Christian Nationalism and the Republican Party: Nothing New

By Steven Jonas | 14 July 2022
OpEdNews

(Photo: Dreamstime.com)

On July 7, 2022, Elizabeth Dias began her column in The New York Times with the following text:

“Three weeks before he won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor, Doug Mastriano stood beside a three-foot-tall painted eagle statue and declared the power of God. ‘Any free people in the house here? Did Jesus set you free?’ he asked . . . Mr. Mastriano, a state senator. . . and prominent figure in former President Donald J. Trump’s futile efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, was addressing a far-right conference that mixed Christian beliefs with conspiracy theories, called Patriots Arise. Instead of focusing on issues like taxes, gas prices or abortion policy, he wove a story about what he saw as the true Christian identity of the nation, and how it was time, together, for Christians to reclaim political power. . . The separation of church and state was a ‘myth,’ he said. ‘In November we are going to take our state back, my God will make it so.’

“Mr. Mastriano’s ascension in Pennsylvania is perhaps the most prominent example of right-wing candidates for public office who explicitly aim to promote Christian power in America. The religious right has long supported conservative causes, but this current wave seeks more: a nation that actively prioritizes their particular set of Christian beliefs and far-right views and that more openly embraces Christianity as a bedrock identity. . .

“Many dismiss the historic American principle of the separation of church and state. They say they do not advocate a theocracy, but argue for a foundational role for their faith in government. . .”

In a related column in The New York Times of July 7, 2022, Katherine Stewart noted that: “[t]he theology of dominionism — the belief that ‘right-thinking’ Christians have a biblically [sic] derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society — is now explicitly embraced.”

Under the Doctrine of Dominionism, which has been spouted for quite some time by such politicians as former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, “God” (as they interpret “God” of course) stands above the Constitution. Just listen to Lauren Boebert:

“‘The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church,’ Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican representing the western part of Colorado, said recently at Cornerstone Christian Center, a church near Aspen. [Apparently totally unaware of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment, she said:] ‘I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.’ Congregants rose to their feet in applause.”

Some observers see the spreading of this “Church Uber Alles” doctrine within the Republican Party as something new. Well, it isn’t. And as the combat against it is organized, that it is nothing new for the Repubs. has to be recognized. As I have noted before in this space, one of the founding elements of the Republican Party back in the 1850s were the various political predecessors of the Women’s’ Christian Temperance Movement, itself founded in 1873. Their continued influence in the Party eventually led to the adoption of Prohibition in 1920. After the end of that totally failed experiment, in 1933, “religion” per se stayed pretty quiet in the Republican Party until the adoption of the recently overturned Roe v. Wade in 1972. In 1980, the Repubs. did manage to push through the Congressional “Hyde Amendment” which denied Federal funds for paying for abortions (as if women in general and pro-abortion-rights women and men did not pay Federal taxes).

But then, in the 1980 Presidential Campaign, the Republican Ronald Reagan formed an anti-abortion rights alliance with the well-known right-wing-religious-Republican Jerry Falwell, which alliance of course led to the current “Roe-reversal-disaster-for-so-many-women.” (Funny that Reagan would sign on to this one. He came from Hollywood where, one might say, abortions had been well-known for decades. But why should one’s principles one day overcome one’s politics the next?)

As it happens, the essence of Christian Nationalism per se has ebbed and flowed over time within the Republican Party. It is now making a return with a vengeance in the wake of the clear triumph of Religious Authoritarianism foisted on the Nation by, as it happens (no coincidence there, eh?) a right-wing Catholic majority on the Supreme Court. Now one of the times when it flowed was from the mouths of some of the speakers at the 1992 Republican National Convention and close by it. I thought to share them with you here, because they could have been uttered very recently by various Republican luminaries.

In “The First Hague Inaugural” that I wrote in my book “The 15% Solution” for the first (fictional) President, Jefferson Davis Hague, elected by the “Republican-Christian Alliance,” in 2004 (note that the book was actually written in 1994-5), the following quotes (with their references, listed below) were included:

“Mr. President, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Speaker, my fellow Amer­i­cans under God. I stand here before you today, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Inaugural having been moved to Christmas Day], in all humility awaiting my time to do His bid­ding. And I can tell you that his bidding now is to fight the good fight, for the Lord, and for you the Ameri­can people under God.

“For there is a religious war going on in this country. And we, the Ameri­cans of God, must win it. We must take back our cit­ies, and take back our culture, and take back our country [Bu­chanan]. To do this, we must return to our Christian roots. If we do not, we will continue to le­galize sodomy, slaughter inno­cent babies, destroy the minds of our chil­dren, squander our re­sources, and yes, sink into oblivion [Robertson]. . . .

“We are in an eternal battle. The battle is between right and wrong, be­tween truth and lies, between life and death. And if we ever forget what it is about, if we think we are in a battle for elect­ing peo­ple to hold office, simply controlling political parties, then we will not ac­complish what we are to achieve. We need to hold to our principles, and stick to them re­gardless. [I made this one up.]

