Pennsylvania has two very important political races coming up in November of 2022. One is a U.S. Senate race between Democratic superstar John Fetterman and washed-up TV quack Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican from New Jersey (he moved in with his mother-in-law in Pennsylvania to run for office) for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.
The other race and the subject of this article is between Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Capitol rioter and Christian Nationalist Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano. Being that Pennsylvania is a swing state, the implications of these races will have far-reaching consequences, especially when it comes to the 2024 presidential election.
In this article, I want to introduce Doug Mastriano to those who don’t know him and shine a light on a recent trend circling the Republican Party—Christian Nationalism.
What Is Christian Nationalism?
Christian Nationalism is not a new idea. Gerald L.K. Smith, an anti-Semitic, racist political agitator founded the concept of Christian Nationalism and tried to bring his agenda to a national stage when he created the America First Party, running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944, and later the Christian Nationalist Party in the 1950s.
He ran for office numerous times, with campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the presidency lining his resume. His ideas were downright dangerous, as he was a Nazi-sympathizer and believed that Jews had encouraged African Americans to start the Civil Rights Movement to spark civil unrest in American society.
In modern times, Christian Nationalism is the belief that our nation was founded on Christianity and Christian principles, and that the U.S. government should take steps to ensure that it remains this way. Others have made arguments that America has Anglo-Protestant roots, and we must not stray from that foundation for fear of losing our freedom and identity if our culture is not properly preserved.
This movement is taking over the Republican Party. Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene labeled herself a Christian Nationalist when she said, “We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian Nationalists,” referring to the Republican Party.
Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert made similar claims when she said she’s “tired of this separation of church and state junk” in a speech at a religious service. She also said “the church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it.”
Although not specifically outlined in the Constitution, it is widely believed that the separation of church and state is underlined in the First Amendment , which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Immediately, scholars of law and history spoke out to correct Boebert, saying that she is “wrong on both matters” and that many of the rights we cherish today, such as the separation of powers, judicial review, the right to marry, and parental rights, are not outlined verbatim in the Constitution, but we still respect them as tradition.
Christian Nationalism merges the Christian faith with an American identity, distorting the church’s role in our society and the promise of religious freedom. It suggests that anyone who does not follow Christianity is not really an American. It also conveys the idea that the Founding Fathers wanted a republic that is based on Christian principles. This notion is up for dispute.
Christian Nationalism is often mixed with conspiracy theories and white supremacy, as it was back in the 1950s, and has historically involved violence to some degree.
Republican politicians like Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene have embraced Christian Nationalism to create an “us versus them” scenario. Despite our rich and diverse culture of people who follow many different faiths, they would like us to believe that the rule of law is based on Christianity and that the church should preside over the government.
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Who Is Doug Mastriano?
Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano is the Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania. He is running against his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Doug Mastriano has a controversial history in Pennsylvania. He led busloads of people down to the Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6th, 2021, the day of the insurrection.
He’s an election-denier who has suggested that if he becomes governor of Pennsylvania, he will force the entire population to re-register to vote, even though there’s no evidence of meaningful voter fraud in Pennsylvania or the rest of the country.
Mastriano wasn’t a familiar figure before the coronavirus pandemic when he came out against Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s public health protocols, including requiring lockdowns, masks, and vaccines in certain situations.
He was the leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement in Pennsylvania after Donald Trump lost the 2020 Election and admitted that he spoke to Trump at least 15 times between the election and the Capitol insurrection.
While lamenting about lockdowns and trying to assist Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 Election, Mastriano has cast these battles as religious excursions, with good (his side) fighting evil (Democrats), once again invoking the us versus them ploy.
During his time in the military, Mastriano often characterized battles as “spiritual warfare.” During the Cold War, he fought overseas against “awful things in the East, and atheistic, communistic, socialist regimes oppressing people.”
Later during the Gulf War, he developed a particularly negative view of Islam. He has shared anti-Islamic memes online. In one post, he spread the conspiracy theory that U.S. representative Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, directed fellow Muslims to throw a five-year-old child from a balcony.
Mastriano took office in 2019 as a Pennsylvania representative seeking to impart his traditional conservative views on Pennsylvania. It was clear that Mastriano’s dedication to his religion was extraordinary compared to the average individual, and that religion informed all of his perspectives in politics.
Soon after getting elected, he began attending events hosted by the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which over the past decade has played a prominent role in impacting conservative politics. Mastriano has denied working with this group.
The New Apostolic Reformation believes that they are in direct communication with God and that they are tasked with battling real-life demons who are controlling global political leaders. Prominent members of the group are titled Apostles or Prophets, referencing Jesus’s followers in early Christianity.
The New Apostolic Reformation is all about returning America to its Christian roots. Doug Mastriano and the NAR have visions of creating America into a theonomy, which is a system of enacting God’s laws on Earth.
Mastriano’s religious extremism can be seen in his political work, as he supported bills in the Pennsylvania Congress that would have forced the Bible back into public schools and allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT couples.
Eventually, Mastriano became a state senator in Pennsylvania, where he complained incessantly about Covid lockdowns. He argued that the government should have no place restricting “God-given freedoms.” He quoted the Bible when he wrote “it says in John 8:36 that if Jesus set you free, you are free indeed. This is why my motto is ‘Walk as Free People.'”
