Author of “White Evangelical Racism” explains how a specific strain of Christianity became a toxic political force
Author of “White Evangelical Racism” explains how a specific strain of Christianity became a toxic political force
Donald Trump visits the International Church of Las Vegas in October 2016. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Outside observers and critics confronted white evangelical support for Donald Trump — not exactly a Christian-family-values figure — as a puzzle to be solved. But while many saw hypocrisy, historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez identified a number of continuities. In her book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Du Mez argues that evangelicalism has evolved into a right-wing movement, and Trump was exactly the man many had been waiting for.
Du Mez is a professor of history at Calvin University and a Calvinist who grew up in the Christian reformed church. Her book has become a best seller and a sensational topic of debate within evangelical America.
On a recent episode of The Dig, Dan Denvir sat down with Du Mez to discuss her book, the history of American evangelicalism, and how that history got us to where we are today.
There are a lot of debates over Trump voters’ demographics and their motivations, but there’s maybe no better representative of the red-hot core of Trump’s base than white evangelicals.
There was a lot of effort to understand what was perceived to be evangelical hypocrisy. “How could family values voters support such an icon of brazen sexual immorality?” One common answer was that it was about instrumentality — that they reconciled to the candidate who could pick Supreme Court justices. But you write that Trump did not contradict evangelical values but was rather their fullest embodiment. Why?
On the surface, it absolutely seems like hypocrisy. But historically speaking, what evangelicals mean by “family values” always comes down to white patriarchal power.
If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s, during the emergence of the religious right, you see that the issues they originally mobilized around were the authority of white parents to make choices about their children in light of racial desegregation efforts, and the assertion of traditional masculinity against both feminism and antiwar sentiment in the Vietnam era. What links these things together is the assertion of white patriarchal authority. To the extent that Trump symbolized the same kind of ethos, we really aren’t talking about hypocrisy or a betrayal of evangelical values.
You write that evangelicals, more than any other religious group, support preemptive war, torture, and the death penalty. They’re the most likely to own guns, to support gun rights, to be anti-immigrant and anti-refugee.
A key part of your argument is that the culture wars were never just about what we thought they were about — about sexuality and reproduction in this narrow sense. What are the culture wars really, and what do we miss when we see them as just simply about a tradition or biblically informed objection to gay rights and abortion in particular?
There is so much more to being an evangelical than holding particular doctrinal views on sexuality or reproduction. Although these are very important, they primarily function as a kind of bridge between religious faith and nonreligious cultural ideals and political values, binding them together.
What evangelicals mean by ‘family values’ always comes down to white patriarchal power.
If you observe evangelicals and see what motivates and shapes them, the religious and the cultural and the political are always deeply intertwined. They are bound together through the media they consume, through the words they hear from the pulpit. We have to think of evangelicalism as a religious, cultural, and political identity. It’s all mixed together and impossible to separate out.
In terms of theology, you argue that the finer points don’t matter that much, at least not anymore, and that most white evangelicals are quite theologically illiterate.
Yes. The way that evangelicalism has traditionally been defined by scholars of evangelicalism and by evangelicals themselves, at least elite evangelicals, is through these four distinctives, which have come to be known as the Bebbington Quadrilateral. This four-point definition was coined by historian David Bebbington a couple decades ago. If you go to the website of the National Association of Evangelicals, you’ll find those four points.
As I was researching, I came to realize that definition didn’t get me very far at all to describe the movement. For example, on the issue of race, if you take that theological definition of evangelicalism then you can actually categorize the majority of black Protestants in America as evangelicals. But the vast majority of black Protestants who can check all of those theological boxes do not identify as evangelical. That’s because to black Protestants, it is very clear that there is so much more to being an evangelical than these theological distinctives.
And then for white evangelicals, you see that theological distinctions matter less over time. They used to matter a great deal. Questions like: What happens with the return of Christ? When does it happen? Disagreements over the existence of spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, infant baptism versus adult baptism.
These issues have traditionally been really important in distinguishing one denomination from another. What I saw in my research is that in the last fifty to seventy-five years, those theological distinctions have receded into the background for most evangelicals. What emerged instead were these cultural and political flash points.
Instead of theological criteria, what comes to define evangelicalism is instead your stance on issues of gender and sexuality, the embrace of patriarchal authority, belief in female submission. That’s how you determine who is in and out of the fold. So we’ve arrived at the point where progressive evangelicals who can check off all those ideological boxes but have a different opinion on LGBTQ issues, for example, fall outside the evangelical fold and are ostracized. This realignment and redefinition of boundaries takes place in the last half century or so.
You write that “militant, white masculinity serves as the thread, building all of these issues into a coherent whole. A father’s rule in the home is inextricably linked to heroic leadership on the national stage, and the fate of the nation hinges on both.” How is it gender that serves as the hinge connecting what we think of as evangelical family values to evangelicals’ broader right-wing Christian nationalist worldview?
When we think of evangelical politics, often people go immediately to the family-values politics, domestic issues, and issues of sex and gender. There’s good reason for that. Evangelicals talk about that an awful lot. What is often forgotten is just how distinctive evangelical views on foreign policy are as well. I wanted to explore the connection.
The first time I became curious about the topic of evangelical masculinity was actually more than fifteen years ago, when I read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, which sketches a very militant and militaristic conception of Christian manhood. God is a warrior-god and men are made in his image. Every man has a battle to fight. I was startled by this. I’m a Christian myself, and that’s not really my conception of Christian manhood or Christianity. This was also back in 2005 or 2006, the early years of the Iraq War.
The book went on to sell more than four million copies. Every evangelical man, boy, and many women were reading that book. At that time I was also seeing all this survey data that white evangelicals were much more likely than other Americans to support the Iraq War, to support preemptive war in general, to condone the use of torture, to embrace aggressive foreign policy. It was just a basic question to me as a historian of gender: What might one of these things have to do with the other?
This conception of warrior masculinity is almost everywhere in conservative evangelical spaces. It is used to defend masculine leadership in the home, which is seen as the building block and fundamental organizing principle of society. Patriarchal authority — a husband’s authority over his wife and children — is directly linked to God’s will for society. You need strong leaders in the home, strong leaders in the church — also men — and strong leaders in the nation as well. You need to ensure that these men are not emasculated, that their authority is not challenged, whether it’s in the home, in the church, or in the nation.
The conventional history is that fundamentalists retreated from politics and from public life after the John Scopes “Monkey Trial” over evolution in 1925, but they then bided their time and then just exploded on the scene suddenly with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the ’70s. But you write, “It was in the 1940s and 1950s that a prudent mix of patriarchal gender traditionalism, militarism, and Christian nationalism coalesced to form the basis of a revitalized evangelical identity.”
What’s revealed that’s otherwise obscured when we put the early evangelical movement where you argue it really belongs — at the center of Cold War American life?
The original narrative is that evangelicals retreated to lick their wounds after humiliating defeats, including the Scopes Trial and a failure to regain or take control of major Protestant denominations, and that they essentially disappear until they reemerge in the 1970s. That’s what it looks like to liberals and secularists.
They understood that their role was to defend American Christianity, and that required a military defense, because the threat of communism was a military threat.
But historians of evangelicalism have long argued that is not the case. Where did these people go? They started their own institutions, their own denominations, their own bible colleges, their own newsletters, their own publishing houses, and they were doing quite well.
