Ms. Meyers is a writer, a teacher, a political junkie, and a keen observer of the culture.
Separation of Church and State Is “Junk”
Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert recently labeled the separation of church and state as “junk.”
While it’s easy to dismiss her comment as just another pithy sound bite for right-wing media, it would be a critical error to do so.
Her words, no matter how in-artfully expressed, are indicative of a menacing political movement that’s taken hold in the Republican party. It not only threatens democracy, but imperils our personal safety as its fanatical followers are willing to act out violently for a cause they perceive as righteous.
It’s called Christian nationalism.
Ascendancy of Christian Nationalists
Lauren Boebert and Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene are two of its most vocal mouthpieces in Congress. It’s no coincidence Taylor Greene has also been implicated in Trump’s failed fascist coup on January 6th.
Representative Boebert recently summed up what Christian nationalists believe when declaring, “The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church.”
Once again, while it’s tempting to dismiss her statement as ill-informed, she chose her words deliberately. Moreover, they’re not hers alone but represent the vision that millions of Christian nationalists share for America.
They’ve worked diligently to push our nation in their direction and have made a lot of progress, most noticeably with the Supreme Court.
Roe vs. Wade has been overturned, making abortion illegal in 13 states and counting. Justice Clarence Thomas has announced other liberties are at stake such as the right for gays and lesbians to marry, for LGBTQ citizens to be protected from discrimination at work, at school, and in housing, and for men and women to procure contraceptives.
Not Your Typical Christians
Christian nationalists aren’t like most Christians who strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being kind, compassionate, humble, loving, accepting, law-abiding, and peaceful.
Christian nationalists, in the mold of Boebert and Taylor Greene, are loud, arrogant, bigoted, and mean-spirited. They love their guns. They love Donald Trump, and they love their whiteness.
These much aggrieved Americans believe they are victims of persecution and have received a raw deal for decades. Therefore, they feel justified in their rage and rationalize their violence.
Christian nationalism is an ideology held almost exclusively by white Americans.
They use religion as a prop to strike back against an increasingly secular society and to hate on “the other,” whether they’re Muslims, Jews, atheists, or LGBTQ. They view non-Christians as second-class citizens.
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Christian Nationalists at the January 6th Insurrection
When looking at footage from Trump’s failed fascist coup on January 6th, it’s undeniable that Christian nationalists were out in force on that dreadful day at the Capitol.
Mingling with white supremacists and QAnon crazies, religious extremists were there waving Christian flags, holding signs that read “Jesus saves,” and wearing t-shirts printed with the words “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president.”
One man hauled a hulking wooden cross like the one used to crucify Christ across the grounds. Christian music blasted from a loudspeaker. Participants proudly proclaimed they were Christians.
Members of the white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, gathered together to say prayers before they attacked police officers, stormed the Capitol building, and hunted down politicians.
Luke Mogelson, a journalist for The New Yorker, covered the role Christian nationalists played on January 6th. He called them “the driving force and also the unifying force of these disparate players.” He noted, “It’s really Christianity that ties it all together.”
What Do Christian Nationalists Believe?
Christian nationalists fervently believe that Christianity is the magic ingredient that makes America exceptional. As such, they maintain it’s the government’s duty to make certain it stays that way.
They want the United States to remain a Christian nation and are threatened by its changing demographics. According to Pew Research, 30% of Americans today identify as “nones,” meaning they’re atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated with any organized religion.
Therefore, it’s unsurprising that Christian nationalists are anxious about losing power and influence.
Based on our country’s history, they believe Christianity has earned a privileged status and that Christians deserve preferential treatment. Moreover, they want the government to promote Christianity as the official cultural framework for our country.
Some of their goals include the following: an amendment to the Constitution that acknowledges America’s Christian heritage, lessons to teach students that God has chosen America to carry out His mission on earth, and the re-establishment of prayer in our public schools.
They want severe immigration restrictions so other religions won't surpass Christianity and brown people won't outnumber white people, resulting in the demise of American culture.
States such as South Dakota are already implementing this agenda. The legislature there passed a bill that mandated all schools post the words In God We Trust in big, bold letters in highly visible areas of their buildings.
Muslim Ban: A Reward for Christian Nationalist Support
While President Trump is certainly not a religious man, he garnered the support of Christian nationalists because he shares many of their same bigoted beliefs.
He sympathized with Christian nationalists who didn’t want the United States to become diluted by other belief systems.
Therefore, he initiated the so-called “Muslim Ban” early in his presidency as reward for the fanatical folks who voted for him. These executive orders prohibited travel and refugee resettlement from predominately Muslim countries. While federal courts ruled them as anti-Muslim and unconstitutional, the Supreme Court upheld most provisions of a third version of the ban.
Most significantly, his Muslim Ban let Christian nationalists know Trump was on their side and fighting for their cause.
Christian Nationalism and Fox News
In their never-ending quest to pack their pews and fill their collection plates, some preachers have adopted the game plan of former Fox News honcho, Roger Ailes.
His highly unethical strategy was simple: Give them what they want!
Eschewing all journalistic principles, Ailes told his staff to let viewers decide what news would be aired. When a particular story garnered high ratings, he instructed them to produce more of the same.
Ailes knew the most popular segments accomplished two things: they engaged and enraged the audience.
When stories created a strong emotional reaction, they were ratings gold and would keep viewers tuned in to Fox.
Ailes hit the jackpot, for example, with segments that talked about Americans being discouraged from saying “Merry Christmas” during the holidays.
Fox’s older, predominately white audience couldn’t get enough of those, so Ailes demanded more. They began to run not only in December but October and November as well.
These stories gave the Fox audience exactly what they wanted to hear: that Christians were victims being oppressed for their religious beliefs.
The Fox News Scheme at Church
Today, some pastors have followed Fox’s successful scheme by giving their congregants what they want to hear. It’s not a message about loving thy neighbor, treating others how you wish to be treated, or turning the other cheek.
Instead, it’s a message full of grievance that taps into their rage.
It’s about Christians being treated badly by the radical left. It’s about liberals, gun safety advocates, and the LGBTQ community ruining the country. It’s about evil forces afoot: critical race theory, socialism, feminism, and Black Lives Matter.
Christian Nationalists: Anti-Democratic
Unlike the vast majority of Christians, Christian nationalists are anti-democratic, willing to resort to violence, and are filled with grievances.
They cozied up to Trump because of his authoritarian appeal. They saw him as someone who’d support their agenda of making Christianity the cultural framework for the country and suppressing the freedoms of non-Christians.
Whether it's rulings by the Supreme Court or laws passed by Congress, Christian nationalism will impact both our politics and our culture as we move forward.
When Representative Boebert proclaimed “I’m tired of the church and state junk,” she spoke for their movement and this should make us all concerned.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 McKenna Meyers