'Mean-spirited, vulgar grab for power': This evangelical pastor is fighting back against Christian nationalism

Although former President Donald Trump is by no means universally loved within Christianity and has his share of critics among Catholics and Mainline Protestants, he has been incredibly popular within a certain area of Christianity: far-right White fundamentalist evangelicals. That movement, which has been called the Christian Right or the Religious Right, has had a firm grip on the Republican Party since the early 1980s. And although Trump himself was raised Presbyterian, not evangelical, and is not known for being very religious, he was made a point of courting evangelicals.

One pastor who is critical of the relationship between Trump and the Christian Right is Caleb Campbell of the Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a report from the Globe & Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe, Campbell is trying to counter the Trump/MAGA influence on evangelicals.

“You can think of Donald Trump’s most faithful adherents as bigots or patriots, constitutional standard-bearers or deluded masses,” VanderKlippe writes in an article published on November 25. “Caleb Campbell likes to think of them as sheep that have gone astray. He has made it his work to lead them back…. Mr. Campbell’s introduction to the congregation of Trump came in a church, after fellow Christians suggested he attend what was described as a revival event organized by Turning Point.”

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Turning Point is the pro-Trump group led by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk. Campbell told the Globe & Mail that when he first heard Kirk speaking at a MAGA/evangelical event, he was “absolutely terrified and horrified.”

“Mr. Kirk established Turning Point USA and, in 2021, TPUSA Faith, which organized some of the events Mr. Campbell attended,” VanderKlippe explains. “Mr. Kirk calls the separation of church and state a lie, saying ‘the church founded this country’ and, today, ‘has to rise up in every capacity.’ TPUSA Faith’s ambition is to gather and organize religious leaders, providing them with resources ‘to activate their congregations to fight for free people, free markets, free speech and limited government.’ Listening to that message left Mr. Campbell unsettled.”

Campbell describes Christian nationalism as “a mean-spirited, vulgar grab for power with violent rhetoric.”

“Mr. Campbell’s initial efforts to push back were not popular with his White, evangelical and suburban parishioners,” VanderKlippe notes. “His congregation shrank from 800 people to 300. He began to write a book about engaging the ‘mission field’ of new religious conservatism — and started to attract new congregants, whom he describes as ‘disheartened, if not disgusted, by the amalgamation of nationalism and Christianity.’”

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VanderKlippe adds, “(Campbell) has fashioned a tool kit for winning back the souls from the Trump church. He begins by establishing personal trust, without which people tend to resist questioning their own beliefs. He encourages people to fast from media for two weeks. And he invites them to sit at a table with others who hold different views to discuss hot-button issues such as immigration.”

READ MORE: These evangelicals are doing something Trump claimed they’d 'never' do — 'considering other' options: report

'Reaping the consequences of eternal damnation': Jenna Ellis says Club Q victims are burning in Hell

Jenna Ellis, one of the right-wing lawyers who represented former President Donald Trump in his failed attempts to overturn the 2020 election, proclaimed on Wednesday's edition of The Jenna Ellis Show that the five victims who were murdered in the massacre at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado early Sunday morning are burning in Hell.

"The five people who were killed in the nightclub that night, there is no evidence at all that they were Christians. So assuming that they were not, that they had not accepted the truth of the gospel of Christ and affirmed Jesus Christ as the lord of their life, they are now reaping the consequences of having eternal damnation," Ellis said. "And that is far, far greater – we should be having that conversation. Instead of just the tragedy of what happened to the body, we need to be talking about what happened to the soul and the fact that they are now in eternal separation from our lord and savior Jesus Christ."

Watch below or at this link.

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'Anti-woke' right-wing bank GloriFi shuts down a month after launch

GloriFi — an “anti-woke” bank endorsed by right-wing media figure Candace Owens and supported by millions in startup funds, raised with help from gay right-wing billionaire Peter Thiel — has shut down barely a month after it launched.

GloriFi advertised itself as a bank where investors would be “free to celebrate your love of God and country without fear of cancellation.” It promised its financial backers a user base filled with “plumbers, electricians and police officers,” who “are fed up with big banks that don’t share their values,” Rolling Stone reported.

However, the bank continually pushed its launch date back. It opened in September. Now, barely a month later, it has shut down.

The company’s one-page website now reads, “the Board of Directors and leadership of GloriFi have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that we need to begin winding down the company’s operations.”

GloriFi’s Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Landtrop blamed the start-up’s failure on “financial challenges related to startup mistakes, the failing economy, reputational attacks, and multiple negative stories.”

The bank “promised checking and savings accounts and debit cards for conservatives,” The Root reported, but “it was so concerned with pushing a culture-wars narrative that it forgot that banks in startup mode are supposed to be focused primarily on one thing: offering attractive rates on deposits to bring in new customer accounts and to be able to expand to more products like car loans and mortgages.”

The company’s website now instructs its investors on how to receive their funds back. So much for celebrating “your love of God and country without fear of cancellation.”

These evangelicals are doing something Trump claimed they’d 'never' do — 'considering other' options: report

On Tuesday night, November 15 — a week after the 2022 midterms elections — former President Donald Trump officially announced that he is running for president in 2024 and is seeking the Republican nomination. Trump obviously hoped that far-right White evangelicals, who have been a key part of his MAGA base, would be quick to give him their endorsement. But Tessa Stuart and Asawin Suebsaeng, in a report for Rolling Stone published on November 23, emphasize that evangelicals haven’t been lining up behind Trump the way he hoped and want to hear what other 2024 candidates have to say.

“He was warned, at times, that there were signs some conservative faith leaders were open to exploring other, non-Trump 2024 candidacies,” Stuart and Suebsaeng explain. “The former president, for his part, was mostly incredulous, at least on the surface. Trump, according to these sources, would boast that those voters — as well as their pastors, professional activists, and grassroots honchos — would ‘never’ dump Trump. Never. Not after everything President Trump had done for them: the judges, the executive orders, Israel, Christmas (of course), and tipping the balance of the Supreme Court and, with it, the ultimate offering: the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”

Trump, the journalists add, made his November 15 announcement feeling “confident” that he had the Christian Right’s “support locked up,” but that was before “the defections began.”

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“Evangelical leaders who once counseled Trump are openly bad-mouthing him or publicly declaring they can’t, in good conscience, cast a ballot for him again,” according to Stuart and Suebsaeng. “The wrangler in charge of outreach to faith leaders has been cautioned she will have a hard time getting the flock back in line. And perhaps most shockingly, the anti-abortion groups whose every demand Trump sought to satisfy during his four years in office have nonchalantly declared neutrality in the GOP primary. They all agree that Trump delivered for them as president. The question now is: What else can he do? And is it worth five more years of dealing with him?”

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, Trump, according to Rolling Stone, privately worried that there would be a backlash. And there was. In the 2022 midterms, Democratic gubernatorial candidates who made abortion rights a priority in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan won.

Trump avoided discussing the Dobbs decision during his November 15 announcement, and some anti-abortion activists are disappointed. Kristan Hawkins, president of Students For Life of America, told Rolling Stone, “Former President Trump’s silence about abortion in his long speech announcing his candidacy sent a message, and we heard it loud and clear…. (We are) not looking for ambivalence in those we support.”

Mike Evans, who was one of Trump’s evangelical advisors, told the Washington Post, “We had to close our mouths and eyes when (Trump) said things that horrified us. I cannot do that anymore.” And veteran televangelist James Robison compared Trump to a “little elementary schoolchild.”

READ MORE: 'He used us': Evangelicals enraged over Trump betrayal as GOP heads 'toward a civil war'

Texas-based Christian Right evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress told Rolling Stone that he will support Trump if he is the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee, but for now, he isn’t endorsing him.

Jeffress told Rolling Stone, “I believe the Republican Party is headed for a civil war, and that is something I prefer to stay out of. If Donald Trump wins the 2024 nomination — and I think the probability of that is very high — I will gladly and enthusiastically support him.”

READ MORE: Evangelicals are the backbones of Trump's Big Lie — and it's all about white supremacy

How the GOP's 'folk libertarians' and 'cynical irreligious right' clashed in the midterms: historian

When the Christian Right movement associated with White evangelical fundamentalists like Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, James Dobson and the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, Sr. became prominent in the Republican Party in the early 1980s, one of the United States’ most influential conservatives expressed total disdain for the movement. The late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, railing against Falwell, made it abundantly clear that he believed the Christian Right was bad for the GOP and bad for conservatism.

Ironically, the arch-conservative Goldwater found himself in agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and shared their view that the last thing the U.S. needed was to become the type of theocracy that Falwell and other evangelicals wanted the U.S. to become. Goldwater, the ACLU and television producer Norman Lear’s People For the American Way weren’t anti-religion but rather, realized that a strong separation of church and state was necessary to protect religious freedom.

Falwell and Goldwater were both part of President Ronald Reagan’s fragile right-wing coalition of the 1980s, but the animosity between the two Republicans was considerable. And that tension between the secular right and the fundamentalist right continues to exist in 2022.

READ MORE: How Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, Sr. helped pave the way for Trumpism and the white nationalist horrors of the Trump era

In a think piece published by The Bulwark on November 22, historian Joshua Tait takes an in-depth look at the secular/fundamentalist rivalry on the American right — a rivalry that, according to Tait, is as intense as ever.

“On the illiberal right, there’s a divide between religiously motivated conservatives and their secular allies,” Tait explains. “This divide will likely grow, and be felt at both the elite and popular levels. In one sense, this is not new: There has long been a religious/secular fault line in the conservative coalition. But as hypocritical as the Religious Right can be, religious — generally Christian — impulses have, at times, tempered American conservatism. Now, however, we already see signs of a cynical irreligious right and how its ideas and attitudes have infected politically minded believers.”

According to Tait, trying to get the secular right and the fundamentalist right to find common ground is as difficult in 2022 as it was during the 1980s when Goldwater vowed to “fight” the Christian Right “every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’” Tait emphasizes that although “folk libertarians” are quick to express their contempt for “woke” ideology, that doesn’t automatically make them allies of the Christian Right.

“It’s hard to imagine that religious conservatives’ eternal commitments and their genuine belief in sin will allow for any sort of long-term alliance,” Tait argues. “As soon as Christians are perceived as a more censorious threat, the folk-libertarian impulse of this cohort will swing left, as we saw in the midterms.”

READ MORE: More than 60 percent of Republicans want the United States of America declared a Christian nation: report

Thanksgiving food for thought: Immigrants are not 'invading' the United States

White Christian men are really scared of immigrants. Or at least they’re scared of immigrants who are “undesirable.”

They’re just terrified that new people are going to come into their country and make them eat weird food or hear weird languages.

They’re so fragile they have to cast poor people and children just trying to survive as “invading.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott is now so scared he’s begging President Biden to invoke the invasion clause of the US Constitution to protect Texans from refugees and migrant workers.

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The US has a decidedly weird relationship with immigration. It’s unique in its need for immigrants to “settle” the country (indigenous Native Americans don’t count). So immigration and naturalization have an outsized importance in the nation’s history. However, despite this need, nativism sprang up with a vengeance as soon as “undesirable” immigrants began arriving in the 19th century.

The narrative that immigrants were an “invading” force began with Samuel Morse’s Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States published in 1836. He said every American citizen who values his birthright should attempt to repel “this insidious invasion of the country” of “illiterate” Catholic immigrants. Chinese immigration was cast as an invasion in the 1870s in such a way that directly led to the Chinese Exclusion Act. Such rhetoric, and comparisons to an invasion of locusts, was applied to immigrants from Eastern Europe. The “invasion” moved on to Mexican immigrants in the 1920s and has remained focused on immigrants from South and Central America, even sometimes being described as a “Wetback Invasion.”

Immigrants are not invading the US.

They are not trying to conquer us, or take land, or forcibly convert us, or steal resources, or do anything else that invading armies have done (or that Americans have historically done to indigenous people).

READ MORE: The good priest who called greed 'venomous'

Current immigrants are coming to the US for the same reasons immigrants came historically. Undocumented immigrants are coming for the same reason documented immigrants are. Everyone just wants safety and economic opportunities. But casting immigrants as “invading” is a purposeful conscious choice to make vulnerable people doing no harm seem threatening and violent.

And now Abbot isn’t just accusing immigrants of invading rhetorically. He’s actually trying to get the president to treat poor people without weapons or power as a military invasion!

On November 16, a day after tweeting it publicly, Abbot wrote a letter to President Biden informing him that he has not lived up to the promise of Article IV, § 4, that the federal government “shall protect each of them against Invasion.”

Since, according to Abbott, the federal government isn’t treating poor immigrants like an invading army, Abbott will now invoke Article I, § 10, Clause 3 of the US Constitution, which allows states to “engage in War” when they are “actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

Oh, and just to make it extra scary, Abbot specifies that the invasion is by “Mexican drug cartels.” You’d think we would have heard about drug cartels invading large swaths of Texas.

As far as I can tell the Invasion Clause has rarely been invoked in US history. The one example I could find was in 1914 when the Colorado governor asked Woodrow Wilson to invoke the clause during the Colorado Coalfield War, a bloody labor dispute, not an invasion.

Abbot’s strategy has been regularly rejected by the courts. In New Jersey v. United States, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected New Jersey’s claim that the US had violated its obligation to protect states from invasion by not controlling immigration through international borders better.

In Chiles v. Florida, the plaintiffs, Florida, claimed that the "government breaches its duty when its failure to protect against invasion of illegal aliens imposes coercive pressure on the state and local political processes.” The Southern District of Florida rejected this argument and said the plaintiffs were making a political argument, not a legal one.

Abbott seems to be trying to enforce war powers which, along with immigration enforcement, is the purview of the federal government.

Therefore, he’s clearly trying to unlawfully invoke the threat of invasion to justify rounding up asylum seekers. Last year, Texas passed Operation Lone Star, which already further militarizes the border by giving Abbot authority to deploy the national guard.

Of course, this was also justified through complaining that President Biden wasn’t doing his job. This latest ploy invoking invasion is likely in response to a Texas court ruling that the arrests under Operation Lone Star violated established law that immigration enforcement was the sole purview of the federal government.

For Article I Section 10 to be invoked, invasions must be armed invasions that are “too formidable for the civil power to overcome.”

New Jersey v. US, as well as Padavan v. US and State of California v. US in the 1990s all confirm this definition. Asylum seekers and poor immigrants are not armed and they are certainly not too formidable for civil powers to deal with. Even if we include the threat of cartels who might be armed, there is nothing to suggest that threat amounts to a formidable invasion.

Like previous courts have said, invoking the Invasion Clause is a political ploy not a legal strategy.

We never know how courts will react anymore but it’s likely Abbott’s actions would be rejected if he did take steps to further militarize immigration enforcement and take jurisdiction away from the federal government.

Unfortunately, harm can be done in the meantime, and immigrants can be unlawfully arrested. Not to mention the political narrative itself is insidious and harmful to any reasonable response to immigration. Asylum seekers are often traumatized. They don’t need to be met with a response as if they are trying to invade.

It might be something we all want to think about the week of Thanksgiving.

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'Crystallizing into a kind of quasi-fascist politics': How postliberalism made inroads with disenchanted leftists

On a Friday night in early October, in a downtrodden city in eastern Ohio, a speaker laid out a grim vision. At the height of 2020's first, most terrifying wave of COVID-19, an employee at a Chinese slaughterhouse led his coworkers on a walkout. For years, the state-owned company had abused its staff with continual video surveillance, punishing production quotas and demerits for bathroom breaks. Now it was casually disregarding their safety during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Following the walkout, the employee was fired, and then vilified through a PR campaign that denounced his protest as immoral and possibly illegal.

This article originally appeared on

After a pause came the reveal: That hadn't happened in China, but in New York City's Staten Island; the hero wasn't a Chinese meatpacker, but a young warehouse worker named Chris Smalls; the villain wasn't the Chinese government but The speaker went on, quoting from Karl Marx about "masters and workmen" and the "spirit of revolutionary change" before clearing his throat to deliver another correction: Apologies, that was actually Pope Leo XIII.

Both jokes were preface to a larger punchline, one that's particularly relevant after the 2022 midterm elections: This wasn't happening at a Bernie Sanders rally or a Democratic Socialists of America meetup, but a decidedly conservative conference at Ohio's Franciscan University of Steubenville, a center of U.S. right-wing Catholic thought. The speaker (and conference organizer) was Sohrab Ahmari, a Catholic writer best known for his 2019 polemic against conservatives insufficiently committed to the culture wars. The conference, "Restoring a Nation: The Common Good in the American Tradition," was a showcase for the modestly-sized but well-connected Catholic integralist movement, part of the broader current of conservative thought known as postliberalism.