In the late 1920s and 1930s, you see a lot of these smaller institutions being established. And then, in the early 1940s, they get together and say, “You know what, we’re doing a lot of really good work across the country, but imagine what we could do if we came together.” In 1942, they form the National Association of Evangelicals. It’s their explicit plan to exercise strength in numbers and to assert their influence over American culture and society.
They say, “We need magazines with subscribers in the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands. We need to take to the radio. We need to embrace Christian publishing. We need bookstores in every town and city across this country.” What’s really remarkable is that within fifteen years, they’ve accomplished all this and then some.
They believed that they were the most faithful Christians, the “faithful remnant,” the ones that held God’s truth, and so it was their duty to make sure that they exerted their influence widely over American society. This was during World War II, and we see patriotism also infusing this sense of evangelical purpose. They were the true Christians and the true Americans.
This sense of special purpose is only sharpened after the Second World War, with the arrival of the Cold War. Suddenly there was this great threat to both the nation and to Christians in the form of communism. Communism was anti-God, anti-family, and anti-American — all of the things they held most dear. They understood that their role was to defend American Christianity, and that required a military defense, because the threat of communism was a military threat.
The thing is, these values that conservative evangelicals held dear in the late ’40s were not all that different from the values held by many Americans, particularly white middle-class Americans.
That’s why they don’t, in retrospect, stand out so much, and people can think they weren’t there at all.
Exactly. This was the postwar baby boom, so traditional family values were all the rage and supported by government spending through the GI bill, for white middle-class Americans in particular. Given the Cold War consensus, they weren’t that distinctive. But what that meant is that they very much felt at the center of things, which they continued to be throughout the ’50s with the rise of their key popular figure Billy Graham.
The Cold War allowed evangelicals to map the holy war between the forces of Christ and the Devil onto America’s terrestrial geopolitical conflict with communism. How did it also play this key role in taking evangelicalism in a more thoroughly patriarchal direction as well?
The US government was really trying to emphasize the threat of communism and mobilize opposition to it. But a lot of Americans, especially coming out of World War II, didn’t really care that much at first. So there was a conscious effort on the part of the government to ratchet up a sense of urgency and crisis, and evangelicals helped in that effort. They added their own spin, which was that the fight against communism was synonymous with the fight against the Devil.
As that fight moves to the battlefields of Vietnam, things don’t go as planned. People start to ask, “What’s wrong with American manhood that we can’t defeat this enemy?” And there’s also the opposite reaction, which is you start to see a rise in antiwar activism.
The other thing that’s going on at the same time, in the 1960s and early 1970s, is dramatic social change in terms of feminism challenging “traditional” gender roles. As a historian, you always have to use scare quotes around the word traditional. In this case, we’re really talking about this breadwinner economy that only applied to certain white middle-class Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Both feminism and what’s happening in Vietnam are raising some fundamental questions about gender: about what it means to be a man, what kind of men we need, what it means to be a woman. They’re also raising questions about authority.
You have student protesters disobeying university authorities. You have the antiwar movement challenging state authority. You not only have hippies who are challenging US military action but men growing their hair out and wearing flowered shirts. All of these things seemed to strike at the God-given, God-ordained social order.
That’s when evangelical values shift from being consensus values to being oppositional values in the broader culture, and also develop a particular emphasis on authority.
This first became clear to me when I looked at the writings of James Dobson. I’m not sure how familiar James Dobson is.
He’s pretty famous.
James Dobson was a household name for generations, and I would argue that if you’re going to understand the history of white evangelicalism in the last half century, he’s your guy. He’s at the center of things. He comes to prominence in the early 1970s as a child psychologist writing about how to discipline your children.
He’s like the anti–Doctor Spock.
Spock was the nurturer. Dobson looked at Spock and said, “This is exactly what’s wrong with American society. By coddling your children, you’re setting them up to become hippies.” In fact, Doctor Spock himself did become an antiwar activist, so there might be something there.
Dobson said the exact opposite of Spock. He said you need to discipline your children; you need to spank your children; you need to assert your dominance so that they learn to submit to parental authority, because the fate of the nation depends on submitting to proper God-ordained authorities. He wrote a book called Dare to Discipline.
What a title.
James Dobson is mainstream white evangelicalism, family values evangelicalism. But he was drawing from and had a lot in common with more fringe figures.
There’s another person I write about in tandem with James Dobson named Bill Gothard. Bill Gothard is this kind of shadowy figure. When I initially set out to write this book, I had no interest in writing about him because he seemed too fringe. He’s an ultra-authoritarian advice giver who also has a lot of views on how to raise and discipline children. Unlike Dobson, who was on the radio and very outward facing, Gothard did his thing through these not quite secretive, but not super open, seminars.
Hundreds of thousands of conservative evangelicals attended these Gothard seminars. In the course of my research, many mainstream evangelicals pulled me aside to ask if I’d be discussing Bill Gothard. Over time I realized just how deep his influence ran and how broad it was, just beneath the surface. You’ve heard of James Dobson, but most of your listeners probably haven’t heard of Bill Gothard.
He was drawing on the teachings of a Christian Reconstructionist theologian named Rousas Rushdoony? What is Christian Reconstructionism and how does its vision compare to the relatively more vanilla model put forward by someone like Dobson? How did that model, which is really far-right reactionary — Rushdoony was an apologist for chattel slavery — spread so far and wide throughout American evangelical Christianity?
Rushdoony was an apologist for chattel slavery, white supremacy, and misogyny. He espoused a harsh chauvinism: women shouldn’t vote, women shouldn’t go into college, women shouldn’t work outside of the home, the husband has absolute authority over every single aspect of his wife’s life. He was very far right, very extreme, very fringe. But this is part of the problem. It’s tempting to write off some of these fringe figures like Rushdoony, or even Gothard, as irrelevant extremists.
But when you start to look at the networks and start to look at the teachings and beliefs of ordinary evangelicals, you realize that it’s really difficult to distinguish the fringe from the mainstream. That actually became a theme of my research. When you look at somebody like Dobson, who is emphasizing patriarchal authority, a hierarchical authority structure, the need to submit to the God-ordained authorities, and the idea that the fate of the nation hangs on our ability to achieve proper submission to authority, and then you look at somebody like Gothard, there is not a lot of distance between the two. One is, yes, harsher and taken to the extreme, but there’s a lot of overlap.
A lot of scholars before me wouldn’t touch somebody like Rushdoony, because really quickly you can get accused of making a mountain out of a molehill. Who’s ever heard of Rushdoony, even in evangelical spaces? It’s very much, like Gothard, kind of under the surface. But if you look at popular writings on family life and child-rearing, if you look at textbooks in the homeschool network and in Christian school networks, what are they saying about chattel slavery? What are they saying about Christian America? What are they saying about gender roles? That’s where you can see the fingerprints of this Christian Reconstructionism, this very hierarchical and patriarchal structure to all of society.
Some people will only ever dabble in the mainstream version. Some people will be hardcore homeschool far right. Many people are going to be somewhere in between, and they’re going to be promiscuous consumers. If you shop in a Christian bookstore or go to your church library, or now if you go online, chances are that you’re going to have sources available to you across the spectrum. And if you venture into the more extreme articulations, they’re not going to be super shocking to you, perhaps, because you’ve already been introduced to the slightly less extreme versions of these teachings.
