By Jennifer Rubin | March 19, 2023
WN: In response to the article highlighted below, I quote Scripture (Philippians 2) for White Evangelical Nationalists, in hopes that just maybe the Stranger in their midst–Jesus–just might be taken seriously, just might be a stopper:
4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:
6Who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
7but emptied Himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross.
Violence has always been at the center of White Christian nationalism: the vow to impose order on those perceived as un-American, if need be with force, either by the police or by wielding a gun themselves. And while the absolute right to gun ownership has been a core belief on the American Right since at least the Reagan years, the allegiance of today’s GOP to guns has never been so brazen or flamboyant. The AR-15—the gun with which a disproportionate number of mass shootings in the US are committed—has become a central part of White Christian nationalist iconography, as well as a stark expression of the violent ideology behind it. On January 6, 2021 a banner with the slogan “God Guns and Guts Made in America, Let’s Keep all Three,” was carried by insurrectionists storming the Capitol.Yet despite all this, Republicans aren’t shy about their reverence for the AR-15. In fact, members of Congress, like Representatives Ana Paulina Luna (R-FL) and George Santos (R-NY), have recently taken to wearing AR-15 lapel pins on the House floor. It was Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA), however, who made the cruelty behind this trend crystal clear for anyone who might have been foolish enough to think he wasn’t aware of the symbolism:
Violence has always been at the center of White Christian nationalism: the vow to impose order on those perceived as un-American, if need be with force, either by the police or by wielding a gun themselves.
“I’m Congressman Andrew Clyde for Georgia’s 9th District. I hear that this little pin I’ve been giving out on the House floor has been triggering some of my Democrat colleagues. I give it out to remind people of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and how important it is in preserving our liberties. If I missed you on the House floor, please stop by my office in Cannon, I have plenty more to give out.”
These words are a slap in the face to every single American whose loved ones have died by one of these handheld killing machines, as Bradley Onishi accurately called them here on RD. Some Republicans have been posing with AR-15s in their Christmas cards, with their underage kids holding the lethal weapons, smiling. The fascist revels in the fear he instills in his opponents; in those he has singled out for destruction. The jackboot longs for the cathartic act of violence, bathes in the glow of his uniform—be it brown shirts, white robes or khaki shorts—and the fear it instills in those he passes by.
The core principle was that a strong spirit required a strong body as well—a principle that made its way to the US and was fused with the frontier spirit and Manifest Destiny, as historian Peter Manseau explains:
“All of this might seem far removed from holiday cards, until one recalls that it is Jesus himself who has been proposed as the exemplar of the ‘manly and virile’ faith found at the root of Christmas trees festooned with ammunition.”The fascist revels in the fear he instills in his opponents; in those he has singled out for destruction.From Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, guns have been associated with both strength in body and faith, bound together by the belief of the muscular Christian, that violence and brutality “create nobility.” This is the historical and philosophical framework that the Right’s gun obsession operates in. It’s more than just mere trolling; violence and faith have become intertwined, with the potential for executing violence a necessity for the virtuous Christian.
. . . Trump “used us to win the White House” and then turned Christians into cult members “glorifying Donald Trump like he was an idol.”–Mike Evans
It only stands to reason that a man who felt God’s hand on his selection to serve alongside Donald Trump—the Lord working in mysterious ways and all—now feels called to help America heal from Trump’s presidency. It’s why Pence titled his memoir, which describes his split with Trump over the January 6 insurrection, So Help Me God. It’s why, as he travels the country preparing a presidential bid, he speaks to themes of redemption and reconciliation. It’s why he has spent the early days of the invisible primary courting evangelical Christian activists. And it’s why, for one of the first major speeches of his unofficial 2024 campaign, he came to Hillsdale, offering repeated references to scripture while speaking about the role of religion in public life.After Pence sacrificed so much of himself to stand loyally behind Trump, this is how the former president has repaid him—by conditioning Christians to expect an expression of their faith so pugilistic that Pence could not hope to pass muster.Piety aside, raw political calculation was at work. Trump’s relationship with the evangelical movement—once seemingly shatterproof, then shaky after his violent departure from the White House—is now in pieces, thanks to his social-media tirade last fall blaming pro-lifers for the Republicans’ lackluster midterm performance. Because of his intimate, longtime ties to the religious right, Pence understands the extent of the damage. He is close personal friends with the organizational leaders who have fumed about it; he knows that the former president has refused to make any sort of peace offering to the anti-abortion community and is now effectively estranged from its most influential leaders.
According to people who have spoken with Pence, he believes that this erosion of support among evangelicals represents Trump’s greatest vulnerability in the upcoming primary—and his own greatest opportunity to make a play for the GOP nomination.
