Most Americans reject theocracy—religious control of government—in Afghanistan or Iran.
In the US, the threat to democracy is called Christian nationalism, but it is neither Christian nor patriotic (a component of nationalism). It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Like the Taliban, who use religion to impose their will on Afghans, too many Christian evangelicals have a desire to gain ability, a driven desire for political power to impose their beliefs on others.
Christian nationalism is a political ideology that attaches the Christian label to its identity in order to gain effective political power. It combines white nationalism (subject to racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-government conspiratorial thinking) and a Christian religious overlay (to include evangelical believers seeking theocratic control of government). The theocracy elevates government leaders from their clergy and devotees, who are said to be divinely directed, and builds state public order on religious doctrine.
This threat to democracy is serious. Christian nationalism is a theocratic movement that promotes Jesus and biblical control and supplants constitutional government and the rule of law. To achieve their ends, Christian nationalists attempt to gain political control of the government—and government money—in order to impose their religious standards on others. False beliefs include that our nation was established as a Christian nation, has a special relationship with God, and must adhere to biblical commandments (to remain privileged). Its followers tend to view current political issues in terms of “spiritual warfare,” so that non-believers are all too easily labeled “godless” – giving true believers the right, as a spiritual duty, to “take back the land.”
Religious fundamentalists have a worldview that is intolerant of anyone who doesn’t share their view.
Any religious movement that seeks political control over a nation to increase its ability to enact its religious criteria is nationalist.
Currently, every individual in the United States has the constitutional right to accept or reject any religion, or to reject all religions. In a constitutional America there can be no particular or preferred or superior religion. “One person, one vote” and “equality for all” must be North Star ideals in the US Constitution. There are no privileged leaders, and there are no persons more worthy of citizenship in a constitutional nation. These core constitutional ideals are being threatened by Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism injects into right-wing political activity a belief that the group’s overall behavior is part of a sacred act necessary to the attainment of its ends. A religious fervor is infused into right-wing political activity. Christian nationalism cloaks its political goals in religious language to justify its creation of a favored nation—a white, Christian America. His political goal is to promote his religious beliefs; any challenger to his target must be “godless.” The Jesus that insurgents invoked in our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021 is their Jesus—a physically strong, warlike leader. Their conclusion is simple: A strong, theocratic leader is essential to our nation’s survival. True believers justify their behavior by defending God. True believers see themselves as true or “real” Americans and everyone else as “lesser” Americans. This way of thinking has no place in a constitutional democracy. Any classification that disparages a group of Americans or exalts a favored group is un-American.
The problem with the belief that religion can and must control society, including government as part of society, is that the US Constitution becomes the enemy. There cannot be Christian nationalism and constitutional control over our government at the same time. Christian nationalists, therefore, must by all means eliminate anything that defies biblical government control. The ultimate goal of Christian nationalism must be the destruction of the Constitution. Their destructive aim is to establish a preferred religion, a preferred voter, a preferred race; To be a God-favoured nation, it must be a Christian nation. These ideas are dangerous.
When biblical standards govern, US constitutional standards cannot govern. To say that biblical values come first is to reject the US Constitution and its values. Christian nationalism creates a political system in which the only test for acceptance into religious affiliation is political beliefs that accept theocratic superiority. Political ambition is about defending God and promoting some sort of Christian faith. This is also a danger to democracy.
Using Jesus to create a political branding appears to be a manipulation of religion for political gain rather than a religious statement of human compassion, charity, and love and care for our neighbor.
A dissonance within Christian nationalism is their claim to be Christians (following Jesus of the Gospel), but they use hate, violence and oppression to further their goals, with religion as justification. Christianity does not promote hate, violence and oppression. When religion is imposed or preferred, it is abusive, suffocating, and toxic to everyone else.
The love of Jesus does not include the love of political power.
The ideals of US democracy and our Constitution have evolved from political thinking that includes “one person, one vote,” human dignity, universal rights, individual empowerment, equality, the three branches of government, and the consent of the governed under one rule. civil law system.
Barry Goldwater said in the 1960s, “…if and when these preachers get control of the (Republican) party, and they’re sure they’re trying to, it’s going to be a horrible damn problem. … Politicians and government demand compromises. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they cannot and will not compromise.”
Not all evangelicals and not all Christians follow Christian nationalism. There are religious leaders who label Christian nationalism for what it is: “con-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 who refuse to conform to their faith. The goal of Christian nationalism is anti-democratic, intended to replace a theocratic and autocratic form of government. Christian nationalists use faith in pursuit of power and as a political weapon against those they see as enemies.
The democratic standards of liberty, majority rule and social equality would collapse.
The United States has a problem; it is the movement of Christian nationalism.
Joe Paskvan is a lifelong Alaskan and retired attorney. He served in the Alaska State Senate from 2008 to 2012, including one year as co-chair of the Senate Resource Committee. He lives in Fairbanks.
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