Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism

>> Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Electing a Democratic president in 2008 crucial as that is to maintaining liberties, will not reverse the growth of Christian nationalism, although, it will conduct the movement's energies in new directions. The Christian right had some of its greatest organizing triumphs under Bill Clinton by focusing on local politics and taking over the Republican party precinct by precinct, district by district. Because Christian nationalists control the party on the ground, and because the GOP has a structural advantage in Congress, the religious right will play a powerful role in government, even if a majority of Americans vote to repudiate its agenda. In Congress, Christian nationalist irredentism would make it very hard for any Democrat to govern. The same forces that went after Clinton—forces that are now stronger than ever—would be massed and ready to attack before a new Democratic president was even sworn in. (p. 190-1)
I bought this back in 2006, when it seemed particularly timely due to everything that was going on with the Bush Administration. With Obama elected to office, this book may not seem relevant, but it still is. Very much so.

It's a little shorter than it probably should be as a bit more in-depth on this movement's past would have fleshed it out more thoroughly. That is my only gripe with it. It focuses quite heavily on Christian nationalism between 2000 and 2005.
...the ultimate goal of Christian nationalist leaders isn't fairness. It's dominion. The movement is built on a theology that asserts the Christian right to rule. That doesn't mean that nonbelievers will be forced to convert. They'll just have to learn their place. (p. 7)
Andrew Sullivan normally refers to this movement as Christianism and its followers as Christianists. The term makes a cameo on page 39.
Just as political Islam is often called Islamism to differentiate the fascist political doctrine from the faith, the ideology laid out in these papers [from the Coalition on Revival] could be called Christianism.
The book focuses only on six topics: Christianism in general, the political uses of homophobia, the intelligent design movement, Bush's office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the abstinence education and anti-sex movement, and their strategy for dealing with the judicial branch. Goldberg does not address the Christianist influence/takeover of the military. That probably is a book in itself, but a chapter demonstrating some of the changes even within the Bush Administration would have been beneficial for the book as it feels incomplete without it. She refers to some of the controversies that arose during the Bush Administration but does not elaborate on them.

What I found most striking throughout the book is how totalitarian this movement is. Their supporters may not realize it because they want everyone to embrace God and Jesus as they do, but it is.

On the Christianists' homophobia:
There are some inescapable parallels between the rhetoric of cultural purity in the 1930s Germany and in our America. One of the first things the Nazis did upon coming to power was crack down on gays as part of a broader family values campaign. As Richard J. Evans wrote in The Coming Third Reich, "The Nazis moved with the approval of conservatives and Catholics alike to destroy every branch of Weimar Germany's lively and intricately interconnected congeries of pressure groups for sexual freedom, the reform of the abortion law, the decriminalization of homosexuality, the public dispensing of contraceptive advice and anything else that they thought was contributing to the continued decline of the German birthrate."

Social conservatism is not in itself fascistic, of course. But the combination of repression, populism, and paranoia, the fear of decadence as a monstrous plot against the nation, carries frightening echoes. The Nazis saw sexual liberation movements as part of a Jewish conspiracy to subvert the German family and thus Germany as a whole. In their introduction, Sears and Olsten wrote, "We will outline how the homosexual agenda touches every area of our lives, from the media to education to families to corporate America and to government [sic]. We will document how the religious freedoms of all Americans are under attack from radical homosexual activists." The homosexual agenda canard is to Christian nationalists what the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was to earlier generations of authoritarians." (p. 54-5)
"Sears and Osten" are Craig Osten and Alan Sears. Sears was president of the Alliance Defense Fund, the major Christian nationalist legal outfit. (I'm not entirely sure who Craig Osten is other than the co-author of The Homosexual Agenda.
Christian nationalism, like most militant ideologies, can exist only in opposition to something. Its sense of righteousness depends on feeling besieged, no matter how much power it amasses. Conservatives control almost the entire federal government [in 2006], along with an enormous Christian counterculture, but go to any right-wing gathering, and you'll hear speaker after speaker talk about being under attack, about yearning to "take the country back," about the necessity of fighting even harder. (p. 69)
Something you can still see today because a little more than six months into the Obama Administration, conservatives have formed teabagger, birther and "anti-socialism" movements claiming they've lost "their" country and advocate violence against Democratic lawmakers over health care reform. Goldberg highlighted the similarities between the Christianists' authoritarianism and the rise of fascism in Germany by noting this passage from Fritz Stern's The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology:
The ideologists of the conservative revolution superimposed a vision of national redemption upon their dissatisfaction with liberal culture and with the loss of authoritative faith. They posed as the true champions of nationalism, and berated the socialists for their internationalism, and the liberals for their pacifism and their indifference to national greatness. (p. 34)
So repressive are the Christianists, that Concerned Women for America's Janice Crouse was able to address a UN meeting in March 2005 and comment on how banning abortion equals curtailing women's autonomy:
To what end has this plague of abortion, this massacre of innocents, been directed? The pursuit of hedonistic pleasure? Women's liberation? Liberation from what? So that a woman can engage in the pleasure of sexual intercourse without the demands of motherhood? No, this horrible slaughter has little to do with pleasure, but it has a great deal to do with the demands of motherhood. Radical feminists accurately see abortion as a woman's ultimate weapon in the battle to escape the control of men. This issue is of power, of having the power to call the shots. With abortion as an option, a woman can escape pregnancy. Abortion gives her the power to escape giving birth to a man's child, a child she would otherwise be connected to for that child's whole life, and who would likewise connect her to the child's father. (p. 209)
That's how tyrannical the Christianists are. They know women have the choice and possibility for autonomy, but they don't think women should have that. The women in the Christianist movement don't want other women to have autonomy and freedom. This is an authoritarian cult like no other I know of currently.

One of Michelle Goldberg's solution to this problem is to do away with the electoral college stating:
There's an antiurban bias built into the structure of our democracy that overrepresents people who live in small rural states, which tend to be more conservative. Because each state has two senators, the 7 percent of the population that live in the seventeen least-populous states control more than a third of Congress's upper house. (p. 189)
Basically Goldberg is against the Connecticut Compromise, aka Great Compromise, embedded in the Constitution even though she spent multiple pages critiquing a movement that does not believe in the Constitution or the principles it espouses. The facts are that even the least-populous states that cites can vote Democratic as seen in the 2008 election and current political trends.

Goldberg's other two long-term strategies in combating this tyrannical movement are grassroots organizing to help people on the ground, and a media campaign to raise public awareness. Both of these seem to be happening/growing/coalescing with the progressive blogs and online movement, as Eric Boehlert noted in Bloggers on the Bus.


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