It’s simply starting to dawn on people how much Donald Trump’s presidency relies on religious help. All of the scandals surrounding Trump have introduced intense consideration to the 81 % help he acquired from evangelical Christians within the 2016 election. New research by Andrew Whitehead, meanwhile, explicates such help within the context of Christian nationalism, and historian John Fea has revealed an necessary new e-book, “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”
But the power of the presidency isn’t the one means Christian nationalism is advancing its agenda in America at the moment. As researcher Frederick Clarkson reported at Faith Dispatches, a coalition of Christian right groups — including the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, Wallbuilders, the Nationwide Legal Basis and others — have organized a major legislative initiative referred to as “Project Blitz.” Its aim is to cross an outwardly numerous however internally cohesive package deal of Christian-right payments at the state degree, whose cumulative influence can be immense.
This story initially appeared in Salon
The agenda underlying these payments just isn’t merely about Christian nationalism, a term that describes an Previous Testament-based worldview fusing Christian and American identities, and meant to sharpen the divide between those that belong to these teams and those that are excluded. It’s also finally “dominionist,” which means that it doubles down on the traditionally false notion of America as a “Christian nation” to insist that a a specific sectarian view of God ought to management every facet of life, by way of all method of human establishments. Christian nationalists usually are not in a place to impose their imaginative and prescient now, and to be truthful, many involved in the movement would never go that far. However as defined by Julie Ingersoll in “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction” (Salon interview here), dominionist ideas have had monumental affect on the religious right, even among those who overtly disavow them.
“The authors of the Project Blitz playbook are savvy purveyors of dominionism,” Clarkson advised Salon. “They’re in it for the lengthy haul and attempt not to say issues that sound too alarming. However they stay an immanent theocratic imaginative and prescient, and they typically can’t help themselves, akin to when they describe the resolutions as in search of to ‘define public policies of the state in favor of biblical values concerning marriage and sexuality.’
“Among the ways they are seeking to implement ‘biblical values,’” Clarkson continued, “is by seeking religious exemptions from civil rights laws and professional licensing standards.” The two-tiered society this might create displays the essence of Christian nationalism, as Whitehead describes it.
Whitehead advised Salon: “Our work shows that believing that the United States is a ‘Christian nation’ and desiring a close, symbiotic relationship between Christianity and civil society is significantly associated with a number of stances like opposition toward same-sex marriage, antipathy toward religious minorities and a tendency toward endorsing stricter racial boundaries in romantic and family relationships.” So it is sensible, he continued, “that these groups who advocate for a formal recognition of the ‘Christian nation’ narrative are also seeking to formalize support for particular definitions of marriage, gender identity and family structure” — definitions that elevate some individuals and successfully subjugate others.
To date, supporters of this initiative have introduced 71 payments nationwide this yr (or carried them over from last yr), according to monitoring by People United for Separation of Church and State. Most have innocuous or feel-good names like the Nationwide Motto Display Act (23 payments), the First Amendment Defense Act (10 payments), the Youngster Safety Act (4 payments), the Bible Literacy Act (eight payments) and the Clergy Safety Act (six payments). The objective is to come throughout as apple-pie People, while copying the conservative pro-corporate mannequin of the American Legislative Change Council (ALEC), which has been strikingly successful. However the guiding imaginative and prescient behind Venture Blitz is closely influenced by pseudo-historian David Barton, a main propagandist for the parable that America was founded as a “Christian nation.”
“David Barton has been discredited by every American historian I know, including evangelical historians who teach at the most conservative Christian colleges in the country, including Bob Jones University and Liberty University,” John Fea (writer of the above-mentioned “Believe Me”) informed Salon. “He is a politician who uses the past for his own political agenda.”
However that’s not the entire story. “Having said that, he is one of the most important people in American politics today,” Fea continued. “Why? If Andrew Whitehead and his colleagues are correct, evangelicals supported Trump because they believe America was founded as, and continues to be, a Christian nation. No one has promoted this narrative more effectively than David Barton.”
