Conservatives’ agenda for America is starting to read like my Bob Jones University student handbook

This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on February 29, 2024.

Perusing the news is beginning to feel like reading my Bob Jones University handbook a quarter century ago. Every page unveils another clutching of control that mortifies and confounds until the reader doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or rage.

This isn’t a new observation. Chrissy Stroop, a writer and scholar on modern Russian history, wrote two years ago, “It’s like the whole country is turning into a Christian school.”

Rick Pidcock

In my two decades growing up in fundamentalist Christian institutions, the schools dictated to our families where we could go to church, how we were to dress, what music we were allowed to listen to or movies we could watch, even what coffee shops we could patronize. In short, they had complete authority over our family.

So imagine those people expanding their territory to include entire cities, states and countries.

That’s what led Stroop to observe this week on Threads: “The term ‘Christian nationalism’ is too narrow to be really useful in the fight against America’s (mostly white) Christian oppressors. I suggest we use the term ‘authoritarian Christianity’ instead.”

Republican revival strategy retreats

Authoritarian Christianity’s expansion of territory begins with prayer.

As Republican leaders of the House of Representatives met for a retreat to discuss their plans to maintain control of the House, Speaker Mike Johnson reportedly turned the retreat into a “pray for revival” meeting.

Sources who were in attendance said Johnson was complaining about the government and claiming those who refuse to submit to God will worship the government instead. It’s an ironic accusation given Christian nationalism’s worship of state power. Since authority and control are the lenses evangelicals like Johnson interpret reality through, it’s not surprising.

But one anonymous attendee complained, “I’m not at church.”

A judiciary-led revival

While praying for revival is often thought about in terms of conversions, baptisms and church attendance, authoritarian Christianity adds a political component.

In 2006, Tom Parker announces plans to run for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court on the steps of the state judicial building in Montgomery, Ala., April 5, 2006. The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, a ruling critics said could have sweeping implications for fertility treatments. (AP Photo/Jamie Martin, File)

Perhaps the most talked about example this week came from Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker, who referred to the book of Genesis, invoked the name of God 41 times, and warned against “effacing his glory” and “incurring the wrath of a holy God” in his ruling that brought IVF treatments for Alabama women desiring to become pregnant to a halt.

Parker’s authoritarian Christianity is so front and center that it led to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins discussing Parker’s support of the “Seven Mountain Mandate” in prime time. This is the belief of some Christians that they are called to ascend to the highest places of power across a variety of cultural contexts.

The mountain of government is now being defined more specifically as the judiciary. Writer and religion scholar Matthew Taylor shared an Alabama prayer call where Parker cited New Apostolic Reformation prophecies about judges having a “forecast role in revival in this nation,” and explained how he is recruiting fellow judges to “help spark that revival.”

“I am asking the Lord to put revival on their hearts, in light of what has transpired at Asbury and beyond, that there will be a growing hunger in the judges of Alabama and around the nation for more of God,” Parker prayed.

If one wonders what implications a judiciary-led revival would have on democracy, listen to what alt-right political activist Jack Prosobiec declared at CPAC: “Welcome to the end of democracy! We’re here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here (holding his fist in the air). That’s right, because all glory is not to government, all glory to God.”

Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist under President Trump, responded, “All right! Amen!”

Violent retribution against those who don’t submit

For those who won’t submit to the Christian judiciary-led revival, a justice of violent retribution awaits. Referring to looters, Trump said on Feb. 17: “You can stop that in one day, in one hour if you got really nasty and really tough. Once they see things happening that they never thought were going to happen to them, and I mean tough, it’ll all stop overnight. … And your police would love to be the ones to do it, but they’re not allowed.”

Continue reading at Baptist News Global.

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