Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Christian nationalism is on the rise in some GOP campaigns

PITTSBURGH ( Associated Press) — The victory party took on the spirit of an evangelical worship service after Doug Mastriano won Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial primary this month. As a Christian singer led the crowd in song, some raised their hands to heaven in praise.

Maastriano begins his comment by invoking Scripture: “God uses fools to mislead the wise.” He claimed that the liberties of the people of Pennsylvania would be “taken away” if his Democratic opponent wins in November, and elects to be religious with another biblical reference: “Let us celebrate this day to serve the Lord.” Choose.”

A state senator and retired army colonel, Maastriano has not only made faith central to his personal story, but has woven conservative Christian beliefs and symbols into the campaign – becoming the most prominent example of an election cycle that some observers call Christian nationalism. It’s called a jump. among Republican candidates.

Maastriano – who has ignored repeated requests for comment from the Associated Press through his campaign last week – has in the past rejected the label “Christian nationalist”. In fact, very few if any prime candidates use labels. Some say this is a disgrace and insist that everyone has a right to draw on their beliefs and values ​​to try to influence public policy.

But scholars generally define Christian nationalism as going beyond policy debate and a fusion of American and Christian values, symbols, and identity.

Christian nationalism, they say, is often accompanied by a belief that God has assigned America, like biblical Israel, to a special role in history, and that its obedience will result in divine blessing or judgment.

This often overlaps with the conservative Christian political agenda, which includes opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights. Researchers say Christian nationalism is also often associated with distrust of immigrants and Muslims. Many Christian nationalists view former President Donald Trump as a champion, despite his crude sexual vanity and lack of public piety.

Candidates viewed as Christian nationalists have had mixed success in this year’s Republican primary, pitting hardline conservatives against opponents generally on the even more right.

Some high-profile candidates, such as US Rep. Madison Cawthorne and an Idaho gubernatorial hopeful, Lt. Gov. Janice was defeated by McGatchin. The former spoke of the need for “spiritual fighting” and “strong, god-fearing patriots” on Capitol Hill. The latter was photographed holding a gun and a Bible and said, “God tells us to take up the sword and fight, and Christ will reign in the state of Idaho.”

Some of Idaho’s Republican primaries for legislature were won by candidates preaching Christian values ​​or sharing preferences with Christian nationalists, such as sports bans for transgender athletes. U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., who uses biblical phrases to “be a janitor on the wall” against those seeking to “destroy our faith,” easily won her primary.

Guardians of Christian nationalism consider Maastriano’s victory – in a way, the highest-profile victory ever for the movement, with 44% in a crowded field despite opposition to the establishment of the State Party.

Maastriano has called the separation of church and state a “myth”.

Following his victory, the comments section of his campaign Facebook page experienced a revival tentacle:

“praise Jesus!” “God is smiling at us and sending his blessings.” “Thank you Father God!!”

Maastriano “has a unique case where he actually highlights this apocalyptic idea in his speeches” where his supporters and reasons are on the side of God, Indiana University-Purdue University Professor of Sociology at Indianapolis and co-author of “Taking America Back.” -said author Andrew Whitehead. To God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.”

“It’s really good and bad,” he continued. “There is no room for compromise, so it is a threat to democracy.”

In the book, Whitehead and co-author Samuel Perry measure rates of Christian nationalism by drawing on a 2017 Baylor University survey. It took opinion on America’s role in God’s plan and whether America should be declared a Christian nation, advancing biblical values, and allowing school prayer and religious performances in public places.

His research found that one in five Americans align with many of those views. That’s down from nearly one in four a decade ago, just as Americans have become less religious overall. But Whitehead said Christian nationalists, who outnumber Republicans, can be expected to maintain their enthusiasm.

Christian nationalism is emerging alongside and in some cases overlapping with other right-wing movements, such as the conspiratorial QAnon, white supremacy, and denial over COVID-19 and the 2020 election. Christian prayers and symbols were prominently displayed in and around the US Capitol during January 6, 2021.

Maastriano, who sought to overturn Pennsylvania’s vote for Joe Biden in 2020, attended the rally before the attack and rented buses to bring in others. Although he says he left when things turned violent, videos showed him passing “barricades and breaking police lines”, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee report.

Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, said the January 6 performance was not surprising.

According to a recent survey by the Institute, white evangelical Christians were among the strongest proponents of the claim that God saw America as a “promised land” for European Christians. Those who supported that idea were more likely to agree that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save our country.”

“To my mind, white Christian nationalism is really a threat,” Jones said.

Conservative Christian themes are also playing a role in local elections, including in blue states, although many supporters say they see this not as a form of nationalism but as an endorsement of their religious freedoms and values.

Tim Thompson, pastor of 412 Church in Murrieta, California, who hosts a YouTube channel with more than 9,600 subscribers and envisions a conservative future for the state, recently called for “taking back our school boards” and A Political Action Committee has been started with the aim of empowering the parents on the curriculum. ,

“We don’t want teachers or any other adults to talk to our kids about sex,” Thompson said. “We do not want teachers to classify our children as harassed or harassed. These are not political issues. Those are moral and biblical issues.”

Judeo-Christian values ​​are the foundation of America, he argued.

“People are afraid to speak up for these values ​​because they fear the Left will label them ‘racists’ or ‘Christian nationalists’,” Thompson said. “I don’t care about those labels, because my wife, kids, church and community know who I am.”

Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino Hills, California, has also sought to influence local elections. While he does not allow candidates to campaign in the church, he often offers support as a way of signaling to his flock that are “pro-family, pro-life and pro-independence”.

But when he hears the words “Christian nationalism”, “hair grows on my neck”. And he was embarrassed to see the Christian imagery during the January 6 riots: “It was a sad day, to see those sacred symbols and words crumble like this.”

Yet while he believes the founders created a secular nation, Hibbs maintains that every Christian should have equal say.

Elizabeth Newman, chief strategy officer at Moonshot, a tech company aimed at combating violent extremism, propaganda and other pitfalls online, said Christian nationalism began to pick up steam around 2015 amid growing narratives of alleged persecution of Christians.

Newman, who served in the George W. Bush and Trump administrations and grew up in an evangelical Christian household, called the movement “heretical and pagan” and an “apocalyptic vision[that]very often leads to violence.” He said that many pastors are pushing against it.

“I see Christian nationalism as the gasping, dying breath of the older generation in America, who fear that Christians are being replaced,” she said.


Bharat reported from Los Angeles.


Associated Press religion coverage is supported through Associated Press’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. Associated Press is solely responsible for this content.

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