Over the two-day conference, 20 speakers, including then-Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, hammered home the argument that the same faith used to justify abortion bans and curtail LGBTQ rights also demanded a different approach to the economy, one that might plausibly be called socialist. Laissez-faire capitalism, speakers said, wasn't the organic force conservatives have long claimed but the product of state intervention; ever-expanding markets hadn't brought universal freedom but wage-slavery and despair; Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal — demonized on the right for generations — was in fact a "triumph for Catholic social thought"; social welfare programs were good.

All that might be striking enough. But the conference also served as something of a rebuttal to another gathering of right-wing intellectuals that had taken place a few weeks before: the third major National Conservatism conference, held this September in Miami. The two conferences — one in a hollowed-out former steel town, the other in a $400-per-night golf resort — represented two sides of what some partisans recently called a "fraught postliberal crack-up." Broadly speaking, these are ideological kin: members of the Trump-era intellectual "new right" who see themselves as rebels fighting an elite "Conservative, Inc." But it's a family in the midst of a feud, and the public split signified by the two meetings comes after months of less visible infighting over questions only hinted at in headline Republican politics.

Earlier this month, after the midterms failed to deliver a promised "red wave," those fights spilled into the headlines, as Republicans' disappointed hopes led to some of the first open shots in what's been a cold civil war over the party's future. Partly that fight revolves around whether Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will lead the GOP into the 2024 presidential election. But it goes much deeper than that, and the fight also has implications that go well beyond the right.

The midterms gave conservatives of all stripes something to claim, or to denounce. Activists who spent the last two years sniffing for "critical race theory" and "gender ideology" in public schools cheered DeSantis' re-election as proof that maximalist culture war is the key to Republican success. Anti-Trump conservatives pointed to culture warriors' widespread losses elsewhere as proof the GOP needs to come "home to liberal democracy." In a New York Times op-ed, Ahmari chastised conservatives who'd spent the run-up to the election mocking an overworked Starbucks barista as one likely reason that "the red wave didn't materialize." Vance's victory in Ohio was simultaneously touted as proof that right-wing populism remains viable and that "the culture war still wins."

Others called on Republicans to actualize their claim to be the new party of the "multiracial working class." The ecumenical religious right journal First Things exhorted conservatives to join picket lines. The conservative policy think tank American Compass unveiled a comprehensive "New Direction" economic agenda, repurposing lyrics from the Clash to propose things like realigning financial markets with the common good. In schmaltzier fashion, Trump strode into a Mar-a-Lago ballroom to announce his 2024 presidential candidacy to the "Les Misérables" anthem "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

And after days of lambasting "Washington Republicanism" for offering little of substance for the working class, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., issued a proclamation: "The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new."

* * *

The right-wing populist wave that elected Donald Trump in 2016, like the U.K.'s Brexit vote a few months earlier, is typically described as a watershed moment for conservatism. But the fact of the Trump revolution arrived before the theory. Something had clearly changed in the political order, but Trump's impulsiveness and lack of coherent ideology or policy agenda created a vacuum that needed to be filled, retroactively, by intellectuals on the right.

A variety of themes emerged from those efforts. One was an "America First"-inspired rehabilitation of nationalism, long tarnished by its association with authoritarian movements in pre-World War II Europe. Another was heard in Steve Bannon's call to dismantle the "administrative state" of unelected bureaucrats who might stand in Trump's way. A third was the conviction that classical liberalism — in the historical Adam Smith sense of that word, which prioritizes individual rights, pluralism and free trade and which guided both parties for generations — had been a catastrophe, replacing traditional norms with a destructive free-for-all.

As postliberals like Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen, author of the influential 2018 book, "Why Liberalism Failed," argue, classical liberalism promised peace and prosperity but instead delivered an era of haves and have-nots, swapping good jobs for dehumanizing gig work, empowering corporations to enforce a homogeneous global monoculture and promoting social policies that led people — particularly working-class people — away from traditionalist values like church, marriage and parenthood. In that light, conservative regions' higher rates of divorce, teen pregnancy and opioid deaths weren't evidence of red-state hypocrisy but rather an unrecognized form of class warfare.

The right's retconned Trumpist ideology also made a meta-argument: that the conservative "fusion" that had defined the Republican Party since the 1960s — uniting religious traditionalists, Cold Warriors and free marketeers in opposition to communism — had ultimately failed.

In 2019, Ahmari and a cadre of mostly conservative Catholic intellectuals gave voice to that argument through a group manifesto, "Against the Dead Consensus," which declared (several years before Josh Hawley) that the old conservative coalition was over and something new must take its place. Two months later, Ahmari wrote a follow-up, declaring never-Trump National Review writer David French the poster boy of that dead consensus, for being the sort of conservative who would defend Drag Queen Story Hours on the grounds of free expression. There was no polite, pluralist way to fight such an abomination, Ahmari argued, only a zero-sum approach to fighting the culture war "with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good."

Language like "the Highest Good" was a hat-tip to integralism, a right-wing faction of Catholicism that aspires to effectively re-found America as a Catholic "confessional state," where state power is subordinate to the church and government is devoted to fostering public virtue and the "common good." Part of that project aims to replace the longstanding conservative legal ideology of constitutional originalism (as championed by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his followers on the current court) with "common good constitutionalism" (primarily theorized by Harvard Law professor and former Scalia clerk Adrian Vermeule), wherein the law works as "a teacher" to instruct, and enforce, public morality. In other words, if the actual public doesn't want to live by conservative Christian ideology, a new governing class should impose it.

That premise has led other Catholics (conservative and liberal alike) to condemn integralism as reactionary and authoritarian. When integralists weren't being intentionally vague about their plans, critics charged — in a widely-discussed 2020 Atlantic essay, Vermeule declined to specify what common good constitutionalism would mean in practical terms — those plans are frightening, as in one integralist text that suggests limiting citizenship and the vote to members of the faith.

James Patterson, a political science professor at Ave Maria University, has written about integralism's troubled lineage going back to pre-World War II European fascist or authoritarian movements, including the Spanish Falangists that supported dictator Francisco Franco or the antisemitic Action Française that grew out of France's Dreyfus Affair. On Twitter recently, a Catholic parody account posted a satirical book jacket for an "updated and honest" edition of Vermeule's latest book with images of combat boots and a tank and an invented blurb from Ahmari: "Finally we can stop pretending what we're really talking about."

But the postliberal critique resonated beyond the cloistered world of right-wing Catholic discourse, intersecting with another post-Trump project: the rapidly-growing national conservatism movement. Led by Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony, author of the 2018 book "The Virtue of Nationalism," the NatCons also see classical liberalism as fatally flawed — its central premise of a neutral public square, where no religion or culture reigns over any other, is nonsense, because liberalism is both a competing worldview and a slippery slope, inevitably leading to cultural revolution. As Hazony often argues, within two generations of the Supreme Court's ban on religious instruction in public schools, marriage rates and religious observance had plummeted and "woke neo-Marxism" took their place.

Since its first conference in 2019, NatCon has come to represent a series of positions: hostility to transnational bodies like the EU and UN; a quasi-isolationist skepticism of foreign entanglements; sharp reductions or a complete moratorium on immigration; realigning the free market with national interests (variously described); and, most importantly, replacing the illusion of a neutral public square with the conviction that, "Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision," as a recent NatCon statement of principles holds.

From the get-go, there were important differences between the integralists and NatCons. Catholicism makes a fundamental claim to universality (and some integralists speak wistfully of empire), which fits uneasily with NatCons' nation-centric vision. Integralists have far more ambitious economic plans than most NatCons would support.

But there were important commonalities too: a mutual opposition toward mainstream conservatism, a largely shared rejection of liberalism, a common desire to return Christianity to the center of American public life. Both camps swooned for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and saw his avowedly "illiberal" "Christian democracy" — with its expanded government power, sharp restrictions on immigration, repression of LGBTQ rights and pronatalist family subsidies — as the primary model to emulate. Both sides also benefited, to one degree or another, from the largesse of right-wing donors who are funding numerous projects (and candidates) on the "new right."

"If anti-communism bound together the old conservative consensus," said Jerome Copulsky, a research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, the new right's coalition "is animated by antiliberalism and a belief that a high degree of religious and cultural uniformity is necessary for social cohesion and political legitimacy."

But there are problems with building alliances on the basis of shared enemies, Copulsky warned. "The coalition-building is about the Venn diagram of who they don't like: liberals, 'woke' multiculturalists, non-traditional sexuality and gender roles. But as they move forward, their different understandings of what they want to put into place will bring out the tensions and contradictions of their alliance. The 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' attitude only goes so far."

* * *

Over the last year, that exact problem has played out through quarrels fought on social media, in new right publications and on conference stages. It was even visible in the difference between this year's NatCon conference in Miami and the one held a year before.

In November 2021, multiple new right camps converged in Orlando for NatCon 2. The heart of the conference was an evening panel featuring the nationalist Hazony and integralist Ahmari, as well as "anti-Marxist classical liberal" Dave Rubin and British neocon Douglas Murray, all discussing whether a new alliance could be forged. Hazony, an Orthodox Jew, had a surprising suggestion: Bible instruction must be restored in public school, as a crucial first step toward reasserting America's identity as a Christian nation and a "conservative democracy."

There were tensions, most notably around the fact that Rubin and Murray are both gay: would there be room, Rubin asked, for him and his family in this new right? But after reaching apparent agreement that the problem wasn't gay people per se but rather expanded trans rights or LGBTQ representation in schools, the session closed as it had begun, with the PA system playing "We Are Family."

That unity was short-lived. This September, when NatCon reconvened in Miami, the only panelist who returned was Hazony himself, reflecting a number of upheavals in the preceding months.

One seeming result was that this year's NatCon — the movement's largest to date — reflected a marked increase in hostility toward not just "gender ideology" but LGBTQ rights in general. In one plenary address, a seminary president declared that in order for conservatives to resist "the fantasy and folly" of transgenderism, they must also reject same-sex marriage: "He who says 'LGB' must say 'TQ+.'" Another speaker argued that the failure of any major U.S. institutions to denounce "the LGBT agenda" proved that America has become "basically anti-American." NatCon's own statement of principles, released just months after asking two gay men to help build the new right, defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

In part, this shift reflected some conservatives' belief that NatCons' tent had gotten "a little too big." One right-wing website used a photo of the 2021 panel to warn about "the quiet rise of LGBTQ influence in Christian and conservative circles." Rubin had also become the center of a conservative firestorm, after he announced that he and his husband were expecting the birth of two babies being carried by surrogate mothers — news that sparked not congratulations but widespread denunciations of both Rubin and any conservative who stood by him.

But the altered mood also reflected something else, Hazony told Salon: The Supreme Court's June decision overturning Roe v. Wade had opened a new world of conservative possibilities, and the sense that it might be "possible to restore an earlier constitutional order." Post-Dobbs, conservatives giddily discussed which Supreme Court precedents they might topple next, and the 2015 Obergefell decision that had legalized same-sex marriage nationwide was high on the list. To Hazony, it suggested a rapid revival of the desire to reassert biblical values in the political sphere. Conservatives wanted to go for it all.

In his own conference address, Hazony called on conservatives to commit to being "fully Christian in public," arguing, "The only thing that is strong enough to stop the religion of woke neo-Marxism is the religion of biblical Christianity." For the politicians in attendance — including DeSantis, Hawley and Florida's two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott — that meant not just mouthing platitudes about God-given rights, but insisting that American freedom comes from the Bible. Less than an hour later, Hawley happily obliged, declaring, "Without the Bible, there is no America," with a fervor matched by other speakers eagerly reclaiming the label "Christian nationalist" as a battle cry.

Perhaps even more conspicuous were the missing Catholic integralists, who in 2021 had provided much of NatCon's intellectual framework. This year, their absence prompted so many subtle, and less subtle, asides throughout the conference that one confused audience member raised his hand to request an explanation.

A British priest who said he'd been invited to affirm that, contra some people, Catholicism and national conservatism go together just fine, suggested that the integralists' seeming boycott amounted to useless theological squabbling: Who cared "how many integralists can dance on the head of a pin"? In a breakout session, another Catholic panelist suggested it was "cringe" for integralists to believe they'd ever set the moral framework for a "basically Protestant nation."

The biggest rebuke came from Kevin Roberts, the recently-appointed president of the Heritage Foundation, the great white whale of institutional conservatism, which has been shaping Republican priorities since the first years of Ronald Reagan's presidency. Roberts' presence at the conference was itself a coup. Two years earlier, Hazony said, Heritage had attacked him for "importing nationalism" into the U.S. Now the foundation had underwritten much of this year's conference, had met with NatCon leaders to discuss their statement of principles and had published a 20-page booklet recounting a conversation between Roberts and Hazony on "Nationalism and Religious Revival." In a line widely quoted after the conference, Roberts declared, "I come not to invite national conservatives to join our conservative movement, but to acknowledge the plain truth that Heritage is already part of yours."

Roberts, who describes himself as a Catholic populist, also admonished his missing coreligionists ("Integralists, heal thyselves!"), accusing them of rejecting "conventional constitutional" politics and seeking to "subordinate the state to an institutional church" in ways that would discredit both. Alluding to the fact that many prominent integralists are recent Catholic converts, Roberts continued that, while he shared many of their frustrations, "and I certainly rejoice in their religious conversion," their zeal had "led them into error."

The integralists fired back. At the start of the Miami conference, Ahmari tweeted that he was "emphatically not a 'NatCon.'" The movement's academic Substack published a long theological rebuttal to Roberts' claim that integralists wanted to establish a theocracy. Another writer asked whether NatCon's big tent still had room for integralists. When Gladden Pappin, cofounder of the conservative journal American Affairs and a professor at the University of Dallas, repeated the question on Twitter, Hazony responded with exasperation: Pappin could answer that question himself, since he'd spoken at a NatCon event several months earlier.

"In my view, conditions of ongoing animosity and hostility between NatCon and the five or six of you would be a colossal waste of time," Hazony wrote. "However, if you decide that a strategy of hostility, boycott or insults is the way to go — I can assure you that a wiser Catholic intellectual leadership will arise to take your place."

* * *

"There is clearly some kind of break," Hazony told Salon, but he saw it arising primarily from the integralists' side. Several had been invited to sign NatCon's statement of principles in June, but all had refused. Ideological differences that were "soft-pedaled a year or two ago" were suddenly getting "a high-octane emphasis."

For Hazony, the primary issue was about how conservatives understand China, the rising superpower that NatCons see as America's No. 1 rival. Their conference had banned all speakers who are "pro-Xi, pro-Putin, racists or antisemites," although that standard seems malleable at times. (As Political Research Associates' Ben Lorber reported, this year's NatCon included a meditation on the viciously xenophobic French novel "Camp of the Saints," approving mention of antisemitic Action Française leader Charles Maurras and an address by a former Trump speechwriter fired for alleged ties to white nationalists.) But some integralists, Hazony charged, had "always had a soft spot for dictatorship, for imperialism and for China," and in recent months that had become impossible to ignore, as members of the movement wrote articles praising China's government or culture.

Then there was Compact Magazine, the hybrid "radical American journal" Ahmari co-founded last March with fellow Catholic Matthew Schmitz and Marxist populist Edwin Aponte. Its professed agenda was to wage "a two-front war on the left and the right" and promote "a strong social-democratic state that defends community — local and national, familial and religious — against a libertine left and a libertarian right."

Although Compact has declined to specify who funds the magazine, a source familiar with its operations told Salon that it was launched with significant support from right-wing tech billionaire Peter Thiel — who has funded numerous other "new right" projects, from NatCon conferences to the political campaigns of J.D. Vance, Blake Masters and Josh Hawley — and Claremont Institute chair Tom Klingenstein (another top NatCon donor). Klingenstein did not respond to requests for comment. A source close to Thiel denied that Thiel has directly funded Compact, but couldn't rule out the possibility that an entity Thiel funds has in turn donated to the magazine. In a statement, Ahmari said, "Compact is an independent, for-profit publication supported by our subscribers. A group of investors helped us jump-start it. We respect their privacy and decline to name them."

Both Thiel and Klingenstein spoke at NatCon this year, and a handful of other NatCon speakers attended the integralist conference too. But on the whole, Hazony said, Compact was a bridge too far for most NatCons. While many in the movement were open to "rethinking the commitment to the free market as an absolute principle," and might even support targeted business regulations, he said, there was "no appetite, no capacity among nationalist conservatives to accept the ideal of social democracy as an alternative to the market mechanism."

Integralists had their own complaints. Some also involved foreign policy questions, like whether NatCons' enthusiastic defense of Ukraine amounted to a creeping neoconservative revival, or whether their strident hostility to China reflected warmed-over Cold War politics. But their main concern was more fundamental: NatCons, they charged, were abandoning the populist promise of Trumpism for a seat at the establishment table.

