The painting by Utah artist Jon McNaughton depicts Christian Americanism – the political religion of the Trumpist GOP.
George W. Bush was perhaps the closest members of the Christian right had to a president who was one of them, but his eight years in office did little to advance their political religion. The faith-based initiative that marked his first months in office was about the common good, not the culture war.
Immediately after the September 11 attacks, Bush went to the Islamic Center in Washington to deny that terrorism was “the faith of Islam,” signaling that the American response would not be a religious crusade. His wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are reminiscent of Woodrow Wilson’s idealism to make the world safe for democracy, not Lindbergh’s America First isolationism.
But the gradual political strategy pioneered by Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition continued apace. In the early 2000s, white evangelicals locked themselves firmly in the Republican Party, and they have since voted for GOP presidential and congressional candidates by 4-to-1 margins. In 2002, Reed gave a lesson in faith-based mobilization as chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia when he swung the state from Democratic to Republican control.
After the departure of Bush and the accession to the presidency of Barack Obama, the wheels of political religion à la Buchanan began to turn freely again. Hostility to Islam has become a corner issue through birtherism that cast Obama as a Kenyan-born Muslim, the “zero mosque” controversy spearheaded by Fox News, and state referendums against Islam. establishment of ‘Sharia’.
The 2010 midterms featured the tea party — or, to be precise, various organizations named after it. Created to protest taxes and the Affordable Care Act, the organizations leaned heavily on white evangelicals, who were five times more likely to support than oppose it. Decked out in Revolutionary War garb, the revelers presented themselves as patriots of God and country.
The tea party proved to be a warm-up for Donald Trump, who made white evangelicals his staunchest supporters as he built an America First ideology based on Islamophobia, closed borders, beggar’s tariffs and freedom. nun for his religious followers. What fireside chats were for the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, political rallies were for Trump. The January 6 assault on the Capitol was their apotheosis.
“Thank you, divine, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Creator God, for filling this chamber with your white light of love, your white light of harmony,” Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, prayed on the Senate dais that day. . “Thank you for filling this room with patriots who love you and who love Christ.”
The role of religion in the assault on the Capitol was detailed last week in a report by the Baptist Joint Committee and the Freedom From Religion Foundation titled “Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurgency.” In the introduction, BJC’s Amanda Tyler defines Christian nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and American constitutional democracy.”
It would be more accurate to call this fusion of identities Christian Americanism – the political religion of the Trumpist GOP.
No iconography translates this religion better than “One nation under God», the painting of Utah’s Jon McNaughton. Based on medieval depictions of the Last Judgment, it shows Jesus holding the American Constitution, flanked by the nation’s saints, with the saved (pious citizens) at bottom left and the damned (journalists, professors, feminists) at bottom right.
McNaughton is not an evangelical but a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That Christian Americanism considers the God-given Constitution is thanks to Mormon doctrine dating back to founder Joseph Smith.
(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)