The Founders Warned Us Against the Christian Nationalist Mind Virus Now Invading America

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Image by MythologyArt from Pixabay

The Founders Warned Us Against the Christian Nationalist Mind Virus Now Invading America

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Image by MythologyArt from Pixabay

Today’s Christian Taliban made their the first great mission the seizing of control of the rest of the Republican Party. Now that that has been accomplished, they’re coming for the rest of us.

Republished with permission from Thom Hartmann

Twenty-eight states, nearly all Republican-controlled, are now spending billions of taxpayer dollars to support indoctrinating children in religion through voucher programs that can be used for mostly Christian schools. Five Republican-controlled states are in the process of letting vouchers ghettoize their entire public-school systems.

As The Washington Post noted yesterday:

“Billions in taxpayer dollars are being used to pay tuition at religious schools throughout the country, as state voucher programs expand dramatically and the line separating public education and religion fades.”

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, flies an “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside his official congressional office that, since 2013, has been the semi-official logo of a militant arm of charismatic Christianity involved with January 6th. Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito flew a similar flag outside his summer home.

Another man flying that flag is outspoken Catholic evangelist Leonard Leo, who now controls over a billion dollars and helped run the process that selected Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court as well as hundreds of federal bench nominees. As ProPublica pointed out in a story about “the man that remade the American judicial system”:

“Leo is a major supporter of the [Catholic Information Center], and its unabashed projection of political power aligns with the central role of religion in Leo’s political project.”

Proselytizers for evangelical Christianity believe they are on the verge of taking over our country, from our schools to our courts to Congress itself. History warns us—as did the Founders and Framers of the Constitution—that, if successful, this will be deadly to American democracy.

Religious evangelism can be a deadly thought virus. It explicitly posits that, “There is only one right way to live and we know what it is” along with, “There is only one true god and he is the one we worship—and now you must, too.”

From the Crusades of the High Middle Ages, to Hitler anointing as Reichsbischof (Reich’s Bishop) Ludwig Müller and outfitting his entire army with belt-buckles declaring Gott Mit Uns (God is with us), to the persecution of women in early New England colonies, evangelical Christianity has distorted the history of western societies and often led to rivers of blood. A similarly destructive dynamic plays out today with evangelical Islam across the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia.

Judaism, Buddhism, and most forms of Hinduism are not evangelical; only Christianity and Islam have historically called for conversion, sometimes under threat of violence, imprisonment, or even death.

In this regard, one could compare the crusade associated with the Appeal to Heaven flag—which is so far successfully using the force of law to control American women and school curriculum in multiple Republican-controlled states—to the Iranian and Saudi imposition of Sharia law on their own people.

Cancer describes a biological system where one group of cells rises up and seizes control over all the resources of the rest of the cells in a body. When evangelical religions rise up to take control of political systems—the mechanism by which people govern themselves—they act as a political cancer within the society they’re attacking.

Native American tribes learned this lesson early on during their 20,000-year occupation of the Americas, which is why thousands of different tribes and language groups, most practicing their own unique religion, viewed evangelism and coerced conversion as a cultural sin that had to be punished.

From Marshall Sahlins’ Stone Age Economics (defining “the original affluent society”) to Peter Farb’s masterpiece Man’s Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America From Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State to Graeber and Wengrow’s recent and brilliant The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity we find that virtually no native societies practiced what we would today call evangelism. Including the Iroquois Confederacy, which provided the Founders and Framers with the first template they used to create our Constitution.

Their religions were rooted in tribal identity and their own land, finding the spiritual present in all of nature while focusing on maintaining harmonious relationships, rather than conversion. This worldview was not conducive to aggressive proselytism; it was, in fact, the opposite.

Some, like the Mayans and Incans, demanded that everybody in their realm worship their particular gods—who were the patrons of the ruling dynasties—but they had no interest in converting nearby tribes to their religion unless they first seized control of their land and subjugated their people.

