When Conservative Christians Downplay Christian Nationalism

When Conservative Christians Downplay Christian Nationalism

This week I saw a Facebook post from an educated right-leaning man that completely downplayed the dangers of Christian nationalism, so I’ve decided to unwrap and respond to that post in this blog post. Hopefully by the end we can all get closer to agreeing on why it’s so important to continue to stand up against the very real dangers of Christian nationalism that has already been resulting in the trauma and deaths of actual human beings.

Before diving in too far, this was the comment, specifically (you might want to take some deep breaths as you read this): “Hyperventilating leftists concerned about Christian nationalism should know – folks who can’t agree on what songs to sing for 20 minutes on Sunday are not going to cooperate on a system of government.”

The “Reasonable Middle,” This? Ummmm, Not So Much

As context, before we go further, I want to point out, this person views themselves as white Evangelical but anti-Trump. I’m pretty sure they see themselves as in the “reasonable middle.”

Obviously, they are not, which is a huge part of the problem. That very fact makes it all the more insidious, this way of dismissing valid concerns about the current very real impact of fascistic Christian nationalism on real lives through the use of logical fallacies paired with highly charged language that invalidates reasonable concerns and righteous/rightful anger.

Hang with me for a few minutes and I’ll explain how this kind of rhetoric does real harm, as well as why it’s so important to continue to work against it toward a healthier world.

This post builds on a previous post on on how Christian nationalism in the US is fascistic and dangerous, and is becoming the current Republican party platform. You can find it here.

In Which I Admit I Once Bought This Kind of Harmful Rhetoric

As always, I’m coming at this topic as a pastor’s kid raised in a right-leaning “moderate” white Evangelical denomination who went on to get a PhD in Communication.

As I’ve mentioned before, before grad school, I also used to work in white Evangelical Christian publishing. Maybe without the “hyperventilating leftist” language, I remember really well thinking that there was no way conspiracy theories about unitary organizations with malicious intent could be true because the people that worked there with me disagreed ALL THE TIME.

We were a ragtag bunch of mostly qualified humans, not some sort of Illuminati-type super machine.

The thing is, that was true. And yet what we did was often harmful all the same. If you’re not sure how, please see books like Pure by Linda Kay Klein and Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez.

But Both Things Can Be True at Once, Is the Thing

At the same time, back when I worked in Evangelical Christian publishing, I was always uncomfortable with the tensions I found in those jobs about trying to make a profit, and the ways the most conservative sides of the white Evangelical world had a tremendous amount of power over what got published or not because they had a large audience to sell to.

And THERE’S the pertinent thing, when it comes down to it.

Harms Can Be Coordinated Even When People Disagree about How They Get There

It’s also true that in my moderate denomination, people disagreed with each other ALL THE TIME over just about everything under the sun—except, fascinatingly, over some theological views we saw as standard issue. And somehow, however “independent” we claimed to be, most people I knew STILL ENDED UP voting for Republicans no matter what.

Why? Abortion and LGBTQ+ issues, of course, for most of them. Those “social issues” we now recognize as the unhealthy fascistic culture wars.

There were of course cranks that also voted that way because they saw themselves “fiscally conservative though socially liberal,” naturally. But ultimately it all ended up the same.

Sigh—Deep Apologies for My Part In This

I myself was one of the ones that swallowed the rhetoric about “social issues” until I got into my 30s. (SO MANY APOLOGIES to those lives negatively affected by my then-votes. Once I knew better, I did better, and have been doing better ever since. I’ve written about these shifts many times in this space.)

Looking Back, I Can See How This Kind of Rhetoric Kept Me in Line

Here’s the thing.Looking back, I can see how it was repeated statements JUST LIKE THIS one above that kept me voting that way.

See, in my background, it was largely white men who set themselves up as “the rational middle ground ones” who were able to have the strongest voices. And yet they said things exactly like this.

Back to the Original Statement: Ah, Those “Hyperventilating Leftists” (All the Eyerolls)

To start with the beginning of the statement, “hyperventilating leftists” is extremely dismissive language suggesting that the writer of the text is the calm and rational one and all leftists are basically weak women who can’t keep control of their emotions and are clearly overreacting.

I’m not sure I have enough eyerolls for this statement, from my current vantage point, to be honest. If I were to write them all out this would be a long and boring blog post, so I’ll do my best just to let you imagine them.

Supposed “Middle Ground” as Far From That….

