Christian nationalism is one of the greatest threats to our democratic society — and it has continued to grow at an alarming rate.
The embrace of Christian nationalism has blatantly been on display in Pennsylvania in recent days. Two members of the Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society, founded on the basis of educating Americans about the bible’s “instructions for a just, happy and productive society,” led a discussion, “Should we want an explicitly Christian state?” They claimed that Pennsylvania has always been — and always will be — religious.
Chris Hume, managing editor of The Lancaster Patriot, opened his discussion by stating that the concept of “goodness” only exists because of a Christian god, and without the bible, “there is no logical reason why people should not lie, or steal, or rape, or murder.” He made unsubstantiated claims that the rise of hospitals and orphanages, the advancement of literacy and education, the abolition of the slave trade, and the formation of civil governments can be traced back to Jesus allegedly appearing from an empty tomb. Hume asserted that the government should use the bible as the law and make adultery, fornication, sodomy and public blasphemy illegal. Hume also compared abortion to the Holocaust, remarking: “It is a holocaust because it is a destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.”
The discussion’s other participant, Joel Saint, a pastor and executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society, threw out religious claims during the event like hot potatoes. Pastors can be political, he claims, because Jesus was the ruler of the “kings of the Earth.” Saint says “the downfall” of public schools happened because prayers and bible readings were thrown out.
These two men didn’t present claims based on facts; they simply turned to their own personal interpretation of the bible. Both demonstrated strong anti-LGBTQ views, and Hume even made fun of the community in a Facebook post, calling it the “LGBT-alphabet soup.” They used their religious beliefs to spew hatred toward marginalized communities, and encouraged their followers to do so, as well.
The Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society claims to respect the original U.S. Constitution, but nowhere in that paramount document does it say to hate someone because of their religious or nonreligious beliefs. It does not take a constitutional scholar to acknowledge that the most important protection given to American citizens by the Constitution is freedom of religion. Those who fail to recognize the First Amendment are not patriots, as they claim, but instead are threats to American democracy.
The Christian nationalism expressed at the forum is not the only such contemporary instance in the Keystone State.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Douglas Mastriano openly embraces Christian nationalism, and includes prayers at almost every event he attends. At a recent rally, Mastriano featured individuals praying for God to remove fraudulent ballots from the election. Yes, this was the regular prayer to God to bless your food, watch over your family and remove fraudulent ballots. Mastriano has also called the separation of church and state a “myth” and claims to want to bring Pennsylvania “back” to what he argues the Founders intended: a Christian state.
During the Jan. 6 insurrection, Mastriano encouraged individuals to attend the pro-Trump rally at the Capitol that led to the riots, saying, “I’m really praying that God will pour his spirit upon Washington, D.C., like we’ve never seen before.”
Christian nationalism advocates for the dissolution of separation between state and church, and argues that America was founded on Christian ideology. Vocal proponents of this movement falsely claim the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the nation’s founding documents, specifically assert that America is a Christian nation. It seems baffling that some public officials swear an oath to support and defend the godless and entirely secular U.S. Constitution, yet promote religion in government, which directly contradicts the very First Amendment.
Christian nationalism played a direct role in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, with Mastriano providing just one example. The attack was spurred by the mixture of intense religious views and political extremism, in which individuals carried bibles, held “Jesus 2020” signs, and “Appeal to Heaven” flags. On the Senate floor, one attacker prayed, “Jesus Christ, we invoke your name!” Another thanked God for “filling this chamber with patriots that love you and that love Christ” and for “allowing the United States of America to be reborn.” The rioters fused religion and politics together in a dangerous and extreme way.
Sen. Josh Hawley openly encouraged the storming of the Capitol. He has been espousing Christian nationalist views for a number of years. In 2017, Hawley gave a speech in which he stated that “our charge” is “To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!” He has referred to his service as Missouri’s attorney general as “a form of ministry.”
When Donald Trump claimed journalists spread “fake news” and told his supporters to listen to him, not scientists, doctors and other experts, he created a messianic-like presence in which constituents completely rely on the words of one individual. Christian nationalism uses these same eerie principles. Trump has thrown support to individuals who pose a threat to American democracy.
The most frightening thing about this ideology is that it has inspired other individuals to vocalize their support for this movement. These individuals are only a few of the growing number who claim they want to bring the country back to its “roots” as a Christian nation.
In a recent speech to Cornerstone Christian Center, Rep. Lauren Boebert endorsed the expanding role of religion in American politics, and implied that America is a Christian country. She claimed that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was mandated by a Christian god. She went on to assert that the crises currently facing the country are due to the separation between church and state, saying that “church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church … [this separation is] not how our Founding Fathers intended it.”
Christian nationalism threatens our democracy and its foundations of fundamental rights, protections and freedoms. To quote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”
Katie Sticklen is headed into her second year at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She serves as the current Vice President of Communications for the Women’s Law Student Association and is a member of the Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society. Katie graduated college in May 2021 from the University of Missouri where she double majored in Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies. As an undergraduate, she interned at the Clinton Foundation and United WE.
Photo at top via Shutterstock by Lev Radin