Phyllis Schlafly’s emergence as an evangelical star is a particularly striking illustration of theology’s fading importance as unity on these cultural principles comes into focus. Schlafly, of course, was Catholic. Evangelicals traditionally held some pretty strongly negative views about Catholics and Catholicism in the United States. What did it mean for evangelicals to unite behind a Catholic in the culture war?
Throughout much of American history, evangelicals and Catholics were not good friends. Catholics were seen as the enemy. They were not true Christians. If we look at abortion, conservative evangelicals were not lockstep pro-life, not by any stretch in the 1960s, in part because that was seen as a Catholic issue, and who wants to be like the Catholics?
But Schlafly and the evangelical movement had a lot in common. Schlafly started out as an anti-communist, rising to fame with her book A Choice Not an Echo. It wasn’t until the early ’70s that she started to care about gender and feminism. A friend brought the ERA to her attention and she initially thought, “I have bigger fish to fry here. I’m focused on anti-communism and foreign policy. Don’t waste my time.” Then she took a closer look and realized, just as evangelicals did, just how gender was linked to foreign policy — the idea that this strength of the American nation needs strong men and rugged men.
The counterpoint to that is that you need submissive, domesticated, very feminine women to play their proper role. And you need both together in the form of the nuclear family to strengthen the nation and act as a bulwark against communism, among other things, by raising boys to be strong men to fight the communists on the field of battle.
Anti-communism and gender conservatism fit so neatly together in Schlafly’s work, and this is inspiring for evangelicals. She articulates their own nascent ideas for them and puts the pieces together in a way that just makes perfect sense. Very soon they start offering their own versions of this.
From the nuclear family to the nuclear arsenal.
Exactly. And ultimately it didn’t matter so much that she was a Catholic, as she was clearly on their side where it mattered — again, not theology but cultural and political values. The traditional theological distinctions and cultural distinctions between Catholics and Protestants start to recede as we start to see these conservative values unite conservative white Catholics with conservative white evangelicals.
Later on, followed by more unity with conservative Jews and conservative Mormons.
Yes. With conservative Mormons, at this point already as well, we can see a parallel story, particularly around the issues of gender. You have conservative Mormon women also advocating these same values and they come together.
The end of the Cold War posed a problem for militarized American evangelicalism. You write, “For decades anti-Communism had been a lynchpin in the evangelical worldview, justifying militarism abroad and a militant pursuit of moral purity at home. The victory of the free world was something to celebrate. But it was also disorienting. Without a common enemy, it would be more difficult to sustain militant expressions of faith.”
Evangelicals, you write, initially found their new enemy in a so-called New World Order, which I didn’t realize was such a thoroughly evangelical idea. What was this new evil, the New World Order, that evangelicals discovered?
In the ’90s, evangelicalism was thrown into disarray. You had Pat Buchanan and the old guard saying, “We need to double down. There’s a war on. It’s not the Cold War, but it’s a war for the soul of America.” But you also had people casting about for something new and saying, “Let’s focus on global poverty. Let’s focus on global persecution of Christians. Let’s engage in anti-trafficking activism. Let’s put the old ways behind us.”
The New World Order emerged as a candidate for the new threat. There’s a longer history here too, in twentieth-century conservative fundamentalism, of different interpretations of the scriptures as prophesying an evil global order. This pops up in theology and also in Christian fiction, the idea of a totalizing force that presents itself as standing for world harmony but is not of God and therefore can only be evil. The idea is, “This is Antichrist so don’t be fooled. We have to stand against them.”
Purity culture pretty much dominated evangelical youth culture for more than a generation.
It’s a way to carry over Christian nationalism, with its emphasis on American sovereignty and exceptionalism, into a world without communism. The New World Order stuff is definitely tied to conspiracy theories of the ’90s, but again we can’t just write it off as fringe, because you see elements of it within mainstream evangelicalism too. Evangelicals started to show a lot of antagonism toward things like the UN Human Rights Commission. You would think, “Well isn’t that a good thing? Can’t we all be for human rights?” No, not at all. Some evangelicals felt it was really of the Devil and needed to be fought at every turn.
Another strand that took off in the ’90s and aughts was this vast purity culture. It emphasized both abstinence and the joys to come of marital sex. How did that movement arise and what sort of activities and institutions did it entail?
Again, there’s a longer history of teachings of sexual morality within Christian circles. But the purity culture of the ’90s is distinct. It’s inextricably linked to patriarchy, placing enormous emphasis on female modesty and female purity. The explicit idea was that a girl would be ruined if she lost her virginity before she was married. She would be cheating her future husband out of what was rightfully his, and it would probably ruin their sex life.
Meanwhile, for this whole thing to work out, boys, too, needed to not be having sex before marriage. But there was less shame there. The shame was more around masturbation and porn. In men’s circles, there was a little bit more forgiveness — boys will be boys — in terms of actually having sex before marriage. But boys were promised that they’d have mind-blowing sex as soon as they got married, if they waited.
That’s just scratching the surface in terms of what purity culture was. It was a culture. Joshua Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye — he was a homeschool kid and wrote this book when he was twenty-one years old — was a massive bestseller. This really took things to an extreme: you don’t date; you court. And you court with the father’s permission. You might not even hold hands. Maybe you can hold hands, but you don’t kiss until the wedding day. And it wasn’t just Josh Harris; there was a whole market for this kind of media.
Purity culture pretty much dominated evangelical youth culture for more than a generation. If you were an evangelical kid in the ’90s, this is what you talked about in youth group. There was a whole speaking circuit where speakers would go to church youth groups and Christian schools and talk about all the bad things that happened if you had sex.
And then there were the purity balls, which still happen today. The idea is that a dad has to show his daughter what a proper romantic relationship looks like, and that her virginity is her father’s ultimate responsibility. So he will take her to one of these balls and she’ll be all dressed up, and there will be a ceremony where he bestows upon her a purity ring. As she accepts it, she promises to keep it on and remain a virgin until her wedding day, when the father literally hands her over to her husband. She is then under her husband’s authority, and can have sex and please him as God intended.
In reality, many evangelicals who received these teachings or participated in these rituals did not wait for marriage to have sex, and that has caused them decades of guilt, which many still carry. If their marriages didn’t work out, that was why, or so they were led to believe. Meanwhile, many who did wait discovered, to their deep disappointment, that married sex or their marriage itself wasn’t all that great. Overall, this culture has generated a lot of disappointment, guilt, and shame.
You write that the Promise Keepers declined after their ’90s heyday because the appeal of their soft patriarchy was fading. What filled the void were outfits like Mars Hill Church, founded in 1996 in Seattle by Mark Driscoll. It was tattooed, cursing, beer-drinking, hypermasculine, and really quite misogynistic.
Driscoll called on women in the congregation to give their husbands oral sex, warned against men being “pussified,” described women as being created by God to be “homes for men’s penises.” By 2019, Mars Hill had more than seven hundred churches all over the world.
Mars Hill was part of something called the New Calvinist movement. What was the New Calvinist movement, and how did it affect the evangelical movement?
I grew up in Calvinist Christianity. I teach at Calvin University. I still identify as a Calvinist. I came of age in the 1990s, right when we started to see this rise of New Calvinism, and at first I thought, “Yes! Good for us!”