To be sure, NatCon 3 featured critiques of big business, but, with limited exceptions, most amounted to dragging "woke corporations." Ron DeSantis (introduced in Miami as "the future president") spoke dutifully about how free enterprise should be seen as a tool to help "our own people" rather than an end in itself. But his real firepower was saved for war stories: his battle with Disney over Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, his resolution banning state pension funds from weighing environmental or social justice concerns in investment decisions, a promised law to help Floridians sue tech companies that commit "viewpoint discrimination."

Other speakers called for blacklisting banks that disinvest in fossil fuels; seizing universities' endowments; and making it illegal for employers to ask if applicants attended college, in order to disincentivize young people from entering the "inherently liberalizing environment" of higher education. (In a more recent example, after contrarian billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter and numerous companies stopped advertising on the platform, Republicans suggested that congressional hearings into "leftist corporate extortion" might be in order.)

To Ahmari, this amounted to "fake GOP populism." "This may sound strange coming from me," he said — that is, the guy who made his name by denouncing "David Frenchism" — "but it's just culture war." He was increasingly convinced that whipping up Twitter wars over corporate gestures towards progressive politics was the kind of conservatism "designed to ensure" that nothing important ever changed. "It's easier to pick a fight over Disney than to take on corporate power as such."

"There is this emerging sense on our side," Ahmari continued, "that the old Reaganite establishment is reconsolidating itself under the banner of NatCon or populism, but the agenda and personnel haven't changed." For instance, he said, the Heritage Foundation's Kevin Roberts calls himself a populist, but this summer tweeted the Reaganesque claim that "Government is not the solution, but the obstacle, to our flourishing." If the new right wanted to "get in bed with Heritage," Ahmari wrote this summer in an essay lambasting "Fusionism 2.0," that was fine. But then it didn't get to call itself populist; he refused to be such "a cheap date."

Integralists also expressed a worry shared by radical movements since time immemorial: Their language and ideas were being co-opted and neutralized by either establishment Republicans or elements of the new right all too eager to go mainstream.

Now that postliberals had made certain policy ideas "trendy," said Gladden Pappin, who's written extensively about replicating Hungarian social policies in the U.S., others on the right were "trying to fill them with concepts that bring it back down to classical liberal conservatism." You'd see people suggesting, he explained, that the foundation of conservative family policy should be religious liberty and right-to-work laws, or libertarians saying, "You know what supports the common good? Radical free markets."

Postliberals weren't the only ones drawing that conclusion. When Roberts told NatCon that Heritage was part of their movement, supporters celebrated it as "the moment they went mainstream." But other attendees remarked that they were increasingly unsure of how NatCon actually differed from regular "con." New York Times columnist Ross Douthat warned that the movement risked being "reabsorbed into the GOP mainstream without achieving its revolution," so that a hypothetical President DeSantis might call himself a national conservative while pushing through more tax cuts for the rich. New York Magazine described this year's conference as having "the flavor of a party convention," albeit one headed toward a "middle ground between Reagan and Mussolini."

Perhaps this evolution was both natural and inevitable. If national conservatives originally intended to build a new right, James Patterson wrote recently, its current, apparent reconciliation with fusionism reflects changed political realities. In 2019, when NatCon held its first conference, the Trump presidency was in full swing and the movement sought to fill the ranks with true believers. By their next meeting in 2021, Republicans were newly out of power and eager to forge alliances to win it back. This year, Patterson noted, the Dobbs decision demonstrated that there might be life in the "dead consensus" yet, since a Supreme Court dominated by old-line originalists — not their "common good" critics — had just delivered the right's biggest victory in decades.

"They're learning the lessons of why the last fusion collapsed," said Jerome Copulsky: Different factions of the right can work together easily enough until their movement begins to gain power. Then they come to realize "that someone's policies will be implemented, that there will be winners and losers in this coalition."

The NatCons feel pretty sure which of those things they are. At one point during this year's conference, Hazony recalled, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler — perhaps the preeminent voice of the evangelical right — excitedly told him, "This is what it was like in the 1980s when the Moral Majority was first getting organized." In a midterm postmortem with British outlet The Spectator, Hazony sidestepped the question of whether Trump or DeSantis would win the right's civil war. NatCons would rally around Trump, or someone else, he said; either way, their ideology would lead.

* * *

In response, integralists vowed to build a coalition of their own. "NatCon is trying to put the constellation of right-wing organizations back together," said Pappin, "whereas I'm trying to articulate a political vision that could be successful at governing and also oriented towards the common good."

Considering various constituencies that have swung right in recent years — like law-and-order Latinos in Texas or the Midwestern white working class — Pappin said he was more interested in finding ways to keep them in the fold. That could happen through "something that a lot of Republicans would call left-wing economics," he suggested. "Can Republicans articulate a vision that might be more traditional morally, but also favor a supportive state?" Compared to efforts to reassemble the old right-wing fusion, Pappin asked, which was real coalition building?

"U.S. conservatism has so long been associated with pro-capitalist policies that we sometimes forget that conservative movements in other countries can look extremely different," said University of Michigan political scientist Matthew McManus, a progressive who's written extensively about the modern right. Postliberals' favored models in Hungary and Poland demonstrate that, he said, with expansive social welfare programs tied to "socially conservative and exclusionary practices."

It's not unthinkable that such a political gumbo might also work in the U.S., said University of Oregon professor Joseph Lowndes, co-author of "Producers, Parasites, Patriots." A clear lineage can be traced, he said, from the populist presidential campaigns of paleoconservative Patrick Buchanan in 1992 and 1996 through the Tea Party to Trumpism to projects like Compact today. "Not to put it in crude Marxist terms, but when you're under the material conditions of a second Gilded Age, when you have real gaps in wealth and neoliberalism becomes less and less credible," Lowndes said, "it opens up space for something that could wed the cultural politics of conservatism to a social order that seems more humane."

To that end, Patrick Deneen's forthcoming book, "Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future," calls for replacing "the self-serving liberal elite" with a "new elite devoted to a 'pre-postmodern conservatism'" that's aligned with the working class. Compact's own hybrid politics, said Ahmari, represents a similar attempt to forge a "positive vision" that is "liberated from the dogmas of the establishment right" and thus creates space for alliances with the left.

In practice, that has meant that Compact publishes essays on unions or trust-busting from conservatives and lefties who agree to disagree about cultural questions like abortion and same-sex marriage. Ahmari — who's undergone his own political odyssey, from socialist to neocon to postliberal, and increasingly these days, something like post-conservative — says he hasn't changed any of his positions on social issues but believes that building economic alliances can "lower the temperature" of those disagreements. "If you just have less corporate power," he proposed, "then whatever the corporate agenda is, wokeism or whatever, it doesn't bear down on ordinary people so much."

As for conservatives who dismiss their vision as a pipe-dream, Ahmari said there are "far fewer Americans than these folks think who favor the idea that the government is always an obstacle" and far more who might be mobilized by the resurrection of a mid-century conservatism at peace with the New Deal. After all, he said, "the last time Catholics voted as a united bloc was for the New Deal coalition."

That's not quite the whole story, argues James Patterson, recalling substantial Catholic infighting over FDR's agenda. But beyond historical quibbling, he says, the postliberal conviction that there is an untapped reserve of fiscally liberal, socially conservative voters waiting for something like integralism ignores the fact that most people who fit that demographic aren't the proverbial white working class but rather immigrants and people of color likely to be suspicious of a movement that "cites the Francisco Franco right." (Not coincidentally, Lowndes notes that Pat Buchanan's father was a legendary Franco fan and Buchanan himself called the dictator a "Catholic savior" and "soldier-patriot.") In an earlier critique of the new right's courtship of the working class, the left-wing journal Jacobin argued that right-wing populism is only viable in the context of "historic levels of demobilization and disorganization for the working class."

Perhaps, Patterson said, the integralists were setting their hopes on J.D. Vance (as of this month a senator-elect), and the possibility that their movement might influence, or even staff, his Capitol Hill office. After all, a sub-tenet of integralism is the contention that the movement doesn't need a majority, if enough believers can place themselves inside "the shell of the liberal order" to effect "integralism from within."

That's one answer, said Copulsky, to the question of how either side of the new right expects to "shape a culture when the majority of the public doesn't agree with you anymore." Neither the NatCons nor the integralists represent a majority position, "so they either have to go convert a bunch of people or use the coercive power of the state to make people follow their rules."

"People are always like, 'Who cares about the integralists? No one's going to vote for this,'" added Patterson. "But what if they don't know they're voting for it? What if J.D. Vance doesn't even fully know what he's getting himself into?"

* * *

Over the course of the new right feud, both sides have accused the other of betraying the cause. Integralists accused NatCons of being closet liberals and channeling populist anger towards safe external enemies. A NatCon speaker dedicated a podcast episode to arguing that "Catholic Integralism Is an Op," intended to "collect and discharge" Trumpist energies in ways "that are ultimately harmless." In short order, the allegations became as tangled as leftist infighting that dates back to the Russian Revolution. (Online, it became inscrutably meta, as when one "crypto-fascist" "anti-leftist Marxist" launched a Substack series charging that all dissident publications serve as an "exhaust valve for middle-class discontent.")

Shortly after Compact launched last spring, journalist John Ganz called the magazine an "unholy alliance" that recalled previous efforts to combine "socialism + family, Church, nation." Specifically, Ganz wrote, it sounded like a 19th-century proto-fascist French movement that synthesized left and right positions and whose adherents often called themselves "national socialists" — a term, Ganz notes, "that once sounded fresh and innovative."

Other observers pointed to a more recent analogue: the New York critical theory journal Telos, founded in the late 1960s by New Left devotees of Herbert Marcuse, but which by the 2010s was better known for its association with far-right thinkers who inspired the alt-right.

Telos' metamorphosis, explains Joseph Lowndes, who watched some of it happen, wasn't a simplistic example of "horseshoe theory" but rather the result of the people behind the project, frustrated by their search for an effective form of dissent, accepting "easy, far-right answers to complicated social and political questions." After Trump's election, Lowndes wrote about Telos' strange history as a warning: At this precarious moment in history, he argued, there were "two off ramps" from the vast inequalities of neoliberalism. One led to a very dark place.

Overall, Ganz views the postliberal movement as a "boutique intellectual project," a "tiny sect arguing with other intellectuals." But the possible inroads it might make with a disillusioned "post-left" were worrisome, he told Salon: "There's this broader thing going on where disenchanted leftists, who view their leftism as cultural revolt against liberalism, are becoming actually, substantially conservative. And they're crystallizing into a kind of quasi-fascist politics."

Beyond publishing articles about how the GOP might reconcile with unions, Compact has also published work by monarchist "neoreactionary" Curtis Yarvin as well as a number of leftists, or "post-leftists," who generally agree with the right on social issues: anti-immigration social democrats, anti-"gender ideology" radical feminists, leftists who see "wokeism" as "capital's latest legitimating ideology" (e.g., union-busting companies that fly Pride flags or post about Black Lives Matter). In September, the magazine published an essay exploring, with cautious sympathy, a hashtag movement called #MAGACommunism, which calls on leftists to abandon "toxic" social progressivism in favor of "the only mass working-class and anti-establishment movement that currently exists in America."

"[N]ot quite what I was going for," tweeted Compact cofounder Edwin Aponte in response. By then, Compact's resident Marxist had been gone from the project for several months, after disagreements over the leaked Dobbs decision forced him to conclude that his politics were irreconcilable with those of his colleagues and ultimately led to the dissolution of their partnership.

Aponte told Salon that when he first joined the project, as a Bernie Sanders leftist disillusioned with the collapse of that movement, he and his co-founders agreed to avoid issues like abortion "because, per them, they weren't interested in relitigating settled issues. But the second the Dobbs decision dropped, it was no longer a settled issue." When Compact published what Aponte saw as a "weirdly triumphalist article" proposing that Republicans respond to the fall of Roe by creating Hungary-style family subsidies, he had something of an epiphany.

"It revealed what they really cared about, and it was something highly specific and normative: that you can have a generous and materially comfortable state, as long as all these moral and cultural conditions are met," said Aponte. "On the surface, we wanted the same things. But the motivations behind it were different." It wasn't that he doubted their sincerity, he said, so much as that "the engine behind it is what goes unsaid, and is what actually matters more." For his right-wing partners, he said, "those material politics are a means to an end, rather than an end. And the end they have in mind is not something I think is good or just."

Exactly what that end is, Aponte doesn't feel sure, but he saw some troubling signs.

In late September, Compact held its first public event in an arthouse theater in downtown Manhattan: several dozen 20-somethings gathered in a basement screening room to listen as Anna Khachiyan, co-host of the quasi-socialist podcast Red Scare, introduced "heterodox economist" Michael Lind for an academic lecture about models of social organization.

It was one version of the weird, politically amorphous downtown scene where, as journalist James Pogue described in Vanity Fair last April, "New Right-ish" politics and converting to Catholicism "are in," and where Peter Thiel may or may not be "funding a network of New Right podcasters and cool-kid culture figures as a sort of cultural vanguard." (Earlier that month, the New York Times reported that a new Thiel network is channeling millions towards media projects, including journalism and "influencer programs.")

It's a scene suffused with a sense of ironic transgression, Ganz says, giving a "performance quality" to everything, "like part of this cultural revolt is about making yourself into a spectacle." For example: in recent weeks Khachiyan has promoted a "based literary journal" that includes an extended interview with her alongside a celebration of Kyle Rittenhouse and an exploration of whether the blood libel — the centuries-old conspiracy theory that Jews ritually murder Christian children — might actually be true.

"I don't think that white working-class voters who are even a little bit Trumpy are interested in this ideology," said Ganz. "It's a hipster thing trying to pass as working-class stuff, so it's kind of fake, but kind of scary. I don't really know where to situate it."

Throughout history, Aponte said, "Authoritarian reactionary movements have gained support and energy from such incoherence and contradictions." This movement seemed to have sufficient gravitational pull, he said, that "everyone starts falling in and gradually being converted. I've seen it happen with people I thought were really good leftists, who, next thing I knew, had turned into racists, transphobes and homophobes."

"Everyone's kind of on board, the specifics are blurry, but the direction is titled one way, whether anybody wants to acknowledge it or not," Aponte continued. "That's something we haven't seen in a long time. It's a vibe, and the kids love it, because the kids are not happy — justifiably so. It's a really spooky and dangerous time, and I feel foolish for participating. I feel bad."

In the end, what unites the right's various factions will likely hold more weight than what divides them. Generally speaking, said McManus, the right is better than the left at putting aside its internal differences to unite against a common foe. In J.D. Vance's speech in Steubenville, he called for a ceasefire in the new right's civil war. "We can't be so mean to one another," he told the audience, noting that all conservatives who challenge GOP orthodoxies are taking risks. They were right to be on guard against "Fusionism 2.0," Vance acknowledged, but perhaps the best way to prevent that was "being charitable to one another's ideas." After all, they had real enemies to fight, like transgender health care.

"We need to do more on the political left to inoculate people against the temptation to move in these radically right directions that can masquerade as a genuine critique of the status quo," said McManus. "Some people are being very foolish in toying around with these movements," perhaps because they don't take new right fulminations against trans rights or its idolization of Viktor Orbán seriously, believing "they won't actually go that far." In fact, McManus said, "There's a very large wing within these movements that wants to go exactly that far. Some of them want to go even further."

On Twitter, Aponte tried such an inoculation, addressing warnings to "all my heterodox former-leftist friends" that he'd "seen what lies behind the curtain." "[B]e careful with whom you ally," he wrote. "Their enemies might be your enemies for a just reason, but the devil is in their programmatic details."

It's not just Trump: Midterms show the religious right is an albatross around the GOP’s neck

A couple of weeks out from a midterm election in which Republicans dramatically underperformed, one major theme has emerged in the post-mortems: Donald Trump is to blame. Turns out that voters do not like efforts to overthrow democracy, like Trump's attempted coup or the January 6 insurrection. As data analyst Nate Cohn at the New York Times demonstrated, Trump's "preferred primary candidates" — who usually won a Trump endorsement by backing his Big Lie — fell behind "other G.O.P. candidates by about five percentage points." The result is a number of state, local and congressional offices were lost that Republicans might otherwise have won.

Republican leaders are struggling with this information because dumping Trump is easier said than done so long as he has a substantial percentage of their voting base in his thrall. But, in truth, Republican problems run even deeper than that. It's not just Trump. The religious right has been the backbone of the party for decades, but this midterm election shows they might now be doing the GOP more harm than good at the ballot box.

As with Trump, Republicans are in a "can't win with them/can't win without them" relationship with the religious right. Fundamentalists remain a main source of organizing and fundraising for the GOP, as well a big chunk of their most reliable voters. They can't afford to alienate this group any more than they can afford to push away Trump. Doing so risks the loss of millions of loyal voters. But by continuing to pander to the religious right, Republicans are steadily turning off all other voters, a group that's rapidly growing in size as Americans turn their backs on conservative Christianity. That's doubly true when one looks at the youngest voters, the ones Republicans will need to stay viable as their currently aging voter base starts to die off.

