May 2024 Church & State Magazine - May 2024

Don’t worry, be happy: Christian Nationalists are telling us we have nothing to fear from them. That’s a sure sign we ought to worry.

  Rob Boston

Christian Nationalists: To be opposed, not feared (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

I appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” April 7 to discuss the work of Americans United and the importance of separation of church and state.

Prior to my segment, the show interviewed Mark David Hall, a professor at Regent University, a school founded by the late TV preacher Pat Robertson. Hall is the author of a new book titled, Who’s Afraid of Christian Nationalism: Why Christian Nationalism is Not an Existential Threat to America or the Church.

I haven’t read the book, but I’d like to answer the question posed by its title – with one caveat. We at Americans United don’t want people to be afraid of Christian Nationalism. We want them to be aware of it, informed about it and to understand the threat it poses. And we want to arm them with facts they can use to fight it.

With that thought in mind, here’s who ought to be “afraid” of Christian Nationalism:

Anyone who values their reproductive freedom: Christian Nationalists fought for decades to overturn legal abortion. In 2016, they helped elect Donald Trump. Thanks to his Supreme Court appointments, Roe v. Wade was overturned two years ago. In about half the states, abortion is now illegal or all but illegal. Now, Christian Nationalists are coming after abortion-inducing medications in pill form, birth control and in vitro fertilization.

Americans who are members of the LGBTQ+ community or know someone who is: Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced in numerous states, with many becoming law. Members of the transgender community are under sustained attack. Christian Nationalists have stated bluntly that they want to overturn marriage equality and roll back as many laws that protect LGBTQ+ people as possible.

People who support the right to read and learn: Christian Nationalist groups like Moms for Liberty and others are running amok all over America, demanding the removal of books in school libraries, public libraries and even bookstores. Most of the titles they target deal with LGBTQ+ issues, but they’re also coming after books that explore issues of race and even history. (See “Banned in America!” January 2024 Church & State.) Christian Nationalists constantly attack public education and have worked for decades to replace public schools with taxpayer-funded private/religious institutions.

Anyone who supports democracy and the right to vote: Angered over Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, Christian Nationalist groups have urged lawmakers in many states to restrict access to the ballot for certain groups of people, chiefly minorities and young voters. In 2021, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, lauded voter-suppression bills, asserting, “We’ve got 106 election-related bills that are in 28 states right now. So, here’s the good news: There is action taking place to go back and correct what was uncovered in this last election.” (And just to be clear: Nothing untoward was uncovered in the 2020 election. There is absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud. For more on this, see “Disenfranchised,” May 2021 Church & State.)

Americans who care about the truth: Christian Nationalist groups played a prominent role in spreading the “Big Lie” that Trump really won in 2020. They backed absurd lawsuits designed to overturn the results of democratic elections, and even now, nearly four years after the fact, many continue to insist, despite having no evidence, that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president. (See “Welcome to Fantasy Island,” January 2021 Church & State.)

People who oppose violent extremism and political terrorism: Christian Nationalists came out in droves for the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. They were so prevalent that Daniel Hodges, a Washington, D.C., police officer who was mauled by the mob, singled them out. In testimony before the U.S. Congress, Hodges warned that “the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians.”

The involvement of Christian Nationalists in the insurrection was detailed in a powerful report produced by the Baptist Joint Committee and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (AU’s Andrew L. Seidel authored several chapters). Yet years later, Christian Nationalists continue to downplay the severity of the assault, and some have expressed sympathy for the terrorists serving prison terms for taking part in the insurrection, some even going so far as to call them “hostages” and “patriots.” (See “Sympathy for the Devils,” July-August 2021 Church & State.)

All those who support American values: The Christian Nationalist assault on America is an attempt to undermine our core values — democracy, pluralism and personal freedom. They are attacking nothing less than our right to make our own choices about the most intimate matters of our lives. Having failed to persuade us to adopt the far-right, fundamentalist religious perspective they favor, they now seek to use the raw power of government to force us.

Hall and those who think like him deny the existential threat of Christian Nationalism. But that is exactly what it is: Christian Nationalism seeks to take away the existence we have now — diverse, pluralistic, free and tolerant — and replace it with a system that is none of those things. White, straight, cis, conservative, Christian men like Hall will benefit from this new order when power flows up to them and they have the ability to make the laws. The rest of us will be left behind.

It’s to be expected that theocrats would insist we have nothing to fear. Throughout history, autocrats have always said that. Those who lust to use their religion to control your life will always attempt to feed us a comforting lie. “You have nothing to worry about” are the last words you’ll hear before your rights are stripped away or, in the most extreme case, you or the people you love are sent away for “reeducation.”

Sure, it’s natural to react to a plan like this with a certain amount of fear. But don’t let it immobilize you; instead, get a little angry. And use that righteous anger to fuel your opposition to Christian Nationalists and all their schemes.

Get educated. Get active. Get powerful.

A good place to start is the special section of Americans United’s website that focuses on White Christian Nationalism. Go to www.au.org and open the “Our Work” tab. The material on Christian Nationalism is the second item under “Our Issues.”

Note: This article is based on a post that originally appeared on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog. All the articles mentioned here can be read online at www.au.org/the-latest/church-state/.

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