The irony, of course, is that these two words themselves express an awful lot of dismissive anger towards those the author disagrees with.

The words are a strong negative projection on people that are critiquing his group by someone who thinks his group needs defending as “the good guys.”

To understate things extremely, this is not a good listening technique if you’re trying to bring people together among the groups who have issues with Christian nationalism and those who don’t have a problem with it.

Interestingly, at the same time, as you should have figured out by now, this positions the person NOT as a member of some sort of disinterested middle ground, but someone fully WITHIN the Christian nationalism viewpoint defending it against those who have an issue with Christian nationalism.

Ahhhh, Projecting that Lack of Centrism Outward at Media Outlets…

Of course, the same author followed this up a day later with another post I don’t have time to get too far into, but want to put here, as he was trying to reassert this supposedly middle-ground position: “Whether you lean MAGA-right or WOKE-left, remember some media outlets win by keeping you angry, convinced the world is falling apart, ‘they’ are the cause, and ‘we’ are the only place you will get the truth. ‘Stay tuned’ or ‘follow’=$$$.

The irony here is SO D*MNED DEEP, as this, sure, is true in a lot of ways. Media outlets absolutely frame things so they can make money (though some actually fact check more than others, and not all news outlets on “all sides” are trying to tell stories from a fact-based position, which makes a huge difference).

The irony, though is that the SAME PERSON’s post from the day before, with its insider-outsider language othering “hyperventilating leftists” while protecting “his group” of Christian nationalists by seeing them as disempowered squabbling humans, enacts the same division-oriented behaviors he is claiming exist in a wide variety of news outlets.

So…..yeah. Not exactly, neutral or emotionless, much less unbiased, this first statement about “hyperventilating leftists,” as any actually reasonably angry human being could tell you.

Sooooo Much More I Could Unpack In These Two Words, But Moving On to the Other Part

I could go on for quite some time about how much these two words—“hyperventilating leftists”–alone participate in toxic masculine authoritarian fascistic rhetoric. They do this by feminizing liberal and progressive folks while simultaneously putting down anyone who disagrees with the Christian nationalist powers that be. I’m a little short on time today, though, so rather than lingering there I want to move on to the other part of the logical fallacy.

You know, the part where it implies that if people disagree on worship music surely they can’t be getting together enough to cause harm to real people through their rhetoric and policies they are simultaneously collaborating effectively to put in place.

Yeah, that part.

That Other False Dichotomy Here—and the Real Harms It Does

Because yeah, as I noted above, this is totally a false dichotomy fallacy, that Christian nationalism must not be a threat because people have trouble agreeing on worship music. As I noted above, incompetence in irrelevant areas ABSOLUTELY can live side by side with coordination and even fascistic authoritarianism in other key areas.

And hey, if you manage to forcefully “other” the voices of the people who disagree with the statement by calling them “hyperventilating leftists” there’s a much better chance that the people voting for harms to women, BIPOCs, and LGBTQ+ folks will just avert their eyes from those ongoing harms.

Ahhhh, Weaponized Incompetence….

This move is one I grew up with IN SPADES. There’s a great term for it: weaponized incompetence. If you want to know the background of this term, here’s the Wikipedia page describing it.

While the background of the term refers more to people what’s seen as menial labor to push it on others, others have noted this kind of move has a huge place in fascistic rhetoric and abuser rhetoric alike by making the speaker (and/or their group) seem innocently incompentent, and as a result unable to do great harm as a result.

Seemingly Innocent Incompetency as a Cover as Well as a Harmful Excuse

Again, this is a complete fallacy, but it’s a rhetorical move many many privileged people in toxic systems have used to avoid responsibility for making things better in active ways, even while it serves as a cover for the great harms either being done by the same person or the same group.

And yeah, this doesn’t mean that there AREN’T many incompetencies in both good and toxic systems. There absolutely are.

The problem of course, is the idea that great harm can’t be paired with irrelevant incompetencies and disagreements.

But it totally can.

We Must All Educate Ourselves on the Damage Christian Nationalism Is Doing

Look at Christian nationalism, for instance. We should ALL be reading at least the Wikipedia page for Project 2025, which if you don’t know, is fast becoming the openly published platform of the Republican party in the US.

We should all be reading over historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s clear-eyed assessments of the dangers of Christian nationalism over at her substack.