New data from the progressive polling firm Navigator Research shows how dire the situation is for Republicans. On "culture war" issues like reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, the voters broke hard on the progressive side of things. Among Democratic voters this midterm, 48% said abortion was an important issue for them, showing strong pro-choice sentiment. But among Republicans, only 13% ranked abortion (and the banning of it) as a driving factor in their vote. When Democratic voters were asked their main reason for their voting choice this year, abortion rights was the most popular, cited by 49% of voters. But among Republican voters, only 24% cited support for abortion bans as a major factor.

Republican politicians may have been circumspect in talking about their anti-abortion views prior to Election Day, hoping to make the issue less salient to swing voters. But overall, the past two years have been heavily defined by Republicans catering to the religious right. It's not just that the GOP-controlled Supreme Court went out of its way to overturn Roe v. Wade this past June. Republican leadership in state governments rushed forward to ban abortion, to the point where the red states seemed to be competing over how draconian their abortion bans could be.

Nor were the attacks on reproductive health care limited to abortion. In July, the House of Representatives voted on a bill to codify contraception rights so state governments couldn't ban birth control. All but eight Republicans voted to allow contraception bans. Democratic fears about legal contraception are not misplaced, either. Last week, ProPublica leaked audio of a meeting between anti-choice activists and Republican legislators in Tennessee, where the assembled can be heard gaming out their next steps to ban female-controlled forms of contraception.

The situation was similarly dire on the LGBTQ front, as Republican politicians raced to oppress queer and trans people, especially kids. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis championed the "don't say gay" law that forces queer teachers and students into the closet. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott menaced parents who accept a child's trans identity by threatening to use Child Protective Services to break up their families. Republicans keep passing laws blocking trans people from receiving health care or playing on sports teams. In addition, there's been a dramatic rise in conservatives attempting to ban books featuring LGBTQ characters.

This rash of queerphobic policy has been accompanied by an escalation of bigoted rhetoric in right wing media, all aimed at painting LGBTQ people as perverts and child predators. From Fox News on down the entire conservative media ecosystem, it's become routine to accuse queer people of being "groomers," which is a not-especially-oblique way to call them child molesters. Groups like the Proud Boys routinely target drag shows with intimidating "protests," which are starting to get violent. Over the weekend, there was a gun massacre at a gay club in Colorado Springs. While the police are still not speaking publicly about the killer's motive, observers have pointed out that the murders happened mere hours before a drag brunch, the kind of event that conservative groups have been targeting for harassment.

All of this ugliness did not help Republicans in the midterms. On the contrary, it appears to have hurt them, especially with such high youth voter turnout. As a national youth poll run by Harvard shows, younger people reject the fundamentalism that animates the Republican party. Only 12% identify as "fundamentalist/evangelical," while 37% — by far the biggest group — say they have no religious preference at all. This comports with other polling that shows that Christian churches are becoming older and smaller all the time, as young people leave in droves. Overall, 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage. About two-thirds of Americans want abortion to remain legal.

Even among Republican voters, the religious right doesn't seem particularly popular. Along with the low enthusiasm for abortion bans, the Navigator poll shows that Republican voters weren't super interested in anti-LGBTQ policy positions. Only 20% of those voters cited anti-trans views as a motivator in voting this year, despite nearly two years of non-stop right wing propaganda on this subject. The top three issues that got GOP voter juices going were opposition to social welfare spending, demands that government be "tough on crime" and anger over immigration. In other words, they were all proxy issues for white grievances about a racially diverse society. The Republican party still appeals to racist voters, but even they've lost the enthusiasm for being the panty police.

Despite this hard, statistical evidence, religious right activists refuse to accept that their extremism is hurting the Republican party. As Rachel Cohen of Vox explained last week, anti-abortion leaders insist that banning abortion is a winning issue for Republicans. Instead, as Politico reported, they're claiming that it was Republicans who failed by supposedly "not running harder on abortion restrictions."

Whether these arguments are delusional or simply bad faith hardly matters. The desperation is palpable. Christian conservatives are used to the Republican party being dependent on them, and therefore bending over backward to please them. But this data shows that pandering to the religious right might be hurting the GOP more than helping. Fundamentalists are learning they're just as dependent on the Republican party as the GOP is on them. No wonder they're doubling down. As more and more people leave their pews, their only foothold in staying relevant is to maintain control over the Republican party. As with Trump, they will not leave quietly, but continue to hold the GOP hostage to their increasingly unpopular agenda.

This 1980 report, 42 years later, sheds light on the Christian nationalist extremism of 2022

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Paul Robeson was a White fundamentalist evangelical. The article has been updated to identify James Robison as a White fundamentalist evangelical. Paul Robeson was a famous bass-baritone artist and football player who was investigated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities after he refused to affirm he was not a communist. AlterNet regrets this error.

On August 24, 1980, the Washington Post published a report by journalist Kathy Sawyer that took a close look at what was, at the time, a new phenomenon on the right: the alliance of far-right White evangelicals and the Republican Party. And 42 years later, in 2022, Sawyer’s reporting sheds light on a movement that, critics argue, is unapologetically authoritarian in nature — a movement that has made considerable advances since then.

When Sawyer’s article was published, President Jimmy Carter was running for reelection; in November 1980, he suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of Republican former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who turned out to be the most influential U.S. president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From 1932 (the year in which FDR was elected) until 1980, liberalism arguably dominated the political conversation in the United States. But Reagan’s victory over Carter pushed the U.S. in a much more conservative direction. All of the Democratic presidents elected after the 1980s have been centrists — Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden — and the U.S. hasn’t had a staunch liberal in the White House since President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s.

As president, Reagan oversaw a fragile right-wing coalition that included everyone from far-right evangelicals to fiscal conservatives to libertarians. The Reagan coalition was by no means one big happy family, and ultimately, White evangelicals became much more influential in the Republican Party than than the libertarians they despised.

READ MORE: After Trump, Christian nationalist ideas are going mainstream – despite a history of violence

Sawyer’s report vividly describes the progress that White fundamentalist evangelicals like James Robison and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. were making in the GOP in August 1980. Reporting from Texas, Sawyer explained, “Evangelist leaders joined forces with conservative politicians here last week in exhorting millions of non-voting Christians to ‘crawl out from under those padded pews’ and take up political arms in the equivalent of a moral war to save America. The two-day gathering in the brimstone shimmer of 105-degree Texas heat was billed sedately as The National Affairs Briefing. But it was really a fusion of Bible-thumping revivalist oratory with hardline New Right politics. Its goal: to get godly conservatives elected to offices high and low across the land.”

Sawyer described a speech by Robeson in Texas, who railed against “perverts, radicals, leftists, communists, liberals and humanists" and declared, “Not voting is a sin against Almighty God.”

Sawyer reported, “The crowd heard speakers ranging from Phyllis Schlafly, anti-feminist leader of the Stop ERA movement, to a general who predicted a nuclear holocaust within a decade if America does not ‘turn to God’ and beef up military defenses against godless communism. The repentant son of atheist crusader Madelyn Murray O'Hair urged that prayer be returned to the schools. Champions of the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee promoted their cause. And throughout, attentions swung wildly from theology and scripture to instruction on how to organize without violating tax laws, the practicalities of registering a congregation to vote during the Sunday service and the importance of keeping a ‘moral score card’ on the voting record of elected representatives.”

Sawyer noted that the August 1980 event in Texas “grew out of the fledgling movement founded largely by radio and television preachers such as Jerry Falwell of Lynchburg, Va.”

READ MORE: How Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, Sr. helped pave the way for Trumpism and the white nationalist horrors of the Trump era

“The movement, however, has yet to demonstrate a significant ability to turn out the born-again vote,” Sawyer reported. “But it has shown enough promise to draw presidential nominee Reagan as a speaker Friday night in an appeal for Christian support. Reagan tried to avoid getting specific on such flammable topics as homosexual rights, abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment during his stopover here.”

But even though Sawyer described the Christian Right as a “fledgling movement” in her article, that movement had its share of scathing critics in the early ‘80s — critics who hoped to nip it in the bud. And they were both liberal and conservative.

Liberal television producer Norman Lear — who gave us politically minded 1970s sitcoms like “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons” — founded People For the American Way in 1980 in response to the threat that the Christian Right posed. And on the right, conservative Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona made no secret of his disdain for the movement, which he believed was terrible for the GOP and terrible for the conservative movement. Liberal Lear and conservative Goldwater disagreed on many things, but they were on the same page when it came to saying that the U.S. needed to maintain a robust separation of church and state.

Goldwater viewed the Christian Right as a Pandora’s box, and just as he feared, the movement has only tightened its grip on the Republican Party — especially with the rise of Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were allies of far-right White evangelicals, but Trump has been much more inflammatory when speaking to them. Trump, who was only 34 when Sawyer’s article was published, repeatedly tells his evangelical and Christian nationalist supporters that Democrats pose an existential threat to Christianity in the U.S.

Of course, plenty of Democrats are churchgoing Christians. Centrist President Joe Biden is a devout Catholic; Sen. Raphael Warnock is a Protestant minister. Barack Obama, a Mainline Protestant, has quoted scripture much more often than Trump. But the Christian Right believes that only evangelical fundamentalists are true Christians.

When the Post published Sawyer’s article, White evangelicals were railing against Roe v. Wade but knew that there weren’t enough socially conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices to overturn it. But eventually, the Christian Right got the socially conservative Supreme Court it was hoping for. With the High Court’s 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Roe v. Wade was overturned after 49 years. And Justice Clarence Thomas made it clear that he would also like to see the Court “reconsider” rulings that offered protections for contraception (1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut), same-sex marriage (2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges) and gay relationships (2003’s Lawrence v. Texas).

In October, megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress called for “Christian nationalists” to “impose their values” on nonbelievers whether they liked it or not. In 2021, Michael Flynn, former national security adviser in the Trump Administration, called for the U.S. to “embrace one religion” and has made it clear that he believes religions other than Christianity should be illegal. And far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, in June 2022, declared, “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it…. I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.”

Forty-two years after Sawyer’s article was published, the Christian Right is not a marginal part of the Republican Party. It is a sizable GOP voting block — especially in red states — that many Republicans are afraid to criticize. And the movement, feeling empowered by the MAGA movement and the Dobbs decision, is showing no signs of backing down.

READ MORE: Texas pastor openly calls on 'Christian nationalists' to 'impose their values on society'

'He used us': Evangelicals enraged over Trump betrayal as GOP heads 'toward a civil war'

Evangelicals who supported former President Donald Trump's campaign and presidency are expressing apprehension about him as he embarks on his third presidential run.

According to HuffPost, many public evangelical figures have weighed in with their reactions to the former president's announcement — and it doesn't appear that many are buying into him making America great again.

Mike Evans, a religious figure who was among those who visited the White House to meet with Trump, recently shared his opinion during an interview with The Washington Post.

READ MORE: 'Donald Trump is beatable': Ex-ambassador authors a GOP game plan for defeating the 'would-be autocrat'

Evans made it clear that he is done with the former president.

“He used us to win the White House. We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us,” Evans told the newspaper. “I cannot do that anymore.”

Speaking to Newsweek, Robert Jeffress, who advised Trump during his 2016 presidential run, also admitted that he's distancing from the former president. “The Republican Party is headed toward a civil war that I have no desire or need to be part of,” Jeffress said.

However, Jeffress also insists that he still sees Trump as “a great friend and our greatest president since Reagan.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump mocked over video showing his 'captive' audience blocked from exiting 2024 speech

On Wednesday, November 16, James Robison, the president of the Christian group Life Outreach International, attended a meeting for the National Association of Christian Lawmakers (NACL) where he expressed similar concerns.

“If Mr. Trump can’t stop his little petty issues, how does he expect people to stop major issues?” Robison said.

He also said he told the former president, “Sir, you act like a little elementary schoolchild and you shoot yourself in the foot every morning you get up and open your mouth! The more you keep your mouth closed, the more successful you’re gonna be!”

Washington Times columnist Everett Piper also offered a critical assessment of the Republican Party's latest entanglement with Trump. “The take-home of this past week is simple: Donald Trump has to go,” Piper wrote. “If he‘s our nominee in 2024, we will get destroyed.”

READ MORE: This House Democrat is leading the charge to bar Donald Trump from ever being president again

Idaho Trump-loving megachurch pastor opposes a woman’s right to vote

Disciples of right-wing megachurch pastor Doug Wilson, a devoted Trumper with a booming media empire, knew who to blame for Republican midterm losses.


Especially college-educated women.

Wilson is known to most non-Trumpers for teaching that wives must obey husbands in all matters, including sex. His most famous aphorism is that God designed the male as the one who "penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” He counsels married couples that sex is "not an egalitarian pleasuring party" so women shouldn't expect to enjoy it as much as men. Wilson advises husbands to tell their wives how to vote.

In addition to being pastor of Christ Church in Idaho, Wilson launched a religious college and models for private schools and homeschoolers, is a popular speaker on the political/ religious revival circuit, and owns a book publishing house. It published his novel "Ride, Sally, Ride" about a Christian student so enraged by his neighbor's sexbot wife, he throws her into a recycling compactor, then faces murder charges.

Former Fuller Theological Seminary instructor Steve Rabey partners rounded up the reaction to the midterms from an array of Wilson's disciples for Roys Report, an online Christian newsletter.

Right Response Ministries, a frequent partner of Wilson's on YouTube shows and live events, tweeted after seeing a chart on TV showing that women, particularly college educated, are more likely to vote for Democrats. The ministry tweeted: "Takeaways: 1) Yes, women are more easily deceived than men. 2) Yes, the majority of universities are merely institutions for deception. 3) Yes, the 19th Amendment was a bad idea."

Bnonn Tennant, co-author of It’s Good To Be A Man published through Wilson’s Canon Press, battled women on Facebook after calling women's suffrage a "rebellion" against God. He continued, “Voting is an act of rulership. Since rulership is not given to women, women should not vote."

Tennant added that in a modern society where “women are allowed/expected to vote, it is prudent for a husband and wife to discuss how to vote, so they can double the impact of their household vote.” act of rulership.” Another one of Wilson's authors, Stephen Wolfe (The Case for Christian Nationalism) published tweeted that he believes only heads of households should vote so a widow supporting children might be allowed to vote.

Wilson and his male followers are not cultural oddities. They are part of the theonomist movement which advocates America being ruled by divine law rather than the Constitution. They favor embracing Old Testament rules and regulations.

In September, Wilson told Meet the Press he aimed for a spiritual takeover of his town, Moscow, Idaho that would exemplify the ideal of laws imposed by God, not the government.

Tragically, the pretty university town has been in national headlines this week because four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death in their off-campus home. As of Friday, police said they had no suspects.

Wilson's Christ Church claims a membership of at least 800 in person and far more online. That is impressive, given Moscow's population of only 25,800. But Wilson seems as controversial there as he is popular. In August, one of his former deacons pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. There are two websites for people who have fled Christ Church, both are anonymous to protect the users' identities from Wilson's followers.

And Wilson's candidly combative tone makes many non-members uneasy. The logo of his New Saint Andrews College says: "Swords and Shovels. Build. Fight." On Wednesday, in his blog, he attacks the FBI for infiltrating the Proud Boys at the Capitol on January 6.

"The top echelons of the FBI have done their level best to fulfill their self-appointed role of becoming partisan hacks, obtaining Russian hoax warrants under pretenses known by them to be false—managing thereby to attain an astounding level of corruption—and all without anybody associated with these monkeyshines ever having to spend any time in the Big House," Wilson wrote. "We now know that the top law enforcement agency in the United States is itself lawless."

And Wilson published an anthology he edited called "No Quarter November" with this promo: "Some people want to know what it is about November that makes us want to burn things. We don’t think we have a moral obligation to be incendiary: the world for some mysterious reason has become flammable."

Watch: Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh invoke Martians in wildly inaccurate rant against same-sex marriage

Right-wing podcasters Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh are really upset over the United States Senate's passage of an amendment that required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. On Wednesday's edition of The Ben Shapiro Show on The Daily Wire, the two men discussed why religion is not the only reason to oppose legal unions between two people of the same gender.

But neither of them actually made a case outside of accusing "liberals" of trying to box "conservatives" into a corner over the issue. Instead, the pair bantered about why they believe that marriage is essential to procreation, which it is not, and why supporters of marriage equality are endangering the future of the human species.


Yeah I mean, one of the things that they're pretending this bill does is 'protect religious institutions from having to celebrate or solemnize a same-sex marriage.' Religious liberty already protects that under the Constitution of the United States. Instead, it apparently adds a rule of construction, saying the bill by itself would not deny tax-exempt status licensing, grants, and contracts 'not arising from a marriage.' But it doesn't do anything to actually address the problem with this particular issue.

