Christian Nationalism and the Battle 'Verse
February 3, 2024 8:07 AM   Subscribe

We've all seen footage of the January 6th insurrection. But do you know what you saw? A recently released short documentary, Spiritual Warriors: Decoding Christian Nationalism at the Capitol Riot, identifies and explains this movement's involvement in the day's events, and its influence in producing them.

This short film is a short and sharp look at the role of the New Apostolic Reformation movement in laying the groundwork for the Capitol riot, and especially its role in developing the idea of spiritual warfare. (Or, a battle 'verse.)

"Matthew D. Taylor, Ph.D., is a Senior Scholar and the Protestant Scholar at ICJS, where he specializes in Muslim-Christian dialogue, Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, religious politics in the U.S., and American Islam." He's the creator of the “Charismatic Revival Fury: The New Apostolic Reformation” podcast.

More background:
* Frederick Clarkson: Dominionism 101

* From the Uncivil Religion project: Signs & Symbols

* The Appeal to Heaven flag (Patheos); The Key to Mike Johnson’s Christian Extremism Hangs Outside His Office (Rolling Stone, Bradley Onishi, Matthew D. Taylor)

* Jeff Sharlet, from Twitter: "The black flag is a murder flag. When I call it a Jericho flag in THE UNDERTOW, I'm referring to the popular "battle verse," Joshua 1:9, emblazoned on guns & militia chic merch. That's part of God's commandment to Joshua to kill everything that moves in the city of Jericho."
posted by MonkeyToes (56 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's finally getting some attention and smart people are connecting the dots on who is doing the organizing.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/what-is-christian-nationalism-and-why-it-raises-concerns-about-threats-to-democracy
posted by Brian B. at 8:31 AM on February 3 [12 favorites]


I like the esteemed Mrs. Betty Bowers' take: "To save time, I call Nationalist Christians 'Nat C's'."
posted by xedrik at 8:34 AM on February 3 [56 favorites]


It may be defeatist, it may be overtly ironic at this point, but reading this I just shake my head and mutter: "Jesus Christ."

Why are entire populations of people uniformly terrible at either getting it right or even understanding the basics of their faith? I wish Jesus would return floating down over the reflecting pond at the Washington monument so he could tell them exactly what they are.

Liars and hypocrites.

And then beat them all with a whip. The best Jesus is the one with the whip.
posted by discardme at 8:34 AM on February 3 [21 favorites]


Dave Troy ‘s (excellent) podcast had an episode devoted to these people a couple of years back.

The New Apostolic Reformation with Jennifer Cohn and Bruce Wilson
posted by non canadian guy at 8:47 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


The local subreddit near where I live has weekly updates on where the Trump supporters are terrorizing people in the streets on Friday and Saturday nights.

There are regular questions like: Are there any gyms without NAZI tattooed aggro-bros in this part of town ? Why are there 25 ford f-150s with Trump and NAZI flags parked at the grocery chain parking lot on the east side of town ? Is the owner of this establishment really pro-White Christanity ?

Oddly enough as that reality rises so does a $50,000,000.00 new police station. I don't know how the local churches fit into this. I have seen some neighbors have moved to private worship in the homes of their fellow creed-holders.

And this town was West Coast college town weirdo left leaning liberal bastion.
posted by MonsieurPEB at 9:17 AM on February 3 [10 favorites]


Is Christian Identity a subset? Or something unrelated?
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 9:23 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I watched this 25-minute documentary last night. Even though I was already familiar with a lot of the people mentioned, I thought it was a useful overview, and a powerful one. And I have been thinking a lot about symbols and signalling. Stopped at a light the other day, I looked up to see a blacked-out American flag hanging from an otherwise unadorned house and...yeah. Don't take the flags/T-shirts/hats for granted; they're telling us something. Learning how to read the message matters.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:26 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


Is there corresponding iconography for Not Crazy People -- or do we just push back by using normal flags?
posted by wenestvedt at 9:45 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I wish Jesus would return floating down over the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument so he could tell them exactly what they are.

Ahh, somebody'd shoot Him, like Michael Rennie The Day The Earth Stood Still.
posted by Rash at 9:49 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Is Christian Identity a subset? Or something unrelated?

No, Christian Identity is a different and more overtly neo-Nazi skinhead type deal. Their big thing is claiming that Aryans are the true descendants of the biblical Israelites, kind of the white-supremacist version of Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine.

