Christian nationalism is shaping a Pennsylvania primary — and a GOP shift

Certain conservative Christian groups, such as Thursday Night Patriots, are eagerly used by Trump’s supporters, who want to strike home with their hate speech against Americans who think differently.

Frustrated Church members

Downtown Stroudsburg
Downtown Stroudsburg

Early 2021 a Thursday Night Group started in the borough (town), seat of Monroe county, eastern Pennsylvania, Stroudsburg.

A few church friends frustrated over vaccine and mask mandates wanted to meet every week to gripe over what they saw as their lost freedoms. Soon, they said, meetings included “constitutional classes” and members were going to see a “constitutional life coach.” Someone made hats that said:

“Make the Constitution Great Again.”

Four or five people grew to 30 or 40.

On the night for broadcasts of National Football League (NFL) they had other business to do and quickly became the Thursday Night Patriots talking about rumours that the coronavirus vaccine seemed to be causing cancer. We can imagine other fake news won attention in that group, so that followers of MAGA could find themselves at home. They also believed that President Biden’s election was suspect, and that racism was being overblown in public schools.

Church curriculum for studying the Constitution

Even when they should have known that Christ is against violence, they began using a curriculum for studying the Constitution that emphasized self-defense, free enterprise and above all the belief that America was founded to be — and should remain — a Christian country where every person should be free to carry weapons.

On a Thursday night in late April they did a straw poll for the state’s biggest political contest, the race for governor. The tally in the Poconos borough that night was overwhelming: American far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano, 17. The other seven GOP candidates together: 13.

Mastriano master of seduction and deception, asking to put on the full armour of God

Doug Mastriano.jpg
Douglas Vincent Mastriano Official portrait, 2019

Mastriano is a longtime Army colonel, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, and close ally of former President . He received national attention for his efforts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election, and for being present at the Washington D.C. rally on January 6, 2021, where a mob attacked the United States Capitol.

As “Stop the Steal” marcher, 2020 election denier and Trump endorsee, he led the polls going into the GOP gubernatorial primary, proof of the rising intensity of Christian nationalism that has rooted itself firmly in the Republican Party.

Along with Florida attorney Gov. Ron DeSantis (who urged Americans to

“put on the full armour of God”

to fight coronavirus restrictions and anti-racism education in schools) and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia (who said of Catholic refugee aid work that “Satan’s controlling the church”), Mastriano represents a brand of conservative Christian politics that is different from the American Baptist pastor, televangelist, and conservative activist Jerry Falwell Sr. his political organisation associated with the Christian right and Republican Party. Moral Majority, founded in 1979, or George W. Bush’s political philosophy Compassionate Conservatism of the 2000s, and has gained momentum since the presidency of Donald Trump.

Owners of the American Nation

Those people are convinced that they as Americans are the rightful owners of the American Nation. (They do seem to forget it really belonged to the Red Indians, i.e. the Native Americans, from who they forcefully stole their country.) According to many of those ‘inhabitants’ and robbers of the native population of their country, the Second Amendment is designed to help ensure that the citizenry, always has the right to take back their government should it become dictatorial. They all seem to be afraid that if they would not be able anymore to have assault and war weapons, then they would get a government taking off their power which would result in dictatorships. Strangely enough, they did not want to see how Donald Trump has everything in him to be a dictator. They seem to ignore that the GOP has become something totally opposite of its early years. Today’s GOP, under Trumpism, is as real a threat to the survival of the United States of America as was the 1860’s Confederacy and reflects a worldview grounded in the white supremacy of the American south. Today the Nation, which became very divided under trump, instead of becoming greater has become weaker and more ‘explosive’, which could be seen in the insurrection at the symbol of democracy on January the 6th 2021.

