Swaddled in sanctimony, bigotry and mawkish nostalgia for a time in America when white men ran everything, right-wing evangelical fabulists gathered this weekend at a Faith and Freedom confab to celebrate the “privilege twins” of Christian nationalism and white supremacy, the triumphant revoking of women’s bodily autonomy, and their tawdry Jesus stand-in and cult leader, affirming, per Kari Lake, “With God on our side, nothing can stop us from taking back this country.” Good God, save us.
The “nation’s premier pro-faith, pro-family event,” the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference was held over three fire-and-brimstone-and-bunkum days at the Washington Hilton. Coalition founder Ralph Reed opened the General Session by proudly noting that, thanks to SCOTUS hacks’ junk jurisprudence, “Roe v. Wade (is) in the ash heap of history where it belongs.” Reed also briefly addressed accusations the group has become “a cult of personality around the former president.” Not so, he insisted: “The truth (is) we are a cult of only one personality, (and) that is Jesus Christ of Nazareth who is our Lord and savior”—a reassuring message, indeed, to the rest of us godless heathens.
Attendees wore “Walk With Jesus” caps, declared “We do not co-parent with the government” and “Family is the greatest weapon known to mankind against tyranny,” flocked to a book signing with Judge Jeanine, applauded godly wingnut Mike Huckabee for winning the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award, and attended an earlier anti-abortion rally at the Lincoln Memorial where Mike Pence decreed, “Save the babies, and we will save America.”
We may have the principled, eloquent Schiff, Raskin, Sanders, AOC et al, but the predicants of Faith and Freedom summoned an impressive army of over 50 speakers, including almost a dozen GOP presidential candidates and the august likes of Hawley, Haley, Lake, D’Souza, Trey Gowdy, Ben Carson, Kayleigh McEnany, Tim Tebow, Oliver North, “America’s comic” Brad Stine, the founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Former Army officer Steve Russell, who wrote a book about the capture of Saddam Hussein titled “We Got Him!” and many other notables. “It is so good to be in a room with happy, warrior, freedom fighters,” said Sen. Marcia Blackburn of the crowd. “To those who believe there is no role for the unborn in Washington: You are wrong,” said Lindsey Graham. “We will restore sanity to this nation,” said Ron DeSantis. “This is a time to proudly put on the full armor of God.”
In other words, notes Noah Berlatsky, it’s time to reaffirm white Christian hegemony “as righteous and natural,” and Christians as a cultural group “defined, not by belief or ethics of virtue, but by power.” “The core truth of white Christianity is not the word of Jesus,” he writes. “It’s that they believe, first and foremost, that they should rule.”
Aptly if insanely, little wonder the event’s keynote speaker was a twice-impeached, twice-divorced, multi-indicted, lying, babbling, philandering, Biblically illiterate, legally-liable- for-sexual-abuse, shameless, bonkers former “president” who’s declaimed “we have to bring religion back into our country” though he doesn’t even know how to holda Bible, professed “no president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have” though there’s zero evidence except his vile appointment of enough SCOTUS zealots to obliterate women’s right to choose, and laughably painted himself as a Christ-like victim whose enemies are God’s as well. “I’m being indicted for you,” he told the devout crowd, calling each charge “a badge of honor.” “Together, we’re warriors in a righteous crusade to stop the arsonists, the atheists, globalists and Marxists.” In a 90-minute rant, he also vowed to “keep foreign Christian-hating Communists (and Socialists) out of America.” Wild cheers for doing God’s work. “Our allegiance is to our country and our Creator,” said Trump, who momentarily forgot Her name but did once try to fuck her.
The stunningly bizarre alliance of the Christian right with an altogether loathsome human being, who’s somehow often portrayed as crucial to God’s redeeming of a sinful world, is at its core a soulless “study in political opportunism,” especially given an upcoming GOP presidential race where support from “born-again pews and pulpits” is considered a critical, if deeply dispiriting, factor. In a newly emboldened white Christian nationalist landscape—cue Lauren Boebert whining she’s “tired of this separation of church and state junk”—even the fringe, QAnon-themed ReAwaken America circus is moving into mainstream politics with a newly created Pastors For Trump, which plans to stump in swing states.