And we should all be paying close attention to historian Heather Cox Richardson’s important daily updates, such as this recent one, outlining the way things are evolving with how fascistic Christian nationalism is becoming the main focus of the Republican platform.

Some People Being Relatively Unharmed Is Not Proof that Damage Isn’t Being Done

This is the thing: while it is entirely true that there is a lot of infighting among Republicans, and a lot of ordinary people in Republican areas (I live in one) even in threatened groups, manage to live relatively ordinary lives, the threats of Christian nationalism are real, both now and in the future.

There’s plenty of research—I’ve outlined it here before, that people in Republican areas tend to literally die earlier than in Democratically-leaning areas.

And all the data on how abortions don’t go down when you ban them—on the contrary, more women die. And if you bully LGBTQ+ folks it results in more suicides.

Current Harms Are Already Bad Enough

The truth is that those policies this kind of statement used to convince me to vote for are ALREADY horrible for large swaths of humans, no matter how many manage to be unaffected by them.

And that’s WITHOUT fascistic Christian nationalism gaining even more societal and political power to do more and more extreme versions of these same types of things.

Disagreements Over Worship Songs Simply Isn’t Pertinent

It comes down to this: I don’t care how much disagreement there is over worship songs. That’s completely irrelevant.

If my right-leaning peops want to be taken seriously as innocent and morally upright human beings, they need to stop voting for people who are not only hurting others, but are actively planning to hurt so many more others. They also need to start speaking out much more loudly against fascistic Christian nationalism’s real harms.

Time to Fight for Genuine Love of Neighbor by Fighting Christian Nationalism’s Negative Effects

Because yes, we all need to be educating ourselves about Project 2025 AND the current harms done by precursor rhetoric and policies that have already come about through putting fascistic rhetoric and policies into play in various areas in the past and present.

And especially those who claim allegiance to a religion whose central command is to love their neighbors as themselves need to fight against these disturbing current realities as well as to keep even worse harms from coming to pass.

Incompetence Too Often Goes Together with Effective Collaboration Toward Harm

The truth is this: there ARE lots of people actively collaborating to do harm in extremely effective ways. We who disagree need to continue to work to create effective active coalitions to keep things healthier.

I’m running out of steam for the day, so I’ll leave it there.

Time to Be the Louder Voices—And Work Toward Collaborating Against Even Worse Negative Outcomes

May all of us who are rightfully upset by the harms done by fascistic Christian nationalism find ways to work together to help make a better world for us all. It may feel overwhelming, but if each of us does what we can, we can get there.

May we break through the false dichotomies presented above, and show that emotion doesn’t need to be the opposite of reason, but that anger at genuine wrongs can be channeled in helpful ways toward positive change.

A Final Charge

Go team #AssertiveSpirituality! Let’s continue to do what we can where we are with what we’ve got to speak up against the toxic crap toward a healthier world for us all. We can do this thing.

Want to help keep this work going? It’s been 5 years of this project, and I finally have tip jars set up at Venmo and PayPal so you can help keep the lights on and such (THANK YOU for whatever you can do!). Here’s the info:

Venmo: @assertivespirituality

PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=Q2QWKELCNATBE

Looking for more resources toward speaking up for what’s right and dealing with the conflict that results?

Boy, do we have got a free “Assertive Spirituality Guide to Online Trolls” for you. It actually helps you with conflict both online and off. To get it, sign up for our email newsletter (either in the top bar or by checking the appropriate box when commenting on this article). Once you’ve confirmed your email address, we’ll send you the link to the guide in your final welcome email. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we hope you’ll stick around for our weekly email updates. As soon as we feasibly can we’re hoping to offer more online courses and other support resources for those advocating for the common good, and if you stay subscribed, you’ll be the first to know about these types of things when they pop up.

Want More Specific Help Applying This Kind of Thing? Message Me at the Assertive Spirituality Facebook Page.

Please follow and like us:

One thought on “When Conservative Christians Downplay Christian Nationalism

  1. Thank you for all you are doing to get the message out about this caustic Christian Nationalism. I live in Mississippi. need I say more. I am also a member of a United Methodist church that narrowly survived a vote of disaffiliation because of the majority of the congregation was anti-LGBTQ. During the period leading up to the voting in the church, it was discovered that a lot of misinformation was being given, and by those who wanted to disaffiliate. Thankfully, we are rid of that, but still need to load ourselves with the right information to counter what they will continue to spread.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

When Conservative Ch…

by DS Leiter Time to read: 11 min