Fun and tattooed.
I very quickly realized that there was no place for me in this New Calvinism. It was part of this swing away from the softer, gentler, kinder evangelicalism of the 1990s. The pendulum was swinging back. There was a backlash against things getting a little too soft. People started to think, “We need to toughen up. We need more rugged men. We need more masculine men in the American church.”
The book I referenced earlier, Wild at Heart, came out in 2001. James Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys also came out in 2001. Doug Wilson, again a fringe character who can tell us something about what was happening in evangelicalism, promoted a theology of fistfighting. All these folks are on the shelves in 2001 — right when terrorists strike the United States.
After 2001, this more militant, crass, misogynistic, and deeply troubling Christian masculinity starts to go mainstream. When you listen to some of Mark Driscoll’s sermons and teachings on sex, he’s absolutely abusive — shutting women down, commanding women to serve their husbands sexually because God told them to perform sex acts even if they weren’t comfortable with it. And Driscoll becomes a celebrity and role model for evangelical pastors and for an entire generation of young evangelical men. He’s platformed by eminently respectable evangelicals who at worst think he’s a little rough around the edges, but fundamentally think he gets complementarianism right.
Complementarianism is this idea that men and women are designed by God to be extremely different and have to come together to make a whole. Men are supposed to lead, preach, and fight. Women are supposed to stay at home, be feminine, and be beautiful. This is not a new idea, but a journal from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a theological think tank, began to spread these teachings far and wide.
The men who were most vocally promoting this militant conception of Christian manhood were also virulently Islamophobic and were promoting these horrific stories of the ‘Muslim threat,’ so reminiscent of the Communist threat a couple of generations earlier.
Meanwhile, by the 2000s, somebody like Doug Wilson, who is a blatant racist — he would contest that, but you can read his writings on slavery and how good it was — are being platformed and defended by very mainstream evangelical men like John Piper. You see somebody like Mark Driscoll saying extremely problematic things about sex and women, and exhibiting an abusive leadership style, and he is being not just platformed but praised because he’s on the right side of gender and patriarchy.
Evangelical elites are essentially saying: “We can tolerate racism. We can tolerate abuse. But cross the line on gender or sexuality, and you’re dead to us. You are out. Your books will not be sold at Lifeway Christian Books. You’re kicked out of your church. You’re going to lose your pulpit.” And that’s how these boundaries are enforced.
How did evangelicals use 9/11 to both reassert gender norms and once again steer evangelicalism ever more intensely toward Christian nationalism and militarism?
9/11 was so critical. The pendulum was already swinging and they were already rejecting this softer, gentler patriarchy of the 1990s. But after 9/11, with this new militaristic mood, the Promise Keepers suddenly seemed so embarrassing and overly emotional. So the Promise Keepers got on board, toughened up, and rebranded as warriors.
Now we have this rugged Christian manhood on steroids. Things get really colorful in the early 2000s. You have MMA [mixed martial arts] ministries. You have one account of men at a rally literally singing about their balls. But it makes perfect sense, and it fuels a very aggressive foreign policy as well. What I came to see is that many of the men who were most vocally promoting this militant conception of Christian manhood were also virulently Islamophobic and were promoting these horrific stories of the “Muslim threat,” so reminiscent of the Communist threat a couple of generations earlier.
This was the new Cold War. It was like, “Boy, things were confusing there for a decade or so, but we are back on track. We have our enemy and God is on our side.”
Does the evangelical embrace of Trump represent a turn toward the domestic liberal enemy?
It seems to be that way. We’re now at a point again where we don’t have a clear external threat to focus on and unite against. It could pop up quite quickly, as we saw after 9/11. But in the meantime, the enemy is us. Liberals, feminists, secular humanists, and so on have always stood in as one of evangelicalism’s enemies, usually aiding its biggest enemy, but now they’re kind of the primary enemy.
This is Christian nationalism — this myth that America was founded as God’s chosen nation, that it was an explicitly Christian nation, that our founding fathers were devout Christians.
Along comes Donald Trump. He is not evangelical, but he promises to protect evangelicals. And then he’s kind of baptized by James Dobson. Yes, he swears. He says bad words. He doesn’t know how to talk the talk. But he will protect us. So they give him their vote, and he gets in the White House.
Trump’s brilliance, with regard to winning and maintaining evangelical support, was his ability stoke this fear, this existential dread that “they are out to get us.” The “they” were other Americans. Not real Americans. They were immigrants, they were non-white people, they were anybody who wasn’t a Trump voter. Anybody who wasn’t an adoring Trump voter was against us.
What do you make of the fact that so many white evangelicals believe in QAnon?
It’s reminiscent of the ’90s focus on the New World Order. Evangelicals have been primed for QAnon by a decades-long suspicion of mainstream and secular media. There’s also a prophecy tradition within evangelicalism and certain evangelical bible study practices of “the mystery will be clear to you, you can read the biblical texts and you can discern what it means for you and what message it has for your life,” kind of encouraging independent interpretation. Like, “We have our own sources of truth.”
And, in part, there was the communist evil empire supplanted by Muslims and now there was a void filled by a liberal elite pedophile cabal.
What’s interesting is that evangelicals who are loyal to Trump and QAnon are in some cases turning against their own leaders, the elites in their own movement. One of the things that we’ve seen in the last five years is many evangelical pastors coming up against the limits of their own authority. If a pastor decided to speak out against Trump, there is a not insignificant chance that he would be fired and removed from his pulpit. There are voices against Trump, voices against QAnon, voices for masking and other COVID-19 measures within evangelicalism. But they get so much thrown at them that they finally say “enough is enough,” and you’ve got high-profile figures leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. So what happens to those institutions? They’re doubling down and becoming even more reactionary.
The right wing’s central obsession right now is arguably the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory (CRT), both of which suggest that the United States is fundamentally bad in some ways.
This was one of the things that, in significant part, fueled this recent ultra-right-wing takeover attempt of the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that was already taken over by right-wing insurgents in 1979 and is already one of the most right-wing religious groups in this country.
Evangelicals are so protective about what America was, but then also the most pessimistic and negative about what it is now and what it has become. What does the evangelical history that you tell teach us about what has brought us to this point where politics is so polarized, in a way that I don’t know has ever happened, around US history?
It’s quite a time to be a US historian. History is a battleground. Just watching this anti-CRT movement emerge in real time has been fascinating the last couple of years. There’s a much longer history here. Right now it’s called CRT or anti-CRT, but conservative evangelicals have long worked to set their own historical narratives about America. This is Christian nationalism — this myth that America was founded as God’s chosen nation, that it was an explicitly Christian nation, that our founding fathers were devout Christians.
Historians, including legitimate evangelical historians, have picked this mythology apart. But they haven’t made much of an impact in terms of popular histories, and history is very popular in evangelical circles. You’ve got somebody like David Barton, who’s writing these pseudohistories for adults. You also have a whole homeschool network and Christian school network. Their textbooks have now for generations been teaching this mythical version of American history in which America was founded as a Christian nation, and everything was wonderful and good including through the nineteenth century, and slaves had it good and were actually really good friends with their masters, and so on. This is all in the textbooks.
