Links and Comments: Christian Nationalism; Covid and Climate Denial

NYT: Trump or No Trump, Religious Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay, subtitled “Their unlikely ally may have lost the White House, but Christian nationalists still plan to win the war,” by Katherine Stewart.

The 2020 election is proof that religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and the early signs now indicate that the movement seems determined to reinterpret defeat at the top of the ticket as evidence of persecution and of its own righteousness. With or without Mr. Trump, they will remain committed to the illiberal politics that the president has so ably embodied.

In their responses to the election outcome, some prominent religious right leaders have enabled or remained true to the false Trumpian line of election fraud. Michele Bachmann, the former Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate, said, “Smash the delusion, Father, of Joe Biden is our president. He is not.” In Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication, Richard C. Antall likened media reporting on the Biden-Harris ticket’s victory to a “coup d’état.” Mat Staver, chairman and founder of Liberty Counsel, added, “What we are witnessing only happens in communist or repressive regimes. We must not allow this fraud to happen in America.”

After processing their disappointment, Christian nationalists may come around to the reality of Joe Biden’s victory. There is no indication, however, that this will temper their apocalyptic vision, according to which one side of the American political divide represents unmitigated evil. During a Nov. 11 virtual prayer gathering organized by the Family Research Council, one of the key speakers cast the election as the consequence of “the whole godless ideology that’s wanted to swallow our homes, destroy our marriages, throw our children into rivers of confusion.” Jim Garlow, an evangelical pastor whose Well Versed Ministry has as its stated goal, “Bringing biblical principles of governance to governmental leaders,” asserted that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are at the helm of an “ideology” that is “anti-Christ, anti-Biblical to its core.”

They collaborate in a densely interconnected network of think tanks, policy groups, activist organizations, legal advocacy groups and conservative pastoral networks. What holds them together is not any centralized command structure, but a radical political ideology that is profoundly hostile to democracy and pluralism, and a certain political style that seeks to provoke moral panic, rewards the paranoid and views every partisan conflict as a conflagration, the end of the world. Partisan politics is the lifeblood of their movement.

The power of the leadership is the function of at least three underlying structural realities in America’s political and economic life. …The first is the growing economic inequality that has produced spectacular fortunes for the few, while too many ordinary families struggle to get by. …

The second structural reality to consider is that Christian nationalism is a creation of a uniquely isolated messaging sphere. Many members of the rank and file get their main political information not just from messaging platforms that keep their audiences in a world that is divorced from reality, but also from dedicated religious networks and reactionary faith leaders.

The third critical factor is a political system that gives disproportionate power to an immensely organized, engaged and loyal minority. One of the most reliable strategies for producing that unshakable cohort has been to get them to agree that abortion is the easy answer to every difficult political policy question. Recently, religious right leaders have shifted their focus more to a specious understanding of what they call “religious freedom” or “religious liberty,” but the underlying strategy is the same: make individuals see their partisan vote as the primary way to protect their cultural and religious identity.

These people are living in a fantasy world. As I’ve noted before, what will they rally behind if they do overturn Roe v. Wade? It won’t make a huge difference in the number of abortions performed across the US. This essay suggests a rallying point will be their “specious” view of “religious liberty,” even though, as I’ve noted before, American culture is saturated from end to end with Christian assumptions and practices, which they seem as unaware of as fish are unaware of water. What they want, apparently, is to stifle everyone else who doesn’t follow their practices. Liberty to discriminate and suppress.


Also today, Paul Krugman: Why the 2020 Election Makes It Hard to Be Optimistic About the Future. (Print title: “Covid, Climate and the Power of Denial”.) Subtitle: “If we can’t face up to a pandemic, how can we avoid apocalypse?”

The climate apocalypse. I’ve long noticed the human inability, among many (not all), to have very short-term concerns, dismissing projections of long-term problems through misunderstanding or simple selfishness. Climate change is a long-term problem that many still dismiss, despite the increasing number of natural disasters, because so many think it doesn’t affect themselves, never mind their grandchildren. Wreck the economy? Do nothing, there will be no economy. Many can’t think this through.

As many people have noted, climate change is an inherently difficult problem to tackle — not economically, but politically.
Right-wingers always claim that taking climate seriously would doom the economy, but the truth is that at this point the economics of climate action look remarkably benign. Spectacular progress in renewable energy technology makes it fairly easy to see how the economy can wean itself from fossil fuels. A recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund suggests that a “green infrastructure push” would, if anything, lead to faster economic growth over the next few decades.

So getting people to act responsibly on the coronavirus should be much easier than getting action on climate change. Yet what we see instead is widespread refusal to acknowledge the risks, accusations that cheap, common-sense rules like wearing masks constitute “tyranny,” and violent threats against public officials.

Most tragically, a story making the rounds yesterday:

Washington Post: South Dakota nurse says many patients deny the coronavirus exists — right up until death

USA Today: ‘It’s not real’: In South Dakota, which has shunned masks and other COVID rules, some people die in denial, nurse says

WGN TV: Nurse says some patients deny COVID-19 is real, even as they die from it

Even if if you live in a fantasy reality, the real reality can still kill you.

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