Free indeed – Democratic freedom and Christianity

With his motto “Free indeed!” Mastriano is a hero to some in the swing state of Pennsylvania, lots of North Americans swear high by the Second Amendment for their right to acquire all kinds of weapons, even automatic weapons.
A lot of them are also fed up with church leaders as well as political parties they perceive as weak-willed, and with debates about religious liberty and the advantages of a diverse democracy. Fueled by a generation of religious leaders arguing that Christianity is persecuted in America, the new movement wants to see a more explicit, constitutionally approved dominance of “Christianity” — which to them means conservative politically, theologically and socially. They see themselves in a spiritual battle with Satan. With that idea they go against all people who call themselves Christian but do not think as they, or who worship the Only One True God instead of their Trinity.

Freedom to bear arms

They are blind for the significant number of Americans that die each year because of poor gun safety and because there are so many lunatics running around with semi-automatic guns. Many also do not wonder how it can be that in their Great Country the rate of suicide is increasing and one can find more people using guns to take their own life than in any other country. 60 percent of deaths involving firearms are suicides. For those who live in remote areas, one can understand having guns in the house to scare off wild animals, but for the rest, one does not need to have shooting equipment.

“The forces of darkness are hitting us really hard right now,”

Mastriano told a few hundred people last month at a church parking lot rally in Pennsburg.

“We’re going to bring the state back to righteousness, this is our day, our hour to take our state back and renew the blessings of America.”

But what is that righteousness, those conservative Christians who opened the fire against other Christians living in the same nation as they do?

Their Christian vision is according to them what the Founders intended

His wife, Rebbie, then told the crowd that her husband’s opponents are not just challenging another candidate but God.

“When you’re against God’s plan, there is nothing that will stop it, and they are very worried right now that there is nothing that’s going to stop this.”

Other speakers emphasized to the crowd, which included a man in a Minuteman costume holding a flag, that this Christian vision is what the Founders intended.

“The Constitution prevents the government from imposing on the church. It doesn’t say anything about religion imposing itself on the state,”

Rick Crump, a Christian branding expert and community organiser, told the rally.

This ethos is very different from earlier iterations of the Religious Right who were looking to engage with — even win at — mainstream politics, some experts say.
Those conservative Christians, or should we say “fundamentalist Christians” even want others to believe that the Conservatives are “baby butchers” because they want to give the right to a woman to decide about her own body and pregnancy. For Republicans the Conservatives and others are

“God-denying demons that butcher babies and hate this nation.”

like the American Baptist pastor, founder of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, near Nashville, Tennessee, Greg Locke, previously said in one of his many off-the-rails sermons to his congregants.
The terrible thing is that clergymen are jumping on the bandwagon of the Trumpists and want the people to believe that Trump is a saint sent by God to restore America to all its glory and to wage the great battle against all the warriors of Satan masquerading as priests, ministers and Conservatives.

Republicans’ Christian vision & Satan

Nobody of those republican Christians seems to question how this can be when there is so much racism in their groups and so many show so much contempt for immigrants, African Americans, and even do not equality between man and wife, white and coloured. Jesus also was not for taking up weapons, though the weaponry seems to have become an essential part of American life, often promoted by clergymen and their churches.

Mastriano, like many other Republicans speaks in stark terms about good and evil, and calls those who do not agree with him instruments of the devil (Satan).

The Thursday Night Patriots and GOP lovers

“are not talking about getting people to commit to hours of Bible study or church. We’re talking about having enough influence to get [people] to see they shouldn’t accept policies filling children’s minds with ideas that they are victims,”

Rick Crump told Mastriano’s supporters at the Pennsburg rally.

“Don’t allow porn in children’s libraries. Don’t turn a blind eye to corruption in companies or to government overreach that enslaves them. Pastors are using common excuses:
‘Oh, we’re not supposed to be involved in politics.’
If that’s the way your church is, you’re in the wrong church.”

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a candidate for governor, and his wife, Rebbie, walk toward the podium to give a speech at the Pennsburg rally on April 30. (Caroline Gutman for The Washington Post)

Church and political freedom

Many Europeans fled Europe to find a place where all people could be free from any church or political group. As institutional religion has slipped in stature in a more secular America, rhetoric from the independent fringe of charismatic faith — where life is about a real, daily battle between Satan and God — has risen to the fore. Today, that word or title ‘Satan’ is thrown around an awful lot.

