Commentary: The Left’s ‘Christian Nationalism’ Fearmongering Is Untethered to Reality

Church Sign
by Tyler O’Neil


Is America on the verge of establishing a theocracy? The Left’s recent warnings about the rise of “Christian nationalism” suggest that a powerful, conservative Christian cabal is pulling the strings behind the scenes to forcibly convert the entire nation, or something.

In the past week, Politico’s Heidi Przybyla has been hammering the drum on this issue, first claiming—apparently without concrete evidence—that former Trump administration official Russell Vought has prioritized “Christian nationalism” by name in documents for a potential Trump second term, and then defining Christian nationalism as the doctrine that rights come from God, not government.

“The thing that unites them as Christian nationalists—not Christians, by the way, because Christian nationalism’s very different—is that they believe that our rights as Americans, as all human beings, don’t come from any earthly authority, they don’t come from Congress, they don’t come from the Supreme Court, they come from God,” Przybyla said in an appearance on MSNBC. She also complained that “it’s men” determining “what God is telling them.”

Although Przybyla admitted that “so-called natural law” has done some good in the civil rights movement, she went on to warn against “an extremist element of conservative Christians who say that this applies specifically to issues including abortion, gay marriage,” and in vitro fertilization. She later noted that conservatives are applying natural law to surrogacy and “sex education in schools” as well.

Shortly after Przybyla’s article about Vought, radical leftists have widely echoed her rhetoric and suggested that America’s future may resemble a dystopian “Handmaid’s Tale.”

What’s really going on here?

First, Przybyla’s fearmongering has nothing to do with reality. According to her definition of “Christian nationalism,” the Declaration of Independence is a Christian nationalist document.

Not only does the declaration ground Americans’ ability to declare independence from Britain in “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” but it explicitly roots the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in an endowment from the “Creator.” It addresses its appeal “to the Supreme Judge of the world,” with “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

That’s not exactly subtle.

Przybyla’s real problem with “Christian nationalists” isn’t the whole rights-derive-from-God thing. It’s the content of those rights and the mere whiff of a possibility that the government won’t impose her preferences for what those rights should mean.

America isn’t on the verge of a Christian nationalist theocracy, you see. No one is seriously arguing that we should throw out the Constitution and replace it with the Bible, or that we should make citizens, candidates for office, or government officials recite the Nicene Creed before they may enjoy legal rights.

What conservatives are seriously arguing, however, is that some rights of the sexual revolution should be curtailed in the interests of more fundamental rights.

Przybyla unwittingly revealed her cards when she addressed the issues she thinks should be off-limits for these “extremist Christian nationalists.” The heart of her complaint isn’t some quibble with the Fourth Lateran Council but with the very idea that natural law should apply to abortion, same-sex marriage, surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, and sex education in schools.

You see, Christian nationalism isn’t the real threat to the free exercise of religion in America today. The real threat is the ideology of the sexual revolution imposed on the people by government force, and Przybyla can’t stand the idea of that establishment being challenged.

That’s why the Left has a conniption when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and allows the states to make their own laws on abortion. According to Catholic Vote, vandals attacked at least 88 pregnancy centers and pro-life groups after the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion in that ruling, and they also attacked 236 Catholic churches since the leak.

The Biden administration moved to aggressively support abortion, even though President Joe Biden himself had been a staunch defender of the Hyde Amendment, which previously barred federal funds from supporting the killing of the unborn. A Department of Justice official even said the overturning of Roe increased the “urgency” of DOJ efforts to enforce a law disproportionately applied against pro-life protesters at abortion facilities.

The Left demonized all the conservative justices on the Supreme Court after the ruling, with ProPublica launching an inquisition into Justice Clarence Thomas.

The Left isn’t objecting to the Right’s imposing its worldview on Americans by force—it’s objecting to the Right’s finally getting a say on issues springing from the sexual revolution. We’re not witnessing the rise of Christian nationalism, but the weakening of an anti-Christian establishment.

Other news items should make it clear what’s actually happening in America today.

Last week, the Supreme Court refused to take up a case in which a person who holds traditional views on sexual morality is considered “presumptively unfit to serve on a jury in a case involving a party who is lesbian.” As Justice Samuel Alito noted, this case exemplifies a danger he warned about when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), “that Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government.”

Oregon’s Department of Human Services treated a widowed mother of five children in this way when it denied her the right to adopt a pair of siblings from foster care. Why? Because she disagrees with Oregon’s state religion, the religion of LGBTQ identity.

The Biden administration is also considering a rule to bar “non-affirming” parents from foster care. People who dare to dissent from the idea that a male can become female just by saying so have no business raising children in Biden’s America, it seems.

As for sex education in schools, parental rights groups such as Moms for Liberty are reacting to the Left’s extreme overreach in education. They’re not “banning books,” they’re calling for sexually explicit materials to be removed from school libraries.

Many of these groups exist because parents got a sense of what their kids were “learning” in school when the kids “attended class” via Zoom during the pandemic—and leftist indoctrination in racial lessons and transgender identity rightly shocked moms and dads.

This isn’t some exclusively Christian movement, either. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, and others have joined Christians of every denomination in supporting parental rights to opt their kids out of having to read sexually explicit books.

I’ve reported exhaustively on the Southern Poverty Law Center because I see that organization as the tip of the spear in the Left’s efforts to demonize any dissent from its agenda, and its ties to the Biden administration horrify me. The SPLC brands mainstream conservative Christian organizations as “hate groups” in an effort to raise money and to demonize its opponents into silence. It represents the institutionalization of the effort against “Christian nationalism.”

Many Americans think the Civil War was about slavery, and they’re not entirely wrong. Abraham Lincoln didn’t actually oppose slavery when he ran for president in 1860, though. He ran against the expansion of slavery into the federal territories.

You see, the Southern Democrats had such a stranglehold on the federal government that they couldn’t imagine needing to compromise. They had also begun to think of slavery as a positive good, not the “necessary evil” the Founders called it.

Southern Democrats couldn’t live with losing the ability to force their ideology on the rest of the country, and that ambition became their undoing.

“Christian nationalism” is the modern equivalent of Southern Democrats’ demonizing Lincoln, kicking and screaming as they lose the ability to foist their beliefs on the rest of the country. If history is any guide, this trend does not bode well for the Left—or America’s civil tranquility.

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Tyler O’Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal and the author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
Photo “Church Sign” by Glendale United Methodist Church – Nashville. CC BY 2.0.






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