Christian nationalism was on full display at a far right conservative conference this weekend, with some Republicans who took part in the event openly embracing the extremist ideology.
The Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida, featured a number of speakers, including former President Donald Trump. During his speech, Trump promoted the idea that a belief in God was requisite to truly be a part of the nation, disregarding the millions of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated or agnostic.
“We are Americans and Americans kneel to God, and God alone,” Trump said.
The former president wasn’t the only one peddling Christofascist ideals at the conference. During an interview at the event, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), a far right lawmaker who has espoused racist and conspiratorial views in the past (and who has appeared at events hosted by white nationalists before), pushed for the Republican Party to become the party of Christian nationalists.
“We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists,” Greene said.
The Georgia lawmaker went on to lament that the GOP has had to “chase down certain identities or chase down certain segments of people” in order to win elections, something she said the party should no longer try to do.
“We just need to represent Americans and most Americans, no matter how they vote, really care about the same things and I want to see Republicans actually do their job,” she said.
Far right nationalist sentiments were also on display outside the event. Neofascists demonstrated outside of the building holding flags with Nazi swastikas and references to the SS (the “Schutzstaffel,” political soldiers for the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany) and shouting racist slurs at passersby. They also held pictures of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, declaring the area to be “DeSantis Country.”
Officials from Turning Point condemned the imagery and the actions of the neofascists, but DeSantis hasn’t responded to his image being included in the demonstration. DeSantis did, however, engage in the same Christofascist rhetoric as Greene and Trump, telling attendees at a separate state party event near Hollywood, Florida, that they needed to “put on the full armor of God” to oppose progressive ideas.
“You will face fire from flaming arrows but the shield of faith will protect you and ultimately keep the state of Florida free,” DeSantis said in his speech.
Although Trump hasn’t commented on the fascist elements outside the event, he did thank attendees of the event, writing that “the crowd & ‘love’ was AMAZING” on his Truth Social account.
Trump has called himself a nationalist in the past, using the word to describe himself and his beliefs in a speech in 2018, a little more than a year after white nationalists attacked the city of Charlottesville, Virginia; at the time, Trump downplayed the right-wing violence, which killed one person and injured dozens of others.
Nationalism of any kind is a dangerous ideology that prioritizes the individual’s devotion to a nation-state. Nationalism is routinely used to push one segment of society’s interests as being supreme to all others, often to their extreme detriment. As author George Orwell explained in his essay, “Notes on Nationalism,” the belief:
…is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
Mike Igel, chair of the Florida Holocaust Museum, spoke out against the prescence of the neofascist protesters.
“Carrying the Nazi flag, or that of the SS, the unit responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust, is an indefensible act of pure hatred,” Igel said in a statement. “This isn’t about politics or religion. It’s about humanity.”