Mastriano even suggested that people should find a new church if their pastor wasn’t offering in-person services during Covid lockdowns. His followers became increasingly more extreme, as his ideology went in the same direction.
After the 2020 election, Doug Mastriano went on numerous radio shows, including Steve Bannon’s podcast "War Room," to say that the election results were not God’s will and that Christians should not just throw up their hands and give in.
Donald Trump even called into one of the right-wing religious shows that Mastriano was on to declare that “Doug is a hero!” That’s because Doug was doing Trump’s bidding in Pennsylvania, supporting all of Trump’s lawsuits, in his attempts to throw out the votes from the election and send new electors to the Electoral College.
On December 12th, Mastriano traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in events being held by the NAR called the “Jericho Marches.” These events featured conservative Christian Nationalists, QAnon supporters, and white supremacists who were praying to God that he would keep Trump as president.
Alex Jones and members of the Oath Keepers militia were in attendance as well. They dressed in colonial knickers in reference to the American Revolution and animal skins in reference to the Israelites.
They blew rams horns called shofars like Israelite priests once used to bring down the sinful city of Jericho, according to the Bible. They actually believed that blowing these horns would be effective in overturning the election.
Mastriano asked his followers to “Appeal to Heaven, as George Washington told us to do in 1775.” Appeal to Heaven then became a popular slogan of the NAR, who marched with flags adorned with the phrase. Mastriano hung a sign with “An Appeal to Heaven” on his office door and it could also be seen next to him in his nightly Facebook videos.
The phrase “Appeal to Heaven” is significant because it was used by John Locke during the Revolution when he argued, “in support of the right to violent revolution in the face of tyranny.” Mastriano told his followers that laws and government made by man needn’t always be respected and referenced Hitler as an example of an elected official gone awry.
Christian Nationalists believe that elections and democratic processes are not what makes a leader legitimate or official. They believe that any party or leader who fails to be the right type of Christian or doesn’t succumb to their agenda is not a legitimately elected official.
Unless a leader submits to the will of God and the vision of America’s founders held by Christian Nationalists, overturning an election can be justified in their eyes. This radical ideology allows Christian Nationalists to claim patriotism when they’re actually undermining our most sacred democratic institutions.
On January 6, 2021, Doug Mastriano used campaign funds to charter six buses full of supporters to head down to Washington, D.C. for Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal rally. As the riot began to break out around 1pm, one could witness Bibles, Jesus 2020 signs, An Appeal to Heaven flags, and more shofars. Many rioters were driven by Christian Nationalist ideals to break into the Capitol and storm the Senate floor.
Later that evening, Doug Mastriano appeared on one of his nightly Facebook Live broadcasts and told supporters that he and his wife left the Capitol when things started to “get weird.” Despite concerns from his colleagues in the Pennsylvania Congress and a number of his constituents, Mastriano suffered no consequences for being at the insurrection.
Doug Mastriano is one of the most dangerous candidates we’ve seen on the ballot in PA. He is also refusing to announce who he would appoint for his Secretary of State if he’s victorious in November.
In normal times, that wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal. But since Trump’s election loss, the position of Secretary of State has become highly coveted by election-deniers and MAGA-loyalists because they control elections in their respective states.
He told Steve Bannon on his podcast that his pick for Secretary of State has been traveling the country and “knows voting reform extremely well.” Mastriano clearly understands the power he would hold as governor and has threatened to “decertify every voting machine” should he receive results that don’t align with his ideology.
We absolutely cannot elect a man who’s not grounded and based in reality. Religion is very important to some people in this country, but so is not having one’s rights infringed upon based on other’s religions. Mastriano will do whatever he thinks God is telling him to do, will of the people be damned!
What’s even more maddening is that Democrats propped up Mastriano during the Republican primary because he is an extremist, and they think he will be the easiest to beat in a general election. They bought ads trying to cast Mastriano as the “Trumpiest” candidate, spending more than Mastriano ever did during his primary campaign.
This strategy is extremely dangerous, as the Democrats are making it more likely that a right-wing extremist will control an essential swing state in 2024. They believe that Democratic candidate Attorney General Josh Shapiro will win the election handily. But where have we heard of this scenario before?
This is exactly what Democrats thought would happen in 2016 when the polls showed Hillary Clinton way ahead of Donald Trump. They boosted him in the Republican Primary, and he ended up winning the general election. Are these risks we should be willing to take?
Here are the most current polls for the Pennsylvania Governor’s race:
Even if Doug Mastriano loses the election, Christian Nationalism still poses a major threat to our democracy, especially with the faces of the Republican Party labeling themselves as such. We need everyone to stand up against this bad ideology, but Christians must take a stand.
It’s easy for me, as an agnostic, to criticize religion, and I may not get much credibility because of my personal bias.
But when Christians come out and state that there is a difference between religion and patriotism and that Christian Nationalist ideas are a direct threat to the democratic system we know and love, it makes a stronger case to those who are on the fence about what this ideology means and will bring to our country.
I implore everyone to learn more about Christian Nationalism and to ask their political representatives and candidates if it’s something that they believe. Let’s keep religious extremists far away from the government.
This country was founded on religious freedom: the freedom to believe any religion or NOT to believe any religion at all. The religious persecution in England drove our Founding Fathers to create a democratic system free from religious interference. Let’s keep it that way.
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.