The potential soldiers of a second Trump reign| Trending Viral hub

“Bad Faith: Christian Nationalism’s War on Democracy” is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time. It is a documentary that explores the rise of Christian nationalism, and much of what it shows, about the mutation of the Christian right into a movement that has openly abandoned any allegiance to democracy, has been covered in the media in recent years. years. But the film’s directors, Stephen Ujlajki and Christopher Jacob Jones, delve into the roots of this movement, and what’s new and disturbing is how the current presidential race changes everything. Seen in the context of the looming possibility of Donald Trump’s re-election (a scenario that most liberals I know believe unlikely; I think they may be seriously deluded), the rise of Christian nationalism takes on a whole new meaning.

In 2017, Trump, once he took the reins of power, found himself constrained by the other branches of government and the rule of law. He did not become the explicitly and committedly anti-democratic figure he is now until the 2020 election, when his declaration that he was actually the winner and that Joe Biden had stolen the election became the new cornerstone of his ideology. Meanwhile, Trump has been preparing to rule the United States as an authoritarian leader, and that fits perfectly with the goals of Christian nationalism, a movement that is built around the dream of transforming the United States into a theocracy: a Christian-ruled nation. . by a power greater than the Constitution, that is, by the will of God, as interpreted by his white Christian followers.

The Christian nationalist movement was the driving force behind the January 6 insurrection, and what we saw there was a preview of its ideals and methods: a frothing hostility toward the United States government, coupled with a willingness to use violence. Russell Moore, editor of Christianity Today, talks about how new wave Christianity is “a church growth movement, but for angry people. For some, a sense of theatrical anger is like a deep conviction.” Yet even on January 6, these “rebels,” engaging in their own form of action-movie cosplay, were, like Trump himself, at least somewhat limited. What “Bad Faith” captures is that Christian nationalists now have the potential to be the shock troops in a second, much more threatening Trump presidency.

The alliance between Trump and Christian nationalism runs deep. Progressives tend to focus, to the point of obsession, on the hypocrisy of allyship: the idea that men and women who are supposedly dedicated to the teachings of Jesus Christ could unite behind a sinner and lawbreaker like Trump, who seems the embodiment of everything they should oppose. The documentary completes its old justification: that Trump is seen as a modern version of King Cyrus, a pagan whom God used as a tool to help people. According to this mode of opportunistic logic, Trump does not need to be a pious Christian; his very recklessness makes him part of a grander design. Christian nationalists see Trump the same way his disaffected base of nihilistic working-class supporters have always seen him: as some kind of sacred wrecking ball.

But of course, that’s just the rationalization. “Bad Faith” captures the complexity with which Trump, like some Republicans before him, has struck a deal with the Christian right that benefits both parties. In exchange for his support in 2016, he agreed to support a slate of judges appointed to his liking and side with him on abortion. Trump’s victory in 2016, like Reagan’s in 1980, was sealed by the support of the Christian right. But what he promises them this time is the very destruction of the American system they have long sought.

The most chilling aspect of “Bad Faith” is that, by tracing the roots of the Christian right, the film highlights how the dream of theocracy has been the underlying motivation of the movement almost from the beginning. In 1980, when the so-called Moral Majority was born, its leader, Jerry Falwell, captured all the attention. (A corrupt quirk of the movement is that when televangelists like Falwell, Pat Robertson, and later Joel Osteen became rich and famous, their wealth was presented as evidence that God had chosen them to lead.) But Falwell, despite the headlines he grabbed, was not the visionary organizer of the Moral Majority.

That was Paul Weyrich, the conservative religious activist who founded the enormously influential Council for National Policy, which spearheaded the structural fusion of Christianity and right-wing politics. He was the one who went to Falwell and Robertson and collated their lists of supporters into a Christian political machine that could turn out to be greater than the sum of its parts. The machine encompassed a network of 72,000 preachers, employed sophisticated microtargeting methods, and was driven to transform evangelical Christianity into a fundamentally political movement. The Republican Party became “God’s own party” and Reagan’s election was the first victory for evangelicals. We see a clip of Reagan saying how he plans to “make America great again,” which is the tip of the iceberg of how much Trump’s playbook gave him.

Weyrich was something of a Steve Bannon figure, the behind-the-scenes ideological bomb-thrower. He wrote a manifesto calling for the destruction of the government, with tactics including guerrilla warfare. From the beginning, he stoked the idea of ​​a culture war, and perhaps a civil war, for what would be the future of the United States, with the battle cry echoing in his manifesto (“Our strategy will be to bleed this culture dry.” , “Make no mistake: we are talking about Christianizing America,” “We will weaken and destroy existing institutions”). But 15 years ago, all that sounded like wild delusion. It is now the vanguard of the dominant Republican Party.

The documentary interviews Randall Ballmer, the Ivy League historian of American religion who wrote the book “Bad Faith,” and makes a fascinating comment: There is a mythology that the Christian right was first galvanized, in 1973. , because of Roe v Wade… but that, in fact, is not true. Jerry Falwell did not deliver his first anti-abortion sermon until 1978. According to Ballmer, the moment that galvanized the Christian right was a 1971 lower court ruling on school desegregation that held that any institution that engages in discrimination or segregation Racial is not, by definition, a charitable institution and therefore has no right to be tax exempt.

This had an incendiary effect. Churches like Jerry Falwell’s were not integrated and did not want to be; however, they also wanted their tax-exempt status. It was this law that sparked the anti-government underpinnings of the Christian right, just as the sieges of Ruby Ridge and Waco became the seeds of the far right. And it sealed the notion that Christian nationalism and white nationalism were united, a union that dated back to the historical fusion of the two in the Ku Klux Klan brand of Christian terrorism.

“Bad Faith” powerfully demonstrates that Christian nationalism is based on a lie: the motto that the United States was originally established as a “Christian nation.” It is true that the Founders were inspired by the moral traditions of Judeo-Christian culture. However, the freedom of religion contained in the First Amendment was established precisely as protection against religious tyranny. At the time, it was a radical idea: that people would determine how (and which God) they wanted to worship. In truth, Christian nationalism undermines not only the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution but also the very concept of free will that is at the heart of Christian theology. You cannot choose to be a follower of Christ if that belief is imposed on you.

However, that is the society that Christian nationalists want. According to the film, those who are members of or sympathize with this movement make up almost a third of all Americans. If that’s true, it’s a discouraging figure. However, although Christian nationalists speak like true believers, they represent a politics of money and corruption. It was in the Reagan era that Paul Weyrich first struck a deal with oil and gas billionaires like the Koch brothers. In exchange for his support, his movement would advocate for the elimination of corporate taxes and regulations. That fits neatly into Trump’s agenda, which has always been a mix of corporate tax breaks, demagogic agitation and deregulation. If Christian nationalists prove instrumental in returning Trump to power, he will owe them a lot. How convenient that their objectives are now perfectly synchronized: treating democracy itself as the threat that must be controlled and destroyed. What we’re seeing is a deal with the devil, although in this case it’s hard to say whether the more dangerous entity is Trump himself or the fire-breathing Christian totalitarianism he’s in bed with.

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