Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial nominee is a 'Christian nationalist' who associates with AR-15 fetishists: historian

Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial nominee is a 'Christian nationalist' who associates with AR-15 fetishists: historian
Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Wikimedia Commons

In the swing state of Pennsylvania, Republicans have a nominated a gubernatorial candidate who is even to the right of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is competing with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is way beyond conservative — he’s extreme.

History professor Thomas Lecaque, who teaches at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, lays out some reasons why Mastriano is so dangerous in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on May 31. The Republican who may be Pennsylvania’s next governor, Lecaque warns, is a far-right Christian nationalist and an “insurrectionist” who associates with AR-15 fetishists.

“Mastriano’s résumé hits all the main points of today’s bog-standard MAGA candidate template,” Lecaque explains. “He’s an insurrectionist who ginned up enthusiasm for the attempted coup as a featured speaker for Jericho March’s rally in December 2020 before participating — by his own admission — in the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on January 6, 2021…. Mastriano also has an increasingly familiar religious profile.”

Lecaque continues, “He has described the Gulf War, in which he served in 1991, as a ‘holy’ war — a belief reflected in his bizarre 2002 graduate thesis, ‘Nebuchadnezzar’s Sphinx.’ He has attended events of the Charismatic Christian dominionist movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation. He shares anti-Muslim memes, hangs out with militia members to guard Confederate statues at Gettysburg, and constantly hits all the main themes of Christian nationalist discourse in his speeches and other activities.”

Moreover, Lecaque adds, Mastriano “associates with an extremist sect that places special emphasis on America’s most notorious gun.”

The “extremist sect” that Lecaque is referring to is the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church, a.k.a. Rod of Iron Ministries, founded by the Rev. Hyung Jin Moon — who is the youngest son of the late Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon and also goes by Sean Moon. And the “notorious gun” is the semiautomatic AR-15, which was used in two mass shootings in May: one in Buffalo, New York on May 10, and the other in Uvalde, Texas on May 24.

“Rod of Iron continues the Unification Church’s tradition of apocalypticism, but adds to this framework beliefs derived a variety of sources that include, most importantly, the rhetoric, imagery, and ideology of both QAnon and Christian nationalism,” Lecaque observes. “The younger Moon wrote a constitution for the messianic kingdom he and his followers believe will replace the United States following its collapse…. Members of the church perform ceremonies wearing bullet crowns and carrying AR-15s.”

Mastriano, Lecaque notes, has been “a speaker at Rod of Iron events.” According to Lecaque, Mastriano and Moon “are fellow travelers not only in promoting far-right Christian nationalist politics, but also, in being January 6th insurrectionists.”

“Moon reportedly stormed the Capitol with over 50 of his followers,” Lecaque writes. “But the most important connection between Mastriano and Moon is their shared belief in an apocalyptic religion that imagines the present moment as a battleground between good and evil at the advent of the End Times. Rev. Sean Moon derived his church’s unusual name from Revelation 2:27, ‘he shall rule them with a rod of iron.’ He takes the rod to be the AR-15.”

The Book of Revelation part is important. In far-right evangelical fundamentalism, the Book of Revelation in the New Testament is an obsession — and it fits in with their End Times theology.

“The Book of Revelation — also known as the Apocalypse of John — is the final book of the Bible and the place where Moon came to his beliefs about the cosmic significance of the AR-15,” Lecaque observes. “What he and other cultists should consider is that the apocalypse they desire might reveal a different deity than they expect.”

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