I once had the misfortune of working directly across from a Christian Identity dude on a GM production line. It was only for a couple of weeks but felt like a decade.
posted by non canadian guy at 9:55 AM on February 3 [9 favorites]


Is there corresponding iconography for Not Crazy People

🏳️‍⚧️
posted by away for regrooving at 9:56 AM on February 3 [23 favorites]


ugh. I am an ex-catholic atheist but I really wish Jesus would come back and start smiting. we really need some of that about now.
posted by supermedusa at 9:57 AM on February 3 [13 favorites]


FYI, this "Aggro Jesus was the best Jesus" notion is shared with Christian Nationalist types. They don't want no weak ass Jesus: they want a Jesus who fights evil.

Jesus didn't get out the whip when the men with swords came, though. He got it out when the sacred was turned into a way to make money off of the pious.

Dude had his eye on the ball, but was not one for easy answers.
posted by billjings at 10:12 AM on February 3 [13 favorites]


I just watched this and it's fascinating. Early on, there's a graph showing the growth of global evangelical christians and it shows something like 700 million in 2020. Are we to believe that one in ten humans are evangelical christians right now, or is this just hyperbole from them?
I'm going to keep my eye out for some of their iconography and language now, as I currently reside in an area that's rife with them.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:12 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I just watched this and it's fascinating. Early on, there's a graph showing the growth of global evangelical christians and it shows something like 700 million in 2020.
I think that might be projected numbers? They listed 2025, not 2020 (with 740 million), and 2025 hasn't happened yet. And that graph was narrated by this guy Wagner who died in 2016. Not saying the projections were wrong, but that I think those were projections.
posted by Schmucko at 10:22 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


That documentary was so far from my experience, and so full of language I've never heard before it made my head hurt. I admit I haven't paid that close attention to those people because there are very few where I live, and as for Jan 6 I felt I didn't really need to know the details to know it was bad, but holy sh*#$%.

One thing that bothers me (among many things) is that I'm old enough to remember the Democratic National Convention of 1968, and how everyone said the hippies and leftists just went too far, and that's how Nixon got elected. But this new right wing is just batshit crazy and yet they just keep getting crazier and crazier and more and more destructive it doesn't seem to hurt their popularity at all.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:38 AM on February 3 [28 favorites]


(As an aside, I was an impressionable kid when the DNC 68 happened, and I saw it upset my parents as much as JFK's assassination did.)
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:42 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I am an ex-catholic atheist

Same, and this shit is happening within Catholicism too. My parents renewed their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary last year and I attended the mass, my first time in church in decades. There was a visiting priest there that weekend who was from a relatively new charismatic order and he was asking people if they would let god "have his way with you" and apparently at another mass that weekend he actually performed healings.
posted by misskaz at 10:48 AM on February 3 [10 favorites]


misskaz ugh again! I have not been to a catholic religious function in a long time, but I am not terribly surprised to hear it. I don't think any branch of modern christianity has much left to do with "the message of jesus", and I think if jesus were to come back, as it were, s/he would see that very clearly. and smite accordingly.
posted by supermedusa at 10:52 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Yeah, my mother was very upset last year because her favorite progressive priest was moved out and replaced with a conservative priest who she hated. She likes going to mass but she wasn't going to put up with that.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:57 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


misskaz Then, of course, you have the “TradCath” type hipster-reactionaries who are all about the pre-Vatican II liturgy and theology. The NYT did a surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly, given what that paper has become) hagiographic trend piece on them a couple years ago.
posted by non canadian guy at 11:23 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]


>the idea of spiritual warfare

yeah I do get the feeling my BIL and the home-grown neo-nazis like them have created a fun Harry Potter alternate universe to operate in for themselves, where they're the good guys fighting Big Evil in all its nefarious guises.

Eco in his Ur-Fascism essay from 30 years ago saw this too, name-checking Pat Robertson's effort here.
posted by torokunai at 11:32 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]


While I'm somewhat familiar with some of the themes from a couple of graduate courses I took a few years ago, I learned a lot in these 25 minutes. And thank you for the other links, which I will read/view/listen to with interest.
posted by senor biggles at 11:39 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I admit I haven't paid that close attention to those people because there are very few where I live

I am surrounded by Christian nationalist thinking and symbols, and feel like I have to pay attention. The kids at the local Christian school wear hoodies with the flag and a Bible verse, the church plays a patriotic hymn at noon, and people who consider themselves religious talk openly about wanting to bar Democrats from the polls as a way to save the nation. It's deeply unsettling. I feel like I have to stay awake to this...mass psychosis? This experiment on people who have identified themselves as willing to be deluded, and to act of those beliefs? Who believe that they are on a mission from God?