I mean, it's a really poorly-written amendment by [Senator] Mitt Romney [R-Utah], particularly [Senator] Susan Collins [R-Maine] as well. There's another amendment that's been proposed to this called the First Amendment Defense Act – proposed by [Senator] Mike Lee [R-Utah] – I noticed they're not voting on that. But putting aside the rule of construction, the thing that's really amazing to me is that it is now, apparently, the law of the land and societal rule that the only rationale that you could possibly have for saying that a marriage is between a man and a woman is because you're a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim. That's really the only reason at all. That the only reason – we'll allow you to have these crazy beliefs so long as you can show that they're crazy beliefs, so long as you can show that the reason you believe a marriage is between a man and a woman is because you read it in a book, and because you really believe the book – they keep saying sincere religious belief. I don't even know how you measure sincere religious belief. Are we going to, like, now monitor how often you go to church, or to synagogue, or whether you keep Kosher, or whether you take communion in order to determine your sincere –

I mean, the same media that declares that [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-California] is a sincere religious believer who's just for the mass abortion of unborn children, will then declare that you, Matt Walsh, are not actively in favor of the things that you're in favor of, you're just a religious bigot. You're a bigot, right? And your religion is a cover for your bigotry.

I'm highly annoyed by the constant derogation of non-religious arguments into religious arguments. This is what the left loves to do. They like to say you're pro-life, the reason you're pro-life is because of your crazy religion. And so, maybe we can respect your crazy religion along -- that is not the argument for marriage.

The argument for marriage has literally nothing to do with religion. You could be a visitor from Mars and you could see that all of human procreation relies on man, woman, child. This is not particularly difficult stuff. By essentially boxing in the argument in favor of traditional marriage into, 'well, you're a crazy religious believer, maybe we'll let you have that, but if you're a cake baker, then, we're not sure about that,' right? I mean like, 'we're not sure how far this religious liberty thing extends.'

What you're really doing is you're setting the ground game at same-sex marriage and traditional marriage are completely the same thing, and if you object to it, the only reason that we'll allow you to do that is because of this crazy thing called religion.

READ MORE: Franklin Graham riles up his base with false claims about the Senate’s same-sex marriage protection bill

Walsh took the discussion even further astray, declaring – falsely – that the Republican definition of marriage has been the norm throughout human history:

Yeah I mean this is always the point I'm trying to get across to people is that you listen to these arguments – whether it's an argument about marriage, it's an argument about abortion, when life beings, even arguments about the definition of man and woman – listen to the argument between a conservative and a liberal and what you're gonna find is that religion almost always comes into play. Someone's gonna mention the Bible. But, but, almost always it's the person on the left who's bringing the into the conversation, because, as you point out, that's, that's, that's the framework they want us to adopt for the argument. That's sort of like the ground on which they wanna have this battle. They want to pretend that the only reason we would believe the things we believe and say what we're saying is because we've been told by our religion and we have no reasons outside of that.

That of course, that is totally illogical. It doesn't make any sense. And also when it comes to marriage, I mean, there's a reason why – it's not just Christian society, it's not just Jewish people that have said that marriage is a fundamentally procreative union between a man and a woman – you look at every society in human history and they have come down to that conclusion. I mean, there isn't any society in history that had anything like same-sex marriage as we, as we have today. And not every society has been Christian or Jewish. So this is a conclusion that all people through history have arrived at and it's not hard to see how they arrived at that conclusion. I mean, the, the – this is what I was trying to explain on Joe Rogan – it's the relationship between a man and a woman – that kind of relationship is just different in kind from any other sort of relationship and it has a capacity that none of these other relationships have. And that capacity makes it definitionally different, and it also makes that relationship more important to society that the other kinds of relationships because it has the capacity to create people, and so that means it has to be protected and actually respected in a way that no other relationship really has to be.

Back in March, Live Science debunked those claims in an extensive analysis of nuptials throughout various societies, pointing out that "though marriage has ancient roots, until recently love had little to do with it."

The piece even directly refuted what Walsh said on Shapiro's podcast:

In many early cultures, men could dissolve a marriage or take another wife if a woman was infertile. However, the early Christian church was a trailblazer in arguing that marriage was not contingent on producing offspring.

Other sources confirm what Live Science wrote. You can view them here, here, and here.

Watch below via Media Matters for America or at this link.

READ MORE: Ron Johnson to vote against same-sex marriage bill despite campaign pledge that he would not oppose it

The good priest who called greed 'venomous'

During the two years the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I spent on our book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, written out of the poorest pockets of America, we invariably encountered heroic men and women who — against overwhelming odds — rose up to fight lonely and often losing battles on behalf of the oppressed. Bill Means, Charlie Abourezk and Leonard Crow Dog in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Larry Gibson and Judy Bonds in the coal fields of West Virginia. Lucas Benitez, Laura Germano and Greg Abbot in the produce fields of Florida. The men and women in Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

When set against the crushing poverty, environmental degradation, corporate abuse and despair they opposed, the victories they amassed were often miniscule. And yet, to them, and to the people they were able to support, these victories were immense. They kept alive kindness, community, decency, hope and justice. They provided another way to speak about the world. They reminded us that our primary task in life is to care for others. These moral giants, by their very presence and steadfast refusal to surrender, damned the avarice, lust for power, hedonism and violence that define corporate culture.

Joe and I met Father Michael Doyle in Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities and most dangerous in the United States. Father Doyle, an Irish priest and poet with ruddy cheeks and snow white hair, ran the Sacred Heart Church in one of the city’s bleakest corners. He died at the age of 88 on November 4th in the church’s parish house.

“I haven’t heard God speak in a burning bush, but I hear Him speak from the burning issues of the day, and they are all in Camden,” he told us.

Camden is desolate, with gutted and abandoned row houses, boarded-up storefronts, the empty shells of windowless brick factories and the skeletal remains of old gas stations. Weed-choked vacant lots are filled with garbage, old tires and rusted appliances. Cemeteries are overgrown. Open-air drug markets are divided up among gangs such as the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha. Knots of young Hispanic or African-American men dressed in black leather jackets and occasionally seen flipping through wads of cash, sell weed, dope and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is perhaps the city’s only thriving business. A weapon, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch, is never more than a few feet away from the dealers. Camden is awash in guns.

Camden sits on the edge of the Delaware River facing the Philadelphia skyline, with scrap yards and a vast sewage treatment plant that fouls the air. An elevated multilane highway slices through the heart of the city allowing commuters to pass in and out of Philadelphia without seeing the misery below.

“At Ferry and Sixth, we stopped at one of Camden’s 150 open air drug markets,” Father Doyle wrote in one of his newsletters. “Then down Sixth to Viola where Kevin Walls was shot a few months ago. Where his mother bent beside her bleeding son and tried to say the 23rd Psalm in his ear. Though I walk in the valley of death, I fear not evil. There’s plenty of fear at 6th and Viola. There now the most pathetic of urban shrines. His name scrawled on an abandoned wall. Dozens of beer bottles arranged for the glint and glow of a burnt out candle. A teddy bear soiled and wet on an abandoned step. Soft wishes in a hard hearted-place.”

“Sometimes I see men and women hardened by time and all washed out like the hills of Appalachia and I wonder what were their first few years of life and what happened in the little places where they played,” he wrote in another letter. “Right here on Broadway, on the blocks above and below Sacred Heart, the prostitutes adorn every corner in all weather. They are like hardy fishermen casting their lines in the constant stream of traffic. The windowless walls of gutted houses gape down like skeletons with holes for eyes on a tragic human scene. At 3:15 PM, Anna May carefully guides little children with Sacred Heart uniforms across the street when the light changes. May God’s holy angels always get them safely across the street and off it before they harden and crack like the pavements and the prostitutes and the failed plans for urban renewal.”

You can listen to Martin Sheen read from Father Doyle’s letters in the documentary “Poet of Poverty.”

Father Doyle raised the funds to restore Sacred Heart Church, built at the end of the 19th century, and its murals illustrating the Ascension, the baptism of Jesus by John, the marriage of Mary and Joseph, and the return of the prodigal son. In 1984, he founded Heart of Camden, a nonprofit community development corporation that has renovated 250 homes for local families. He sustained the parish’s K-8 school, which the diocese tried to shut down, getting thousands of donors and supporters to provide $1 million a year. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Waterfront South Theatre, the Nick Virgilio Writers House, the Camden FireWorks arts center and the Camden Shipyard & Maritime Museum. Every year, he held a service for the victims of gun violence in the city, reading aloud from the pulpit the names of those killed and the type of weapons used to cut short their lives, as weeping family members, the name of those they lost displayed on a sign around their necks, came forward to light a memorial candle. He started community gardens and opened a medical clinic. He arranged for Mother Teresa to visit the city. He relentlessly defied the destructive forces around him, determined to nurture life, even if it was only a “fragile blade of grass poking up between the cracked cement.”

“When I look at all of Camden, I am paralyzed,” he said during one of my many visits to the rectory. “But it’s like a child at the beach. You give them a shovel. They’ll make a hole and a hill and work at it all day. They’ll have a grand time. And then the tide comes in and the waves bring down the little hill. The little thing is trampled on. But the tide doesn’t take what happened, what they were doing, what’s inside. That’s preserved forever.”

Father Doyle was a member of the Camden 28, a group of left-wing Catholics and anti-war activists who, in 1971, planned and executed a raid to destroy draft files on the Camden draft board. The defendants were arrested but acquitted when it was found that the FBI, which had an informant in the group, had provided tools for the break-in and facilitated the logistics.

“What do you do when a child is on fire in a war that was a mistake and you can’t extinguish the flame — the napalm flame — with water or anything else?” he said in his closing statement at the trial. “What do you do about that? What do you do with an old man whose bones are splintered by anti-personnel weapons in a war that was a mistake? We have no answer to that. There is no answer in the law for a child on fire in a war that was a mistake.”

He organized a memorial service for 300 young men from South Jersey killed in the Vietnam war. Years later, he would still carry a card with the name of one of those killed, Lawrence J. Virgilio from Camden.

The bishops were not pleased. He was fired from Holy Spirit High School near Atlantic City where he taught and transferred to Sacred Heart, a run-down and neglected parish, in 1974. He had to chop firewood to heat the church. It was meant to be a punishment, a demotion, but Father Doyle saw it as the greatest blessing of his life.

“I’ve failed…nicely,” he joked.

He called Camden “a concentration camp for the poor” and saw the city as a template for all that had gone wrong in America. He likened the suffering around him to the crucified Christ, nailed to “the cross of awfully polluted air” and “the broken sidewalks, the broken lives, the ugly scenes that wail for beautification, the dilapidated houses that must be restored for the children.”

“Camden is a casualty of capitalism,” he said as we sat drinking tea one afternoon. “It’s what falls off the truck and can’t get back on the truck. It is a sad stage we are in. There is a meanness that has raised its ugly head in the soul of America. Bobby Kennedy, even Lyndon Johnson, spoke about the poor. Now you can’t say the word poor and get elected. Let the poor suffer. They’re not important. Let the train roll over them.”

“Today’s a very hard time to be poor,” he went on. “Because you know you’re poor. You hear people my age get up and say, ‘We were poor. We put cardboard in our shoes’. But we didn’t know we were poor. Today you do. And how do you know you’re poor? Your television shows you you’re poor. So it’s very easy to build up anger in, say, a high-voltage kid of 17. He knows he’s poor. He looks at the TV. ‘All these people have everything. I have nothing’. And so he’s very angry. This is violence. I’m not talking about a violent show. I’m talking about the violence that rises out of the marketing that shows the kid what he could have. This creates a huge anger that explodes, easily. That I discovered very quickly when I came to Camden. The anger is so near the surface. You rub it and it explodes. There’s no respect for you if you have no money. The constant assault of the marketers is never-ending.”

“I grew up in Ireland,” he went on. “We had the songs of our struggle. It was clear who we were struggling against. It was the money crowd. But people here can’t see the enemy. You can’t challenge what you can’t see. Greed, prejudice and injustice, you can’t get at it. There’s no head. There’s no clarity. So you take it out on your neighbor. It’s horrendous what people do.”

He saw the United States as cursed by the war industry and American militarism, a curse that would doom it. The billions diverted to endless wars meant those around him went hungry. He prayed with his congregation that America will one day “come to the front lines of our cities to protect our children, not with guns, but hammers and saws and jobs and tools of transformation.”

“A child in Camden could teach the proud missile makers a lesson,” he said. “‘Take my hand,’ the little Camden child says, ‘and walk with me. Walk my streets to school. Will your bombs save me? If you want to defend me, come and live on my block.’”

He knew this was the end of the American empire, but he did not understand why it had to go out with such cruelty. What kind of a country, he asked, allowed people to die or go bankrupt because they were unable to pay for medical care?

“Capitalists shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the medical industry,” he said. “What they do is evil. Greed is venomous.”

“The history books are littered with the ruins of fallen empires,” he said. “A fellow I knew, a blue-collar fellow, he worked with the navy, had to go over with some work crew to Italy. He sent me a card with a picture of the Colosseum. He wrote, ‘I went to the Colosseum, but all I saw were two cats fighting in the weeds.’ It was, when you think about the mighty Caesars, what ancient Rome had been, quite profound.”

Father Doyle loved literature, especially Irish literature, and poetry, which he wrote and included in his letters. He was close friends with the local poet Nick Virgilio, whose brother he had memorialized years earlier and whose haikus captured the desperation of Camden: the prostituted women knitting baby booties on the bus; sitting alone as he ordered eggs and toast in an undertone on Thanksgiving; the latch key children “exploring the wild on public television”; the frozen body of a drunk found on a winter morning in a cardboard box labeled “Fragile: Do Not Crush”; as well as his lamentations for his older brother killed in Vietnam. Nick wrote what could be the city’s epithet:

the sack of kittens

sinking in the icy creek

increases the cold

In 1989, Nick died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C., at the taping of an interview for CBS Nightwatch. Father Doyle rode in the hearse that brought Nick’s body back to Camden, the head of his deceased friend thumping softly against the back partition. He built him a gravestone in the shape of a slender granite podium in Harleigh cemetery, where Walt Whitman, who Father Doyle could quote from memory, is also buried. He had one of Nick’s haiku poems carved on it:


out of the water…

out of itself

Father Doyle organized and attended a soup kitchen every Saturday where he would sit at the tables with about a hundred people, many of whom were destitute and homeless. He recruited volunteers from the suburbs, most of whom were white, to cook and serve his guests. “You have dignity at a table when you’re sharing food,” he said.

He spoke frequently about death, perhaps because in Camden, it is a daily reality. He loved the story of two old men in Ireland who spent their lives together until one fell deathly ill and told his friend he didn’t think he would be getting up, that he had always known when he started out where he was going, but now he didn’t. “But John,” his friend replied, “when you were coming, you didn’t know where you’re going and didn’t it turn out alright?”

“The same God that was there when you slithered into this world will be there when you slither out of it,” Father Doyle told me.

And yet, no matter how bleak, there were always unexpected flashes of joy and hope, gifts of grace.

“One day God sent a message from of all places Arlington Street, and it brightened up the doorway of my mind,” he wrote. “On Arlington, in the awful heat, on that Godforsaken street without light or life, ugly, urban decay at levels straining the imagination, seven children were splashing in cascading water like shining wet dolphins in the sun. Somehow, they had hauled a discarded hot tub from Adventure Spas on Chelton Avenue, opened a fire hydrant and the powerful pressure sent the water upward on an old sheet of plywood into the tub and sent the children into ecstasies of delight in spite of all the awful misery around them…Nothing could daunt the wild surge of their young lives and hopes. What is it about hope? Does its real inspiration only rise out of the tragic emptiness to take its pure and unsupported stand against all odds?”

These moments of grace sustained him even as he acknowledged that everything he had spent his life fighting for had gotten worse. They affirmed that no matter how bleak the world around us, death and despair do not have the final word. Time will slowly erode the memory of this priest, as it erodes all memory, until he becomes a ghostly remnant of another era, a name adorned on a plaque. But what will endure is what mattered to him most, the life force to which he dedicated his existence.

'Thank you for your service': The intolerable price veterans pay to feed America's addiction to war

Kelly Denton-Borhaug: What an American Addiction to War Means to Veterans

I felt it then. I feel far more certain of it now. My dad, who died in 1983, was a member of what came to be known as the Greatest Generation, those who served in World War II. In fact, he volunteered the day after Pearl Harbor (though he was then old enough that he might not have been drafted) and ended up in the U.S. Army Air Corps — there was no separate Air Force in those days — with the First Air Commandos fighting the Japanese in Burma.

