Jan. 6 hearings, Trump, and a secular white Christian nationalism

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There is a lot to say (and worry) about reject the electionAnd the culture warriorAnd the diabolical plotA roster of pro-Trump Republican politicians running for re-election in the national, state, and local primaries. Likewise, there is much to be said and concerned about the great fanaticism of the big lie, Highlighted by the January 6 hearings. The danger lies not only in what supporters of stolen elections – including Republican politicians – did in the run-up to the rebellion. That’s what they’re doing now Undermining future elections Reframing the challenges of elections asCrusade. ”

When describing these trends, their consequences for democracy, and the potential for them to incite violence, many scholars and critics have adopted the term “white Christian nationalism”.

When describing these trends, their consequences for democracy, and the potential for fueling violence, many scholars and critics have done so. He adopted the term “white Christian nationalism”. As a concept, white Christian nationalism does an important rhetorical work: to emphasize “deep stories“At the core of many far-right beliefs and to highlight how this is done religious fundamentalism It leads millions to embrace anti-democratic ideals.

At the same time, the term has its limitations for one primary reason: Much of what is described as white Christian nationalism is secular. Many of the most enduring talking points – even the ones you revolve around Evangelical churches – It originated from news media such as Fox News. Notable evangelicals are cable tv characters It is not supported by churches, but by networks dark money organizations. The centralization of Christian belief and identity also fails to explain how many people who have never set foot within the evangelical church end up with beliefs – most notably those related to the stolen 2020 election – that mirror those of his own.Rebel Christians. ”

These secular energies do not mean that the focus on Christianity is unfounded. Non-religious framing, for example the Biden administration Adoption of the term “ultra-MAGA” To describe the pro-insurgency wing of the Republican Party, the whole picture is also missed. What we need is a framework for describing the far right that builds on what we know about Christian beliefs and identity while taking into account the media and secular influences. Something more hybrid is happening—and more difficult to pin down—and we need to explain the what, how and why if we hope to have any hope of effectively turning back.

In our current book project, we identify the source of this hybridization (and the difficulty of identifying it) as the “shadow gospel”: decades of self-reinforcing conspiratorial messages backed by densely intertwined secular and evangelical media. . The fervor inspired by the shadow gospel is religious in nature. But this is a religion that is not tied to any of the structures — or limitations — of formal Christianity, including the Bible, church leaders, and even belief in God. It is supported by the logic of Satanism, which divides the world between good and evil and is concerned with recognizing, overcoming and punishing evil. This reasoning was drawn on the basis of the secular belief that the “real” America is under relentless attack from dangerous non-American “they” associated with the political left.

As we argue, the shadow gospel emerges from two contexts in the mid-20th century. The first is anti-communism. It is sometimes clear, as evidenced by McCarthyism, that anti-communism can take more subtle forms as a pervasive feature of culture, politics, and national identity in the mid-century United States. Joel Covel dated How anti-communist ideology defined what can be considered “real” Americanization, in the process that helps divide the world into two distinct moral realms. “Real” America was good, a shining city on the hill. Communism was the graduation of everything that is evil. Anything thrown in with communism, including a range of left-wing issues considered “subversive” such as civil rights, labor regulation, and feminist activism, was a threat to the very soul of the nation.

As we argue, the shadow gospel emerges from two contexts in the mid-20th century. The first is anti-communism.

The explicitly Christian, not to mention apocalyptic and conspiratorial frameworks of anti-communism—regardless of whether the anti-communists themselves were Christians or have set foot in the church—fit seamlessly into the context of the second shadow gospel. And these are the evangelical church, the evangelical messages, the media and leaders who are outside the official church institutions. By the 1940s, radio ministers and other organizers of the Parachurian community undertook a purposeful and ambitious communication effort designed to get their messages, including what was often anti-communist, to a wide audience. These efforts represented a fundamental shift from the isolationist fundamentalism. He also shifted the focus from the conversion and salvation of the individual to the conversion and salvation of society—and to the threats they believed Christians faced from secularism.

The discourse of Parasaurian evangelicals and right-wing secular media figures overlapped significantly during the Cold War, and so did the audience for these messages. These overlaps, including between publishers and funders, and reinforcement over time, ensuring that messages entering one node of the network are bounced back through others. Thus, the evangelical and secular public heard the same arguments—and the same demons—over and over again. The secular origins of messages to evangelical audiences and the evangelical origins of messages to secular audiences are becoming increasingly blurred.

The bottom line is that the Fox News Church may be a uniquely powerful force in our current political moment. But its rise has been slow for 80 years.

Understanding this history is key to understanding how the shadow gospel, shipped through social media, is able to spread messages with all the power and emotional resonance of religion but without the pesky limitations of religious theology. Take, for example, Fox News’ annual grievance festival known as the “War on Christmas.” This is not an argument about the need to develop a deeper faith or keep Christ at Christmas, a common refrain posted on local church billboards; This is an argument about how Christians, a term the network uses with conservatives, have come under attack from liberals. It is an abolition argument, in other words, an argument that not only refers to an issue, but refers to a solution – to a response.

As they have done for decades, these battles centered on liberalism and its perceived threat to the “real” America.

As they have done for decades, these battles centered on liberalism and its perceived threat to the “real” America. Echoing the satanic panic of the ’80s and ’90s, Those on the extreme fringes of the shadow gospel explicitly claiming that liberals are allied with the literal character of Satan, or that they are Satanists (an accusation sometimes also made against conservative people and organizations The right wing is considered inadequate). At the very least, liberals are described as morally evil.

But the shadow gospel could be more subtle and more secular, focusing instead on “liberal indoctrination” And the “Parental rights. Explicit religious messages – not to mention fire and brimstone – may be toned down, but the same conspiratorial argument and call to action remains: that they They are trying to keep America away from her weWith dangers no less than the end of our world as we know it.

In an effort to prevent this from happening, the Shadow Gospel seeks to change American culture, politics, and society to protect the interests of the conservative white Christian minority with little regard for the interests of the multiracial and pluralistic majority. And it does so by defining and arming morality.”real Americans,“It is defined as those who are attuned to traditional gender binaries, traditional family structures, and traditional social hierarchies. It aims to control what is taught in schools, the types of people who run for political office, personal lifestyle and the medical choices available. Hiding behind the discourses of freedom, Including religious freedom, as a shield against incursion, while at the same time using the concept of freedom as a sword to undermine the liberties of others.Perhaps most remarkable is that it reframes discord of any kind as an attack that calls for punishment – some Politician, some some professional Related Basic safety. In extreme cases, opposition is treated as treason.

Our use of the term shadow gospel is a reference to Anne Nelson’s phrase shadow net, which describes the dark effects of money that have powerfully – and covertly – motivated the conservative movement for decades. As long as the shadow web remains obscured, Nelson says, citizens themselves will remain in the dark about who and what is driving American politics. This confusion undermines the democratic process. Likewise, so long as the Shadow Gospel remains unchallenged, so long as it is able to grow, adapt, and arm by those who focus singularly on their own strength and comforts, and by the minority—that minority that has no interest in making any concessions to the majority. – He will always rule.

The only way to counter this force is to expose it. Otherwise, we will be stuck in a ring of superficial solutions where problems are constantly emerging on social media and in school board meetings, churches, local elections, and families. Identifying the shadow gospel will help target the oldest and most suspicious causes of the seemingly intractable problems that plague our politics. It will also help craft responses that avoid feeding narratives that they are coming to get we – And the subsequent rush, as well Wednesday It is better to start fighting.

The center cannot hold out for much longer. It’s time to pull the shadow gospel into the light.

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