Evangelicals’ identities are rooted in their calling, their task, which is to return America to its Christian origins, because only then will God give this nation his blessing. Evangelicalism, remember, has been this way since World War II. They’ve always had this special mission.
Of course, they will never achieve their task, because their version of America was never real to begin with. But it is an incredibly powerful way to rally the troops, mobilize conservatives, and make them feel like they have lost something that is rightfully theirs — that this is our country, we were once at the center of things, and what needs to happen is that we need to be back in charge because then we can Make America Great Again.
Evangelist and right-wing activist Mario Murillo told a group of self-proclaimed “prayer warriors” Friday that “the Christian righteous army of God” is rising up against the Democratic Party, “wokeness,” and perversion. Declaring that there can be no compromise in such a battle, Murillo said that pastors and activists must see themselves as “wartime Christians” as he prayed that God’s judgment and “fire” would fall on the nation’s “evildoers.”
Murillo was speaking on a monthly prayer call hosted by Intercessors for America, a network of right-wing pastors and religious-right activists who were closely aligned with the Trump White House and campaign. IFA leader Dave Kubal, a member of the Trump campaign’s recently reinvigorated faith advisory board, claimed that “a few thousand” intercessors were listening to Friday’s call.
Via email and on its blog, IFA promoted the Oct. 1 call and livestream with messages from Murillo declaring, “We are now in wartime” and “You are now a wartime Christian.”
“Satan prizes the destruction of America,” Murillo told IFA’s intercessors. He went on to say that when the pilgrims landed in America, “they made a covenant with God that this would be a land that would preach the gospel.”
“Even in our fallen state, Satan looks at America and says, ‘I can’t do what I want in bringing the Antichrist, the beast, and world domination as long as American freedom exists,’” Murillo said.
“There is a deliberate attempt by the devil using leftist Marxism and the insanity of wokeness, to bury, in essence, the role of America and the meaning of America.”
Murillo, a proponent of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, told intercessors on Friday’s call that God’s judgment will fall on the United States:
Does anyone honestly believe that a rigged election, a forced vaccination, and alteration of everything that America represents by a rogue government is going to go unpunished? God is in his throne. He’s going to act … We know evil is wrong. We know that Christ rose from the dead on the third day. And like Jehoshaphat we can say, “You devils of perversion, you devils of atheism, you devils of absolute total complete racism will be judged by our prayer and by the hand of God.”
Murillo led a prayer that God would judge the “demons” and “powers and principalities that have put their tentacles in every element of American life. … Lord, bring your fire. Bring your glory. Expose the wrong and evildoers. And let the voices of righteousness rise once more in this nation.” IFA’s Dave Kubal urged the intercessors to “join Mario in praying that the fire would fall.”
Murillo encouraged people to tell “the enemy,” “You’re not going to have our country. You’re not going to have our foundations. You’re not going to redefine marriage. We are really not in favor of drag queens reading stories to our 5-year-olds. We are for a different kind of country and a different kind of day.”
Murillo said many Christians were disappointed that Trump “was robbed,” but he said there was an upside: that if “Biden the puppet” had not been put in power, the “vileness of this whole thing” and “all of the wokeness that has come to the surface, the perversion, might not have been known.” And that exposure, he claimed, has encouraged “the Christian righteous army of God” to “dig in its heels”:
So, what’s happened is the Christian righteous army of God has dug in its heels, and it’s not going to back down. … They’re not going to compromise. We don’t want you to throw us a bone on marriage, on abortion, on any issue. You notice that the stiffening of the spine in Texas and other states against abortion. That’s because the army of God and the Spirit of God in the church is rising up and saying, ‘We’re not going to accept anything less.’
The same stiffening of the spine and resolve and digging in heels is on the leftists. So, what I’m going to tell you is there’s not going to be a compromise in this outcome. There’s either going to be a wave of rejection in the midterms, a wave of rejection in the next election, and a miraculous exposure of the deception that America has been under, or we’re going to literally be suffocated by evil.
Well, you and I both know, that second option is not even something we can entertain. We can’t imagine it. So, our thoughts are freedom is coming. Because the sheep and the goats are being separated. And the power of God will be manifested over America.
Murillo railed against pastors who he said put marketing and church growth above the demands of being “a wartime pastor”:
The Democrat Party is no longer a political party. It is a thriving criminal enterprise bent on one thing: the destroying of Christian influence in the United States. And any pastor that is still on the fence is absolutely and deliberately turning a blind eye to the greatest threat that the sheep under his care will ever face.
Murillo said that the nation was “lost in the first place” because clergy had “lost their heart for war.” He prayed that “a mighty wave of conviction” would fall on pastors so that “sermons filled with fire” would replace the “milquetoast, lawless, toothless drivel that they have been preaching.”
The day before the call, IFA distributed Murillo’s message to church leaders, which was titled, “You are now a wartime pastor.” Here’s an excerpt:
You believe you have a choice. But reality and circumstances have made the choice. You can try to stay out of the war, but you will be labeled a traitor. I am not calling you a traitor–but the situation will. Things are deteriorating fast. The battle lines are drawn so clearly. Your silence will label you a turncoat.
There is a powerful pull to remain a peacetime pastor. Nostalgia and the yearning for simpler times are strong temptations. But there is no going back. Like it or not, reject it or not, you are now a wartime pastor.
So, what should a wartime pastor be doing right now?
One: A wartime pastor will face the fact that our nation is being led by evildoers … They do not care about people’s lives. They do not care that they are despised by most of America. They are dedicated to their Marxist agenda and are bent on destroying this nation. They are reckless and depraved. It is only after a pastor realizes that those who are in power now are totally evil, that they will make the right choices for the good of their own people.
Two: A wartime pastor will educate their congregation as to the evils of Critical Race Theory, transgenderism, and abortion. They will do it early, emphatically, and will not back down. …
Three: A wartime pastor will organize his people, immediately. They will get EVERYONE down to the school board meeting, the county commission meeting, and the city council meeting. Because this is war, you will get your people to start working together. Pastor, they are looking to you and you must lead them!
Four: A wartime pastor will deal with the hard questions—the unavoidable questions.
What will you do when your unvaccinated members won’t be able to be treated at the hospitals? They won’t even be let in the front door. It is already happening. The Church will have to take care of them. Are you ready for that?
Murillo’s written message added, “The promise to prevail against the gates of hell is the exclusive domain of a pastor who is fully engaged in war―and not the preacher who either has their head in the sand, or is running away from it.”
Spell, a Louisiana-based pastor who has proudly and openly defied the state’s stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other public health restrictions, appeared on “The Alex Jones Show” Wednesday, where he revealed that he’s also an unabashed bigot and conspiracy theorist.
“We have a command—not a suggestion, not even a recommendation—from God to resist and never comply,” Spell said. “Daniel 11:32 says, ‘And such as do wickedly shall the Antichrist corrupt by flatteries.’ That word ‘flatteries’ means feminism, it means de-masculinization of mankind. That’s what the mask does. That’s what the vaccine does. That’s what complying with these inhumane, ungodly orders does.”
“Satan conquers us by domesticating us and making us weak,” replied Jones.
