Monday, November 7, 2022

White Christian Nationalism on Ballot This Election Cycle

Insightful essays appearing now before the election about how white Christian nationalism is on the ballot this election: Paul Brandeis Raushenbush writes:

As a Baptist minister, I’m frightened about the midterm elections. But not for the reasons some would think. I’m frightened because, across the nation, I’m seeing an upswell of fellow believers distorting the meaning of our faith into a license to discriminate and subjugate.  ...

Christian nationalism is not shorthand for an American who is both Christian and patriotic. Rather, Christian nationalists are a small yet organized slice of Americans working to hijack democracy. It’s not religion, but instead a cultural framework that conflates American identity with an exclusive form of religious identity. Its adherents are hoping to use the law and the ballot box to privilege a specific version of Christianity over people of other faiths and no faith, as well as other Christians who don’t believe the same things they do.

Jemar Tisby notes that both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chris Jones, are preachers' children, but they represent distinctly different interpretations of Christianity with distinctly different political goals. Sanders is a proponent of white Christian nationalism, and is rooted in the Southern Baptist Convention, a collection of churches that split with Northern Baptist churches in the 19th century in order to defend and promote slavery. Jones stands within a black Christian tradition focused on liberation, on extending rights to minority groups as an expression of Christian faith. 

Tisby writes, 

In their recent book, “The Flag and the Cross,” sociologists Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry describe a White Christian nationalist story that has deep roots. They write: “America was founded as a Christian nation by [White] men who were ‘traditional’ Christians, who based the nation’s founding documents on ‘Christian principles.’”

This belief system argues that the United States is specially favored by God, but the nation has lost its way, primarily due to “racial, religious, and cultural outsiders,” and must be brought back into obedience to God.

Throughout U.S. history, White Christian nationalist policies have tended toward anti-democratic and pro-authoritarian ends, while the historic Black Christian tradition has generally led toward opening democratic participation and greater rights for all kinds of people.

Silas House writes,  

I was raised in a church of terrorists. The preacher pounded on the lectern while he boomed that all queers deserved to die, that mixed marriages were going to lead to the downfall of “our way of life.” This was the 1980s, when women’s rights were being discussed much more broadly but according to him, God dictated that women were inferior beings to men. He railed against the separation of church and state, assuring us that the Founding Fathers had intended this to be a Christian nation. We were right and holy; the rest of the world was evil and against us. Worst of all, the congregation applauded and hollered “Amen!” in response.

Today, members of Congress and rising Republican stars are the ones who terrorize LGBTQ children and anyone who does not follow their doctrines. These are not just fringe politicians and candidates; Christian Nationalism, the belief that the American government should be defined solely by Christianity, is now firmly entrenched within much of the GOP.  ...

I am terrified at the rise of Christian Nationalism because I have experienced it up close and personal. Violence was used against me and justified by the Bible. In high school, after a fist fight where I was forced to defend myself after a boy punched me in the mouth “for being a faggot” he defended himself to the principal by citing Scripture. When a family member fired a shotgun at me six times while I ran away, begging him to stop, he later claimed that he was “just trying to scare me straight.” I’ve seen neighbors and family members deeply damaged by the Christian extremism in the churches of America. If Christian Nationalists gain control we will be a nation run by people who apply their judgement to others even while they give themselves passes to participate in many of the archaic rules found there. It will be a country where women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people of other faiths will be stripped of their rights in laws justified by scripture.

And, focusing on TexasWendi Gordon reports that she and her husband, both pastors, have lost their jobs due to their opposition to rising white Christian nationalism in their church during the Trump era. She urges churchgoers to condemn the bigotry of Trump and his supporters in order to save democracy.

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