At the Faith and Freedom synod, the surreal fact “Trump is still king of the evangelical cattle call” was questioned only by Chris Christie, who called out as “a failure of leadership” a leader “who never makes mistakes, who says that if something goes wrong, it’s everybody else’s fault, (but) when things go right, everything is to his credit…Our faith teaches us that people have to take responsibility for what they do.” He was met by thunderous boos.
Reality, in short, is not the modern GOP’s strong suit. Last week, fellow GOP cranks Marjie Greene and Elise Stefanik moved to expunge history itself with a resolution to disappear Trump’s two impeachments for colluding with Russia and trying to overthrow democracy as a “sham smear” against Trump’s “good name,” also Hunter Biden.
Then the right started blaming “wokeness” for the Oceangate submersible disaster; they didn’t even register the drowning deaths of 500 migrants enough to make up wacko stories about it, though the Onion—“Coast Guard Sends Another Submersible Full of Billionaires After the First One”—was on it, as were wise guys on Melon Husk’s Twitter offering $250,000 sun exploration tours on a modified beeswax Cessna called The Icarus.
Then Nikki Haley, who at the Faith/Freedom gig lauded an America “strong and proud, not weak and woke,” began wistfully reminiscing about an earlier, shining, no pain/ grief/ racism/ incest/suicide, imaginary America: “Do you remember when you were growing up?” she mused. “Do you remember how simple life was, how easy it felt? It was about faith, family, and country. We can have that again, but to do that, we must vote Joe Biden out.”
What the ever-loving fuck, said Americans who recalled what was going on around the time Haley was growing up in an apparent rose-colored bubble in South Carolina in the 1970s. The bitter end of a savage Vietnam War that killed millions of innocents, sparked bitter protests at home, gave rise to searing images like Nick Ut’s heart-rending, history-changing photo of “unspeakable evil”—Kim Phúc, 9, screaming and running in terror from a napalm attack on her village of Trang Bang, her clothes burned off her. Cops and dogs viciously attacking black people—John Lewis was beaten to within an inch of his life—for seeking equal rights under the law. The grief, riots, devastation that followed the assassinations of Malcolm X, JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King. Kent State, Watergate, the ’68 Democratic Convention, a country broken and bitterly divided. The president was a crook, marital rape was legal, colored drinking fountains endured, black people struggled to vote, a mob of 200 white supremacists in South Carolina attacked a school-bus filled with dozens of black children as scores of police stood and did nothing.
Haley’s tweet is “a masterpiece of magical thinking” from a woman who “sees what she wants to see.” It exemplifies a party of magical thinking, of denial and obfuscation and revisionist history, of maudlin, self-serving glorification of a deeply unjust and often brutal past—Happy Days. Back to the (White) Future—in which white men held the power, and held tightly. When was America great, and for whom? Not for blacks, Jews, queers, women, immigrants, Muslims, Asians, brown or poor or Native or disabled or left-handed or left-thinking or in any way divergent people.
The deliberate mischaracterizing of past or present—Trump’s vision of American carnage, of marauding Mexican rapists, Marxist groomers and black trans vegan feminazis forcing children to read books about slavery and have gay sex—is a much-noted hallmark of fascism. A fictional (better) past was ruined by (inferior) “others” who must be blamed and put in their (powerless) place under a white, strict, theocratic, all-encompassing moral code. “If you win, you need not have to explain,” wrote Hitler. “The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”<
Nikki Haley, like the rest of her execrable party, likes to say it’s time to “tell the truth.” After her pathetic call back to “how simple life was” in a dreamy “faith, family, and country” America that only existed for a very few, many others brought some hard truth, like John Cleese on the parrot supposedly resting, stunned, or pining for the fjords: “It has ceased to be—this is a late parrot.” “Maybe you were not paying attention?” suggested one. Another, “Things seemed simpler when you were a child because you were a literal child.”
Ted Lieu remembered “when folks called me Chink. Threw eggs at our house. Slashed our tires. Called the police because they thought (we) were stealing wild ducks for food. And no one in government looked like me or you.” Jeff Sharlet recalled “Nixon, Vietnam, every kid in my class terrified of nuclear annihilation, getting beat up for being a Jew.”
Mrs. Betty Bowers said it best. “Do you remember how simple life was, how easy it felt?” she wrote. “The sky was always blue. There were no winters or toothaches. Mom served us candy for dinner. Everyone got puppies. We can have that again, but we must first elect an angry fascist.”
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