“Things like:
‘You are the devil, you don’t belong in this country and I’m going to elect people who are on God’s side.’
This kind of rhetoric is incapable of discourse. There is no distinction between political argument and spiritual warfare.

said Evangelical Christian and historian John Fea, chair of the history department at Messiah College near Harrisburg. Of Mastriano, Fea said:

“I don’t think Pennsylvania has ever had a ‘God and country’ candidate like this.”

Theologian Michael Horton believes Christian Trumpism represents the confluence of three trends that have come together, namely Christian American exceptionalism, end-times conspiracy, and the prosperity gospel, with Christian Americanism being the narrative that God specially called the United States into being as an extraordinary if not miraculous providence and end-times conspiracy referring to the world’s annihilation (figurative or literal) due to some conspiracy of nefarious groups and globalist powers threatening American sovereignty. Horton thinks that what he calls the “cult of Christian Trumpism” blends these three ingredients with “a generous dose of hucksterism” as well as self-promotion and personality cult. [Horton, Michael (December 16, 2020). “The Cult of Christian Trumpism”. The Gospel Coalition. Archived from the original on February 15, 2021. Retrieved December 28, 2020.]

Press media avoiding, sign of weakness

Security staffers with Mastriano at the Pennsburg rally refused to let pressmen near the candidate, and his assistant turned down an interview request of the Washington Post.

The avoidance of the press and the unwillingness to talk quietly and openly about matters that can be argued about shows rather how afraid they are of being undermined by facts that one cannot be blind to.

Republican Party shaping itself in Trump’s image

For Europeans, it might be incomprehensible how Americans allow the Republican Party to be shaped around one man and in his image, though he himself has shown nothing but contempt for the traditions of fair play and goodwill that allow democracy to function. Refusing to accept the will of the voters is authoritarianism. Today’s GOP, increasingly, seems just fine with that and does not take any serious matters after they and the whole world have seen the mutiny of Donald Trump.

By the first time, Trump was a candidate to become the 45th president of the USA, in the Old World the majority thought he never would make it to the second round. Surprisingly he even made it to the top and could stay on, even when there were so many signs that he did things one could not allow for holding the chair of the president. Surprisingly, the president who ruled the country as a clown and despot was never deposed.

After the failed attack on the Capitol, Trump is now trying to get even more people behind him and is looking for all possible means to convince the people through others that he is the best man for the next presidency.
America would do better to watch its step this time.

++

Additional reading

  1. At the closing hours of 2016 #1 Looking down at terror
  2. The man outranking the others having the trump card
  3. 2020 in view #2 The 45th president of the U.S.A. not willing to go
  4. Facts: Why they matter and how to check them
  5. Trump is proven wrong by the judge
  6. An other trait for faith in Jesus and his God
  7. Right-wing fundamentalist Christians to dictate the U.S.A.
  8. Stress-test for democracy #1 Storming of the Capitol in Washington
  9. The death knell of an Empire
  10. Looking at 2021 in a nutshell
  11. 2021 in review #1 the most startling point
  12. A History Of The Culture Wars
  13. Beyond the Culture Wars
  14. January 6: A Failed Apocalypse
  15. One year ago a sacred place was attacked
  16. One year ago people who said they love America stormed the Capitol
  17. Social media for Trumpists and changing nature of warfare
  18. Republican Party tinkering on fascism
  19. The Moral Character of Public Officials: Remembering January 6
  20. Hope For, But Not In, Evangelicalism

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  30. Cornyn leads GOP’s response on gun legislation
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  42. GOP proposes school safety laws in response to mass shootings
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  45. Pastor Greg Locke and the Insanity of Evangelicalism
  46. Southern Baptist Reactions to the Guidepost Report

Published by Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".

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