This is from Jenny Cohn in 2022 (found via the Dave Troy podcast mentioned above): "Most Americans, regardless of party, don’t want to live in a theocracy. But few are aware of the NAR and its belief in dominionism, much less its involvement with dangerous MAGA hucksters like Flynn, Stone, Boebert, Greene, and Mastriano. The time to warn the public is now, before the midterm election. The NAR is dead serious about achieving its goal of permanent Christian rule, and it has powerful political friends who are willing to help in exchange for power of their own."

Underreported and Massive Theocratic Movement Joins Forces with Michael Flynn and Roger Stone (It's a long article, packed with receipts and dot-connecting.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:40 AM on February 3 [21 favorites]


I do get the feeling my BIL and the home-grown neo-nazis like them have created a fun Harry Potter alternate universe to operate in for themselves, where they're the good guys fighting Big Evil in all its nefarious guises

Frank Peretti's books starting with This Present Darkness are the key you're looking for. Revisiting the Christian fantasy novels that shaped decades of conservative hysteria [Vox, 2022]
posted by hippybear at 11:48 AM on February 3 [14 favorites]


it's so frustrating and weird because I do not believe that people like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone (for example) are motivated by religious fervor. they see a useful tool for rallying (manipulating) people to their agenda, sheep to fleece as they accumulate more wealth and power. ugh.
posted by supermedusa at 12:19 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]


Frank Peretti's books starting with This Present Darkness are the key you're looking for.

Grew up in this shit and I cannot favorite this enough. Peretti, like Dobson, was *everywhere* in Fundamentalist churches / religious schools in the early 90s.
posted by Ryvar at 12:23 PM on February 3 [10 favorites]


I saw the world premiere of this film Wednesday night at Baltimore’s Senator Theater. It’s excellent. There’s a lot of information in the film about C. Peter Wagner and his NAR/Wagner University protégés such as Che Ahn, Cindy Jacobs, and Lance Wallnau that was very clearly explained. ICJS does meaningful, important work, and Matt Taylor is a patient and straightforward guide. I’d commend the film to anyone.
posted by cheapskatebay at 12:56 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


I know it is utterly irrelevant next to the threat they pose, but I hate what they have done to "spiritual warfare" as a concept.

The historical notion of spiritual warfare was internal. A battle fought through prayer, meditation, confession, and asceticism to conquer one's own inner demons. The kind of compulsive appetites and behaviors that lead us to do evil.

It has nothing to do with seeking demons out in the larger world, or physical battle with other people.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 1:07 PM on February 3 [15 favorites]


it's so frustrating and weird because I do not believe that people like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone (for example) are motivated by religious fervor. they see a useful tool for rallying (manipulating) people to their agenda, sheep to fleece as they accumulate more wealth and power. ugh.

Trying to divide these motivations like you're doing only really doesn't work with evangelical Christianity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:38 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


And this town was West Coast college town weirdo left leaning liberal bastion.

One of the ones where the local police step-aside and disappear whenever the Nazis descend upon the town to kick some lib’rul butts?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:45 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Flynn and Stone are motivated by Power. Trump is motivated by Ego. The Nat-Cs are motivated by Power. Trump is their useful idiot. Even by naming him as having, what is it, the Cyrus annointing or whatever? They're saying to his face: we know you aren't one of us but you serve our ends so we are happy to use you. They're saying it DIRECTLY TO HIS FACE. But because Trump is driven by Ego, what he hears is "We think God has chosen you and so we will back you as you try to get power". He doesn't hear the "you are our useful idiot" part of it, just "we love you and want you to get power".
posted by hippybear at 2:46 PM on February 3 [14 favorites]


Anyone who proclaims that god speaks directly to them is either a conscious liar or deluded. Prove me wrong.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:04 PM on February 3 [7 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember the Democratic National Convention of 1968, and how everyone said the hippies and leftists just went too far, and that's how Nixon got elected.

We would have been better off with Hubert Humphrey in 1968, but the hippies played less of a role in his defeat than LBJ deliberately undermining his own Vice President because he preferred how Nixon planned to continue the Vietnam War.
posted by jonp72 at 4:17 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


It has nothing to do with seeking demons out in the larger world, or physical battle with other people.

And yet, This Present Darkness pulled it all inside out.