And here was the strange thing: though he had souvenirs of that war in his closet, including an old mess kit, a duffle bag filled with papers, his major’s hat, and various wartime badges, and as a boy I was fascinated, he would never really talk about his time at war. The only exceptions were those sudden outbursts of anger because my mother had shopped at a nearby grocery store whose owners, he claimed, had been war profiteers, or later because I had gone to a Japanese restaurant or bought a German car (a Volkswagen). Mind you, I thought I knew all there was to know about his war experience because he used to take me to the war movies of the 1950s where we both watched Americans ever triumphant, ever satisfied, ever glorious — and he never said a word about them, which seemed to validate everything I saw on screen.

Now, I suspect he had returned from that war with some version of post-traumatic stress disorder, some disturbance deep inside that came out in indirect but harsh ways in the tough years (for him) of the 1950s. But who talked about such things then? No one in my world, that’s for sure. And that was “the good war” (as Studs Terkel labeled it, quote marks included, in his famed oral history of World War II).

When it comes to America’s bad wars of the last century and this one, however, we know a good deal more about what they’ve done to this country’s “warriors,” as TomDispatch regular, religion scholar, and author of And Then Your Soul is Gone: Moral Injury and U.S. War-Culture Kelly Denton-Borhaug makes all too clear today. Yes, in these years, Americans were in a rush to “thank” those who fought our distant wars, while life here went on almost as if they weren’t happening. But now we know that the price paid for the disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere was far, far too high (even if you ignore the costs borne by Afghans, Iraqis, and so many others). With that in mind, as Veterans Day comes around once more, take a moment with Denton-Borhaug to consider the price our vets have paid for the decision to fight the Global War on Terror across significant parts of this planet forever and a day. Tom

The Intolerable Price You Pay: A Civilian Addresses American Veterans on Veterans Day

[Denton-Borhaug will give a version of this talk virtually to Veterans for Peace Chapter 102 at a Reclaim Armistice Day meeting at the Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda this Veteran’s Day.]

Dear Veterans,

I’m a civilian who, like many Americans, has strong ties to the U.S. Armed Forces. I never considered enlisting, but my father, uncles, cousins, and nephews did. As a child I baked cookies to send with letters to my cousin Steven who was serving in Vietnam. My family tree includes soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Some years before my father died, he shared with me his experience of being drafted during the Korean War and, while on leave, traveling to Hiroshima, Japan. There, just a few short years after an American atomic bomb had devastated that city as World War II ended, he was haunted by seeing the dark shadows of the dead cast onto concrete by the nuclear blast.

As Americans, all of us are, in some sense, linked to the violence of war. But most of us have very little understanding of what it means to be touched by war. Still, since the events of September 11, 2001, as a scholar of religion, I’ve been trying to understand what I’ve come to call “U.S. war-culture.” For it was in the months after those terrible attacks more than 20 years ago that I awoke to the depth of our culture of war and our society’s pervasive militarization. Eventually, I saw how important truths about our country were concealed when we made the violence of war into something sacred. And most important of all, while trying to come to grips with this dissonant reality, I started listening to you, the veterans of our recent wars, and simply couldn’t stop.

Dismantling the Lies About and Justifications for Our Wars

The only proper response to 9/11, our political leaders assured us then, was war and nothing but war — “a necessary sacrifice,” a phrase they endlessly repeated. In the years that followed, in speeches and public spectacles, one particular image surfaced again and again. The lives — and especially injuries and deaths — of American soldiers were incessantly linked to the injuries inflicted on Jesus of Nazareth, and to his death on the cross. President George W. Bush, for example, milked this imagery in 2008:

This weekend, families across America are coming together to celebrate Easter… During this special and holy time of year, millions of Americans pause to remember a sacrifice that transcended the grave and redeemed the world… On Easter we hold in our hearts those who will be spending this holiday far from home — our troops… I deeply appreciate the sacrifice that they and their families are making… On Easter, we especially remember those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. These brave individuals have lived out the words of the Gospel, 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' [John 15:13 ]

The abusive exploitation of religion to bless violence covered the reality of war’s hideous destructiveness with a sacred sheen. And this justification for what quickly became known as the Global War on Terror troubled me, leaving me with many questions. I wondered: Is it true that we demonstrate what we most value in life by dying for it?

What about living for what we value most?

Biblical stories about the suffering and death of the distinctly nonviolent Jesus of Nazareth were shamelessly manipulated in those years to sacralize our wars and the religious among us largely failed to question such bizarre connections. Eventually, I began to understand that war cultures are by their nature death cults. The depth of the militarization of this country and the harshness of its wars abroad were concealed by converting death into something sacred. Meanwhile, the deaths of Afghans, Iraqis, and so many others in such conflicts were generally ignored. Tragically, religion proved an all-too-useful resource for such moral exploitation.

We civilians deceive ourselves by insisting that we’re a peaceful nation desiring the well-being of all peoples. In reality, the United States has built an empire of military bases (more than 750 at last count) on every continent but Antarctica. Our political leaders annually approve a military budget that’s apocalyptically high (and may reach a trillion dollars a year before the end of this decade). We spend more on our military than the next nine nations combined to finance the violence of war.

Our political leaders and many citizens insist that having such a staggering infrastructure of war is the only way Americans will be secure, while claiming that we’re anything but a warring people. Analysts of war-culture know better. As peace and conflict studies scholar Marc Pilisuk puts it: “Wars are products of a social order that plans for them and then accepts this planning as natural.”

Learning War Is Like Ingesting Poison

I’ve personally witnessed the confusion and conflicted responses of many veterans to this mystifying distortion of reality. How painful and destabilizing it must be to return from your military deployment to a society that insists on crassly celebrating and glorifying war, while so many of you had no choice but to absorb the terrible knowledge of what an atrocity it is. “War damages all who wage it,” chaplain Michael Lapsley wrote. “The United States has been infected by endless war.” Veterans viscerally carry the violence of war in their bodies. It’s as if you became “sin-eaters” who had to swallow the evil of the conflicts the United States waged in these years and then live with their consequences inside you.

Worse yet, most Americans refuse to face our national reality. Instead, they twist such truths into something else entirely. They distance themselves from you by labeling you “heroes” and the “spine of the nation.” They call war’s work of death the epitome of citizenship. They don’t want to know how often and how deeply you were afraid; how conflicted you were about life-and-death decisions you had to make when no good choice was available. They don’t want to hear, as one veteran said recently in my presence, that too often your lives “were dealt with carelessly.”

They also don’t want to hear about the military training that shaped you to deal carelessly with the lives of others, both combatants and civilians. Those are inconvenient details that get in the way of a national adulation of war (in a draft-less country where 99% of all citizens remain civilians). After all, war fever means good business for the weapons makers of the military-industrial complex. As Pentagon expert William Hartung recently put it, “The Biden administration has continued to arm reckless, repressive regimes” globally, while its military support for Ukraine lacks any diplomatic strategy for ending that war, instead “enabling a long, grinding conflict that will both vastly increase the humanitarian suffering in Ukraine and risk escalation to direct U.S.-Russian confrontation.”

Such complexities involving alternatives to Washington’s war-making urges are, of course, not part of the national conversation on Veterans Day. Instead, we are promised that war and this country’s warriors will somehow redeem us as a nation. The unimaginable losses to families, communities, infrastructure, and culture in the lands where such conflicts have been fought in this century are invisible to most citizens, while typical Veterans Day commemorations recast you as messianic redemptive figures who “have paid the price for our freedom.”

But to convert war-making into something sacred means fashioning a deceitful myth. Violence is not a harmless tool. It’s not a coat that a person wears and takes off without consequences. Violence instead brutalizes human beings to their core; chains people to the forces of dehumanization; and, over time, eats away at you like acid dripping into your very soul. That same dehumanization also undermines democracy, something you would never know from the way the United States glorifies its wars as foundational to what it means to be an American.

Silencing and Commodifying Veterans

Meanwhile, citizens rush to “thank you for your service.” You’re allowed to board airplanes first and given discounts at the nation’s amusement parks. Veterans Day only exacerbates your sickening commodification, as all those big box stores, other corporations, and financial institutions use you to try to increase their profits (like the bank in my town last year with its newspaper ad: “Freedom isn’t Free: Veterans Paid Our Way. Thank you. Embassy Bank”).

These dynamics silence the truths you carry within you. I’ve heard you say that you often find it impossible to tell the rest of us, even family members, what really happened. You struggle with feelings of alienation from civilian culture, unable to express your anger or describe your struggles with deep-seated shame, guilt, resentment, and disgust.

Your military service often left you with debilitating physical and psychological injuries and even deeper “moral injuries.” Veteran and author Michael Yandell struggles to describe this ruinous self-disintegration, writing “I despaired of myself, and of the very world.” Borne out of the crushing suffering that is the world of war, some of you experienced moral pain that grew to an intolerable level. There was no longer any world left that you could trust or believe in, no values anywhere, anymore. And yet, you represent such a small percentage of the population — less than 1% of us join the military — while disproportionately shouldering such a painful legacy from the last 20 years of American war-making across significant parts of the planet.

More often than not, the invisible wounds of returning veterans are shrouded in silence. For some of you, unbearable pain led to disastrous consequences, including self-harm, loss of relationships, isolation, and self-destructive risk-taking. At least one in three female members of the armed forces has experienced sexual assault or harassment from fellow service members. More than 17 of you veterans take your own lives every day. And you live with all of this, while so much of the rest of the nation fails to muster the will to see you, hear you, or face honestly the American addiction to war.

The truths about war that you might tell us are generally rejected and invalidated, cementing you into a heavy block of silence. Military chaplain Sean Levine describes how the U.S. must “deny the trauma of its warriors lest that trauma radically redefine our understanding of war.” He continues, “Blind patriotism has done inestimable damage to the souls of thousands of our returning warriors.”

If we civilians paid attention to your honesty, we would find ourselves slammed headlong into a conflict with a national culture that glorifies war, conceals the political and material interests of the titans of weaponry and war production, and successfully distracts us from the depth of its destruction. We civilians are complicit and so lurch away from facing the inevitable revulsion, sorrow, mourning, and guilt that always accompany the reality of war.

An Alternative for Veterans Day

Honestly, the only way forward is for you to tell — and us to compassionately take in — the unadulterated stories of war. One Vietnam veteran vividly described what war did to him this way:

I went to war when I was a little over twenty — not a child, but not yet an adult. When I arrived at the Cleveland airport after my tour of duty in Vietnam, I just sat down paralyzed with befuddled emotions. I didn’t even call my parents to tell them I was home. I was afraid my family would expect to see the person I was, and not accept the person I had become; that they would not forgive me for what I had done and not done in Vietnam. How could they when I couldn’t forgive myself? Like some toxic virus morphing in a Petri dish, the war infected my moral DNA. I came home no longer thinking with the same mind, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears.

When you speak out and tell truths this way, you exemplify the epitome of citizenship, as well as courage, vulnerability, and a commitment to hope. Such revelations show that the light of your conscience wasn’t quashed by war. Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Buddhist international peace activist, pointed the way forward for veterans and the rest of us alike when he wrote:

Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war.

The resulting trauma from war’s inevitable dehumanization is not yours alone. War-culture in this country leaves us with a residual collective trauma that weighs us all down and is only made worse by a national blindness to it.

As a civilian on Veterans Day, I hope to support the creation of spaces where your voices resoundingly are heard, and your faces seen. Together, we must determine how best to do the work of rehumanizing our world. Jack Saul, from the International Trauma Studies Program, reminds us that listening is “deeply humanizing” because it generates the healing power of empathy. Compassionate listening spaces “strengthen our connections to others and ourselves, and ultimately make society better.”

This Veterans Day I’m taking part in a “Community Healing Ceremony” through the Moral Injury Program in Philadelphia where I and other civilians will witness the strength of veterans offering testimony about the evil of war in their lives. Hearing your words will clarify my own understanding, vision, and resolve. Listening can be transformative, helping tear down the deceitful myths of war-culture, while building honesty and a willingness to see our world as it is.

Let me finish by thanking you, the veterans of our wars, for your truth-telling. Your contribution is invaluable in this embattled world of ours.

Ron DeSantis sending 'very dangerous sign' to GOP voters — and Trump’s worried: religious scholar

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is overtly courting Christian nationalist voters, and Donald Trump lashed out at his most likely GOP challenger.

The Florida governor released a new video presenting him as a savior anointed by God to save the country, which the former president perceived as a direct threat to his grip over right-wing evangelical voters -- and historian Sarah Posner told the Washington Post that Trump was right to be concerned.

"Trump knows that his base believes God anointed him to lead America at a critical juncture, and that many of them believe him to be a messianic figure who alone can rescue America from what they call demonic forces (liberalism, civil rights, 'deep state,' and more)," Posner told the Post columnist Greg Sargent. "None of Trump’s potential rivals have so blatantly tried to claim that divine blessing."

"It’s a very dangerous sign that DeSantis is reading the base — which has been bombarded with ever more radical claims of anointings, prophecy and spiritual warfare against the left — as receptive to savior alternatives to Trump," she added.

DeSantis was explicitly sending a message to voters who believe America was founded as a Christian nation, using their language, and signaling that he shares their vision of taking the country back from the forces of evil, Posner said.

"The video is a prime example," said Posner, a historical scholar of the religious right. "DeSantis has also used a revealing misquote from the Bible, calling on supporters to 'put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the left’s schemes.'"

"The 'armor of God” quote actually reads, 'take your stand against the devil’s schemes,'" Posner added. "He substitutes 'the left' for 'the devil,' demonstrating to his base that he, like them, will treat politics as a battleground for spiritual warfare to vanquish the left."

These 20 churches are violating federal law by supporting political candidates: expert assessments

The endorsement of political candidates by religious leaders from the pulpit has grown increasingly brazen, aggressive and sophisticated in recent years.

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune have found 20 apparent violations in the past two years of the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits church leaders from intervening in political campaigns. Two occurred in the last two weeks as candidates crisscross Texas vying for votes. The number of potential violations found by the news outlets is greater than the total number of churches the IRS has investigated for intervening in political campaigns in the past decade, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the law, pastors can endorse candidates in their personal capacities outside of church and weigh in on political issues from the pulpit as long as they don’t veer into support or condemnation of a particular candidate. But the law prohibits pastors from endorsing candidates during official church functions such as sermons.

Violations can lead to the revocation of a church’s tax-exempt status.

Descriptions of the 20 videos we identified are below. ProPublica and the Tribune had three experts review each of them. They agreed that the cases below violate the law. The experts were Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a tax and election law expert at the University of Notre Dame; Ellen Aprill, an emerita tax law professor at Loyola Marymount University’s law school; and Sam Brunson, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago.

We’re Not Endorsing a Candidate, but…

In these cases, pastors said they were not endorsing candidates, but their actions equated to an endorsement, according to the experts. Some acknowledged that the law did not allow them to endorse before making their statements.

Mercy Culture

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Pastors: Landon Schott, Heather Schott and Steve Penate

Context: Pastors at Mercy Culture expressed support for political candidates in at least three sermons this year. All three instances violated the Johnson Amendment, according to the experts. During one such instance on Feb. 6, the Schotts and Penate spoke in favor of Nate Schatzline, who is running for a seat in the state House. “Now, obviously, churches don’t endorse candidates, but my name is Landon and I’m a person before I’m a pastor. And as an individual, I endorse Nate Schatzline,” Landon Schott said. Schatzline’s appearance ended with Schott stating: “We declare Mercy Culture Church is behind you. We declare Mercy Culture Church is praying for you. We declare Mercy Culture Church is supporting you.” Early voting for the March 1 primary began eight days after the church service. Schatzline qualified for a runoff, which he won on May 24. He will face Democratic nominee KC Chowdhury, a Democrat, in Tuesday’s general election.

Expert assessment:

Brunson: “If it’s part of the religious services, his disclaimer doesn’t work and it’s a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment (albeit an almost clever, and definitely self-aware, attempt to avoid that). Penate saying ‘do something with us’ is absolutely an endorsement. If they’re doing it in their capacity as pastors, this violates the Johnson Amendment.”

Church and candidate response: Mercy Culture, Landon Schott and Heather Schott did not respond to questions or requests for comment. Both Penate, a church elder who said he was not speaking on behalf of the church, and Schatzline stated in separate interviews that they did not believe any laws were broken. “Mercy Culture has never endorsed anyone,” Penate said. “Mercy Culture has never told anyone to vote a certain way. Never.”

Unite Church

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Pastor: Josh Tanner

Context: On Jan. 16, Tanner introduced his congregation to Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and let her speak about how she expressed her faith during her career in government. “OK, so I want you to know that we’re not just gonna be doing an endorsement for Kelly today, even though I am endorsing Kelly for U.S. Senate. And you can vote for whoever you want. I’m just letting you know who I’m voting for. It’s gonna be her.”

