “Last Thursdayism”, claiming that the Universe was created last Thursday. Complete with false memories, Reynold’s books on the shelf, bank balances, WIKI, used oil in your car, what have you. Neither hypothesis is verifiable or falsifiable, as they specify that all the evidence was faked.

    2
  75. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy of “Waiting for the Galactic Bus” by Parke Godwin and enjoy. Two drunk aliens get left on prehistoric Earth after a party and start meddling with simian intelligence, mainly because they’re bored. Much to their surprise, after-death energies start collecting and they somehow have to organise it….

  76. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Yes, to some extent it’s guessing game on the pray-ers part. Some of the Biblical foundations for the beliefs as practiced come from passages like the parable of the importunate friend (Luke 11:5-9), and “ye have not because ye ask not.” It’s convenient to have “God just said ‘no’.” And the alternative is complex studies and soul searching about the topic of “what are we supposed to/not supposed to ask God for.” Nobody I’ve ever met wants to lead (or even go to) that Bible study group.

    1
  77. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Yeah. And God told them “no.” 😉 (Not that they believe it in this case, you understand. 🙁 )

  78. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: And the fatwah order is already out, too. You’ve really stepped in it this time. You really need to make peace with God however you imagine him–stormy thunderer or cosmic muffin–right away.

  79. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: But large numbers of evangelicals are also Manichean which allows for co-equal forces of good and evil. The cognitive dissonance is breathtaking at times.

    And even some of my close friends in the faith think I’m bonkers when I say that there are some petitions that God simply cannot address because they would interfere with human agency.

  80. Lounsbury says:

    @CSK: Omniscience and Omnipotence in the end are big theoretical words that ordinary people do not coherently understand. So underneath the big fancy words, in reality, unconsciously, they end up thinking of God as a super human to be cajoled by prayer. Of course intellectually denied, but deep down, emotionally, that is what is happening.

    Egghead theory and arch condescenation about the illogic of it all – and indeed it is illogical – doesn’t really get one anywhere for what is in the end really just emotion and the structures of a chimpanzee whose brain is overclocked struggling with the pretence of logic and reason… We self-deceive.

    The religious with their prayers.

    Modern academic infused Lefties with moral certanties and castles in the sky thinking. Perhaps investors with Excel models pretence to forecasting. Beni Adam, Beni Adam.

    @Michael Reynolds: Rather prefers, in keeping with old Left tradition, at ineffectual lecturing on how it should be and arch moral scolds. Once upon a time I was rather happy with the ineffectualism of the Lefty, until the rise of Trump and similar. Now it is painfully worrisome.

    2
  81. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I have no clear understanding about how JW works because I’ve diligently avoided studying with the group, but from what I understand the people over and above the 144,000 who will rule have some supporting role in the Kingdom. And avoid the fires of hell, of course. As consolation prizes go, it’s not as bad as it seems at first glance.

    1
  82. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yes, I learn from my mistakes, don’t you?

    As someone who has thought you’ve been stupidly wrong about religion and how it affects people for quite some time, I’m curious about what brought this about and if it will stick…

    Anyway, welcome to the apparent realization that although religion is bunk, the people who realize that are outside of the mainstream at least for the next 30-50 years. (Fewer kids are so religious these days, that this might change)

    Religion is what people cling to when they don’t know how to get through something, or they feel like they have no purpose, and the softer, nicer religions are way less worse than shit like Q.

    I do worry that the less religious kids today will be more open to shit like Q in the future. Is there a “religion shaped hole” in people that needs to be filled with something?

    And you’re right — the left hasn’t had a clear, well articulated vision of what America should be since MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and even that doesn’t compare to freeing children from a globalist pedophile ring.

    For me, Elizabeth Warren can do it, but I am way out of the mainstream, and doing well enough that incremental progressive change sounds good to me.

    ——
    I know it’s a backhanded compliment to call a Black man “articulate” since it undermines the intelligence and meaning behind the words, but MLK really was articulate, and intelligent, and passionate…

    3
  83. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Well, it brings new dimensions to the phrase “servant of God.”

  84. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: I have long said I don’t care what a person believes in as long as they don’t try to impose those beliefs on me. I don’t have a particular problem with religious beliefs (except for the one noted above). It’s hard getting thru this vail of tears called life and if believing in Jesus (whose philosophy had some good points) or Mohammad (who’s philosophy also had some good points) or Buddha (who’s philosophy I am not near knowledgeable enuf to opine about but probably does too) helps one get thru it all who am I to say it’s wrong?

    It’s enough just saying it’s not right for me.

    But, given the chance, they will still burn me at the stake.

    2
  85. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: There’s a secular version of Buddhism that has taken root in the west, through the Mindfulness Movement (does that need capitalization?) and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn, Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabot Zinn, Pema Chodron — basically removing the reincarnation aspect of Buddhism, and any gods (are there gods?), along with the desperate desire to stop reincarnating.

    I’ve skirted the edges of it through MBSR for my anxiety problems (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, the Jon Kabot-Zinn thing, about as effective as medication or therapy, but more effective one a different group… psychology isn’t an entirely predictive medicine yet, so there’s a lot of “here are 5 things that have worked for different people, let’s try them on this patient one by one and see what happens!”)

    I think it has some relevant nuggets, where the practices start putting a moment of pause between a stressor and your reactions, so you have greater control over the reaction.

    It’s been picked up by corporate self-help gurus, which is a little amusing, as the end result is sort of the equivalent to using the teachings ascribed to Jesus Christ to say “treat the corporation as you would like the corporation to treat you.”

    What’s the sound of one employee collaborating?

    1
  86. DK says:

    @Gustopher:

    Religion is what people cling to when they don’t know how to get through something, or they feel like they have no purpose…MLK really was articulate, and intelligent, and passionate…

    Rev. King was also very religious, hence his passion about love and justice 😉

    1
  87. Grewgills says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I’m glad you’ve finally come around on that.
    Perhaps remember this epiphany the next time you’re berating someone else about how wrongheaded their political stance is.
    And, for the record, there are plenty of religious people on the left (most of the left in the US at least) and they do offer a message of hope, rather than condescension. Consider listening to some of them that you’ve probably tuned out due to the religious flavor of their messaging.
    Biden and Warnock are two obvious examples, but there are many. The vast majority of elected Democrats are Christian and the majority of the rest are religious of some stripe. It is a mistake to think that the majority of progressives are condescending to the religious, just because you were and a sizable chunk of the people here and in some other online political venues might be.

    2
  88. Grewgills says:

    @Gustopher:
    Buddhism is a sort of religious add-on in many cases. The gods tend depend on if you are Hindu/Buddhist, Taoist/Buddhist, Shinto/Buddhist, etc. Hell, there’s even a Buddhism of materialism practiced in SoCal. That’s about as easy to wrap my head around as Evangelical Christian Trumpists in its contradictions, but there it is.