It's hard to understate how incredibly popular that book was when it came out. People were buying multiple copies to give away. It was viral in years before the internet. And then after Peretti came Left Behind which made it even more all Cinematic Universe...

I lived through all this from the inside and the way that Peretti was taken nearly as scripture and not as a novel or even possibly metaphor, like Screwtape was considered before him, was really creepy and seems to have transformed the Church even well beyond the actual reach of those books.
posted by hippybear at 4:30 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


The Late Great Planet Earth started it all back in the 1970s. That coincided with the birth of Christian rock.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:02 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Remember the dickhead with the confederate flag at J6? Let's give him a little credit for being self-aware, because all those with the American flag were deluded.

It's the same with these christians. Take that cross off your neck, you have no idea what it means.
posted by adept256 at 5:19 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Tangentially, adept256, you’re providing a good excuse to post Chrissy Stroop’s infographic about alternatives to calling these folks “fake Christians” (scroll down; there’s also a useful short list of terms used in discussions of dominionism).
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:43 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]


We would have been better off with Hubert Humphrey in 1968, but the hippies played less of a role in his defeat than LBJ deliberately undermining his own Vice President because he preferred how Nixon planned to continue the Vietnam War.

There was also the little matter of Nixon sabotaging the peace talks in Vietnam.
posted by TedW at 6:30 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


A bit like Trump sabotaging the border bill to win this election.

Sometimes Trump actually is the lesser reflection of evil.
posted by hippybear at 6:42 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


I lost my pulpit (and my job) for attempting to raise the alarm about this stuff in 2019.
I'm utterly convinced the "good guys" are going to lose this fight.
Not because the fascists are too strong, but because the white liberals in America overestimate their own understanding of the situation.
Prepare accordingly.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:45 PM on February 3 [34 favorites]


I lost my pulpit (and my job) for attempting to raise the alarm about this stuff in 2019.

Oh, you should get in touch with Tim Alberta if you haven't already. He writes about exactly this stuff.
posted by hippybear at 6:47 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Spiritual faith is extremely powerful, and it can allow people to survive seemingly insurmountable odds. I can't really talk shit about that any more than I would, say, penicillin, or chemotherapy. It works, and it saves lives. And yet.

Spiritual faith works by leapfrogging clean over the rational part of the brain. In the immortal words of Poe -- not that Poe -- you can't talk to a psycho like a normal human being. Spiritual faith is what allowed that monk to set himself on fire. Can you imagine trying to talk that guy out of it? I mean, give it a shot, but stand back when you do. Fire catches.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:40 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


non canadian guy: Heh, I actually had a paragraph about Trad Caths in my comment and deleted before I hit post because I didn't feel like I knew enough about the topic to do it justice. It does weird me out, a lot. I'm glad my parents are on the progressive side of the faith, at least.
posted by misskaz at 4:42 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


It's white supremacy and misogyny all the way down. People so afraid of any amount of uncertainty or mystery that they desperately cling to whoever will tell them what they want to hear. Which is, God favors them over those other people, that their troubles are not their own fault or the fault of an unfair system. And the followers of this nonsense also need to see extreme, cruel displays of strength and power to feel safe and to feel emboldened to display their own hatred. It's Prosperity Gospel bullshit and an absolute conviction that the world is created around a hierarchy that puts a lily-white, AK-47 toting Jesus at the top, Trump (or any white, boastful, belligerent "billionaire" of your choosing next), then their favorite football team, then veterans, then "real American" men from the "heartland", and at the very bottom of the list, non whites, non christians, libruls and women.

That unwavering belief in a hierarchy is essential to it all. They don't have to listen to other people's point of view because the White, Male, Christian Supremacy to them is just a FACT that is indisputable. Equality to them is a joke. It doesn't exist. They absolutely do not believe that "all men are created equal." Hell No! God meant for rich, white, christian men to rule the world. If you're not rich, you're not blessed, if you're not blessed you must be evil. If you're not white, you're not favored, if you're not male then your job is to serve the men. If you're compassionate you're weak, if you're weak you're useless.

We live in truly frightening times and the more people who become aware of these Christian Nationalist movements the better. I have been trying to share this type of info with everyone I know for years. Thank you MonkeyToes for this great post and all the great links.
posted by pjsky at 7:20 AM on February 4 [15 favorites]


In Catholicism something has been brewing for a while. Over 20 years ago the company I worked for built a new Catholic church in north Tampa, FL. When we were doing the punch out at the end I was talking to the architect, an Irish guy for whatever it's worth about some of the church's features. Having been raised Catholic I expressed surprise at the full adult body baptismal font that was installed. Literally a hot-tub sized pool so they could baptize adults. He said that was what they wanted for baptizing the local convertees (usually pouring a little water over the forehead is plenty).

