I am scared. I am scared for my Catholic friends, my gay friends, my non-evangelical Christian friends, my women friends, my family and my Jewish community. The rise of Christian nationalism is threatening a basic tenet of our agreement as a United States, our founding principle of the separation of Church and State. But it gets worse: Christian nationalist rhetoric, excused as “free speech,” is profoundly dangerous.
Our government was founded on the principal that the government would neither prefer nor prevent any religion. Yet in the past few years with recent acceleration, the idea that this country was founded as a white, Christian nation (i.e., Christian nationalism) has begun to take root in our national debate. According to a recent University of Maryland poll, 17% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans support declaring the United States a Christian nation. The findings also indicate that “white grievance” plays a role in sympathizing with Christian nationalism. Fully 59% of all Americans who say that white people have been discriminated more in the last five years are likely to support Christian nationalism. The only good news in this poll is the fact that time might be on our side. Gen Z and Millennials (at 25% and 34%) were much less likely to be supportive than Boomers and the Silent generation (50% and 54%), with dramatically higher rates for Republicans of all ages.
While this issue is predominately a Republican problem, it is not only evident in Republicans. Democrats who refuse to speak out against the rise of Christian nationalism are part of the problem. And although time is on our side, it will take years for assholes like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ron DeSantis, Lauren Boebert, and the silent Dems to meet their maker.
Their Christian nationalist rhetoric encourages hate and exclusion. It invites derision and bullying. It leads to violence. Apologists insist that their hate speech should be excused as “free speech.” It takes away my life-long confidence that, under the US constitution, my religion will not be derided. It makes me worry that my tax dollars will go to supporting that which discriminates against me, my family, and many of my friends. And it scares the shit out of me to think about Christian nationalists’ values when it comes to women’s rights, gay rights, non-discrimination laws, and private use of public taxes. Moreover, It marginalizes our non-white and immigrant populations, advocates the trampling of their rights, and minimizes their contributions to our society.
A few examples of what we stand to lose. Citizens of the United States have won more Nobel Prizes than any other country (432 of 900 or 48%). Of those US winners, 46% were foreign-born and 30% have been Jewish (these groups are not mutually exclusive).
Catholics would be marginalized by this kind of thinking. They represent 23% of our population. Can we afford to disenfranchise almost one-quarter of our people? The same could be said for any non-Christian Nationalist group – contributions in science, literature, food science and what we eat, the labor, inventiveness, and determination that built and continues to build our country, pick our crops, and improve all of our lives.
Our county has benefited vastly from its diversity. This is what “Christian Nationalism” wants to throw away.
What is new-ish in this situation is that the people adhering to Christian nationalists and white supremacists are organized and they are supported and encouraged by elected officials. This has flown cover for violence against “the other” and Jews in particular (remember the “good people on both sides” from Trump while President).
For the Jewish community, it is reminiscent of every other historical instance of organized antisemitism. From being the scapegoat for the medieval Black Plague, to the expulsion from England, Spain, Portugal and other countries in the 15th century (and numerous other countries and times) to Hitler’s Final Solution, the logical end result of hating and dehumanizing any minority– be they Jewish, or Armenian, or African American, or Chinese or Japanese, begins by defining them as “other,” separating them from the rest of the community, driving them out of your society and, if none of that works, murder. For other minorities it is ringing bells as well. And those are warning sounds.
Mayoral candidate Peter Y Lui of Oakland, California is all pissed off because he was one of the 7 (of 10) mayoral candidates excluded from a “leading” candidates forum on Jewish issues sponsored by the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council. He said “These same hateful Jews posted security guards with instructions not to let me in to their shitty forum in 1014. These shitty Jews are once against (sic) trying to disrespect the voters of Oakland in rigging the election process by promoting a few candidates they have handpicked to be in front of Jews controlled media. I am sick of these corrupt Jews and their media allies deceiving the public.”
I don’t know what happened to this guy in the past other than he lost a mayoral election twice against Jewish opponents. Wait, what? If I lose an election to a Catholic, I therefore hate all Catholics?
Why delve into this much detail? Because this is not atypical hate speech. It is becoming alarmingly common, from local officials, the occasional congressperson, a few pastors here and there, etc. It might seem unhinged, but it encourages others and that makes it extremely dangerous. It is frightening and occurring more and more with the rise of Trump and Christian nationalism. Antisemitism is an accepted piece of the far right, who associate Jews with the “non-whites” they so vehemently despise us, but it is also growing on the far left – often under the guise of being “anti-Zionist” or anti-Israel. Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib has asserted that “there was no room in the [American] progressive movement for supporters of what she called Israel’s “apartheid government.” Her right to this abhorrent opinion was not constrained, although she was roundly criticized by many of her congressional colleagues.
For years, Jews have referred to themselves as the canary in the coal mine. When antisemitism raises its ugly head, it is only the beginning of the trouble. Christian nationalism is a logical follow-on and accelerator of hate and discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, non-evangelicals Protestants, Catholics and other “not mainstream” minority groups. It has happened in most European countries at one time or another. It has happened in the former Soviet Union and Russia. It has happened in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Christian Nationalists are trying to solve what they see as a problem. And they have a simple solution. And for every complex issue there is a simple and wrong answer.
Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” She was and is exactly correct. I believe what I am hearing from Boberts, Greenes, Tlaibs, and the myriad of other Federal, State, and local officials who have supported or advocated, in public, antisemitic ideas, thoughts, and actions.
Believe them. Do not deceive yourself. It can happen here.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” — falsely attributed to Edmund Burke, more likely a paraphrase of a talk by John Stuart Mill as follows: “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”
This just in: The day before finishing this rant, Ye West issued the following tweet directed at Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta (which owns Instagram), “Look at this Mark, how you gone kick me off Instagram.’ Then, after accusing another musician of being ‘controlled by the Jews’ (reportedly Sean Coombs, aka Puff Daddy), Ye then went on to tweet (Twitter is not owned by Meta) after accusing another musician of “being controlled by the Jews” – West said he was “going death con 3 [sic] On JEWISH PEOPLE,” and also that, “You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.” West went on to say, “You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda” although it is entirely unclear what group he was referring to. This was preceded by “I actually can’t be Anti Semitic (sic) because Black people are actually Jew.” This from the guy who also said that “Jesus was a Jew so I can’t be anti-semitic.”
This deranged, threatening speech is happening every day. Susan Silverman’s Twitter quote says it best, “Kanye threatened the Jews yesterday on twitter and it’s not even trending. “Why do mostly only Jews speak up against Jewish hate? The silence is so loud.”
True dat. Now go and reread Maya Angelou’s quote.
3 thoughts on “I Have A Reason To Be Scared”
I share the urgent concerns you are expressing. Thanks for stating them so well.
Dan. Did you ever think of compiling your Rants into a book.? Think about it by writing a preface . Your stuff is so good.
Reblogged this on jess blogs and commented:
Worthwhile read. “Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” She was and is exactly correct.”