The March of Those Christian “Soldiers”

Marching backwards…

Last Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star reported on the explosion of anti-Semitic incidents on IU’s Bloomington campus. National headlines trumpet passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation (“Don’t say gay!”) and mean-spirited attacks on transgender youth. The Ted Cruz’s of the GOP and the Tucker Carlsons of rightwing media warn against the “feminization” of American men and the “dire threat” posed by (nonwhite) immigrants.

The fears and hatreds that feed these behaviors are exploited by the Christian Nationalists who have come to exercise disproportionate influence in American life by turning  a political ideology into a version of Christianity, and insisting that only adherents of that version are authentically American.

In a recent column, Jennifer Rubin considered that influence–and confluence. In a column about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, she wrote:

.Democracy functions only with restraint, good-faith application of procedural rules and devotion to the principle that the other side gets to govern when it wins. That concept is now an anathema to the GOP. As Thomas Zimmer has written for the Guardian, “Many Republicans agree that the Democratic Party is a fundamentally illegitimate political faction — and that any election outcome that would lead to Democratic governance must be rejected as illegitimate as well.”

That view of illegitimacy often stems from Christian nationalism. As Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, explains, “A worldview that claims God as a political partisan and dehumanizes one’s political opponents as evil is fundamentally antidemocratic.” He tells me, “A mind-set that believes that our nation was divinely ordained to be a promised land for Christians of European descent is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and equality of all.”

The New Republic–among others–has also looked at what it called “The Shock Troops” of Christian Nationalism, and the wealthy theocrats funding them. 

The article focused on a little-known foundation, the James and Joan Lindsey Family Foundation, and what it characterized as “a vast and steady flow of contributions” to  organizations in that Christian nationalist movement: the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, WallBuilders, a media company called Mastermedia International, and the Council for National Policy, a networking group for movement leadership.

“We are a Christian country. And the Founders were—definitely—and our founding documents were written under prayer each day of the writing,” Joan Lindsey has said. On the eve of the 2020 election, she announced that “this election will either preserve faith’s sacred place in our country or destroy it.”

The most recent effort backed by the Lindseys is something called “The Church Finds Its Voice,” a new entrant in what the article identifies as “a long-standing pattern in the Christian nationalist movement of backing projects to turn America’s network of tens of thousands of conservative churches into a powerful partisan political machine.”

The article is lengthy, and includes multiple other examples of Christian Nationalist activism.  It’s chilling; one leader of the movement is quoted as saying that “every election is a contest against absolute evil, and the consequences of failure are almost too dire to imagine.” To suggest that these activists are motivated is to understate the situation. Rightwing media has convinced them that Trump was anointed by God to protect Christians from those who would not only dislodge them from their privileged position but would also strip them of their rights and liberties.

Numerous accounts of the January 6th insurrection have focused on the ubiquity of Christian Nationalist symbols, and expressions of belief that God was on their side. As the deeply religious Michael Gerson has observed, transforming opponents into infidels provides an opening for racism and anti-Semitism.

The anti-Semitism being displayed at Indiana University is just one aspect of the Christian Nationalist worldview, but it is a fairly major element of it. An analysis by the Washington Post found that Christian Nationalism, support for QAnon, and anti-Semitism to be tightly linked.

Since Christian nationalism is a worldview holding that the United States was created by and for Christians, it may not be surprising that they dislike non-Christians. On average, the most ardent Christian nationalists subscribed to four of the eight anti-Semitic tropes presented; those most opposed to Christian nationalism subscribed to an average of one. Christian nationalists were more likely to believe each individual trope but showed the strongest support for the mistaken ideas that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” and “Jews killed Jesus.”

Christian Nationalists who had bought into nutty QAnon conspiracy theories were even more anti-Semitic. QAnon reinforces a number of anti-Semitic tropes: that Jews control the banks, the media and the government, and that Jews are the ones behind the Deep State.

The problem is, those “Christian soldiers” own today’s GOP.


A Night with Jon Stewart

Last night, Bob and I drove to Bloomington to see Jon Stewart at the IU Auditorium. This was no simple trip, since apparently every single mile of street, road and highway in Indiana is undergoing reconstruction requiring huge, slow-moving machines; we didn’t make it in time for our dinner reservations, but we did get to the show. And it was worth it!

Why don’t we have a high-speed train between Indianapolis and Bloomington? We own the right-of-way and it would seem to be a no-brainer. But I digress.

Jon Stewart is not only whip-smart and a close observer of the human condition, he has a great sense of timing, and the audience was constantly in stitches. (Bob began to worry about the woman sitting in front of us, who was laughing so hard he thought she might hurt something.)

At one point, Stewart explained that since he is Jewish and his wife is Catholic, they’ve decided to raise the children to be sad. During a riff on technology, he recounted his trip to the computer store where the 17-year old clerk yammered on about gigabytes and RAM; Stewart translated: “your current computer has 4 magic gerbils inside, but this new one has 8.”

The IU Auditorium is huge, and it was packed for the first of the two sold-out shows. Given that this is Indiana–albeit Bloomington, Indiana, which is slightly ‘bluer’ than, say, Greenwood–I was really surprised by the crowd’s reaction when, during his introductory remarks, Stewart said he’d met Indiana’s Governor. The Auditorium simply erupted in boos.

I have been under the impression that Mitch’s approval numbers remained fairly high; certainly, his press has been somewhere between favorable and fawning. Political nerds (like yours truly) have  serious concerns about some of his policies, but our numbers are small. So I don’t know what to make of this unexpected crowd reaction, and from his demeanor, I don’t think Stewart expected it either.

All together, an interesting and enjoyable evening, except for the drive. Can we talk about the virtues of high-speed rail?