“He does,” Spell agreed. “That’s why Pharaoh said murder all the baby boys in Exodus 2. That’s why Herod wanted to kill every baby boy two years and younger, to kill Jesus. Yesterday, an attorney in our church is representing a nine-month-old Black baby boy who is being adopted by two married Black women, and whenever she called it ‘an abomination,’ the judge stopped the proceedings and put her out of the courtroom. This woman was simply protecting a nine-month-old helpless baby boy that is already an endangered species!”
“You know, statistically, those couples then do the transgender deal,” Jones interrupted. “It’s like a ritual. They go after their testicles. I mean, it’s like a religion to target boys with this whole transgenderism. They admit it’s a transhumanist move.”
“Exactly right,” Spell declared. “The vaccine takes away people’s ability—because of Bill Gates’ agenda that is in Daniel 7:25—it takes away your ability to resist. It takes away your desire to be zealous and fanatical. Look at people that are vaccinated, they’re like zombies. They’re just wandering around with no goals.”
The post Tony Spell and Alex Jones Trade Conspiracy Theories appeared first on Right Wing Watch.
Wealthy entrepreneurs and media moguls also named on membership list for influential Council for National Policy
A leaked document has revealed the membership list of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP), showing how it provides opportunities for elite Republicans, wealthy entrepreneurs, media proprietors and pillars of the US conservative movement to rub shoulders with anti-abortion and anti-Islamic extremists.
New Apostolic Reformers advocate Christian dominance through spiritual warfare, yet some of them also call for empowering women and combating racism.
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a powerful movement within the Christian right and a leading force for turning the United States into a theocracy. Theologically, NAR is a branch of evangelical Christianity and more specifically the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement, which claims that modern Christians can practice miracles such as faith healing and divine prophecy. Politically, NAR promotes dominionism, the belief that Christians need to “take dominion” over society—in other words, impose their version of biblical law on the rest of us.
|Cindy Jacobs, one of NAR’s top leaders,
wants to “put steel in [women’s] backbone”
New Apostolic Reformation organizations promote many standard Christian right themes, such as denouncing same-sex marriage, rejecting abortion rights, vilifying transgender people, and advocating school prayer. The movement’s goals go far beyond specific issues. A distinctive NAR phrase is the call to “reclaim the seven mountains,” meaning seven key areas of society (government, media, family, business, education, religion, and arts/entertainment); thus some critics refer to the movement as “Seven Mountains Dominionism.” This means that NAR doesn’t just want to pass some reactionary laws—it wants to impose a comprehensive transformation of all major institutions and cultural spheres. It regards those who oppose its aims as not just misguided but as agents of Satan.
NAR promotes “strategic-level spiritual warfare” to cast out demons who supposedly rule over whole territories, institutions, or groups of people. Prayer and worship are seen as key weapons in this struggle; one tactic used is “prayerwalking,” in which a team of people walks through a neighborhood or city and battles the evil spirit controlling it. And some NAR leaders have declared openly that they envision a coming revolution or civil war that will propel their side to victory.
NAR crystallized in the mid 1990s and has grown rapidly both in North America and in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Leaders of NAR are called “apostles” and “prophets,” and the movement is organized as an overlapping set of ministerial networks, which in turn are joined through coordinating bodies such as the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders. It’s hard to know just how big the movement is, but by one 2013 estimate some 3 million people attend NAR-affiliated churches in the United States alone, and millions more in other countries.
Despite its size and authoritarian politics, New Apostolic Reformation has received little or no attention from most anti-fascist organizations and websites. Fortunately, over the past decade Political Research Associates and the online magazine Religion Dispatches have provided helpful analyses of the movement and its relationship with the larger Christian right, by authors such as Sarah Posner, Anthea Butler, Rachel Tabachnick, Frederick Clarkson, and Julie Ingersoll. Solid in-depth critiques of NAR have also been published by several Christian-identified periodicals, including Christianity Today and Apologetics Index (both of which are evangelical), Firebrand (Methodist), and Perspective Digest (Seventh-day Adventist).
NAR leaders embraced Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and were among Trump’s staunchest Christian right supporters throughout his presidency. Paula White, Trump’s “spiritual advisor” who gave the invocation at his inauguration and later headed his evangelical advisory council, is a NAR apostle. New Apostolics have also played a key role in the movement falsely claiming that Trump won the 2020 election, through initiatives such as the Jericho March coalition, which used prayerwalking to ask God to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. During one post-election prayer broadcast, Paula White called on God to “take vengeance” against the “demonic” elements who stood in the way of Trump’s second term.
New Apostolic Reformation’s cordial relationship with Trump has helped it move into a strategically prominent role within the Republican Party coalition. For years, NAR has also been a dominant force in the Christian Zionist movement, which hopes that Israel’s rise will help trigger the End Times, when all Jews will convert to Christianity or be destroyed. And recently, some New Apostolics have also cultivated close ties with the Patriot movement.
All of this makes New Apostolic Reformation one of the most dangerous far right currents in the United States today. Yet this is also a movement with genuine ethnic and racial diversity, in which women and people of color play important leadership roles. And while some sections of the movement gloss over this diversity as a matter of individual success, other sections celebrate women’s empowerment and denounce racism as a pervasive problem that must be actively fought.
Some New Apostolics offer fairly standard, unadulterated right-wing propaganda. Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, for example, recently published a twelve-part series of blog posts on “The Marxist Strategy for Taking Over America,” while Mario Murillo Ministries warned “the next phase of the LGBTQ agenda is to sexualize children.” Other sections of the movement add a sprinkling of multiculturalism, such as Harvest International Ministries (headed by Ché Ahn, who is Korean American), which commemorated Juneteenth to honor the end of slavery a few weeks before hosting Sarah Palin and Mike Pompeo as keynote speakers at a leadership development conference. Diane Lake of Starfire Ministries, a staunch Trump supporter, sounded like a centrist Democrat when she denounced the murder of George Floyd as “an astounding occurrence of injustice [and] legitimate cause for outrage” while condemning the “rapid descent from peaceful demonstrations and protests [for racial justice] into the state of absolute mayhem.” In other writings Lake has used scripture to argue that churches should not deny leadership roles to women.
Yet some NAR organizations and leaders go much further in co-opting progressive political themes. To explore this phenomenon, I recently watched several hours of video recordings from the July 2020 “Deborahs United” conference. This is a major annual event sponsored by Generals International, one of the most prominent NAR ministerial networks, and emceed by Apostle Cindy Jacobs, who founded Generals International with her husband in 1985 and helped form the New Apostolic Reformation movement over the following decade.
|Edwina Findley urges NAR women
to fight racial injustice
Deborahs United is a conference of and for women, and the title refers to Deborah in the Bible, who conference organizers celebrated as a “mother of a nation” but also as a judge, prophet, and military leader who played a key role in a time of crisis. The theme of the 2020 conference was “overcoming,” with a series of presentations aimed to inspire, energize, and inform women to take action. As Jacobs put it early in the proceedings, “we want to put steel in your backbone.” She gave a plug for the Master’s in Women’s Leadership program at Wagner University (named for NAR founder C. Peter Wagner), which aims to “enable and mobilize women around the globe to advance the Kingdom across The Seven Mountains of society.” A majority of conference speakers were white women, but presenters were also Asian, Arab, and African American; Mexican; and Afro-Caribbean. And while some of the focus was on overcoming personal adversity, a large part of it was framed as combating injustice.
