Racial Equality

Memo to political leaders: Denounce, don’t embrace, extreme Christian Nationalists

  Rob Boston

The mayor of Spokane, Wash., is under fire for attending an event with an extreme Christian Nationalist – and rightly so.

Mayor Nadine Woodward appeared on stage Aug. 20 at an event called Let Us Worship. During the rally, a former state representative, Matt Shea, placed his hands on Woodward during a prayer, and the two hugged.

Shea holds extreme views, as Woodward is well aware. In 2019, he admitted to authoring a manifesto that outlined the “Biblical Basis for War.” The document argued that Christians have the right to kill men who support abortion or marriage equality.

Seeking ‘armed conflict’ in three states

A former FBI agent later prepared a report on Shea noting that he was part of a movement that sought to persuade counties in eastern Washington to secede and form a theocratic state. The report identified Shea, as “a leader in the Patriot Move­ment, planned, engaged in and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States Government in three states outside the state of Washington over a three-year period.”

At the time, Woodward criticized Shea for what she called “divisive and extreme rhetoric and ideology,” and Republican officials in the state disowned him. Shea had become toxic, so why did Woodward join him on stage with him just days ago? Woodward claims that she thought the event was to support victims of some recent fires in the area and blamed Shea for “politicizing” it.

That excuse simply does not wash. As Shea later noted on X (formerly Twitter), the rally was planned long before the fires started. It was part of a series of events in the area run by Sean Feucht, a Christian musician who gained popularity in right-wing circles for ignoring measures designed to halt the spread of COVID-19. During the rally, Shea mentioned the fires briefly but also attacked transgender people and same-sex marriage.

Woodward then released a second statement, asserting that she was not aware Shea would be at the rally and conceded that she “should have made better efforts to learn who would be speaking at the event.”

Just walk away

Here’s something else Woodward should have done: Walked out as soon as she saw Shea on stage. Instead, she joined him in prayer and socialized with him. No wonder people are upset.

Christian Nationalism is a festering sore on our body politic, an existential threat to our very democracy. A key step to defeating it is for political leaders at every level of government to denounce, not embrace, this dangerous and deeply un-American ideology.

Photo: Attendees at the Let Us Worship rally in Spokane, Wash. Screenshot from YouTube. 

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