But he isn’t the only one.
. . . Republicans are aware of Trump’s emerging weakness and are preparing to make a play for conservative Christian voters. Some of these efforts will be more sincere—more rooted in a shared belief system—than others. What unites them is a common recognition that, for the first time since he secured the GOP nomination in 2016, Trump has a serious problem with a crucial bloc of his coalition.
…It’s one of the defining political statistics of the current political era: Trump carried 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016, according to exit polling, and performed similarly in 2020. But the real measure of his grip on this demographic was seen during his four years in office: Even amid dramatic dips in his popularity and approval rating, white evangelicals were consistently Trump’s most loyal supporters, sticking by him at rates that far exceeded those of other parts of his political coalition. Because Trump secured signature victories for conservative Christians—most notably, appointing the three Supreme Court justices who, last year, helped overturn Roe v. Wade—there was reason to expect that loyalty to carry over into his run for the presidency in 2024.
It felt like betrayal. Trump’s evangelical allies had stood dutifully behind him for four years, excusing all manner of transgressions and refusing countless opportunities to cast him off. Some had even convinced themselves that he had become a believer—if not an actual believer in Christ, despite those prayer-circle photo ops in the Oval Office, then a believer in the anti-abortion cause after previously having described himself as “very pro-choice.” Now the illusion was gone. In text messages, emails, and conference calls, some of the country’s most active social conservatives began expressing a willingness to support an alternative to Trump in 2024.
…Before long, evangelical leaders were publicly airing their long-held private complaints about Trump. Mike Evans, an original member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, told The Washington Post that Trump “used us to win the White House” and then turned Christians into cult members “glorifying Donald Trump like he was an idol.” David Lane, a veteran evangelical organizer whose email blasts reach many thousands of pastors and church leaders, wrote that Trump’s “vision of making America as a nation great again has been put on the sidelines, while the mission and the message are now subordinate to personal grievances and self-importance.” Addressing a group of Christian lawmakers after the election, James Robison, a well-known televangelist who also advised Trump, compared him to a “little elementary schoolchild.” Everett Piper, the former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, reacted to the midterms by writing in The Washington Times, “The take-home of this past week is simple: Donald Trump has to go. If he’s our nominee in 2024, we will get destroyed.”
It’s one of the defining political statistics of the current political era: Trump carried 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016, according to exit polling, and performed similarly in 2020.
If he does run for president, this will be what Pence is selling to evangelicals: humility instead of hubris, decency instead of denigration.3 The former vice president pledged to defend traditional Judeo-Christian values—even suggesting that he would re-litigate the fight over same-sex marriage, a matter settled by courts of law and public opinion. But, Pence said, unlike certain other Republicans, he would do so with a graciousness that kept the country intact. This, he reminded the audience, had always been his calling card. As far back as his days in conservative talk radio, Pence said, he was known as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”
It’s more than just mere trolling; violence and faith have become intertwined, with the potential for executing violence a necessity for the virtuous Christian.Well, there is a straightforward reason for the freak-out, and an explanation for why former president Donald Trump developed such a close bond with white Christian nationalists.as white, non-Hispanic and Christian of any kind) as a proportion of the population continues unabated,” writes Robert P. Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute. “As recently as 2008, when our first Black president was elected, the U.S. was a majority (54%) white Christian country.” By 2014 the number had dropped to 47 percent, and in 2022 it stood at 42 percent.
The reality is that the convergence of the declining population of White Christians with the rise of Trump has been bad for both evangelicalism and American politics.The group that has declined the most is at the core of the MAGA movement, the group most devoted to Christian nationalism.If Christian evangelicals really want to slow their decline, they might consider getting out of the unpopular political ideas market (e.g., abortion bans) and stressing values that could win back alienated young people (e.g., reverence for conserving the planet, ministering to the poor and the weak). That might put more seats in the pews, although it likely wouldn’t do much for the aging, mostly White, reactionary GOP.
But the demographic clock cannot be turned back.
Please click on: Why white Christian nationalists are in such a panic
- Start with Blacks; then move on to members of the LGBTQ+ communities; those desperate enough to seek abortions; then the poor, destitute, and needy as in Matthew 25:
34Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, 36I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
- To some of what is described in the article, I respond:
Duh! It took you 8 years to see that “. . . Trump ‘used us to win the White House’ and then turned Christians into cult members ‘glorifying Donald Trump like he was an idol.’ ” The clickable illustration by Brian Reedy to the left captures that.
- Wow! It has also taken Pence fully 8 years to get this about Trump!