Deborahs United speakers harnessed genuine concerns about oppression to a right-wing theocratic agenda in sophisticated ways. For example, Egyptian American attorney Jacqueline Isaac and her mother, Dr. Yvette Isaac, spoke about their work with their NGO Roads of Success publicizing the persecution of Christians in Syria. Syrian Christians have indeed faced violence and forced conversion at the hands of the Islamic State and others, yet selectively highlighting their persecution can be framed in ways that bolster Islamophobia. As another example, several speakers at the conference, such as Sharon Ngai of the organization Justice Speaks, addressed the issue of human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking. Here again, there is an underlying reality—that some women and children are forced into sex work and other forms of labor—yet many Christian rightists have framed that reality in ways that demonize all sex work, romanticize sexual purity and heterosexual marriage, and ignore the larger dynamics of women and children as special targets of capitalist exploitation worldwide.
At the same time, some of the Deborahs United speakers tested the boundaries of right-wing discourse in ways that would make many Trump supporters uncomfortable. Dr. Pat Francis, a Caribbean Canadian, called racism “a demonic force that hates every human being, that want to get rid of certain people: Blacks, Indians, Jews, Armenians, Africans. Torture, torment, killing, deportation, displacement, violence, abuse.” She denounced “extreme nationalist movements” and—following a line of thought directly at odds with “Build the Wall” nativism—declared
“However God created you, the color of your skin, everything about you is purpose. The culture that you were born in, everything about you is purpose. You are born in one country, you move to another country, everything about you is purpose. The reason that you live, you were created in the image of God… Everything about you is purpose-driven, and you are needed in the world for such a time as this.”
African American actress Edwina Findley (whose acting credits include The Wire and Fear the Walking Dead) opened her talk with a personal account of racist violence from her teenage years, describing an incident when she and a group of friends were out on the Mall in Washington and were physically attacked by police without provocation. She declared that racist attacks in the USA have “been happening for hundreds of years, but sadly many of us have turned a deaf ear, a blind eye, or have simply shut our mouths in the face of brutal injustice.” She concluded, “I just want to encourage you all as my sisters, to find ways of fighting injustice in your own community, in your own place of influence…. I pray that we will reach across the aisle. I pray that we will reach across socioeconomic status. I pray that we will reach across racial lines…. I pray that we will overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony.”
Cindy Jacobs’s closing remarks at the conference exhorted women to action. “I want to create a fire in you today to fight injustice, to fight racism, to fight poverty.” She talked about growing up as a white girl in Texas in the 1950s and 60s. “Do you know there were cities here, they were called sundowner cities—if you were Black, you knew you had to be out of that city before the sun set…. And yes, we have come a ways, but we still have a ways to go.” She cited the heroic African American journalist Ida B. Wells as a role model—“an incredible figure in U.S. history”—and lamented that she was not taught about Wells in school. This is not radical anti-racism, certainly, but it’s also a far cry from “All Lives Matter” or right-wing diatribes about Critical Race Theory (which you can also find from some New Apostolics).
|Paula White, a NAR apostle and
Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor
The politics of Deborahs United 2020 should be seen in the context of larger developments in the Christian right. In terms of both gender and race, NAR as a whole and Generals International in particular contrast sharply with the earlier wave of theocratic politics centered on Christian Reconstructionism. Although Reconstructionists were among those who taught the New Apostolics to seek “dominion” over all social spheres, as a movement Reconstructionism has always been much more male dominated and all or nearly all white. Reconstructionists have been central to the rise of a “biblical patriarchy” movement, which declares that a woman’s main religious duty is “submission” to her husband, and some Reconstructionists rationalized Black slavery and embraced neo-Confederate politics.
On gender issues New Apostolic Reformation aligns much more closely with Christian right organizations such as Concerned Women for America, founded in 1978, which rejects feminism in favor of “traditional family values” but has often talked about encouraging women to think for themselves and make their own decisions, and which has offered a model of women as skilled professionals and public leaders. On race, NAR’s vision of unity echoes the 1994 founding of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, which brought together previously separate white and Black church bodies and pledged to “work against all forms of personal and institutional racism.” (A year later the Southern Baptist Convention, the United States’ largest evangelical denomination, publicly apologized for its complicity in slavery and Jim Crow and pledged itself to eradicate racism.)
At the same time, New Apostolic Reformation’s relative inclusiveness on gender and race clashes with its transphobia, homophobia, denial of reproductive rights, and support for Donald Trump. The Cindy Jacobs who praises Ida B. Wells and urges women not to be victims also urges state governments to “protect God-given gender identity and the unborn” and says that Trump—who repudiates everything that Ida B. Wells stood for—“will be seated and mantled with the power of God.” And all of these elements must be seen in the context of NAR’s theocratic vision, the drive to impose its interpretation of biblical law on society through spiritual warfare and the purging of “demonic” forces. Far from moderating NAR’s politics, these tensions highlight the far right’s capacity to harness liberatory impulses toward authoritarian and supremacist goals.
It’s too easy to write off these tensions as a matter of hypocrisy, of far rightists using pretty words to hide some of their ugly beliefs. Keep in mind that Deborahs United isn’t a public relations event. Its intended audience is committed New Apostolics, and its calls to fight injustice are part of the process of training and mobilizing the movement’s rank and file. While the contradictions might seem obvious to outsiders, many New Apostolics are sincere in their desire to combat injustice, unite all races, and empower women (or more accurately some cisgender, heterosexual women), and their belief that these aims are integrally tied to establishing God’s Kingdom on Earth—just as many neoliberal feminists are sincere in claiming that (some) women’s individual advancement in the capitalist marketplace is the way to overcome sexism. If we want to figure out how Trump was able to increase his support among white women, African Americans, and Latinx voters between 2016 and 2020, and if we want to understand the U.S. far right’s potential to mobilize mass support that isn’t white and male, the New Apostolic Reformation movement would be a good place to look.
Cindy Jacobs: Still image captured from Facebook video, July 2020.
Edwina Findley: By Benjo Arwas, 2014 (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons.
Paula White holding a Bible: By Kamau360 on assignment for Paula White Ministries, 13 December 2011 (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.
Religious-right activist David Barton is currently traveling the country as part of the Faith Wins “American Restoration Tour,” spreading his right-wing pseudo-history in churches in an effort to mobilize conservative Christians heading into the 2022 midterm elections.
On Monday, Barton spoke at Mountain View Baptist Church in Cowpens, South Carolina, where he claimed that the Bible instructs religious leaders to take responsibility for recruiting candidates to run for office.
“If you go to Exodus 18:21, the Bible is very clear,” Barton said. “The Bible says, ‘Provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.’ OK, guys, let’s have elections. Let’s have local, county, state, and federal elections.”
“But how do you get those [candidates]?” Barton asked. “Who does that providing? It’s interesting: the spiritual leader. Moses says—and he repeats this in Deuteronomy 1 and Deuteronomy 16—he says, ‘I went and recruited from among you good people, and I brought them before you and set them before you, and you chose from among those good people.’ In other words, ‘I recruited candidates for office, and then you elected the candidate you wanted to office.’ So what happens is there’s a recruiting effort going on in the background. Moses is the one who did it.”
As we have noted before, Barton intentionally misrepresents this passage from the Bible in order to promote his own right-wing political agenda.