Tshibaka was among the top candidates to advance to the November general election. She will face incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Patricia Chesbro on Tuesday.

Expert assessment:

Aprill: “That the pastor says he personally endorses the candidate at an official function of the church makes the statement campaign intervention.”

Church and candidate response: Unite Church, Tanner and Tshibaka did not respond to requests for comment.

“Uncle Bill”: A New “Family”-Based Strategy

Some churches coordinated with one another to provide their congregations with a list that singled out specific candidates and omitted others.

Gateway Church

Location: Southlake, Texas, northwest of Dallas

Pastor: Robert Morris

Context: Morris is among a group of Dallas-area pastors who have coordinated to highlight certain candidates running for public office. Since 2021, Morris has shown his congregation the names of specific candidates for office at least three times. In each of those cases, Morris violated the Johnson Amendment, according to experts. (Morris also showed the names during an Oct. 23 service.) During an April 18, 2021, sermon, a day before the start of early voting, Morris displayed the names of nine candidates running in nonpartisan races for school board and City Council on a screen. “And so we’re not endorsing a candidate,” Morris said. “We’re not doing that. But we just thought because they’re a member of the family of God, that you might want to know if someone in the family and this family of churches is running.” All but one of the candidates whose names were shown either won their race or qualified for a runoff.

Expert assessment:

Mayer: “This is a new (at least to me) technique, to join a group of like-minded churches and then identify to the congregation anyone who is a member of any of those churches who is a candidate for elected public office, as opposed to just identifying members of your congregation who are candidates. But this technique, even with the disclaimers made by the pastor here, is still a violation of the Johnson Amendment. While the pastor tries to avoid the violation by making various disclaimers and saying he is just giving the congregation the names and they can do what they want when they vote, those are not sufficient to cure the violation. But they do provide an argument that there is not a violation and so muddies the waters a bit, even though I believe that argument ultimately fails legally.”

Church response: Lawrence Swicegood, Gateway Media executive director, said in an emailed statement:

“At Gateway Church:


  • Support any specific political party
  • Endorse political candidates

We DO:

  • INFORM our church family of other church family members who are seeking office to serve our community.
  • ENCOURAGE our church family to vote as God leads them.
  • PRAY for our elected officials regardless of their political party, or affiliation.”

First Baptist Grapevine

Location: Grapevine, Texas, northwest of Dallas

Pastor: Doug Page

Context: On April 18, 2021, Page showed his congregation the same list of candidates as Morris. “This is not an endorsement by us. We are not endorsing anyone. However, if you’re part of a family, you’d like to know if Uncle Bill is running for office, right? And so that’s all we’re going to do is simply inform you,” Page said.

Expert assessment:

Mayer: “This is a violation of the Johnson Amendment for the same reasons as the Gateway Church violations.”

Church response: “As is clearly stated in the sermon clip you provided, these candidates were named for information only, not for endorsement. First Baptist Grapevine does not and will not endorse candidates for public office. Our primary focus is the gospel of Jesus Christ and seeking to follow His will for our lives,” Page said in an emailed statement.

Dueling Endorsements

For these nonpartisan races in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, pastors from different churches endorsed opposing candidates.

Koinonia Christian Church

Location: Arlington, Texas

Pastor: Ronnie W. Goines

Context: The first race involved candidates for the Mansfield school board. In a May 1 sermon, Goines implored his congregation to vote for Benita Reed in a local nonpartisan race on May 7. He said that Reed was the most qualified candidate in the race because she has worked in education for almost 30 years, but that scare tactics were being used against her. He then showed a mailer targeting Reed that read, “MISD put ‘woke’ politics over the safety of our children.” Then, Goines said, “All we got to do, people, is let’s go make a long line outside the polls and get this woman elected.” He later said: “Koinonia, we need, Dr. Reed needs a thousand votes. She needs a thousand votes. We got right at 10,000 members.”

Expert assessment:

Aprill: “This is a direct campaign intervention. He says, ‘She needs a thousand votes.’”

Church and candidate response: Reached by phone, Goines directed the news organizations to the church’s spokesperson, who did not respond. Reed did not respond to emailed questions.


Location: Mansfield, Texas, southwest of Dallas

Pastor: Truston Baba

Context: None of the candidates received more than 50% of the vote during the May 7 election, leading to a runoff between Reed and Craig Tipping. During a June 12 sermon, Baba encouraged his congregation to vote in the runoff election. He then praised Tipping. “And so, Craig, thank you for running. Thank you for being obedient to do what God’s called you to do. And I’m gonna support you. And I hope that people from More Church will not just complain but will actually get out and vote. You know, we go to the booth, and we go to get these little stickers. ‘I voted.’ Y’all know you get the ‘I voted’ sticker? Come on. There’s a big one. Get out. Get the sticker. Let’s vote and help make a difference locally. Come on. Give a hand for my friend Craig today.” Tipping, a physical therapist, won on June 18.

Expert Assessment:

Aprill: “Having only one candidate appear is partisan. This pastor states at an official event that he supports the candidate. As noted earlier, that violates the prohibition. Moreover, the pastor’s comments are an endorsement of the candidate generally.”

Church and candidate response: Neither More Church nor Baba responded to requests for an interview or emailed questions. Tipping did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Life-Changing Faith Christian Fellowship

Location: Frisco, Texas, north of Dallas

Pastor: Dono Pelham

Context: The second set of dueling sermons involved two candidates in a nonpartisan race for Frisco City Council. On May 2, 2021, Pelham told his congregation that his wife, Angelia Pelham, had qualified for the runoff. He encouraged them to vote in the June 5, 2021, election in which Pelham faced Jennifer White, a veterinarian who described herself as the only conservative in the race. “I’m not about to endorse, but you’ll get the message,” Pelham said.

Expert Assessment:

Brunson: “He’s basically endorsing his wife, and I think it would be hard to argue anything different.”

Church and candidate response: Dono Pelham said in an emailed statement that he did not endorse his wife in the runoff. Angelia Pelham said she and her husband were “very clear and very intentional” about not violating the Johnson Amendment.

KingdomLife Church

Location: Frisco, Texas

Pastor: Brandon Burden

Context: Six days before that runoff election for the Frisco City Council, Burden supported White from the pulpit. Burden told churchgoers that God was working through the congregation to take the country, and particularly North Texas, back to its Christian roots. He framed the race between White and Pelham as one against Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. Cheney had urged residents to put party politics aside and vote for Pelham because of her experience working for corporations such as PepsiCo Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and Cinemark. “I got a candidate that God wants to win,” Burden said. “I got a mayor that God wants to unseat. God wants to undo. God wants to shift the balance of power in our city. And I have jurisdiction over that this morning.” Pelham defeated White in the election.

Expert assessment:

Brunson: “It’s pretty obvious, from the context and other things that he has said, that it is clear who he is saying God wants to win.”

Church and candidate response: Neither Burden nor KingdomLife responded to multiple interview requests or to emailed questions. White said she wasn’t in attendance during the sermon. She said she does not believe pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit, but she welcomed churches becoming more politically active. “I think that the churches over the years have been a big pretty big disappointment to the candidates in that they won’t take a political stance,” White said. “So I would love it if churches would go ahead and come out and actually discuss things like morality. Not a specific party, but at least make sure people know where the candidates stand on those issues. And how to vote based on that.”

“Vote Her Behind Right Out of Office”: Criticizing the Incumbent, Praising the Challenger

Pulpit criticism of sitting officeholders is permitted, except during campaigns when officeholders are running as candidates. In the cases below, pastors criticized the incumbents while praising their challengers during election season.

Legacy Church

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Pastor: Steve Smothermon

Context: During a July 10 sermon, Smothermon attacked New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, and praised Republican Mark Ronchetti for seeking to end abortion in New Mexico. “We have the Wicked Witch of the North. Or you have Mark Ronchetti,” Smotherman said. Later in the sermon, Smotherman said, “You better get registered to vote, and we better vote her behind right out of office.” Grisham and Ronchetti will face each other in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election.

Expert assessment:

Aprill: “This is a campaign intervention. The pastor is endorsing Ronchetti and opposing Ronchetti’s opponent.”

Church and candidate response: Legacy Church, Smothermon and Ronchetti did not respond to requests for comment.

Friendship-West Baptist Church

Location: Dallas

Pastor: Frederick Douglass Haynes III

Context: At the end of the church service on May 8, Haynes criticized state leaders’ response to the deadly February 2021 winter storm and praised Beto O’Rourke for donating $25,000 to the church during that time. Haynes then invited O’Rourke to speak with his congregation. “I just want to say, because I think we need to know this in a very public way, that when there was a crisis February last year and the ineptitude of our state leadership, and then you had (Ted) Cruz going to Cancun. Lord Jesus, so Cruz went to Cancun and then (Greg) Abbott’s friends got paid. And while that was going on, Beto O’Rourke was using resources from his foundation. He was on the ground, serving people, blessing people and just, just, just doing what God wants us to do.” O’Rourke, who announced in November 2021 that he would challenge Greg Abbott in the race for governor, then gave a 10-minute speech about how the faith community played a pivotal role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act. O’Rourke was identified as a gubernatorial candidate in a caption on the church’s livestream. He ended his May speech by expressing hope that people of color who were targeted by the restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans last year would provide the margin of victory on Nov. 8.

Expert Assessment:

Mayer: “Assuming the church is responsible for the caption (that ran under O’Rourke on the church’s livestream), this is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment because the church explicitly identifies Beto O’Rourke as a candidate and the pastor expresses support for him.”

Church and candidate response: Haynes did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment. Chris Evans, communication director for O’Rourke’s campaign, said in an emailed statement: “Beto has enjoyed worshiping alongside the congregation at Friendship-West Baptist Church for years and is proud to call Pastor Haynes his friend. Pastor Haynes has long led the on-the-ground work of bringing people together to deliver for his community that Greg Abbott has absolutely failed and to fight for equality, justice, and opportunity across Texas.”

“My Dear Friend”: Hosting a Candidate

Some pastors introduced candidates during their sermons and allowed them to speak, while others interviewed them during church functions. The Johnson Amendment allows candidates to visit churches and speak to parishioners before elections, but it requires that churches maintain a “nonpartisan atmosphere” and give all candidates the same opportunity to visit.

St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church

Location: Dallas

Pastor: Richie Butler

Context: On Oct. 23, a day before early voting began, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke visited the church. Butler introduced him as “the next governor of Texas.” He told parishioners: “We want to encourage him as he continues to run the race that is before him, and he needs us to get him across the finish line.” O’Rourke urged parishioners to vote and then gave a brief speech calling for fixing the state’s electric grid and expressing alarm over the high rate of school shootings and gun violence.

Expert Assessment:

Mayer: “This situation is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment. Beto O’Rourke is introduced as the ‘next governor of Texas,’ which highlights both that he is a candidate and one whom the church supports. And O’Rourke’s comments are a sales pitch for his candidacy. There is no indication that any opposing candidate has been given a similar opportunity and, even if he had been, the favorable introduction of O’Rourke would still be across the line.”

Church and candidate response: In a statement, Butler said: “Black churches have been important hubs for civic engagement and organization in the fight for social justice since Reconstruction. The mixing of faith-based congregations and electoral engagement is not a new concept.” O’Rourke did not respond to a request for comment or emailed questions.

Grace Woodlands

Location: The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston

Pastor: Steve Riggle

Context: Also on Oct. 23, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican running for reelection, visited Grace Woodlands. During the sermon, Riggle said that Texas needs leaders like Patrick who “will stand for values that are critical to the future of this nation.” Riggle praised Patrick as a “strong person” of faith whom “God has given us at the very top.” Patrick then spoke to the congregation and cast the election in stark terms. “This is not a race between Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “This is a race about darkness and light. This is a race about powers and principalities. And the devil is at full work in this country.”

Expert Assessment:

Brunson: “This is a clear endorsement of Patrick by the pastor of a church acting in his capacity as pastor in the course of ordinary church meetings. This violates the Johnson Amendment.”

Church and candidate response: Riggle said that his church did not endorse any candidate and said his introduction was focused on biblical values, not politics. He added that he believes the Johnson Amendment should be overturned.

“The government has no right at any time to, in any way, tell the church who it can have or who it cannot have to speak,” he said. “It can’t tell the church what it can preach on or not preach on. This is America, and we believe in a free church, not one controlled by the government.”

Patrick did not respond to requests for comment or emailed questions.

Sojourn Church

Location: Carrollton, Texas, north of Dallas

Pastor: Chris McRae

Context: During a May 1 sermon, McRae told parishioners that they were being lied to by an “invisible enemy” about issues of race, gender and abortion. He said they needed to “wake up” and confront the lies. McRae then invited Kevin Falconer, the mayor of Carrollton and a Republican candidate for Denton County Commissioner, to the pulpit to speak. “I can’t, as my friends will say, I can’t endorse him. But I do know that God loves Falcons,” McRae said. He also told his congregation he thought Steve Babick would win the upcoming nonpartisan mayoral election to fill the vacancy left by Falconer. Both Falconer and Babick won their elections.

Expert assessment:

Aprill: “That is campaign intervention to me, even though the pastor states that he is asking Kevin to speak about communion. Context makes it an indirect campaign intervention.”

Church and candidate response: Sojourn Church, McRae and Falconer did not respond to requests for comment. Babick said he was unaware of any statements McRae made about him or his candidacy. “I’m not necessarily in favor or against it,” Babick said of the Johnson Amendment.

Woodlands Church

Location: The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston

Pastor: Kerry Shook

Context: On Jan. 16, Shook introduced Christian Collins to his congregation. Collins was campaigning for the Republican nomination for Texas’ 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Houston and several surrounding cities. “And so, the primaries are coming up in March, and I just wanted y’all to get to know Christian, my dear friend, and his love for Jesus Christ and pray for all of those Christ followers who are doing something that I would never do,” Shook said. The sermon occurred two and a half months before the Republican primary election. Collins lost the race.

Expert Assessment:

Aprill: “Specifically naming the primary and the candidate and saying we need Christ followers makes it campaign intervention to me.”

Church and candidate response: Woodlands Church, Kerry Shook Ministries and Kerry Shook did not respond to requests for comment. Through a spokesperson, Collins declined to comment.

Abundant Life Church

Location: Willis, Texas, north of Houston

Pastor: Dave Stovall

Context: At the end of his sermon on Dec. 5, 2021, Stovall introduced Collins as a candidate for the 8th Congressional District. He praised Collins for founding the Texas Youth Summit, a two-day conference that promotes conservative political activism among students. “Would you stand in honor of Christian Collins and the leader, servant-leader that he is and what he has done for this community?” Stovall asked. Collins had pledged to join the congressional Freedom Caucus, a voting bloc made up of some of the most conservative members of Congress, in contrast to his chief opponent, former Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell, who won the Republican primary.

Expert Assessment:

Mayer: “This is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment for the same reasons as the previous passage from Woodlands Church. (The similarity of this passage and the one from Woodlands Church makes me wonder if the pastors had been given suggested scripts from the same source.)”

Church and candidate response: Abundant Life Church and Stovall did not respond to requests for comment, including the news organizations’ question about whether it had invited Luttrell or any other candidate to speak at the church. Through a spokesperson, Collins declined to comment.

Destiny Christian Church

Location: Rocklin, California, northwest of Sacramento

Pastor: Greg Fairrington

Context: In a conversation with California gubernatorial candidate Anthony Trimino, a Republican, during a May 15 church service, Fairrington told his congregation that the state needs a leader with a “vibrant faith in Jesus Christ.” He praised Trimino for his effort to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and prayed for the Republican candidate. “Lord God, that you would inspire voters here in the state of California to cast their vote for the sanctity of life. Lord God, that they would get behind a conservative Christian candidate,” Fairrington said. Trimino came in sixth in an open party primary election on June 7. He did not advance to the November general election.

Expert Assessment:

Mayer: “This passage is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment because it implicitly identifies Anthony as a candidate, specifically mentions voting and calls on the audience to get behind a conservative, pro-life Christian candidate (implicitly, such as Anthony).”

Church and Candidate Response: Destiny Christian Church, Fairrington and Trimino did not respond to requests for comment.

Carver Park Baptist Church

Location: Waco, Texas

Pastor: Gaylon P. Foreman

Context: On April 7, Foreman livestreamed a Q&A at the church with Marlon Jones, a candidate for the Waco Independent School District school board. “Again, I endorse him fully and completely, and I wish that you would prayerfully consider helping support this mighty man of God, so he can help make kingdom impact on the Waco ISD,” Foreman said. Experts said Johnson Amendment violations can occur at any church function, not just during sermons. Jones lost the May 7 election.

Expert Assessment:

Brunson: “This pastor doesn’t even pretend not to be endorsing the candidate, which is the honest approach. He’s clearly endorsing.”

