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Report Exposes Christian Nationalist “Threats” to Democracy in the US

Per the report, 2023 saw the "highest number of active anti-LGBTQ+ and white nationalist groups" ever recorded.

Supporters of President Donald Trump join in a mass prayer out front of the Michigan State Capitol Building to protest the certification of Joe Biden as the next president on January 6, 2021, in Lansing, Michigan.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published earlier this week provides a stark and disturbing assessment of the rise of Christian supremacist groups in the U.S. and their increasing influence in right-wing politics.

The report, entitled “The Year in Hate & Extremism 2023,” documents “1,430 hate and antigovernment extremist groups that comprise the organizational infrastructure upholding white supremacy in the U.S.”

The SPLC says in its report that the “hard right” have only strengthened their resolve to undermine democratic standards in the U.S. government and promote Christian nationalist, white supremacist ideals in the years since the January 6, 2021, attack on Congress. These groups are not only “all-in” on former President Donald Trump’s return to the White House, but seeking to make themselves more mainstream in other branches of government and society, the report notes.

The report is divided into several chapters. In one of them, titled “A Year of Preparation Under the Specter of Conspiracy,” the SPLC lays out how 2023 saw the “highest number of active anti-LGBTQ+ and white nationalist groups” ever recorded by the organization.

Says the SPLC:

These record numbers accompany increases in direct actions against minoritized groups, including hate crimes and other tactics such as anti-Black and antisemitic flyering, protests, and intimidation campaigns targeting LGBTQ+ people, libraries, schools and hospitals.

According to the report, “Christian supremacy and dominionism were prominent features of antigovernment conspiracy and movement organizing” last year. These groups regularly peddle incendiary rhetoric, including justifying their actions by saying they’re motivated by a “holy war” and “race war,” with the clearly stated goal of suppressing a multiracial, pluralistic democracy in the U.S.

These movements, the SPLC points out, believe that only Christians (or rather, Christians who harbor far right views) can be trusted to control the U.S. government — a “dangerous” idea, the organization notes, that poses a threat to democratic and human rights across the country.

One of the biggest movements within Christian dominionism — which is sometimes described as Christian nationalism, SPLC states — is the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which argues that far right Christians are meant to control all aspects of the country, governmental and societal (including control of businesses, schools, culture and more). Adherents to this and other Christian dominion movements frequently describe ideas they’re disagreeable to in terms like “evil” or “demonic.”

“When everyone but your own is demonic, there is no room for discussion or any daylight left between you for compromise, which undermines the very heart of a modern, democratic system,” the SPLC wrote. “The effect is a wearing down, and sometimes, a tearing down of institutions and trust meant to hold people accountable to each other and to help moderate conflict before it breaks into violence.”

In short, the SPLC explains, the Christian supremacist and dominionist movement is “the greatest threat to American democracy” most in the U.S. have “never heard of.”

Notably, Christian dominionist ideals are increasingly making their way into mainstream Republican politics; these groups have embraced the authoritarian rhetoric espoused by Donald Trump, particularly his promises of a dictatorship and his promotion of far right Christian beliefs, for example.

But Trump isn’t the only GOP figure whom Christian dominionists support — indeed, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, who promotes the tenets of Christian nationalism, has the backing of the movement as well.

A congressional report on Johnson’s connection to Christian dominionist groups — including to NAR leaders — notes that he took part in their prayer campaigns in the lead-up to the Capitol attack. Those campaigns urged far right Christians to “mobilize for Trump’s reinstatement as president” following his legitimate election loss to President Joe Biden.

The report also notes that Johnson has consistently espoused some of the movements’ most concerning views — including the rejection of a separation between church and state, the promotion of racist anti-immigration policies, the diminishing of reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and the belief that individuals should not have the right to divorce.

Other examples abound of how Christian dominionism and nationalism have infiltrated the U.S. government and Republican politics in general.

The controversy regarding flags that have flown outside residences of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito — including an upside-down U.S. flag that flew outside his primary home in Virginia just days after the Capitol attack, and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag (which is prominently used by Christian nationalists) that flew outside his vacation home in New Jersey last year — seems to indicate that the jurist is in favor of these far right movements, many critics have suggested.

State political parties have also entered into the foray of Christian dominionism. The Republican Party of Texas, for example, recently adopted a platform that seeks to enact anti-democratic policies in the state government, including making it virtually impossible for a member of the Democratic Party to win statewide office ever again, if their plan is adopted. The platform also promotes Christian nationalist goals for their party to enact, including furthering restrictions on reproductive rights, forbidding schools from discussing anything related to sexual or gender identity, and mandating that the Bible be taught in public school classrooms, among other measures.

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