In Exodus 18, after having led the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to settle all the disputes that arose, and so his father-in-law, Jethro, urged him to select judges who would hear the simple cases while reserving for Moses the difficult ones and thus easing his burden. Here’s the passage from the New International Version:
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
According to Exodus, it was Moses who picked which judges to place in charge, which is pretty much the exact opposite of an election. Nobody got to vote on any of these judges. But in an effort to promote his Christian nationalist political agenda, Barton regularly misrepresents the passage when speaking to his Christian audiences.
The post David Barton Says the Bible Instructs Religious Leaders to Recruit Political Candidates for Office appeared first on Right Wing Watch.
Musician-politician Sean Feucht sponsored a series of events in Washington, D.C. over the 9/11 weekend that combined high-energy worship with dominionist theology and Christian nationalist politics.
In addition to a video address from former President Donald Trump, Feucht’s events featured personal appearances by Sen. Josh Hawley, R.-Mo., radio host and so-called Stop the Steal activist Eric Metaxas, New Apostolic Reformation leader Ché Ahn, and California pastor-politician Rob McCoy, a close ally of Christian nationalist political operative David Lane.
During much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Feucht has held large outdoor worship rallies around the country in what he says is an attempt to spark spiritual revival, which dominionist leaders say is a precursor to societal “transformation.” These “Let Us Worship” rallies began as a protest of pandemic-related restrictions on church gatherings.
Hawley, who has appeared with Feucht previously, spoke at Sunday evening’s event in the nation’s capital and said he brought his kids “to see what a move of God looks like.” Hawley told the crowd that “We serve a king who is on the throne, and his kingdom is ever advancing,” before praying that God would “release the greatest revival in American history.” He and Feucht prayed that the U.S. Supreme Court will use an upcoming case to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Ahn, a leader in the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation and head of Harvest International Ministries based in Pasadena, California, spoke at Feucht’s events on Saturday and Sunday. He predicted that “the greatest revival in the history of the church” would be “birthed out of ’Let Us Worship.’” On Jan. 5, one day before the Capitol insurrection, Ahn appeared at a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., where he told the crowd that Trump would stay in power and that they would “rule and reign through President Trump and under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Ahn actively promoted gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder in the failed attempt to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose pandemic-related restrictions on church gatherings were rolled back after Ahn took the issue to court. At Saturday’s rally, Ahn declared, “We are now in the battle for the soul of this nation,” adding, “Socialism, Marxism, is coming.” He said pastors will play an important role in leading resistance, because “we believe there is a higher authority than Stalin or Newsom or President Biden.”
“There is a higher authority,” Ahn said. “Jesus is Lord over the nations.”
At the Saturday evening rally, religious-right author and pundit Eric Metaxas repeatedly promoted Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen and that it was a “conspiracy theory” that President Joe Biden was elected. He cited Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address calling for a “new birth of freedom” in the U.S. after the Civil War. Metaxas said those words had been “prophetic” and apply to the revival stirring in the country today.
Metaxas told Feucht’s followers that God is the “only hope” of defeating the country’s enemies:
The way to honor those who died in the cause of freedom … we cannot honor them unless we deal with why they were killed. We have to stand up for freedom now, and we have to stand against the enemies of the freedom now. … We today have to stand and fight for freedom. And the enemies of freedom, whether they are atheists in the Communist Party in China or whether they are radical Islamists who hate us or the Taliban or people in this country who have bought into a woke Marxist ideology that is fundamentally anti-American, that will hurt the poor, and that is against the God who gave us the freedom that we have.
California pastor-politician Rob McCoy, who has falsely claimed that the election was “stolen” from Trump, also spoke Saturday evening, exhorting, “Church, awaken! It is time to take back the country and the world!”
Jay Koopman, an associate pastor at Ahn’s church, interrupted Sunday’s worship event with a call for people in the crowd who struggle with same-sex attraction to raise their hands so that people near them could surround and pray for them to be “set free.” Koopman also led an altar call, and Ahn made a pitch for money to support plans for ”Let Us Worship” events around the country next year that they hope will draw 20,000 to 30,000 people each.
Excerpts from the Sept. 11, 2021 “Let Us Worship” rally at which former President Donald Trump’s video was also shown:
Excerpts from Sen. Josh Hawley’s appearance at the Sept. 12 “Let Us Worship” rally:
The post Dominionism and Christian Nationalism Returned to National Mall at ‘Let Us Worship’ Rallies appeared first on Right Wing Watch.
For nearly 70 years, and even in this moment of surging Christian nationalism, Democrats and Republicans have set aside their differences once a year to join in an event for fellowship and reconciliation: The National Prayer Breakfast.
The breakfast and the secretive religious group behind the scenes, popularly known as The Family, have been the subject of scandal over the years. Most notably, journalist Jeff Sharlet exposed the group’s theocratic, anti-labor origins, and revealed The Family’s role in Ugandan capital punishment legislation for gay people. More recently, the FBI caught Russian operatives using the breakfast to pursue back-channel connections with U.S. politicians.
But despite its dealings with international powers, The Family still enjoys the invisibility to which it attributes its influence. We’ve never had a full accounting of who works for The Family or even just who gets to attend the National Prayer Breakfast, let alone who decides. Until now.
Earlier this year, The Young Turks obtained a list of the 4465 people invited to the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast. The document identifies guest connections to The Family and names virtually everyone who works for The Family, as well as numerous volunteers and allies. It also identifies which Family insiders submitted each invitee’s name.
Radical right-wing pastor Greg Locke appeared on the “Voice of Healing” radio program last week, where he insisted that he must use his Sunday services to preach about politics because the Democrats are trying to impose “tyranny” and take away the rights of Christians. The host of the program, a self-proclaimed “apostle” named Michael Petro, readily agreed, declaring that what the United States needs now is “a violent church.”
Locke and Petro kicked off the conversation by agreeing that the 2020 presidential election was incontrovertibly stolen from former President Donald Trump.
“I’ll go to my grave believing [the election was illegitimate],” Locke said. “Everybody else is starting to realize it, but the left wants to cover it up. … The forensic science proved that the man won by a landslide. Trump won, and Biden’s just as fraudulent today as he ever has been. I tell people that, and people can’t stand that. It’s got us a lot of vitriolic push back, but it’s the facts. God’s never in his word one time even remotely told me to submit to something that I know to be deception. Never. So, people [are] like, ‘Just accept it.’ No, I can’t accept it. Because God doesn’t want me to accept nonsense and lies. We know what happened, and it was nefarious.”
“People have to be put in jail,” replied Petro. “People have to be held to an account now because, to me, it really was a treasonous act.”
“Here’s the problem they don’t understand,” Locke said. “If we don’t call out corrupt politics, we’re not going to have a platform from which to preach about Jesus Christ. They’re gonna take it away. … If we don’t push back, then I think people are beginning to realize, ‘Wow, we are gonna fall to tyranny.’”
“I’m getting to preach at some of the largest political gatherings on the planet, and I get to talk about Jesus,” Locke bragged. “So, God’s using politics as a platform for his glory.”
“We’ve crossed a line,” Petro agreed. “There’s no going back. We’ve got to get in the fight now because the Democratic Party just isn’t going to tolerate Christianity at all at this point. It’s either sink or swim, and I believe that the Lord is calling a violent church out.”