Church and candidate response: Foreman defended his discussion with Jones. “I told him about the show and he agreed to appear. I didn’t hear from or have any other contact with any other candidates or I would have gladly allowed them to appear as well,” Foreman said. “On the show, I did acknowledge that I personally supported him and that I felt that he was the best candidate. I also asked about how our community could help him. For as long as I’ve been serving as pastor, I’ve always made it clear that I never tell others who to vote for but do encourage everyone to vote.”

Jones said in an interview with the news organizations that he thought Foreman provided information and did not violate the Johnson Amendment. “I think during the broadcast Pastor Foreman was very intentional about encouraging people to vote but not necessarily saying this is who we should vote for.” Jones, who is also a pastor, added: “Saying ‘this is something I am doing’ does not necessarily mean your congregation will do that.”

Praising Trump Before the 2020 Election

In the days leading up to the 2020 election, some pastors extolled the ways in which former President Donald Trump had delivered for Christians.

Cowboy Church of Corsicana

Location: Corsicana, Texas, southeast of Dallas

Pastor: Derek Rogers

Context: On Oct. 14, 2020, Rogers told his congregation that even though pastors aren’t supposed to talk about politics, parishioners needed to support Trump’s reelection bid. “I do not understand how anybody that calls himself a Christian could vote for the agenda and the platform of Joe Biden,” he said. “President Trump, he ain’t the greatest dude in the whole world, but he’s the closest thing that we got to what we need.”

Expert Assessment:

Mayer: “This is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment because it identifies two candidates by name and explicitly tells the congregation for which of them they should vote.”

Church response: Rogers did not respond to requests for comment.

Beth Sar Shalom

Location: Carrollton, Texas, north of Dallas

Pastor: Steven Ger

Context: Ger explained to congregants why they should support Trump over Biden for president two days before the election. “I like what our president has done. He made his promises. And he kept his promises.” He later called Trump the “most pro-life president ever” and said, “Vice President Biden would be the most pro-abortion president ever.”

Expert Assessment:

Mayer: “The passage is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment because it identifies two candidates, describes their positions and then says which position (and therefore candidate) should be voted for.”

Church response: Executive Pastor Don Jones initially said he was willing to be interviewed, but neither he nor Ger responded to follow-up calls and emailed questions.

Trinity Family Church

Location: Forney, Texas, east of Dallas

Pastor: Marty Reid

Context: In a sermon two days before the Nov. 3, 2020, election, Reid told his congregation that even though Trump “doesn’t know much” about Christianity, “I believe God has raised up President Trump for such a time as this".

Expert Assessment:

Aprill: “Clearly an endorsement of Trump and campaign intervention.”

Church response: Trinity Family Church and Reid did not respond to requests for comment.

Watch: Michael Steele buries Ron DeSantis over 'dumbest political ad you could ever make'

During an appearance on MSNBC's "The Sunday Show," former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele went on a blistering rant about an ad coming from Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign claiming "On the 8th day God looked down on his planned paradise and said: 'I need a protector.' So God made a fighter."

By which the campaign means the controversial Florida Republican governor, in the ad tweeted out by the wife of DeSantis.

After watching a fragment of the ad served up by host Jonathan Capehart, Steele shook his head before launching into an epic rant.

"That is some of the most ass-backwards blasphemy I've ever heard in my life," Steele began as he warmed up. "One of the dumbest political ads you could ever make. And to have your wife go out, under your spouse's name?'

"It's insulting. But it tells you what this white Christian nationalism is all about -- that's who it appeals to," he continued. "It doesn't appeal to churchgoing folks on Sunday, people who actually read the Bible. On the eighth day? Really? Church much? Seriously, on the eighth day?"

"This idea, oh, God needs a protector," he continued. "Yeah, you could even ask Moses to do that part, right? What the hell are you talking about? Oh, God needs someone who's going to go out and challenge the status quo. You ever hear of a man named Jesus? I don't need Ron DeSantis to be Christ. I just need him to be governor, and that is the problem. These idiots mesh it all together and think they are one and the same."

Watch below or at this link:

MSNBC 11 06 2022 11 40 38

Watch: Herschel Walker declares himself 'a Warrior for God' in baseless attack on Barack Obama

Republican senatorial nominee Herschel Walker has spent four days attacking Barack Obama after the former President, campaigning for Democrats in the days before the midterm election mocked the former NFL star to a huge, laughing crowd.

“Why don’t he go back to wherever he’s from and get back in his million-dollar mansion,” cried Walker, dredging up the birtherism that took hold over a decade ago thanks to his mentor, Donald Trump.

“Where has he been all this time, while people are dying on the street?” charged Walker, not explaining the allegation.

“Where has he been all this time while these gas prices going up?” he continued, again, apparently not aware former presidents have no ability to regulate the price of gas — a charge that, to Walker’s logic, could also be made of the man who not only endorsed him, but pushed him to run: Donald Trump.

READ MORE: ‘The Child Would Not Be Safe’: Woman Who Says Herschel Walker Pressured Her to Have Abortion Says She Felt ‘Threatened’

“Where has he been all this time as people going to all the school system and our president call all the parents domestic terrorists,” Walker claimed, which is entirely false.

While Walker attacked former President Obama he neglected to mention his own massive financial portfolio, including his businesses that paid him more than $4 million in the last year – as he continued to give paid speeches while running for public office, something rarely done. (Republicans lambasted Hillary Clinton after she left office as Secretary of State, for giving paid speeches when she was a private citizen and nowhere near to declaring a presidential run.)

Walker has raked in well over a quarter million dollars for paid speeches alone while a declared candidate. The former NFL star charged tens of thousands of dollars per speech to several Boys & Girls Clubs, taking in nearly $100,000 from just those local organizations.

CNN reported this summer that “Walker was once a ‘partner’ and ‘spokesman‘ for a subsidiary of an energy company, Just Energy, which was repeatedly targeted by states’ attorneys general and utility agencies over allegedly deceptive practices.”

READ MORE: Watch: Herschel Walker Falls for Comedy Central Show Prank Calling Him to ‘Report a Crime’

“The parent company’s practices allegedly enticed potential customers into long term contacts falsely saying they would save them money, allegedly included the elderly and those with language barriers being put into contracts they did not understand,” CNN added.

Walker is worth an estimated $29 million to $65 million, according to his 2021 financial disclosure.

Meanwhile, Obama’s jovial ribbing went viral over the weekend.

READ MORE: ‘Train Wreck’: Herschel Walker Criticized for New Ad Claiming God Helped Him ‘Overcome’ His Mental Illness

Obama joked about Walker’s credentials at a Georgia rally on Friday, with a “thought experiment.”

Also on Friday Obama called Walker “a celebrity who wants to be a politician.”

“In the case of Rev. Warnock’s opponent,” Obama declared, “there is very little evidence that he has taken any interest, bothered to learn anything about, or displayed any kind of inclination, towards public service, or volunteer work, or helping people in any way.”

“Seems to me,” Obama continued, “he’s a celebrity who wants to be a politician. And we’ve seen how that goes,” the former president said, mocking his one-term Republican successor.

Walker tried to take control of the narrative, by invoking God.

Trying to quell the quickly brewing battle, Walker issued a statement on Saturday saying, “President Obama was here last night. He said I’m a celebrity. He got that one wrong, didn’t he? I’m not a celebrity, I’m a warrior for God.”

He echoed those remarks on Monday.

Watch the videos of Obama and Walker above or at this link.

Texas pastor openly calls on 'Christian nationalists' to 'impose their values on society'

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress said over the weekend that Christian nationalists had a right to "impose their values" on everyone else.

During an interview with Real America's Voice host Tim Clinton, Jeffress addressed recent concerns about the rising nationalist movement among Christians.

"We always put our love for God above everything, even allegiance to our country," he explained. "But that's not what they're really talking about. Listen carefully. They say they are opposed to people who say America was founded as a Christian nation, Americans who believe not only in the spiritual heritage of our nation, but believe that we ought to use elections to help return our country to its Christian foundation."

"If that's Christian nationalism, count me in," the pastor laughed. "Because that's what we have to do. And what's so hypocritical about this, Tim, is the left don't mind at all imposing their values on our country through the election process. They don't mind forcing their pro-abortion, pro-transgender, pro-open borders policy upon our nation."

Jeffress added: "But they object when conservative Christians try to impose their values on society at large. It's complete hypocrisy."

The pastor has previously rejected the Christian nationalist label.

Watch the video clip below from Real America's Voice.

Watch: Mike Pence declares that Americans have no right to 'freedom from religion'

Former Vice President Mike Pence claimed during a Wednesday appearance on Fox Business that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution does not protect Americans from having other people's faiths forced upon them.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," it states.

In fact, there are no references to a supreme being anywhere in the Constitution, because the Founding Fathers were adamantly opposed to centralized religious power as well as requiring individuals to subscribe to any particular denomination.

READ MORE: 'God's gonna cut you down': How Republicans conspire with churches for power

The concept of separation of church and state was sacrosanct to men like President Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in his 1776 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that "setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time" and that "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."

Jefferson's condemnation of forced faith in the document was unambiguous, further affirming that "no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

President James Madison, in whose hand the Constitution was penned, concurred with Jefferson.

"The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connexion between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast, which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law," Madison explained in an 1819 letter, noting that "a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with toleration, is no security for public quiet and harmony, but rather a source itself of discord and animosity."

READ MORE: White men refusing to share power is a silver stake piercing the heart of American democracy

Benjamin Franklin took it one step further, arguing in 1780 that any religion that seeks to impose itself is simply "bad."

Yet Pence and host Larry Kudlow share an interpretation that strays wildly from what Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison clearly spelled out more than two centuries ago.

"These lefties want to scrap religion, Mike Pence, and I think it's a terrible mistake," Kudlow griped.

"Well, the radical left believes that the freedom of religion is the freedom from religion. But it's nothing the American founders ever thought of or generations of Americans fought to defend," Pence said.

As mentioned, that statement is completely false. Jefferson even concluded in his treatise that "such act will be an infringement of natural right."

But Pence was not finished. He also suggested that the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority has a duty to side with one faith over another. Today, that means the GOP's embrace of Christian nationalism.

"You know, I said today here in Houston that the source of our nation's greatness has always been our faith in God, our freedom, and our vast natural resources. And the good news is, that after four years of the Trump-Pence administration, I'm confident that we have a pro-religious freedom majority on the Supreme Court of the United States. And I'm confident that come Election Day, November the 8th, you're gonna see that freedom majority around the country turn out and vote pro-freedom majorities in the House, and in the Senate, and in statehouses around the country," Pence said. "So stay tuned, Larry. Help is on the way."

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: How 'religious freedom' became a right-wing assault on equality and the rule of law

The face of liberal democracy’s enemy is white

The Times is virtuosic not only for its ability to bring us news from around the world, but for its ability to talk about the politics of white power without mentioning “white,” “power,” “politics,” “the” or “of” in any combination – or those benefitting from its built-in advantages.

In the absence of a vocabulary that might otherwise accurately characterize the political landscape that we inhabit, it invented a value-free vernacular to do two things: avoid talking about the white people who are most afraid of losing their built-in advantages to the rise of liberal democracy; and two, avoid talking about, to any serious degree, the real consequences of what they will do to protect them.

Case in point is a news report published in the Sunday Times with this hed – “Their America Is Vanishing. Like Trump, They Insist They Were Cheated” – and this dek – “The white majority is fading, the economy is changing and there’s a pervasive sense of loss in districts where Republicans fought the outcome of the 2020 election.”

READ MORE: The GOP's foremost concern is the protection of white power

The content of the piece is familiar. White people feel anxiety about changes to the American national character. Those changes are rooted in demographics, economics, religion and culture. But the details of the story, which I’m not bothering to recount, are not important compared to its broad contours, which are this: white people don’t like change so they’re voting for the Republicans.

But “change” and “loss” and “the economy” – as well as “working class” and “middle American” and “non-college voter” – are words in the Times’ value-free vernacular, that others replicate, that obscures who is doing what to whom. For that, we must turn to the pull quotes, as we journalists call them. Here they are in order of appearance:

One: “In Fort Bend County, Texas, things are changing.”

Two: “Mosques and Hindu temples draw thousands, farmland is giving way to suburbs and some Republicans feel their county is becoming more like majority-minority Houston.”

READ MORE: How a radical third of the electorate dictates the terms of American democracy

Three: “Once predominantly white, Fort Bend has quickly become one of the most diverse places in the country. Its congressman is an outspoken denier of Donald J. Trump’s defeat.”

If there is a way of saying that white people in Fort Bend County, Texas, are prepared to go to war with liberal democracy in order to protect the political advantages built into the politics of white power, these three quotes, in order of appearance, are the closest we’ll get.

That is, unless an authoritative source of spells it out:

Because they are more vulnerable, disadvantaged or less educated, white voters can feel especially endangered by the trend toward a minority-majority, said Ashley Jardina, a political scientist at George Mason University who studies the attitudes of those voters.

'A lot of white Americans who are really threatened are willing to reject democratic norms,' she said, 'because they see it as a way to protect their status.'

Actually, that’s close but not close enough.

The face of liberal democracy’s enemy is white.

Perry Bacon doesn’t go that far, but the Post’s columnist has come the closest, as far as I can tell, to naming names. Most Republicans are white, he wrote recently. White people dominate the electorate. Most white people, by way of supporting the GOP’s assault on democracy, and are doing so without being held accountable by the press. Bacon:

Because white people are likely to be the majority of voters for at least two more decades, America is in trouble. Across the country, GOP officials are banning books from public libraries, making it harder for non-Republicans to vote, stripping away Black political power, aggressively gerrymandering, censoring teachers and professors and, most important, denying the results of legitimate elections. The majority of America’s white voters are enabling and encouraging the GOP’s radical, antidemocratic turn by continuing to back the party in elections.

It’s not, as much of our political discourse implies, that the Democrats have a working-class or Middle America or non-college-voter problem. The more important story is that America has a white voter problem. And there is no sign it’s going away anytime soon.

An apparent counterpoint is that white people are not afraid of losing the built-in advantages of white power so much as afraid of the rising costs of energy, groceries and so on. These are much-talked-about “kitchen table” issues that are always presented as if they have nothing to do with the political landscape that we all inhabit.

Economic issues are cited, by the far right and far left, as reason for Donald Trump’s election and the rise of redhat fascism around the country. But when you look closer, even “race-free” concepts like inflation and “being left behind” are rooted in white power politics.

Kevin Seefried and his son Hunter were sentenced to two years in federal prison Monday for their role in Donald Trump’s attempted paramilitary takeover, on January 6, 2021, of the US government. Kevin Seefried became a household name after a photo (above) circulated of him carrying a Confederate flag into the US Capitol.

Jeremi Suri recounts the moment in the introduction of his latest work of American history, Civil War by Other Means:

Like many others in the mob, Seefried brought his son, Hunter, to the insurrection. It was a proud moment for a father who had spent many of his years in and out of work, living in an economically depressed area two hours from the Capitol. He and his son were taking back their country, showing that they could make a difference, standing up for fellow working-class families who felt forgotten. They would not accept a president elected by nonwhite voters. The Confederate flag was their battle flag.

It’s here that we get to the real meat of the issue – the real reason white people are prepared to abandon liberal democracy in order to protect their precious privileges built into our political system.

It’s not that they love their country. It’s not that they love the Constitution. Their opposition to liberal democracy, and all that it costs them politically, does not rest on positive principle.

It rests on laziness.

Most white people don’t want to compete.

They don’t want to compete for jobs, for resources or for political representation in a republican government of, by and for the people. They would rather use their already existing advantages to get out of working harder in the public square, the marketplace of ideas or a truly fair and level political economy. The Republicans are saying, in effect, vote for us. We’ll save you the effort of competing with people who are putting twice the effort into participating in a democracy.

That’s what truly frightened them after 2008.

“Sussex County, Delaware, where the Seefrieds resided in a rundown house, fit the pattern,” Suri wrote in Civil War by Other Means.

This rural region of chicken farms entered a tailspin that triggered higher crime and drug dependence, lower incomes, and diminished expectations for the future. Everything seemed to be going the wrong way, and the election of the first African American president in 2008 only made things feel worse. Barack Obama symbolized an emerging country that the Seefrieds believed they could never enter. They lacked the education and pedigree to compete in a multiracial meritocracy that promised so much for some, leaving many others out. Obama’s diverse supporters were winning, while the traditional white families in Sussex and other rural counties were not. The Seefrieds felt like losers (my italics).

Liberal democracy’s white-faced enemy is lazy.

That doesn’t mean they will fail in the coming congressional elections. The white-faced enemy has many things on its side.

Even the Times.

READ MORE: Conservative columnist regrets ever supporting the GOP and blasts its 'toxic discharge of bigotry'

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