“The real enemy is the secular humanist mindset which seeks to destroy everything that is good in this society. The fight that we are fighting, the battle we have joined, is one that encom­passes our entire life span. Re­member, you have God. You have your families; you have your commu­nity, your church community, your neighborhood, and all the things you are con­cerned about. They have only power. That’s all that matters to them. They will fight with everything that’s in them to keep that power [Weyrich].

“Today we face what I believe is an even greater threat to our lives. The enemy is more insidious, more chameleon”like than a Hitler. And this enemy is even more deadly. The enemy is lethal and must be stopped [Fournier].

“So far from having ended, the cold war has increased in in­ten­si­ty, as sec­tor after sector of American life has been ruth­less­ly cor­rupt­ed by the liber­al ethos. Now that the other ‘Cold War’ is over, the real cold war has begun [Kristol {that’s the now-sort-of-liberal Bill Kristol, mind you}, quoted in Starr].

“Yes, we are engaged in a social, political, and cultural civil war. There is a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But you can’t have a society whose highest value is merely live and let live. The bottom line is somebody’s values will prevail. Some­body is going to win this civil war. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe about things like life and death, love and sex, and freedom and slavery. [Again, I made this one up.]

“[There is a civil war going on.] On one side there are men and women like Americans under God. People who be­lieve that God is. And believing that God is, they are re­quired, they are obli­gated to take the posi­tions they take on a whole host of issues. And on the other side of this great conflict there are people at very signifi­cant positions in our culture who begin their thinking with the belief that God isn’t. They are our ene­my [Bauer].

“Yes, it is time to take America back, from the liberal politi­cians who are attempting to erase every evidence of God from public life, from gov­ern­ment officials who hide their radical, anti”Christian bigot­ry behind a twist­ed view of ‘the separation of church and state,’ from gay and lesbian radicals who not only claim the right to lead their Godless lifestyle, but demand that we support this abominable behav­ior, from the radical fem­i­nists whose ‘right to choose’ has caused the murder of mil­lions of inno­cent unborn little babies, from the militant left which is the fount of all evil”take her back from every group or individ­ual that refuses to recog­nize our beloved nation for what it truly is”a nation under God! [Falwell]

“We are the only society in history that says that power comes from God to you . . . and if you don’t tell the truth about the role of God and the cen­trality of God in America, you can’t explain the rest of our civiliza­tion. I look forward to the day when a be­lief in God is once more at the center of the defini­tion of being an American [Gingrich, 1].

“Most studies of leadership argue that lead­ers actually are acting out past decisions. The problem when you get certainty with great leaders is that they have al­ready thor­oughly envisioned the achievement, and now it is just a matter of implementa­tion. And so, it is very different. And so, in a sense, virtuality [sic] at the mental level is some­thing I think you find in lead­ership over historical periods. But in addi­tion, we are not in a new place; it is just becom­ing harder and hard­er to avoid the place where we are [Gingrich, 2].

“In fighting this fight to avoid this place, we face an increas­ing­ly mili­tant, radical, socialist left. And this is how we are going to win the war against this left. We will use the same strategy Gen­eral Douglas MacArthur em­ployed against the Jap­a­nese in the Pacific in World War II: by”pass their strong”holds, then sur­round them, isolate them, bombard them, then blast the individu­als out of their power bunkers with hand”to”hand com­bat. The battle for Iwo Jima was not pleasant, but our troops won it. The battle to regain the soul of America won’t be pleasant either, but we will win it [Robertson].”

And here, folks, is the list of references from which the quotes just above were drawn:

Bauer, G., “Speech,” Christian Coalition Road”to”Victory Confer­ence, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA, 1991.

Buchanan, P., “Speech,” Republican National Convention, 1992.

Falwell, J., Fundraising letter, May, 1993.

Fournier, K., Fund”raising letter, American Center for Law and Jus­tice (Virginia Beach, VA), April, 1995.

Freedom Writer, “Stealth? Deception? You decide,” April, 1994, p. 7.

Gingrich, N., 1, quoted in a fund”raising letter, American Humanist Asso­cia­tion (Amherst, NY), Summer, 1995.

Gingrich, N., 2, quoted in Kelly, M., “Rip It Up,” The New Yorker, Jan. 23, 1995.

National Vanguard Books, Catalog No. 15, PO Box 330, Hillsboro, WV 24946, 1993.

Paladin Press, Catalog Vol. 21, No. 2, PO Box 1307, Boulder, CO 80306, 1991.

Page, S., “His Stetson’s in the Ring,” Newsday, Feb. 25, 1995.

RNC: Republican National Committee, The Republican Plat­form: 1992, Wash­ington, DC: August 17, 1992.

Robertson, P., quoted in fund”raising letter of the ACLU, 1993, Freedom Watch, March/April, 1994, Vol. 3, No. 2, and Right”Wing Watch, Vol. 2, No. 11, Sept., 1992.

Starr, P., “Nothing Neo: Neo-conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea by Irving Kristol,” The New Republic, December 4, 1995, 35.

Weyrich, P., quoted in “The rights and wrongs of the religious right,” The Freedom Writer, Oct. 6, 1995, p. 6.

Indeed, the current statements of Mastriano and Boebert quoted above are nothing new for the “Christian” wing of the Republican Party. This particular strain of politico-religion in the Party, as noted above, goes all the way back to the days of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post; a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man.

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