This is the stuff happening in our American churches in this particular time period: calls for violence, even as someone says, “I’m not saying violence, I am saying…” (all while calling for some state official to be hanged).
The road show for conspiracy theories over the last election are not held in out of the way venues. They are sponsored by and held at churches with large capacity auditoriums. The roots of this is the fear of “our values” or “our way of life.” The deeper meaning is this: white conservatives are losing “power” and are doing all they can to hold on to it, shore it up, and then shove down any other voice that threatens their positions of power.
It’s the American story.
David French lays out the case:
First, MAGA Christian nationalism is emotional and spiritual, not intellectual or ideological.
It is easier to create “movement” when you go after the emotions or some perceived threat against our “faith.”
Second, MAGA Christian nationalism is concentrated in the churches most removed from elite American culture, including from elite Evangelicalism.
This often happens in independent, charismatic churches. The trump card (no pun intended) is the phrase, “Thus says the Lord!”
Third, MAGA Christian nationalism is often rooted in purported prophecies.
When it comes to the “thus says the Lord” mantras, charismatics are latched on to the prophecies they agree with and when that response comes back to the false prophet (in the form of loud amens) the prophet doubles down with their “visions” and “dreams” and supposed conversations with God.
Absence of proof doesn’t bother this group:
“So who cares what I can prove in the courts? This is right. This happened, and I am going to do anything I can to uncover this horror, this evil.”
This is stuff I want to ignore. I want to relegate it to a phrase I heard in 2015: “Some drunk uncle at the end of a bar in a small town who spouts his opinions before stumbling home and passing out on the couch.”
But I can’t ignore it. I don’t want to overreact, but I can’t ignore it. There are too many drunk uncles stumbling around and they are carrying loaded weapons.
French puts it this way:
But underreaction can be dangerous too. We know that fanatical religious subcultures can do an immense amount of damage to the body politic. We know that they can be both deadly and destabilizing. A Christian political movement that’s so focused on the threat from the left can often unwittingly facilitate the rise of radicals, through sins of both commission and omission.
It is also Black History Month and as I read more from people like Danté Stewart and Lisa Sharon Harper I am more aware than ever that we are in a very dangerous cycle. It raises its very ugly head about every 50 years since the end of the Civil War. It’s an effort to maintain white control and suppress “the other.” We’re in the midst of that cycle right now.
Christian Nationalists are being worked up into a frenzy and they are acting like cornered animals. This is not something we ignore. I really, REALLY want to ignore this, but when incredible thinkers like David French keep sounding the alarm, I have to stay awake and keep this very difficult conversation going. (Not really a conversation, but it sounds nice as I type that word.)
The proper response to fear and fanaticism is reason and faith. It’s demonstrating by word and deed that the response even to the worst forms of extremism on the left is not to stampede to extremism on the other side. But we have to know what we face, and what we face is an Christian subculture that is full of terrible religious purpose. The seeds of renewed political violence are being sown in churches across our land.