Even the Celts and the pre-Christian Romans, who sequentially conquered most of Europe three and two thousand years ago respectively, largely allowed people to continue to practice their own local religions. None said, “We have the one great truth, and the one great god, and everybody on Earth must know this truth, live by it, and worship our god.”

The ancient Celts, Greeks, and Romans knew that was a logic that would lead to that era’s equivalent of ISIS, the Taliban, or the Crusades and wanted nothing to do with the cultural cancer of evangelism.

As I detail in The Hidden History of American Democracy, from time immemorial most pre-modern tribes and peoples of the Earth practiced what Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

But now America finds itself under assault by a new, zealously evangelical movement called the New Apostolic Reformation (among other names) that seeks to use the force of law and the power of billions in untaxable dollars to create a new, two-tiered society in America.

At the top of this new America are the Catholic conservative majority on the Supreme Court, Speaker Mike Johnson and his followers in Congress, and an army of televangelists who claim moral superiority by virtue of their religion. They’re backed up by a small army of fundamentalist billionaires and politicians like Donald Trump who are willing to give them power and wealth in exchange for support at the ballot box.

Under them are the rest of us Untermenschen, whose opinions are tolerated so long as we don’t take away their nonprofit tax status (ensuring we must continue subsidizing them), stop their takeover of our schools, or correctly point out that the Founders were horrified at the prospect of America ever becoming a “Christian nation.”

But that is exactly what the majority of this nation’s Founders feared. It’s why they wrote a Constitution that forbids a religious test to hold office and put into the First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

It’s why George Washington refused to say publicly whether he was a Christian or not, and authored the Treaty of Tripoli that begins with, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”

It’s why Ben Franklin fled Massachusetts as a teenager to avoid mandatory church attendance and wrote, “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.”

It’s why James Madison, one of the few actual Christians among that core group of Founders and the “Father of the Constitution,” made his first veto as president in 1811 against a bill that would have given government money to a Washington, DC church to run a poorhouse. It would, he said, “be a precedent for giving to religious societies, as such, a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”

Madison added, in a July 10, 1822 letter to his old friend Edward Livingston:

“We are teaching the world the great truth, that Governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson: that Religion flourishes in greater purity without, than with the aid of Government.”

It’s why Jefferson took a razor blade to the Gospels and cut out all of the stories of miracles, producing The Jefferson Bible that presents Jesus as a wise philosopher instead of a god. The book is still in print and, to this day, a best-seller.

The cancer of evangelicalism now has its sights on literally every aspect of American society with its “Seven Mountain Mandate,” which argues that evangelical Christians must assert control over every other religion, every family in America, the US government itself, all public and private education, the arts and entertainment, all American media, and ultimately regulate all commercial business in our nation.

And they’re succeeding in every realm, even commerce. Recently, Southwest Airlines fired a flight attending for spamming their internal message boards with hostile anti-abortion messages and calling the company’s CEO “a murderer” because he supported women’s abortion rights. A Trump-appointed judge ruled in the flight attendant’s favor and required the company’s senior executives to take “religious liberty training” from an evangelical rightwing anti-abortion group.

Once today’s Christian Taliban made common cause with the 1980 Reagan campaign, the first great mission they undertook was seizing control of the rest of the Republican Party. Now that that has been accomplished, they’re coming for the rest of us.

As the tribal people who first occupied this land would tell you, this is the Great Sin. It turns religion from a spiritual exercise into a social, cultural, and political cancer that continually grows while devouring everything in its path.

Like biological cancer, it ultimately kills its host—as America’s founders knew well from the experience of Cromwell in England and seventeenth-century Salem here.

And now it’s made an unholy alliance with the billionaires behind Project 2025 and our rapist-in-chief, Donald Trump, the modern incarnations of the Roman empire and Prefect Pilate, who ordered Jesus crucified.

G-d help us all if they succeed.

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.

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