Nostalgia for an idealized American past combined with a toxic fear of the future, Christian nationalists say the upcoming midterm and 2024 presidential elections are battles between God and Satan in which the Democrats are allied with the forces of evil, according to a recent report by the ‘University of California at Berkeley.
The angst fueling the movement has also propelled long-term campaigns culminating in recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings allowing prayer at public school football games, increasing federal funding for education nun and annulling Roe vs. Wade.
“For those who feel locked in an existential struggle with demonic forces, democracy can seem like a second-tier problem,” said Berkeley political scientist Paul Pierson. the article which features commentary and research from many scholars. “They may feel quite justified in using every lever of political power available.”
The report cited Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s comments to make its point. At the August Conservative Political Action Conference, Patrick claimed the nation’s Christian heritage was in jeopardy and that conservative support for gun rights and opposition to LGBTQ rights and immigration were part of a much larger spiritual struggle.
“We have to be ready for the fight because we are no longer in a fight of Republicans and Democrats of old. We are in a fight of light and dark. We are in a battle of powers and principalities,” he said.
This far-right mythology stems from a yearning for an American past in which Christianity dominated the culture, said Berkeley historian Ronit Stahl.
“The fiction some people are trying to construct is that there is a singular conservative Christianity that peaked in the past that can be salvaged now and used to shape a new American society.”
“The fiction some people are trying to construct is that there is a singular conservative Christianity that peaked in the past that can be salvaged now and used to shape a new American society,” she explained. “Some people think we should go back to the 1950s or the 1790s. But those are very clearly times when racial inequality and racial hierarchies are enshrined in law.
This Christian nationalist fiction is steeped in a sense of hopelessness fueled by a panic caused by decades of declining church attendance, religious affiliation and the percentage of white people in the US population, the scholars explained.
These social changes The political and religious landscape has caused an existential crisis among right-wing Christians, said Berkeley sociologist Claude Fischer.
“There is a ‘moral panic’ on the right. Social conservatives – distinct from libertarian conservatives – see American society as collapsing, collapsing mainly because traditional organized religion is collapsing, and it is collapsing because of the onslaught of “secular forces” in popular culture, universities, corporations technology, media, government, etc.
One of the results is belligerent political action,” Fischer said. “The restless response of conservative legal figures to religious leanings illustrates what is also happening in school boards, state legislatures and even on the streets: the right is aggressively trying to push back the cultural tide to the left.”
But Christian nationalists claim they are merely defending themselves against persecution, the report adds. “Despite their outsized political influence, they see themselves as victimized victims. Their defenses become more vocal: they oppose the teaching of critical viewpoints on the racial history of the United States in schools. They are more vulnerable to QAnon and other conspiracy theories. They are more likely to rally for right-wing demagogues who claim the liberals are staging a Christmas attack or that voter fraud cost former President Donald J. Trump the 2020 election.”
Fischer added that “this moral panic warrants strenuous efforts to defend religion in court and thus probably save the nation.”
Race is embedded in the fear and tactics of the Christian nationalist movement, said David Hollinger, historian of American religion at Berkeley.
The split of American denominations over slavery during the 18th and 19th centuries eventually gave way to churches divided over the civil rights movement and desegregation, he said. “Evangelicalism created a refuge for white people who wanted to be considered Christians without having to accept what ecumenical leaders said were the social obligations demanded by the gospel, especially the imperative to extend civil equality to the people who are not white.”
Its insistence that Christianity become the nation’s official religion makes Christian nationalism a fundamentally undemocratic movement, another scholar noted.
“In a diverse society like the United States, a democratic government must be for everything the people,” said Sarah Song, a law and political science professor at Berkeley. “If democracy is meant to represent the interests of all the governed, including people of different religious faiths and people with no religious affiliation, the political rise of Christian nationalism and the successful implementation of certain laws…are corrosive to democracy “,
UC Berkeley report quoted the January 6 insurrection in the United States Capitol as a prime example of the threat posed to social political liberty by Christian nationalism: far from the humility, compassion and forgiveness that are at the heart of the teachings of the Gospels .
Fischer added that the attack “reinforces the growing view that organized religion is just reactionary ideology in clothes.”
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