Then I asked when they were planning to install the Stations of the Cross (14 small statues depicting the crucifixion), a feature in every single catholic cathedral ever. There's literally an annual event based around them. He said they weren't because it was too depressing for those same people or something.

At any rate, the church was clearly going after the local evangelicals.
posted by lordrunningclam at 7:20 AM on February 4 [16 favorites]


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention three books that have been helpful to me in thinking about all of this:
Anthea Butler’s White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America
Kristen K. Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
Jeff Sharlet’s The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War

If you have other suggestions, like the terrific Dave Troy podcast linked above, please add them.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:54 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


monkeytoes
Andrew Whitehead's American Idolatry: How Christian Nationalism Betrays the Gospel and Threatens the Church is essential reading as are all of his writings - linktree. The Texas Observer is worth following / subscribing as they are one of the few papers that writes on this.

A core threat re Christian Dominionism, Catholic Integralism and Eastern Orthodox (the latter mainly as a result of the Manhattan Declaration)* is that there are very few journalists who understand Christian sects - hard questions do not get asked, or religion is treated as 'personal' / unbroachable.

* There are other nuances and splits like the UK Conservative Christian Fellowship which looks very tight with the European Research Group which drove Brexit, and who has several adherents amoung NZ MPs. But the whole lot sit within The New Apostolic Reformation, wikipedia, but looks correct enough.

In New Zealand the number of religious-capable journalists is zero, all questions put to the the intending MP and his MPs were secular. Any statements that sounded a wild were written off as "it's just political rhetoric" - and we now have a government where the controlling faction is Christian Dominionist - and they are dead-eyed, serial lying, souless individuals who hate the rest of us and hate the Earth - all they want is the Rapture, money, war and magic realities.

I spent my youth as a Pentecostal - I know people adjacent to these politicians and none of them are good. Vote wisely America, as we will have to push very hard to remove these people wherever they settle.
posted by unearthed at 9:36 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]


I mentioned him upthread, but Tim Alberta has been trying to reconcile his evangelical faith with christian nationalism for a while. His website has much material by and about him.
posted by hippybear at 11:18 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


This is a Religion 101 question, I know, but it's something I don't understand. What is the purpose of prayer, to these people? Obviously you can't boss God around, and they say he has a plan that I presume is going to happen regardless of what any random person wants to have happen. So why would God want to hear the opinions or requests of Joe Schmoe?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:12 PM on February 5


I think these are people who a lot of praise service kind of stuff? So it's a lot of casting the crowns before the throne, like depicted in Revelation, because for some reason God can't hear enough about how amazing he is. And then you sprinkle in a few suggestions about what you might want, or more often, you're doing prayer that is trying to wield the power of the Holy Spirit like it's The Force, commanding Demons be cast out, etc.

I haven't really engaged with these people in maybe 30 years, but that's what they were doing back then. Praise Praise Praise, a tiny suggestion, and oh yeah Demons Be Gone.
posted by hippybear at 3:59 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


So why would God want to hear the opinions or requests of Joe Schmoe?

Well, there's words in the Bible which claim that He cares about everyone, for example in Luke 12:6-7:
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
I agree, mighty presumptuous of the faithful to believe He really cares.
posted by Rash at 5:48 PM on February 5


This is a Religion 101 question, I know, but it's something I don't understand. What is the purpose of prayer, to these people? Obviously you can't boss God around, and they say he has a plan that I presume is going to happen regardless of what any random person wants to have happen. So why would God want to hear the opinions or requests of Joe Schmoe?

Showing loyalty to an invisible God is begging his favor with prayer, by praising him to make him aware of your needs when he forgot you existed.

...mighty presumptuous of the faithful to believe He really cares.

It is presumptuous to assume he only cares about one dogma or religion, and if not, then any of them.
posted by Brian B. at 10:11 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


“Domination or Dissolution, Rule or Ruin,” Thomas Zimmer, Democracy Americana, 07 February 2024
The Right is fantasizing about secession, “national divorce,” and civil war – because they will not, under any circumstance, accept pluralism.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:20 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]




“One Must Imagine Charlie Brown Happy,” A. R. Moxon, The Reframe, 18 February 2024
“Every Accusation a Confession,” Id., 19 February 2024
posted by ob1quixote at 9:52 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


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