The news cycle is so swift that it’s easy to overlook some pretty frightening developments when it comes to the disquieting and growing presence of Christian nationalism.
White evangelicals and climate change. Denial of climate change, especially with 2023 the hottest summer in history, is just plain scary. And the religious sector most apt to deny climate change is (surprise, surprise) white evangelical Protestants, 19 percent of whom say there’s no evidence that climate change is happening. Less than a third of white evangelicals say it’s driven by people, according to a new survey by PRRI. On the other hand, the groups most apt to say that climate change is caused by human activity are religiously unaffiliated Americans (76 percent) and Hispanic Catholics.
“As the importance of religion wanes, belief that climate change is caused by humans increases,” PRRI reports. Andrew Chesnut, an academic with Virginia Commonwealth University, analyzed the denialism by white evangelicals in an interview with Axios: “A lot of white evangelicals believe that the second coming could be imminent so why bother with fighting climate change.”
If we all deny long enough, I can say with confidence as an atheist that there really will be a Hell — because that’s what we humans are going to make of it here on Earth if we don’t use our brains, ingenuity and compassion to ensure our children and grandchildren and their descendants have a decent future. Religious dogma needs to get out of the way.
GOP views Trump as “person of faith.” This next poll is more delusional than frightening but delusional people can also be scary. A national poll by HarrisX for the Deseret News asked registered voters which list of political figures they considered to be people of faith. More than half of Republicans consider Donald Trump a person of faith and even more faithful than his deputy, Mike Pence. In fact, Trump was at the top of the list for Republicans. Not so surprisingly, President Biden is at the top of the list for Democrats … but the difference is that Biden really is religious! Nevertheless, only 23 percent of Republicans recognize Biden as a person of faith and even fewer said Vice President Kamala Harris is one.
Religion (Mis)Education Week. As FFRF Action Fund has been documenting, the growing assault on secular public education is truly frightening. U.S. Sens. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a resolution designating Oct. 1-7, 2023, as “Religious Education Week.” The resolution is an unconcealed promotion of public funding of religious schools and the corollary defunding of public schools.
“Religious education establishes an important foundation of faith for America’s next generation of leaders. Families making educational decisions deserve options for their kids, including religious school and faith-based programs, in order to determine the best fit for their child,” claims Risch. Fine. Just stop asking taxpayers to fund sectarian instruction.
McCarthy and prayer. This next news tidbit might be considered more humorous than scary, except that it shows the level of zealotry at work in the U.S. Congress. Rep. Tim Burchett told CNN that his vote to oust Kevin McCarthy as House speaker was “sealed” because McCarthy “mocked” the Tennessee congressman for praying about whether to support McCarthy: “When someone mocks me like that and mocks my religion — and honestly the bible is pretty clear about God being mocked — so that’s what sealed it right there for me. I said, ‘This is not the quality or the character of person that I want as Speaker of the United States.’”
Someone who worries about God “being mocked” certainly does not possess the quality or character those who value secularism want to see in a member of Congress.
Jan. 6 rioters were “great patriots”? The New York Times reports that at rallies and interviews, Trump routinely describes the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as “great patriots” who should be released, while at the same time employing threatening language against judges, government officials and special counsel Jack Smith. FFRF has had a lot to say about the Christian nationalist underpinnings of the Jan. 6 insurrection, producing a definitive report with the Baptist Joint Committee about the religious roots of that terrible day. No, those insurrectionists weren’t and aren’t “great patriots.” Those that haven’t been prosecuted remain a serious threat to our democracy.
Christian nationalism espoused openly. While FFRF Action Fund has been exposing the shockingly theocratic remarks of a North Dakota state representative this week, he’s not the only public figure actively promoting Christian nationalism. Former Trump administration official William Wolfe says Christian nationalists must make it clear that all elected officials, whether Christians or not, are required to exercise their authority in accordance with the bible.
Rightwing Watch reports that on a rightwing talk show last week, Wolfe said Christian nationalists are “called to restore righteous government and good laws” and make certain that this nation serves the will of God. Wolfe urges individuals to proudly wear the label of Christian nationalist and said “there are many young men all across America who feel disaffected by the secular global order we live in [and] who see this and say, ‘Well, that’s a pretty cool term, I like it.’”
Not so long ago, public officials espousing “Christian nation” lies and privileges for certain Christians would nevertheless deny the label. Then last summer, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was the first major public official to embrace the term. Now Christian nationalists seem to be coming out of their closets. Scary stuff indeed.