Most Americans reject theocracy -- religious control of government -- in Afghanistan or Iran.
In the U.S., the threat to democracy is called Christian nationalism, but it is in fact neither Christian nor patriotic (a component of nationalism). It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Like the Taliban who use religion to impose their will upon Afghans, too many Christian evangelicals have a lust for achieving the ability, a driven craving for political power, to impose their beliefs upon others.
Christian nationalism is a political ideology which attaches the Christian label to its identity, to effectively acquire political power. It combines white nationalism (dependent upon racism, anti-Semitism and conspiratorial anti-government thinking) and a Christian religious overlay (to bring in evangelical believers seeking theocratic control of government). Theocracy elevates government leaders from its clergy and zealous devotees, who are asserted to be divinely guided, and constructs governmental public policy upon religious doctrine.
This threat to democracy is serious. Christian nationalism is a theocratic movement which promotes Jesus and biblical control, displacing constitutional government and the rule of law. To achieve their goals, Christian nationalists seek to acquire political control of government — and government’s money — in order to impose upon others their religious standards. Erroneous beliefs include that our nation was founded as a Christian nation, has a special relationship with God, and must adhere to biblical commands (to stay favored). Its followers tend to consider contemporary political issues in terms of “spiritual warfare” such that non-believers are too easily called “godless” — entitling true believers, as a spiritual duty, to “take back the country.”
Religious fundamentalists have a worldview that is intolerant of anyone who does not share their view.
Any religious movement which seeks political control of a nation, to increase its ability to mandate its religious criteria, is nationalistic.
Presently, each individual in the United States has the constitutional right to accept or reject any religion or to reject all religions. There must be, in a constitutional America, no special or favorite or superior religion. “One person, one vote” and “equality for all” must be North Star ideals under the U.S. Constitution. There are no favored leaders and there are no persons who are more worthy of citizenship in a constitutional nation. These core constitutional ideals are threatened by Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism injects into right-wing political activity the belief that all of the group’s conduct is part of a holy act necessary to achieve its goals. A religious-type fervor is injected into right-wing political activity. Christian nationalism cloaks its political objectives with religious language to justify its creation of a favored nation — a white, Christian America. Its political goal is to promote its religious beliefs; any challenger to its goal must be “godless.” The Jesus invoked by insurrectionists at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is their Jesus — a physically strong, warrior leader. Their conclusion is simple: a strong, theocratic leader is essential to the survival of our nation. True believers justify their conduct claiming they defend God. True believers consider themselves true or “real” Americans and all others “lesser” Americans. This type of thinking has no place in a constitutional democracy. Any classification which lessens a group of Americans or which elevates a favored group is un-American.
The problem with believing that religion can and must control society, including government as part of society, is that the U.S. Constitution becomes the enemy. There cannot be Christian nationalism in control and constitutional control of our government at the same time. Christian nationalists must, therefore, eliminate by any means possible all which opposes biblical control of government. The ultimate goal of Christian nationalism must be the destruction of the Constitution. Their destructive goal is to establish a favored religion, a favored voter, a favored race; to be a god-favored nation, it must be a Christian nation. These ideas are dangerous.
If biblical standards control, the U.S. Constitution’s standards cannot control. To say biblical values are supreme, one must reject the U.S. Constitution and its values. Christian nationalism creates a political system in which the test for admission into religious belonging only comes by way of political beliefs accepting theocratic superiority. Political ambition is about defending God and promoting one type of Christian beliefs. This is also dangerous to democracy.
Using Jesus to create a political brand seems more a manipulation of religion for political gain than a religious statement of human compassion, charity, and love of and caring for our neighbor.
A dissonance within Christian nationalism is their claim to be Christians (who follow Jesus of the Gospel), yet they use hate, violence and oppression to advance their goals, with religion as justification. Christianity does not promote hate, violence and oppression. When religion is imposed or favored, it is abusive, suffocating and toxic to all others.
The love of Jesus does not include the love of political power.
The ideals of U.S. democracy and our Constitution developed from political thinking, which includes: “one person, one vote,” human dignity, universal rights, individual flourishing, equal rights, the three branches of government and consent of the governed under a rule-of-law civil system.
Barry Goldwater, in the 1960s, said: “… if and when these preachers get control of the (Republican) party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. … Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise.”
Not all evangelicals and not all believers in Christianity follow Christian nationalism. There are religious leaders who call out Christian nationalism for what it is: “impostor Christianity,” “bastardization of the Christian faith,” or “not a religion.”
Christian nationalism will not compromise. Christian nationalism preaches love but practices intolerance and punishes those who are different or refuse to conform to their beliefs. Christian nationalism’s goal is anti-democratic, with the intent to substitute a theocratic and autocratic form of government. Christian nationalists misuse faith in a quest for power and as a political weapon against everyone they see as an enemy.
Democracy’s standards of freedom, majority rule and social equality would collapse.
The United States has a problem; it is the Christian nationalism movement.
Joe Paskvan is a lifelong Alaskan and retired attorney. He served in the Alaska State Senate from 2008 to 2012, including a year as co-chair of the Senate Resources committee. He lives in Fairbanks.
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