The struggle damage conjured up by the identify “Project Blitz” is not any accident. That is religious warfare in the minds of these waging it, and they’ve obtained specific objectives and methods in mind. However it’s not straightforward for outsiders to see what’s happening right here, as Clarkson explains in his story:
The bills are seemingly unrelated and range extensively in content material — from requiring public faculties to show the national motto, “In God We Trust” (IGWT); to legalizing discrimination towards LGBTQ individuals; to religious exemptions relating to ladies’s reproductive well being. The mannequin bills, the legislative strategy and the talking points mirror the theocratic imaginative and prescient that has animated many in the Christian Right for a while. In the context of Undertaking Blitz’s 116-page playbook, nevertheless, they also reveal a extremely refined degree of coordination and strategizing that echoes the American Legislative Trade Council (ALEC), which infamously networks pro-business state legislators, drafts laws, and shares legislative concepts and strategies.
The bills are organized into three tiers, “according to the degree of opposition they anticipate — 1 being the least,” Clarkson stories. “The general plan is to begin with the less controversial measures to get legislators comfortable with the subject matter; to seek small victories first.” The complete which means and significance of the sooner measures won’t grow to be readily apparent until later measures construct on them and covertly synergies are revealed.
The first tier, “Legislation Regarding Our Country’s Religious Heritage,” aims at importing the Christian nationalist worldview (together with Barton’s bogus historical past) into public faculties and different features of the public sphere. It begins simply with display of the motto, “In God We Trust,” a Chilly Conflict alternative for “e pluribus unum” — out of many, one — which higher displays America’s pragmatic, pluralist foundations. The second tier, “Resolutions and Proclamations Recognizing the Importance of Religious History and Freedom,” goals at making government increasingly a associate in “Christianizing” America. The third tier, “Religious Liberty Protection Legislation,” has three subcategories, one dealing with “public policy resolutions,” the other two with particularly focused but sweepingly conceived “protections” for religious practices.
“Category 3’s focus on religious liberty is especially relevant today,” in the wake of the Supreme Courtroom’s historic Obergefell choice, stated Daniel Bennett, writer of “Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement.” With same-sex marriage a settled challenge, right-wing Christian groups “will want to prioritize protection for religious liberty, defined in their specific way. The Christian legal movement is fighting these battles in the court, but these sorts of legislative proposals show how wide-ranging the broader movement’s strategy is.”
It’s a defensive battle now, however it’s also laying the groundwork for a potential future counter-offensive. “Although Category 3 is divided in three parts, you could also see it as having two main underlying intentions,” stated Clarkson. “First to denigrate the LGBTQ community, and second to defend and advance the right to discriminate. This is one way that the agenda of theocratic dominionism is reframed as protecting the right of theocrats to discriminate against those deemed second-class, at best. As the late theocratic theologian R.J. Rushdoony said, ‘Only the right have rights.’”
Bills protecting the “right” to discriminate towards the LGBTQ group are probably the most salient example of how Venture Blitz aims to produce a radically altered “Handmaid’s Story-style America. But even probably the most innocent-seeming proposal — introducing the motto “In God We Trust” into faculties — has a divisive, discriminatory, damaging impression, sharply at odds with its presentation.
“To an ex-evangelical such as myself, Project Blitz is deeply concerning,” Christopher Stroop informed Salon. Stroop is a scholar, writer and Twitter character with a historical past and humanities Ph.D. from Stanford, who’s presently senior analysis affiliate with the Postsecular Conflicts venture. As he says, he spent many years within the evangelical world.
“When I was growing up in the 1980s,” Stroop stated, “two issues that were frequently lamented in my evangelical community were the legalization of abortion and the supposed banning of prayer in school — ‘supposed’ because the right-wing evangelicals I grew up with usually failed to note that the Supreme Court had only ended officially school-sponsored prayer, and had not outlawed private prayer in schools. Extreme exaggeration of the ostensible persecution we supposedly faced as Christians was prevalent in my childhood milieu.”
The try to reverse that imagined persecution can have actual damaging results, as Stroop notes. In analyzing the objective of requiring “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public faculties, he stated, “I cannot help but associate this goal with evangelical resentment over legal limitations on prayer in school, and to see it as an attempt to take a step toward the Christianization of public schools. On its own, posting the motto ‘In God We Trust’ in schools would already embolden Christian nationalists present in those schools, leading Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, liberal and atheist children to feel alienated and pressured to conform.”
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